Casting Wishes for the Earth: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Apr 22, 2019

Orpheus loses his beloved Eurydice to the Earth's shadowy underworld in the Ancient Greek myth. Painting by CG Kratzenstein-Stub, 1806

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22nd, which makes it poetically coincident with the Lyrid Meteor Shower. The Lyrids take their name from the constellation Lyra, which bears a challenging story across the sky of lost love in the Earth.

The idea for an Earth Day observation originated with Wisconsin Senator Gary Nelson in 1969, after he witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in California that year.

Rachel Carson's seminal book Silent Spring had been published just a few years earlier, and the environmental movement was in full swing by the time Nelson and his colleagues decided that the best day for their Earth-centered event was some time between Spring Break and Final Exams. They were hoping to channel the energy of the anti-war protest movement in order to put environmental concerns on the front page.

The first event happened on April 22nd in 1970, while one of the oldest-known meteor showers, the Lyrids, gently fell through the sky overhead. The meteor shower takes its name from the constellation Lyra, which is named for the musical instrument of Orpheus, and it was placed in the sky by the Muses, to honor his rare talents after he died, broken from the loss of his beloved Eurydice to Earth's shadowy underworld.

One way to understand the myth of Orpheus and his lost love is to consider that for the Ancient Greeks, it was a myth of preparation ~ one of those seemingly tragic stories where a loved one is left languishing in the underworld with no way to return to the upper world of the living. Their message seemed to be that it would be up to a later humanity to so love the Earth, as Orpheus loved Eurydice, that it could restore its life and loveliness. 

So this year, as you cast your wishes to the stars, cast a wish for the Earth, with love. 

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the Earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility. ~Rachel Carson