Saturday, 11 December 2010

Retreat of the Howling Dog

Darkness was falling; through the clearing haze the stars came out. Over the broken horizon the Scorpion was crawling. There was the red, dying sun, Antares. The south-east, the Retreat of the Howling Dog appeared. Lunar Caustic

"The Retreat of the Howling dog" is one of the phrases which you can imagine appealed to Lowry. The origins of the phrase are as follows:

Porrima is a star in the constellation Virgo named after the "Goddess of Prophecy" Zawiat al Awwa which is translated "The Angle (or Corner) of the Barker"; from the tradition that the space enclosed by the curve of Epsilon, Delta, Gamma, Eta and Beta marked the "Retreat of the Howling Dog". Robert Burnham Jr: Burnham's celestial handbook: an observer's guide to the universe beyond the Solar System

Gamma (γ) Virgo, Porrima, is a white binary star (some call both yellow) and slightly variable in light; 3 and 3.2, on the waist of the Virgin (beside the waist in this drawing).

The Latins called this Porrima, or Antevorta, sometimes Postvorta, names of two ancient goddesses of prophecy, sisters and assistants of (p.470} Carmenta or Carmentis, worshiped and at times invoked by their women. Porrima was known as Prorsa and Prosa by Aulus Gellius of our 2nd century. [Carmenta was the Roman goddess of childbirth. Pierre Grimal (Dictionary of Classical Mythology) says Carmenta was regarded as a divinity of procreation; she was invoked by two names, Prorsa (head first) and Postversa (feet first), the two positions in which a child can be born]

Gamma (γ Porrima) was specially mentioned by the 13th century Persian astronomical writer Al Kazwini as itself being Zawiat al Awwa, the Angle, or Corner, of the Barker; and Al Tizini (Arabian astronomer, first half of 16th century), with the 15th century Tartar astronomer Ulug Beg, had much the same name for it; but the Persian astronomer Al Biruni (973-1048 A.D.), quoting from Al Zajjaj, said that "these people are all wrong," and that Awwa' here meant "Turn," referring to the turn, or bend, in the line of stars. This interesting early figure is noticeable even to the casual observer, gamma (γ Porrima) being midway between Spica and Denebola, the sides of the Kennel stretching off to the north and west, respectively marked by eta (η Zaniah) and beta (β Zavijava), delta (δ Auva) and epsilon (ε Vindemiatrix).

In Babylonia it marked the 19th ecliptic constellation, Shur-mahru-shiru, the Front, or West, Shur (?); while individually it was Kakkab Dan-nu, the Star of the Hero, and the reference point in their annals of an observation of Saturn1 on the 1st of March, 228 B.C., the first mention of this planet that we have, and recorded by the second-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy. The Chinese knew gamma (γ Porrima) as Shang Seang, the High Minister of State. They culminate on the 17th of May.[Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889].

The stars beta (β Zavijava), eta (η Zaniah), gamma (γ this star Porrima), delta (δ Auva), epsilon (ε Vindemiatrix), outlining this Kennel, formed the 11th manzil (Arabic Moon Mansion), Al Awwa, the Barker, or "the Howler", which was considered of good omen.

Influences of the 11th Arabic Moon Mansion Al Awwa: Gives benevolence, gain, voyages, harvests and freedom of captives.

With Moon transiting here: sow, plant, take medicine but do not travel or marry. (Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923)

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