Sunday, December 14

The Geminids | A Cautionary Tale

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Did anyone catch the Geminid meteor shower last night? In the US and UK there were beautiful crystal skies for the peak of the last meteor shower of the year and it was dazzling! We were driving home late across the state so we caught a few beautiful views away from the city lights! Between my husband and me, we saw more than 10 shooting stars! My favorite was a greenish colored fireball that streaked all the way across the sky. It was there for so long that you could actually focus your eyes on it and not wonder if you actually saw it or not. (Anyone else do that every time they see a shooting star?)

The Geminid shower is named because the shooting stars appear as if they are radiating out of the Gemini constellation but really we (the Earth) are passing through the dusty remains of an extinct comet called Phaeton. Phaeton's story is actually pretty insightful, so I thought I'd share it with you (in case anyone out there loves mythology as much as I do, or just likes stories in general).

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Phaeton, in Greek mythology, was the son of a mortal woman and the powerful sun god, Helios. (Helios, you may recall, was the god who drove a chariot pulling the sun across the sky every day. (So basically... he was kind of a big deal.) However, growing up, Phaeton didn't know about his father. Since Phaeton was raised by a single mother, he was teased by the other children and that teasing inspired in Phaeton a deep and zealous desire to prove himself, no matter what the consequences.

When he was old enough, his mother told him about his father and let him go on quest to meet him at his palace in the East. Phaeton was thrilled. He was so excited that his father was so powerful and influential. Helios was also so excited that he had a son that he agreed to grant his son any favor he wanted. Phaeton, feeling a deep desire to prove himself to all his bullies, asked his father to drive the chariot and pull the sun across the sky. And even though Helios sensed the misled intentions behind his son's request, he didn't want to take back his first promise to his son and agreed to let him do it.

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But as soon as Phaeton jumped into the chariot and grabbed the reins, the horses sensed that he was not a skilled driver and went out of control. They were too powerful for him and pulled the chariot haphazardly across the sky dipping too close to the earth and burning a large section of it (that we now know as the Saharan desert).

Zeus (the all mighty ruler of all the gods) saw what was happening and threw a lightning bolt at the chariot to strike it down and stop the dangerous situation. Phaeton was killed instantly and his body plummeted down to Earth where he was mourned by his sisters. The girls' grief was so intense that Zeus turned them into trees and their tears into amber. (We now know as these trees as Weeping Willows.)

The story (and the Gemenid shower) is a reminder to us to be careful with our wishes. Because our desires affect not only our life, but that of our friends and family (just like Phaeton's sisters who mourned him so strongly after his reckless decision) we must remember to weigh the consequences of our desires and choices before jumping in and grabbing the reins (so to speak).

The Geminids may have peaked last night but you might still be able to catch them through dawn on Wednesday morning!
stars I couldn't track down the original source for this incredible image. If you know it please let me know so I can credit the artist!
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