--- Let it Be known
Until next time,
Head For The Dark!
In Greek mythology, Perseus was the son of Zeus who beheaded Medusa and rescued Andromeda from Cetus the sea monster. His exploits and heroic stories have been told and retold since ancient times but Chinese mythology offers a beautiful story about this meteor shower as well. In China it is a holiday known as the Qixi or Magpie Festival which has been celebrated since the Han Dynasty which ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD. The story of this holiday is the tale of two star crossed lovers… Literally!
In ancient times, the emperor employed a handsome young boy to tend his herds and a beautiful young weaver girl to ensure all the textiles and clothing in the palace were in tip top shape. One day while out walking, the girl and boy met and fell deeply in love. They began spending more and more time together and neglecting their duties to the emperor. (You know you’ve been there!) This went on for some time unbeknownst to the emperor but eventually some of the herd wandered off and the emperor’s garments were falling into disrepair. When the emperor discovered the reason behind their dereliction of duties he demanded that they stop seeing each other immediately. And, as parents of teenagers, or anyone who has seen West Side Story can attest, that never works. This led to more and more clandestine meetings. Soon the emperor discovered that his orders had been ignored and with no HR department to refer this problem to, the emperor took matters into his own hands and banished the lovers to the night sky. The herd boy became Altair, while his lady became Vega. The emperor then cut a canyon in the sky to separate the two, which became the Milky Way as it filled with their tears. Occasionally, when you’re away from city lights, you can see love notes that they send to one another in shooting stars.
Prepare to be starstruck! The Delta Aquarids meteor shower began in late July. They are so named because the meteors of this shower emanate from the Aquarius Constellation near one of its brightest stars, Delta Aquari. This week that meteor shower is joined with the annual passing of the Swift-Tuttle comet that produces the Perseid meteor shower. The showers of light from the Perseids dart from the area of the Perseus Constellation. Wednesday evening after midnight PST should be the perfect time to head to the dark to watch the Aquarid/Perseid fireworks.
What does all this have to do with a meteor shower? Well, a flock of sympathetic magpies who are known to be hopeless romantics, felt bad for the lovers and once a year, on the night of the Perseids, they form a bridge over the Milky Way so that the two can meet. The magpies forming the bridge is said to be the of darting stars of the meteor shower.
This Qixi festival celebration is akin to Valentine’s Day in the west where love and romance is celebrated and gifts of candies and flowers are exchanged between sweethearts. During this festival celebrants reenact the tale of the herd boy and weaver girl and it’s considered especially auspicious for newlywed couples to pay tribute to them to ensure they will never be separated. Unattached girls would often participate in contests of needlework to demonstrate matrimonial suitability because I guess in a country that has good Chinese takeout on every corner, this skill is prized above cooking. It is also said that wishes, especially those of a romantic nature have a good chance of being granted during this festival. Unattached people write their wish for love on a piece of paper, tie it with red string to a piece of bamboo and float it down a river, representing the wishes being taken to the milky way where the two lovers look down and grant it special attention. I’m not trying to talk you in to anything but I took a good friend out to do this on the way to see the meteor shower and soon after she didn’t have any more romantic wishing to do and I was the ring boy (ring person?) at the wedding.
If you’ve got someone special, grab them and go watch the show together. For those still shopping around, get to writing your wish list and head to the Chinese market for some bamboo. Good luck and happy viewing and wishing!