The Muse Project—She who Raises

Urania, from the “Muses Sarcophagus.” Marble, first half of the 2nd century AD, found by the Via Ostiense.

Urania, from the “Muses Sarcophagus.” Marble, first half of the 2nd century AD, found by the Via Ostiense.

“Ourania (Urania), because men who have been instructed by her she raises aloft to heaven (ouranos), for it is a fact that imagination and the power of thought lift men’s souls to heavenly heights.”

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4.7.1 (Greek historian 1st century BC)

Urania (you-RANE-iə), “heavenly,” is the muse of astronomy and seen with a globe and a compass or pointer. She can foretell the future from the stars.

“Corymbus of Helicon . . . formerly the Musae’s friend, to whom Uranie herself, knowing full well his Stygian destiny, had long foretold his death by the position of the stars [i.e. as the goddess presided over astrology].”  

Statius, Thebaid 8. 548 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic 1st century A.D.)

The oldest astronomical artifact is the Nebra Sky Disc from the 16th-15th century BC. The oldest astrological texts are from Mesopotamia in the 3rd century BC. Astrology was studied and developed by the Greeks, Egyptians, and others along with the other sciences through to the decline of the Roman Empire in the West. It was the Arab world that kept it alive and enriched it along with other Classical learning. The 15th and 16th centuries are considered “the golden age of astronomy,” but by the 17th century astronomy fell out of favor culturally and intellectually. In the 18th century, “the age of enlightenment,” those disciplines that today we call “science” flourished. And yet, Newton discussed astrology in his Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended in 1728. He “assumed a relationship between the history of nations and the stars,” and thought some distant historical dates might be accurately determined using astrology.

Modern astrology beginning in the 19th century is not like traditional astrology. Traditional astrology had four main branches: mundane, natal, horary, and elections. Mundane is about the fate of society, natal is about the individual’s fate, horary is used to answer questions, and elections is used to determine the best time to initiate an undertaking. Modern astrology is more about personality traits. As Bobrick states in The Fated Sky, traditional “astrology emphasized the dignity or strength of the planets in the signs, receptions between them, and, in prediction, aspects as showing the occasion of events—a very different thing form the Sun-sign astrology of modern times.”

“From a technical standpoint traditional astrology is more oriented towards the subjective experience of the individual, and many of the techniques are designed in order to be able to explain both how the native will experience events personally, as well as what the broader meaning and purpose of those events are in their life.… Far from being too simplistic or black and white, traditional astrology employs more technical distinctions and nuances than modern astrology, which allows it to more accurately describe the full range of possible manifestations of a specific chart placement.”  

Chris Brennan, The Horoscopic Astrology Blog
 

Zodiac, from zodion kuklos, “circle of animals” in Ancient Greek

Astronomy/astrology is the oldest of occult sciences and the origin of science itself. Science begins with awe and wonder of the unknown. This leads to speculation which generates theory. Theory is subject to critical analysis and further investigation and a continuous search for facts. From (or because of) astronomy/astrology developed math, geometry, calculation of time, medicine, botany, mineralogy, and by way of alchemy, chemistry. The first things that produced this awe and wonder in humans was what they saw when they raised their eyes: the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Other star deities include: the Greek Titan Asteria, goddess of nighttime oracles and falling stars; Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky; and the Aztec skeletal goddess of the stars Tzitzimimeh.

But Urania is not the only Muse associated with the stars. All the Muses were instrumental in creating one of the constellations.

Crotus was a Centaur and the son of Eupheme, the nanny of the Muses. They helped deliver Crotus into the world. He lived on Mt. Helicon with them and delighted in their singing. He invented applause to show his appreciation of their talents and was the first to provide rhythm to their music by clapping his hands and stomping his hooves. He became an excellent archer, learned the arts and sciences from the Muses and was much beloved by them. When he died the Muses asked Zeus to put him in the sky where he still resides today as the Archer. His Latin name is Sagittarius.

“Greeks believed that contemplating the natural world, to seek to understand it, and to glorify it in the arts were worthy endeavors that directed the mind toward a higher reality.” The pursuit of this ideal is encompassed in the word arete—personal excellence and virtue—and many constellations tell the tales of striving for this excellence.  A great book that tells these tales is Ancient Skies: Constellation Mythology of the Greeks by David Weston Marshall.

As the sun moves through the zodiac constellation of the Archer (Nov 22 to Dec 21), let Urania raise our eyes to the heavens; let us explore and wonder at who we are, where we come from, and from the movements of the heavens pursue arete.

Urania,

celestial goddess, reflective one,

cloaked in the shimmering stars,

eyes cast toward the night sky,

yours are the seekers of reason and truth,

yours are those who struggle and strive for

understanding,

who conceive the unseen,

who argue the unknown;

your gift, a level head and a wandering mind.

Urania, goddess, child of Olympos, I honor you.

To the Muses I, Hester Butler-Ehle

Urania, Muse of astronomy. Marble, head and torso: Roman copy after Greek original from the 4th century BC, rest of the body: modern restoration. From the Villa Adriana near Tivoli, 1786 (head).

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