Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.
Constellation Ara: the altar
Welcome to part three of the constellation series. I think I forgot to mention that I'm basing this series off of the works of ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy. He set out forty-eight constellations, based in Greek myth, of which some are still recognized to this day, and others got broken up or otherwise rearranged or added in the years that followed. The next is Ara: the altar. It's still a recognized constellation.
The constellation represents a very important item in Hellenic mythology: the altar used by the Olympic Gods to swear a vow of allegiance before they went to war against the Titans. The nearby Milky Way represents the smoke rising from the offerings on the altar. I have described the Titanomachy (Τιτανομαχία) or War of the Titans, which would last ten years and end with the victory of the Olympians and the incarceration of Kronos--and all who supported him--in Tartaros, before. The moment all of it began, was forever immortalized in the constellation Ara.
In another Greek myth, Ara represents the altar of King Lycaon of Arcadia, on which he sacrificed Arcas, son of Zeus and his own daughter Callisto. He then serves his grand child to Zeus as a meal, to test Him, and is turned into a wolf for his hubris. Zeus' anger then causes the death of fifty of Lycaon's sons, as they are struck down by lightning bolts. The tale isn't pretty and I prefer the first explanation.
Ancient Hellenic navigators believed that, if the Ara constellation was the only one visible in a cloudy sky, this was a sign of storm at sea.
Ara was visible in the skies of the ancient Hellens, but due to the precession of the equinoxes the constellation was progressively displaced towards the south, becoming an austral and invisible circumpolar constellation for the zone of the Mediterranean cultures. The altar is visible at latitudes between +25° and −90°. It is best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of July.
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