The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks overnight Wednesday to Thursday, December 13 to 14, and though this shower was only discovered in the 1860s, I imagine it in connection with a story that comes from much earlier in history: “The Paradise” of Dante’s Divine Comedy, written more than 700 years ago.
The Geminid Meteor Shower was first observed in 1862, by an astronomer in England. At the time, the American Civil War was underway, so we could say that the shower was born during wartime.
In Dante’s epic poem, he mounts up from the planetary spheres into the stars at the region of Gemini. You could say that this is like overcoming the spheres of karmic destiny expressed by the planets and reaching into the freedom of the divine, as expressed by the stars.
For centuries scholars have pondered why Dante chose Gemini as the place for this. Some say it’s because Dante was born during Gemini season, but also, the path of the planets crosses through the Milky Way right at Gemini, which allows for Dante to craft an imagination about it. Here the human being might be freed from the karmic destiny of the planetary spheres by striving toward what Dante encounters at this moment in the epic: the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.
So this week it’s easy to imagine that with every star that falls through the sky, some gift of virtue enters the season, a true message for this season; a true message for this moment in human history, sent to us by the stars. Faith, Hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.
This episode airs on Interlochen Public Radio December 11, 2023, and can be heard on podcasts everywhere at anytime. Cover image from Sky&Telescope. Sketch by Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, of Dante and Beatrice mounting up from the planetary spheres to the heaven of the fixed stars at Gemini.