by Maya del Mar

CAPETOWN, OCT. 13. The Aries Full Moon shines brightly on my bed as it swings across the sky on the great path of the ecliptic—the apparent course of the sun, moon, and planets.

I look out the window at the Moon. Then this is South, isn’t it? But wait a minute. The sun set to my left, and the Moon rose to my right. It has to be North.

Yes, of course. The ecliptic is to the North in South Africa! It suddenly dawns on me why I continually keep wanting to reverse directions here. Over and over at night I have to double- check sunset and moonrise directions to get my sky hemispheres straight. Over and over I ask Yvonne as we go on our treks, "What direction are we moving now?"

Tonight I realize what a profound influence our orientation to the ecliptic exerts on us, even though we may take no conscious notice of it.

That ecliptic circle, marked by the zodiac, does indeed enfold us in its familiar embrace.

I was thrilled to at long last observe the Southern sky at night. (I spent time in Argentina and Chile 20 years ago, but with less star knowledge than I have now.) I had a long introduction to it, for night is long when one flies eastward over the Atlantic. My first glimpse out the plane window was of bright Venus setting in the west, and the whole of Sagittarius clearly above it. Here in the United States Sagittarius sits close to the southern horizon and, in fact, I’ve never seen the whole of it before. Stretched out proudly in the western sky, it looked just like the pictures!

At Yvonne’s, just after sunset, we saw Venus, bright jewel, low on the western horizon, ready to set. Coming down with her were the constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius, still riding big and high in the Southern sky. (Here they look small and low.) I was excited when Yvonne pointed out to me Alpha and Beta Centauri also close to setting. Alpha Centauri is the "Chiron" star and the closest star to earth, and this was my first conscious sight of that third brightest star in the heavens.

Sirius, the Dog Star, always visible in the northern hemisphere, is the brightest star in the heavens. However, the second brightest star is Canopus, visible only in the southern hemisphere. I arose early to see Jupiter, Saturn and "upside down" Orion, and lo and behold, there was Canopus above me, brilliant and unmistakable!

Canopus is in the constellation Carina, which means "keel." It is part of the boat Argo Navis in which Jason sailed to find the golden fleece. Noted South African author Doris Lessing used Canopus as the headquarters of a series of science fiction books which she wrote some time ago.

The ancients noted four "royal" stars, bright stars each of which dominate a quarter of the zodiac. There is golden Regulus in Leo, red Aldeberan in Taurus, red Antares in Scorpio, and white Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinis, the Southern Fish. These very bright stars were considered the four guardians of the heavens. The first three are prominent in the northern hemisphere, but Fomalhaut is a Southern hemisphere star.

Fomalhaut is often called the Solitary Star, and there it was—high above and all alone in the late evening sky.

I also saw Achernar, another very bright Southern hemisphere star. It is the mouth of the river in the constellation Eridanus, and empties out close to the South polar center of the sky.

It was very exciting to me to see these stars and constellations about which I’ve only read. It’s as though a door into the Southern skies has opened to display its glories. My sky vision, once half in shadow, feels complete.

For me, an astrologer, this was a vital part of Libra’s balancing work.


Published by Maya del Mar. Copyright © 2000, 2001 Maya del Mar.
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