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Every Monday morning at 6:49 and 8:49, IPR News Radio looks into the night sky with Mary Stewart Adams, former Program Director and founder of the International Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, who has been telling stories of the night sky on IPR since 2013.

To Hear the Mermaids Sing: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

The outline of a mermaid sitting in a sunset
Image by Michigan Sky Media
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The light of summer’s first full moon, when the Sun has paused and the crown of stars adorns the sky, allows messenger to open the gate into the magical dreams of the season.

Even though summer officially begins in the northern hemisphere on the day when the Sun comes to its solstice position furthest north of the celestial equator, tradition holds that the pause the Sun takes at this time actually lasts for three days.

Solstice began near midnight Sunday into Monday, then on Tuesday, during the Sun’s apparent stillness, the planet Mercury will turn direct from its retrograde motion, followed on Thursday by the Full Moon. And while all this is going on, the constellation of the starry crown comes to its highest place in the night sky.

So all in the same week the Sun changes direction, Mercury changes direction, the Moon comes Full, and the starry crown comes highest.

If we imagine the Sun and Moon standing opposite one another as mighty pillars marking the portal of entry into the season, then it’s easy to imagine Mercury as the trickster at the gate, testing us all to see if we got too frustrated during his retrograde sojourn which started three weeks ago ~ if we did, then we may miss the crowning magic of the season that the bringer of dreams has in store.

One dream that’s associated with summer’s first full moon has to do with mermaids, those magical mythical creatures that populate the poetry of ages, wearing, as Tennyson described it, the starry sea-bud crown. The first record of mermaids dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and the tale of a goddess who dove into the lake to take the form of a fish. The gods would not allow her to give up her great beauty, so only her bottom half became a fish.

In the wonder literature of later ages, winning the starry crown meant the mermaid could fully regain her human form, which is one way to restore goodness and beauty to the world.