Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Wednesday "Why?" - Algol

This week's "Wednesday Why?" seeks the reason fixed star Algol has the reputation of being "the most evil star in the heavens".

Astronomers have known since the 17th century that Algol is a binary star rotating with a companion which regularly partially eclipses it, causing the star to appear to blink. Was it this appearance of instability, the unusual blinking motion, which brought about Algol's bad reputation? That doesn't seem logical. Ancient astrologers could well have attached an interpretation of instability and volatility to the star due to its appearance, but evil? I doubt it.

The star is part of the constellation Perseus, and Algol, also known as Caput Algol, is said to be a skyborne representation of the severed head of Medusa which Perseus carried. The Gorgon Medusa had serpents for hair, huge teeth, protruding tongue and a face so grotesque that all who gazed upon it were turned to stone, from fright. The star's name is a contraction of Ra's al Ghul - the Demon's Head. It is known as Lilith by the Hebrews, and Tseih She by the Chinese - translation: piled up corpses.

Presently Algol lies at 26 Taurus in the tropical zodiac.

I wonder why this constellation was connected to Perseus in the first place, and why was Algol thought to represent the Gorgon's head? Which came first, giving the star a name based on observation of unfortunate events which happened when it aspected planets, or a connecting of star-dots in the heavens with the resulting pattern suggesting to astronomers, as in a Rorschach test, a man carrying something. "That'll be Persus, then", the astronomer/astrologer types would have decreed, "we'd best watch out for trouble when that star comes close to a planet, he had troubles, and he's carrying one of them - look, it's the star that blinks!"

Has the star's evil reputation been found to have any basis in fact? Results, applying that test, have been patchy at best. We'd have experienced far more disasters, communal and personal, throughout history, if Algol worked as a constant, infallible trigger for the descent of doom. From the articles linked below, and many others on-line, it's clear that Algol has indeed been party to some of the world's great disasters, as well as some highly unfortunate occurrences in the lives of certain individuals. Over many centuries though, and given the span of a population of billions of humans with this fixed star prominent in their nativities, I suspect that occasions when Algol lives up to its reputation are few and far between.

Modern astrologers have sought to attach a less drastic meaning to Algol, some connect it to energies of "the feminine" (presumably a link to Medusa's powers), others prefer a much diluted version of the somewhat paranoid traditional interpretation. The latter group surmises that anyone with Algol conjunct natal Sun or other personal planet is likely to be intense, perhaps prone to violence if provoked, and passionate in all enterprises (similar to Scorpio traits).

I haven't been able to convince myself, either way, about this winking blinking star. Perhaps that in itself could offer as good an interpretation as any: Algol's energies do have potential to be unfortunate (blink)..... but these energies often remain negligible or non-existent.

For more detail on Algol see Nick Kolelrstrom's article at Skyscript "The Horror-Scope of Algol"
And a piece at Astrology on the Web, by Ian Thurnwald, "The Cycle of Uranus and Algol in 2002"


anthonynorth said...

I wonder has anyone ever carried out an in-depth archetypal study of these astrological aspects, and then looked below a particular culture to see if a pattern emerges there?
My reason for asking is: if we take away all the culture of such symbols will we find universal basics to it all, common to all cultural systems? I often find we can identify deeper meanings by this approach.

Twilight said...

Hi AN ~~~ I don't know the answer to that, but someone should!

I thought it interesting that the Chinese name means "pile of corpses", as against the Gorgon's head interpretation of astrologers in the west.

PS: Sorry about moderation having been enabled by the way. Last night I found a spammer bot had infected 75 random posts with a long spam comment and had to gothrough individually to delet them all.

anthonynorth said...

A total pain in the ... aren't they?
I quite understand. Don't worry about it.

Anonymous said...

You might find this research on Algol interesting, from Aussie astrologer Yasmin Boland

or this might work better:

Twilight said...

Thank you for the link Anonymous.
That was a good read!

I'm not totally convinced about it at all though. That explanation (re feminine power) doesn't tally with the Chinese depiction of "a pile of corpses". Perhaps the
Chinese copied the Greeks, they would have traded together I guess, even in ancient times.

I think there's something more to be discovered about the reasons behind the myths and Algol though, about astrology in general in fact. But for now this is all we have.