It’s Thanksgiving week in America, so it’s time to ask whether there is an obvious festival of gratitude expressed in the stars that are overhead in this season?
One of the most brilliant stars in the sky right now is Capella, in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer, which is visible in the northeast at about 8 pm each night.
Capella is known variously as the heart of Brahma in the Hindu tradition, as the she-goat that suckled the infant Zeus in the ancient Greek tradition, and the cape of St. Martin in the Christian tradition. Each one of these stories holds an element of gratitude, but I only have time for one, so we’ll go with the ancient Greek:
As the son of the Titan god Cronos, Zeus posed a particular threat, for it had been prophesied to Cronos that one of his off-spring would overtake him. To avert this disaster, Cronos set about devouring his children, all save the infant Zeus, whom his mother secreted away to the care of the nymph Amalthea. Amalthea hung Zeus in a cradle from a tree so that he could be found neither in heaven nor on earth, nor in the sea.
Amalthea owned a beautiful she-goat that suckled the infant Zeus, and this is our star Capella. One day the goat broke one of its beautiful horns. Amalthea picked it up and wrapped it in fresh herbs and filled it with fresh fruits which she brought to the infant god. Because of this, on his becoming ruler of heaven, Zeus transformed both his nurse and the horn of plenty into stars. So not only is there an expression of deep gratitude hidden in this region of the sky, but also, the origin for the cornucopia that is so often used as a traditional decoration for this season.
To close, here’s one of my favorite poem of gratitude to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. It’s by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
For each morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything Thy goodness sends.