In Stories in the Stars, an atlas of constellations, familiar characters float in time and space, their stories and forms changing with each astronomer’s gaze. Take a look at some of our favourite constellations below and then wrap up warmly and join as we make our way through the skies.
BEWARE OF DRACO DRA/DRACONIS,
I was alive in before the sea split from the sky. In the unlit chaos of the big nothing.
I don’t know how to live in the light among people who are light-stepped and free-souled, and that bitterness has curdled into rage. A rage that I try endlessly to expel in ferocious flames. Mine is the fire of despair.
Hercules called me Ladon and slew me with an arrow. Athena caught me by the tail and spun me round and hurled me into these starry coils. I was frozen and knotted around the Pole Star for years. An astronomer, Thales, clipped my wings and gave them to Ursa Minor.
But mine is an anger that will never cease. A sorrow that will always lurk in the seas of chaos and the skies of your mind.
Here I am, the original maiden in distress. The Women Chained, who awaits her knight in shining armour; whose OWN PARENTS strung her to a ROCK.
I was saved by love. Strapped to the rocks of Joppa and screaming out to sea, I caught the beady eye of Perseus. When gorgeous Percy swooped to my rescue on a massive white horse (not fluttering on winged sandals, Ovid) I was gloriously naked except for some impressive bling – something you understood when you started your star atlases, before modesty shrouded the centuries and you covered me up. Like those Arabian astronomers who, scared to draw the human form, turned me into a fat little sea calf. Thanks a bunch. They kept me in chains though, of course.
BE AWESTRUCK BY PHOENICIS, THE PHOENIX
Who can tell if Keyser and de Houtman were thinking of Ovid when they placed a Phoenix – that ancient symbol of immortality and resurrection – in their astral menagerie?
It doesn’t live on crop or grasses or anything as ordinary and boring as that but on the TEARS OF FRANKINCENSE and the magic potion that is the juice in the sap of a spice plant from east. It lives five generations to the full. Then. Immediately. Using only its talons and its innocent beak, it builds itself a nest in the shaking branches of a palm tree’s summit.
on top of its odorous plot
of its life
and from the body
of the father phoenix
A little Phoenix
Curious to discover more about the characters who live in our skies? Stories in the Stars is more than a stargazing companion; it reimagines ancient stories and myths, giving Ovid a sure run for his Roman coins. Continue the journey here.