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Posts Tagged ‘constellations’

Here we are in what are traditionally called the “dog days of summer.” From this we all imagine sweltering weather with both people and dogs flopped in the shade.

The phrase comes to us from Roman times, when the bright star Sirius rose along with the sun. (Sirius was part of the constellation Canis Major and was known as the Dog Star.) Thus the rising of Sirius became associated with the hottest days of the summer in late July and early August.

So the Dog Days and their constellation made me think about the constellation Draco. If we had “dragon days,” what would they be?

1) Ironically, this really sounds like a sales event to me. Can’t you just see some auto showroom decked out for a Dragon Days Clearance Sale?

2) Draco is a fixed constellation in the northern sky. It doesn’t rise or set the way Canis Major does, so you couldn’t base anything on that. However, there is a meteor shower that appears to originate with Draco. Dragon Days could be held to honor the Draconid meteor shower, in early to mid-October.

3) Chinese New Year, a.k.a. the Lunar New Year, occurs in late January. Certainly there could be a Dragon Days associated with this world-wide festival.

4) An international competition of fire dancers or pyrotechnicians could be designated as Dragon Days.

5) In a fantasy setting, where dragons were real, Dragon Days might be the season when their eggs hatch.

Well, what do you think? What should Dragon Days be about?

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I’m reblogging the legend of Hydra, first posted in October 2012. Here’s the second half.

*****

The Legend of Hydra, Part 2

No one knows when the ancient Greeks began telling stories about Hercules, but the saga of the Twelve Labors was pretty much in the form we know by 600 BCE. As the story goes, Hercules had suffered a fit of madness and murdered his own children. To atone, he had to perform ten great tasks, assigned by King Eurystheus of Tiryns. Since Eurystheus was a devout follower of Hera, the queen of the gods and Hercules’s enemy, all his choices were either deadly or deeply humiliating.

As his second task, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to go to Lake Lerna and kill the terrible Hydra. Hercules and his nephew, Iolaus, proceeded to the spring of Amymone, where Hydra lived in a cave filled with noxious vapors. Hercules covered his mouth and nose with cloth to protect himself and fired flaming arrows into the cave to get her attention.

Hydra charged out, her nine dragon heads spewing poisoned gasses, and they did battle. Hercules cut off some of her heads with a sword, but discovered to his horror that two heads grew back in the place of each one he cut off.

The task seemed hopeless, but Iolaus had an idea. Each time Hercules cut off one of Hydra’s heads, Iolaus ran up and cauterized the stump with a torch. This prevented any more heads growing in. The tide of battle turned.

Hera was watching from Mount Olympus. When she saw that Hercules was winning, she sent a giant crab to attack his feet. Hercules stomped on the crab and killed it. Working together, he and Iolaus were able to defeat the vicious Hydra.

They could not kill her, however. Hydra’s last head was immortal. Legends diverge slightly at this point. One version says that Hercules switched to his favorite weapon, a club, and thus killed Hydra without cutting her head off. The other version is that he did cut off her last head, and Iolaus cauterized the stump, effectively killing Hydra’s body. Her final head remained alive. Hercules buried it under a large rock, rendering it harmless.

Afterward, Hercules dipped his arrows in Hydra’s venomous blood. These poisoned arrows figure significantly in later parts of his history. Hera, meanwhile, rewarded Hydra and the giant crab by placing them in the night sky as the constellations Hydra and Cancer respectively.

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Humans of many cultures have looked to the night sky and found pictures among the stars, then spun tales of who or what these constellations represent. But those stories are all from the human perspective. Today I have a special guest, an actual dragon,* to share a dragon’s version of these star-stories.

Yes, hello. I am Tetheus, a sea dragon from the land of Aerde, and I’ve come to correct your silly human notions about the constellations. We sea dragons were swimming the deeps of Aerde for centuries before any of your kind put a canoe in the water. We know a thing or two.

Let’s start with some of the figures most commonly labeled as human. There’s the one you call “Orion the Hunter.” We dragons known it as The Knight, a warning of human aggression against dragons.

There’s another you call “Hercules,” a hero who slew the monstrous Hydra. Really? Just look at those arms and legs flailing — he’s obviously running for his life. That’s why we dragons know him as The Peasant.

Finally, there’s “Andromeda,” who’s allegedly being sacrificed — to a sea dragon, of all things. (I’ll have you know we sea dragons only eat fish!) In our telling, this is The Witch. Witches are often victims of human superstition. They think they’re sacrificing witches to us sea dragons, but we have found them to be excellent and faithful allies.

Well, that’s enough for now. Come back in a day or two, after my nap, and I’ll share more of our star-stories.

* Tetheus is a character in “The Dragon Stone,” one of the short stories in Lucy D. Ford’s upcoming collection.

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