Dante’s Moon

There’s an auspicious anniversary in the world of literature this week, and it coincides with the last New Moon of the season on Thursday, September 14: the death of Italian Poet Dante Alighieri, in 1321.

Prior to his Divine Comedy, Dante wrote the La Vita Nuova, a series of poetic vignettes in which he narrates the course of his love for the fair lady Beatrice. Many consider Dante’s profound affection to be directed at a human woman, but the early 20th century philosopher and esotericist Rudolf Steiner pointed out that Beatrice may also represent a Divine Being, a celestial Goddess like the being of Wisdom, Sophia, who descends toward striving human beings bearing the gifts of insight and self-knowledge.

Dante describes that he first saw Beatrice when he was nine, in the year 1274, the same year that Thomas Aquinas died. In Dante’s Paradise, he meets Thomas in the Sun sphere, the sphere of the wise, which lends itself to the idea that his nine-year-old encounter is with the Goddess of Wisdom, Sophia.

In the sky this week the waning crescent Moon will slip past Venus in the morning sky, Monday and Tuesday, about 40 minutes before sunrise looking East. We can imagine Venus as the Celestial Goddess, granting her gifts of loving insight into the crescent Moon for bearing earthward to humanity, especially at the Moon’s new phase on Thursday, September 14th, the anniversary of Dante’s death.

In the introduction to his Vita Nuova he wrote:

In that book which is my memory,

On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,

Appear the words: ‘Here begins a new life.’


Cover image from Sky&Telescope. And note that this episode aired on Interlochen Public Radio Monday, September 11, 2023, an is available on podcast, wherever you listen.