Our spring almanac 02.04.2010 – 08.04.2010


The beautiful Queen.
Who was Casssiopeia? The constellation known as Cassiopeia is named after a character in the story of Perseus and Andromeda, and that includes Pegasus and the Gorgon Medusa and that originates in the mythology of ancient Greece. Cassiopeia was the queen and consort of King Cepheus in Ethiopia. Their daughter Andromeda was very beautiful. Cassiopeia herself was a great beauty and was vain of it; she proclaimed her beauty was greater than that of the Nereids’, the daughters of the sea god Poseidon. To punish Cassiopeia, he sentenced Andromeda to be tied to a rock with a sea monster awaiting her.

Perseus, returning from having slaughtered the gorgon Medusa, encountered the body of Andromeda lashed to the rock. He spoke to Cassiopeia and her husband and struck a deal with them: he would be allowed to marry Andromeda if he could kill the great sea monster before it killed their virgin daughter (who had been betrothed to her uncle Phineus).

Perseus defeated the monster, took Andromeda and returned to Ethiopia. Cassiopeia and Cepheus fulfilled their end of the bargain and began to plan the wedding for Andromeda. After the nuptials began, Phineus entered the proceedings and demanded his right to marry Andromeda. A battle ensued in which Cepheus and Cassiopeia sided with Phineus. Outnumbered, Perseus considered that he had no choice but to slay his challengers by using the head of the recently slaughtered Medusa. Following their death both Cepheus and Cassiopeia were placed among the stars by Poseidon. Cassiopeia was put upside down for half the year because of her vanity, with her husband beside her.

Roman remains

In ancient Roman Silchester the city population would have been brought up with the ancient Greek myths and stories about the identities of the night sky constellations, just as the story of Romulus, the founder of ancient Rome would have been equally familiar, and as discussed in the previous post.

Clash of the Titans
Coincidentally, this week sees the release of a 3D film inspired by these Greek mythological stories. This is a re-make of a the 1981 film that used, for those days, the most advanced visual cinematic effects.

Cassiopeia was the Constellation Logo for Silchester School.

One of Silchester’s students came up with the image of an Easter Rabbit for the star pattern of Cassiopeia.

The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny or Easter Hare is a character depicted as rabbit bringing Easter eggs, who sometimes is depicted with clothes. In legend, the creature brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy and sometimes also toys to the homes of children on the night before Easter. The Easter Bunny will either put the baskets in a designated place or hide them somewhere in the house or garden for the children to find when they wake up in the morning.

Eggs, like rabbits and hares, are fertility symbols of extreme antiquity. Since birds lay eggs and rabbits and hares give birth to large litters in the early spring, these became symbols of the rising fertility of the earth at the Vernal Equinox.

Cassiopeia A (Cas A) is a supernova remnant in the constellation Cassiopeia and the brightest astronomical radio source in the sky. A supernova remnant (SNR) is the structure resulting from the gigantic explosion of a star in a supernova. The supernova remnant is bounded by an expanding shock wave. A supernova (plural supernovae) is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months.

Special effects using false colours helps reveal the structure of the supernova remnant. A false colour image composited of data from three sources. Red is infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, orange is visible data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and blue and green are data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The cyan dot just off-center is the remnant of the star’s core.

The Sun, a star and the Moon drawn by students at Silchester School in Hampshire

Good Friday

Our seven day blog post begins on Good Friday. The most important events in Christianity are the death and later resurrection of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God, and whose life and teachings are the foundation of Christianity. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. As we have already explained in an earlier post about setting the date for Easter, it is the Sunday following the first full moon after the equinox. This is luni-solar (Sun and Moon) calendar calculation.

Good Friday is a day of mourning in church. During special Good Friday services Christians meditate on Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, and what this means for their faith. In some countries, there are special Good Friday processions, or re-enactments of the Crucifixion. The main service on Good Friday takes place between midday and 3pm. In many churches it takes the form of a meditation based on the seven last words of Jesus on the cross, with hymns, prayers, and short sermons.

Hot Cross Buns
In many historically Christian countries, buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the crucifixion. They are believed by some to pre-date Christianity, although the first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” is not until 1733; it is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon); “Eostre” is probably the origin of the name “Easter”. Others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier.

Easter Sunday
Easter falls on 4 April this year. Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important Christian festival, and the one celebrated with the greatest joy.

Why is April 5 the beginning of the Financial Year?

The famous story that in September 1752 in Britain, crowds of angry people were shouting “Give us back our eleven days!” is probably a myth, partly based on a misinterpretation of this painting by the English artist William Hogarth. Nevertheless, by an Act of Parliament, Wednesday, September 2, 1752 was to be followed by Thursday, September 14, 1752. Eleven days had been taken out of the calendar! This was because of a very necessary calendar reform. The British calendar was still following the Julian Calendar devised by Julius Caesar, and because it had been in use for centuries was 11 days ahead of the true solar year. The adjustment of the calendar would bring Britain into line with all the European countries that had adopted the reforms of 1582 instituted by Pope Gregory XIII, in what is now known as the Gregorian Calendar.

Lots of people didn’t like the change. There were riots in Bristol, and in the City of London bankers objected to the change and refused to pay taxes on the usual date of March 25 1753. They paid up 11 days later on April 5, which still remains the date for the beginning and end of the financial and tax year.

The Haggadah (Hebrew: הגדה‎, “telling”) is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. Reading the Haggadah is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to “tell your son” about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt as described in the Book of Exodus in the Torah.

The final day of Passover
The eighth and final day of Passover falls on 6 April this year. Passover can be called the Festival of Spring and was an agricultural festival which marked the beginning of the cycle of production and harvest during the time the Jews lived in ancient Palestine. On the last day of Passover a passage from the Book of Isaiah is read which tells of the Messianic era or ‘Passover of the Future’. Passover is also called The Festival of Freedom and is a celebration of freedom, not just in Biblical times, but its importance to the individual today and throughout history. The story of Passover, with its message that slaves can go free, and that the future can be better than the present, has inspired a number of religious sermons, prayers, and the songs of Gospel music.

A spring morning in Silchester 08.04.2010


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