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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.

Pearls of Wisdom: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Moon Venus 12.2021.jpeg
The Moon moves up the western sky passing the evening planets as though she were running her hand through a strand of pearls this week.

The moving Moon goes up the western sky this week, passing the evening planets as though she were running her fingers through a strand of pearls, an astonishing necklace adorning the queen of the night.

On Monday, the Moon meets Venus, the brilliant evening star. On Tuesday, Saturn; then on Wednesday, the Moon passes Jupiter, all the while gaining in light and beauty. Now the association of these evening planets with a strand of pearls is not just me taking poetic license, and let me explain why.

Pearls have long been associated with the divine essence, and in graeco-roman culture, they were associated with love and marriage, and were the emblem of the goddess Aphrodite/Venus, the “Lady of Pearls” who rose from the waters.

It was also believed that the pearl resulted from lightning penetrating the oyster, hence the pearl was regarded as the union of fire and water.

In the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba had dedicated herself to wisdom, but was tricked into losing her chastity by Solomon when she traveled to Jerusalem to meet him. There’s a poem attributed to her, dating from 1000 BC in which she writes: I fell because of wisdom, but was not destroyed: through her I dived into the great sea, and in those depths, I seized a wealth-bestowing pearl.

Another poet queen who was famous for her pearls was Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, whose birthday was December 8, nearly 480 years ago this week. She was given a thick rstrand of black pearls from her mother-in-law Catherine de Medici. The pearls had been given to Catherine for her dowry by the Pope. After Mary Stuart’s unfortunate execution, the pearls went to Queen Elizabeth, and they later made their way to Queen Victoria, who divided them up among her daughters. Four of the pearls remain and can be seen in the Queen’s Imperial Crown at the Tower of London, or by looking west after sunset all week.