Dec 8, 2015

Posted by in Astraea, Goddesses, Gods and Godesses, Paganism | 0 Comments

Astraea

English: The "Darnley Portrait" of E...

English: The “Darnley Portrait” of Elizabeth I of England, oil on panel, 113 x 78.7 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 2082). Probably painted from life, this portrait is the source of the face pattern called “The Mask of Youth” which would be used for authorized portraits of Elizabeth for decades to come (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 28th marked the beginning of the goddess month of Astraea, and December 8th is sacred to that same goddess. Astraea is the Greek virgin goddess of innocence, purity, and justice. She is frequently conflated with Dike, the goddess of justice and moral order. She is also sometimes conflated with Nemesis, the goddess of just or divine retribution.

In Greek mythology, there were Five Ages of Man: The Golden Age, when humans lived among the gods; The Silver Age, when humans lived 100 years before becoming adults, then warred with one another, refused to worship the gods, and were destroyed by Zeus; The Bronze Age, when everything was bronze and war was what men wanted; The Heroic Age, the time of the great heroes; The Iron Age, nothing but toil and misery.

Astraea lived among mortals longer than any of the other gods and goddesses, but was finally driven away by the wickedness of the world sometime in the Bronze Age. She departed to the heavens, to become the constellation of Virgo. Libra, the constellation of justice, is quite nearby. Legend has it that Astraea will return someday, to usher in a new Golden Age.

During the European Renaissance, when Greek philosophy and thought was being rediscovered, Astraea became a symbol of the re-emergence of culture. English poets equated Astraea with Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen ruling over another Golden Age. Astraea was invoked by Spenser in The Faerie Queene, and by Shakespeare in Titus Andronicus. French writers associated Astraea with the reign of Philip IV, while the Russians equated her with Catherine the Great. When Charles II ascended the English throne, John Dryden welcomed him with Astraea Redux, perhaps hoping that Charles would be the one to bring back the Golden Age. Interestingly, writer Aphra Behn used “Astraea” as a code name while she was working as a spy for Charles II. She herself was later called “The Incomparable Astraea”, and used that name to indicate the speaker in many of her poems.

In the 19th century, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Browning refer to Astraea but more as an acknowledgement of loss rather than with any hope of her imminent return. It is interesting to note that there seems to be a universal theme of humanity falling from grace in just about every mythology. There is also a recurring theme of the virgin goddess, as well as the return of a deity to bring back the good old days.

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