September 28, 2012

Aurora: The Roman Goddess of the Dawn

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 7:00 am by Babs

The Goddess Aurora: A poem by James Parker Haley

Dark gods crawl from forest moss to fight the fire lord shadows dance of battles wrought when camp fires start to roar.

In summer’s night of far, far north Polaris watches bored while fire mites, will mesmerize in trance, above the quiet moors.

These sounds that mock, harken not her footfalls to my ear and crackling fires, spark desire for the Goddess to appear.

She comes at night in pulsing light a temptress from the north on forest spires, with incandescent fires she dances, to find her Earth’n Lord.

On this night an age-old rite, in circles of all Druids before and Irish med, pure of sin will dance, to have her sweet reward.

In waves of light, she comes tonight through heavens gate-less door and touches ground, on holy mounds to dance in ancient Celtic lore.

Oh queen of light, behold tonight this bounty for your choice choose the one, of sweetest love and in his dance rejoice.

With a roaring chant they began a dance with thunder through the moors a thousand men, for a challenge to win and the hand of the Goddess Aurora…

To this day they ne’er say though ’tis a myth, to modern man they whisper for a chance and they dance the fire dance as Aurora descends to the fires of the moors.

Aurora is the Roman personification of the dawn.  She is also the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Eos.  The Aurora Borealis also called the Merry Dancers are shimmering, colorful light bands caused by the solar winds interacting with the earth’s atmosphere are named after the Goddess Aurora.  In Alaska, Canada, northern Europe and other places close to the North Pole, as well as in the Antarctic, the night brings a wavy curtain of green, blue, red and other colored lights stretching across the sky.  As evening passes to midnight and on to dawn, the folds of the curtain make fantastic decorations over the heavens, forming arcs, rays and wreaths.  This is the aurora.  It has been called a symphony of light, at times leaping into the distance, at other times moving slowly forward.

Aurora, the goddess, is seen as a lovely woman who flies across the sky announcing the arrival of the sun.  Aurora has two siblings: a brother, the sun, and a sister, the moon.  She has had quite a number of husbands and sons.  Four of her sons are the four winds (north, south, east, and west). According to one myth, her tears caused the dew as she flies across the sky weeping for one of her sons, who was killed.  Aurora is certainly not the most brilliant goddess as she asked Zeus to grant one of her husbands immortality, but forgot to ask everlasting youth.  As a result, her husband soon became aged.  Aurora is not one of the better-known goddesses.  However, Shakespeare refers to her in his famous play Romeo and Juliet.

Aurora is depicted above in swirling garments rising from her bed on a journey through the heavens of the Greek god Apollo, (the sun-god) and scattering flowers as she goes.  She is supported by winged cherubs (putti) the most clearly modeled are seen closest to Aurora.  Many of the cherubs are carrying objects or “attributes” which provide clues as to the subject of the plaque.  For example, one is holding a want tipped with a star,  another is holding an owl, while another is holding a firebrand, all representing night.  Most significantly one cherub is holding a shield bearing the “H” which alludes to Helios the Greek name for Apollo the brother of Aurora.

Around the lower section of the plaque are clouds suggesting darkness, while at the top there is a suggestion of clearness with what appears at first sight to be a halo, but on closer inspection is a sunburst, emphasized by the arrangement of Aurora’s hair.  Within the sunburst is a faint depiction of a crescent moon which eludes to Luna (Greek name Selene) the moon goddess, who is sister to Aurora and twin to Apollo.

Aurora is cleverly depicted by the artist as if just waking, heralding the dawn and bridging the gap between night and day.  The belt she is wearing is out of keeping with classical Greek or Roman female attire and suggests therefore that the original design of the plaque can be attributed to the Italian Renaissance period.

In Roman mythology, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn.  Inuit people of Alaska, Canada and Greenland believe that the aurora is the fire of torches lighting the way to heaven for the spirits of the dead.  The beautiful pink rays which sometimes appear are thought to be the color of blood shed in the struggles between the spirits.  The Vikings of northern Europe took the aurora to be a huge flame.  In japan, an entry in the ancient “Nihon Shoki” is thought to refer to the aurora, while in China a great many sketches resembling the aurora remain.  The dark red aurora was considered to be an omen of ill fortune.  These are some of the many legends concerning the aurora wich still exist in various parts of the world.  Ancient peoples were probably reduced to silence in the face of this grand phenomenon of light created by nature.  They must have regarded it with a sense of sacredness and awe.

Aurora, goddess of the morning and Tithonus, Prince of Troy 18th century ol on canvas by Francesco de Mura.

This in an allegory of the eternal alternation of day and night.  In Greek mythology Aurora, the goddess of dawn, rose from her bed every morning leaving her aged husband Titone shielding his eyes from the morning light which flows from her torch.  The clouds of night roll away and the horizon lightens.  A group o maidens scatter flowers.  Less frivolous than many of his Rococo contemporaries, de Mura’s painting anticipates some aspects of Neo-classicism.

Aurora and Tithonus

Aurora, the goddess of the Dawn, like her sister the Moon, was at times inspired with the love of mortals.  Her greatest favorite was Tithonus, son of Laomedon, King of Troy.  She stole him away, and prevailed on Jupiter to grant him immortality; but forgetting to have youth joined in the gift, after some time she began to discern, to her great mortification, that he was growing old.  When his hair was quite white she left his society; but he still had the range of her palace, lived on ambrosial food, and was clad in celestial raiment.  At whence his feeble voice might at times be heard.  Finally she turned him into a grasshopper.

Memnon was the son of Aurora and Tithonus.  He was king of the Aehiopians, and set in the extreme east, on the shore of Ocean.  He came with his warriors to assist the kindred of his father in the war of Troy.  King Priam received him with great honors and listened with admiration to his narrative of the wonders of the ocean shore.

The very day after his arrival, Memnon, impatient of repose, led his troops to the field.  Antilochus, the brave son of Nestor, fell by his hand, and the Greeks were put to flight, when Achilles appeared and restored the battle.  A long and doubtful contest ensued between him and the son of Aurora; at length victor declared for Achilles, Memnon fell, and the Trojans fled in dismay.

Aurora, who, from her station in the sky, had viewed with apprehension the danger of her son, when she saw him fall directed his brothers, the Winds, to convey his body to the banks of the river Esepus in Paphlagonia.  In the evening Aurora came, accompanied by the Hours and the Pleiads, and wept and lamented over her son.  Night, in sympathy with her grief, spread the heaven with clouds’ all nature mourned for the offspring of the Dawn.  The Aethiopians raised his tomb on the banks of the stream in the grove of the nymphs, and Jupiter caused the sparks and cinders of his funeral-pile to be turned into birds, which, dividing into two flocks fought over the pile till they fell into the flame.  Every year, at the anniversary of his death, they returned and celebrate his obsequies in like manner.  Aurora remains inconsolable for the loss of her son.  Her tears still flow, and may be seen at early morning in the form of dew-drops on the grass.

Unlike most of the marvels of ancient mythology, there are some memorials of this.  On the banks of the river Nile, in Egypt, are two colossal statues, one of which is said to be the statue of Memnon.  ancient writers record that when the first rays of the rising sun fall upon this statue, a sound is heard to issue from it which they compare to the snapping of a harp-string.  There is some doubt about the identification fo the existing statue with the one described by the ancients, and the mysterious sounds are still more doubtful.  Yet they do not want some modern testimonies to their being still audible.  It has bene suggested that sounds produced by confined air making its escape from crevices or caverns in the rocks may have given some ground for the story.  Sir Gardner Wilkinson, a late traveler, of the highest authority, examined the statue itself, and discovered that it was hollow, and that “in the lap of the statue is a stone, which on being struck emits a metallic sound, that might still be made use of deceive a visitor who was predisposed to believe its powers.”

The vocal statue of Memnon is a favorite subject of allusion with the poets.  Darwin, in his Botanic Garden, says, “So to the sacred Sun in Memnon’s fane Spontaneous concords choired the matin strain; touched by his orient beam responsive rings the living lyre and vibrates all its strings; accordant aisles the tender tones prolong, and holy echoes swell the adoring song.”

The goddess Aurora is also known as Ostara, or Eostre of the Norse.

Eos – The Dawn

Eos was the Greek personification of the Dawn, the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia and the sister of Helios (Sun) and Selene (Moon).  At the close of each night, rosy-fingered, saffron-robed Eos rises from her couch in the east and mounts her chariot drawn by the horses Lampus and Phaethon.  Her godly duty is to ride to Mount Olympus and announce the approach of her brother Helios.  When Helios appears Eos becomes Hemera (Day) and she journeys along with him on his travels until, now transformed into Hespera (Dusk), she announces their safe arrival on the western shores of the great Ocean.

The Saffron Mother

The Saffron-goddess had a substantially greater role in Crete than in later antiquity.   In Greece and Rome she came to be identified as Eos or Aurora the Goddess of the Dawn, with herself, her throne, her sacred robes, even her wedding bed, all the color of gold and saffron.

Dawn-goddesses were frequently warlike, arising each morning to battle with things of the Night such as Eos single-handedly chased out of the sky.  Ovid among others called Eos the “Saffron Mother,” and many ancient poets allude to her rosy-red (saffron-dyed_ fingers.  She arrived on the earth each morning in a war chariot drawn by bright roan horses.  The Dionysiaca calls her “far-shooting Eos” since she is a mistress of archery.

In Hesiod’s Theogony she is the “All Seeing,” indicating she was once a Sun-mother like All-seeing Shapash in the lands of the patriarchs.  Because Greeks perceived the sun as a male principle only, the plethora of Sun-mothers co-opted from other culteures were transformed into Dawn-goddesses or Moon-goddesses.  Such names as alluded to the Sun as “Bright” or “Shining” need not be altered in order to revamp them as Moon-goddesses.  For example, the Greek goddess Leto, allegedly a Moon-goddess, is actually the same as the Arabic Sun-mother Allatu, which is how it came about that even in the Greek reassessment of Leto’s significance; she remained the mother of Sun (Apollo) and of Moon (Artemis).  Dawn-goddesses however had features of the All Mother so deeply ingrained in them, they had to be placed at the cusp of night and morning because they once had rule over Life and Death, Light and Dark, Wellness and Disease, and were less easily demoted to the role of Moon-goddess only.

The Odyssey notes that Eos’s golden robe was an embroidered “flowery cloth” and The Iliad says she lays her saffron robes upon the earth, a protective action.  The Iliad as well notes that She was the source not only of the enlightenment of “Zeus and the other immortals” but also of men.  Thus even Olympus would dwell in ignorance and darkness without Eos or Aurora, she that was the messenger of Titans, especially of her father Helios.  She seems herself to be more of a Titan than an Olympian, originating as she does from an earlier level of myth associated with Minoan culture.

There is a mystical attachment to Saffron Eos who harmonized Fire and Water, being as she is both Light and Dew, dwelling in a world that Night readied for Day.  This harmony is at the base of many mystical systems of religion.  The myths of Eos falling in love with such mortals as Kephalos, Orion, Kleitos and Tithonus preserves an echo of this ancient idea that Eos is the source of mortal enlightenment.  She was simultaneously a Goddess of erotic love and was said to spend her nights with a series of mortal lovers, her saffron being a mighty aphrodisiac.

Aurora’s Spell:

Aurora, Goddess of the Dawn shares her trademark beauty secret; the morning’s dew.  This is a spell especially potent on May Day.

In the early hours of the dawn, seek out a flowerbed, abundant with daisies or jasmine, or a field of lush wildflowers, all kissed with dew.  Kneel near the flowers facing the Auroras glow in the east.  Then at the very moment her rays of light appear over the horizon, caress your cheeks, lips, nose, and forehead gently with the flowers’ petals without using your hands.  As you feel the dew anoint your face, say aloud:

Aurora’s nectar, radiant dew

Blessed by the morning light so new

As the sun shines in the skies

May my beauty light my lover’s eyes.

So shall it be.


1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Jeez, not you again! and commented:
    Aurora, dawn, why not?

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