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Fun with Astronomical and Astrological symbols – Jovian Moons

As a little design challenge, I decided to tinker with some symbols for astronomical bodies that have no assigned glyph.

The classical planets, zodiac signs, and other heavenly bodies have symbols dating back to the Renaissance and Byzantine Medieval period. Some date even further back to Greek papyri circa 2CE. Many of the symbols are pictographic: line drawings representing the body or constellation’s literal shape or the mythological figure’s symbols or attributes. Others are monograms using the deity or myth’s initials.

Untitled-4_09Jupiter’s glyph has been described as representing a stylized celestial forge for crafting his thunderbolts. The symbol more likely originated from this monogram of the Greek counterpart Zeus using the Greek letter Zeta.

In the language of esoteric alchemy, the glyph depicts a left facing crescent (the soul) over a cross (matter). In other words, gnosis of spiritual development gained through earthly experience, which is a pretty apt description of Jupiter’s personality and symbolism.

With that in mind, here are my interpretations of the four largest Jovian moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and. All four symbols incorporate the crescent and crossbar of the Jovian glyph to signify their relationship as its lunar bodies.

 

Europa

Europa’s glyph is formed from the Jovian crescent and crossbar. In the place of the Jovian cross, there is a stylized E or epsilon for Europa.

In Myth
Europa was a Minoan princess and conquest of Jupiter.  He abducted her in the form of a bull.   Europa was smitten by the docile creature, decorating it with garlands at which point Zeus ferried her to the island of Crete on his back.  Some stories describe her as a descendant of Io.

In Astronomy
Europa is a opalescence frost world. Its surface is solid ice with what is believed to be a liquid ocean underneath.  The surface is lined with jewel-like fissures resembling cracked crystal or glass. Europa is one of the only bodies in the solar system with substantial amounts of water leading to it being a candidate for a possible harbor for life.

Symbolism and Significance
Europa is most notably the namesake of the European continent, originally being a term Greeks used for parts of Thrace.  Europa is also associated with the goddess Astarte.  As a divinity in her own right, Europa could be considered a lunar or sacred cow goddess.   One etymology of her name translates to “wide/broad eyes/face” in ancient Greek which can be interpreted as either bovine reference to a cow-like countenance or a lunar reference to the “broad-faced-moon.” Her myth and astronomical traits both evoke a theme of superficial appearance versus underlying depth.  In the case of the white bull, the reality was seduction/abduction.  The Jovian moon hides the potential for an ocean of life beneath an icy exterior.

Io

Io’s glyph is a monogram of the letters O and I.. The Jovian crescent and crossbar is mirrored in double and intersects at the base. The curved shape echo the shape of horns as a reference to Io’s mythical transformation into a cow. The symbol also bears a resemblance to other female symbols like that of Venus or  Hathor where the circle signifies divinity and the cross denotes earth or the body: a goddess of fertility and sensuality .Untitled-4_07

In Myth
Io was a nymph and priestess of Hera seduced by Zeus.  The usual Olympian infidelity hijinx ensued. Zeus consorted with Io in the form of a cloud and transformed Io into a white cow.  Hera, seeing through these metamorphoses, demanded the heifer as a gift and tasked the many-eyed Argus to guard her.  After being freed through the machinations of her lover, Io was beset by a stinging gadfly by Hera.

In Astronomy
Io is a little firecracker of volcanic activity.  Scientists are keen to study it because of its similarity to the early stages of Earth’s formation. At night, Io experiences vivid auroras caused by Jupiter’s magnetosphere.

Symbolism and Significance
Io is often associated with lunar and bovine deities.  Aeschylus called her the “horned virgin” referring to both the heifer’s horns and the crescent moon.  She has been associated with Isis and Hathor.  As a goddess, she embodies the bovine aspects of plenty and nourishment.  She also is a force of perseverance and triumph over persecution and harassment that are not of one’s own making, enduring with grace and emerging stronger than before. Io is a myth that lends itself well the the female Taurus archetype.

 

Ganymede

Ganymede’s glyph is the Jovian crescent, crossbar, and cross mirrored.  The crescent was rounded out a bit and a second cross was added to form a G.  The shapes also invoke a stylized bird cradling a small figure.

In Myth
Ganymede was a Trojan youth.  He was abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle and installed as the god’s cup bearer and lover. Later, he was placed among the stars in the constellation Aquarius.

In Astronomy
Ganymede is Jupiter’s largest moon.  It is a rocky satellite made of layers of ice, liquid ocean, and a molten iron core.  The iron core generates a magnetic field making Ganymede the only moon to have an observed magnetosphere.

Symbolism and Significance
Ganymede is associated with Aquarius the water-bearer.  He was also later identified as the personification of the source of the Nile.  As such, he represents the Aquarian properties of the quest for knowledge, social consciousness, and offbeat aesthetics.  Ganymede can also represent the philosophical leanings of the Jupiter-ruled sign Sagittarius.  The moon’s magnetism parallels the mythological figure’s charisma and “magnetic” effect on those around him.

 

Callisto

Callisto’s glyph is the Jovian crescent and crossbar mirrored across its vertical axis.  The cross has been shifted to the left, lengthened, and embellished with two diagonal hashes to for a K or Kappa for the Greek spelling of Kallisto.  The arrow shape formed the the two diagonals refers to Callisto’s role as a huntress of Artemis.

In Myth
Callisto was an nymph who pledged a vow of chastity and was a member of Artemis’ hunting retinue.  She was seduced/raped by Zeus.  As a result, she was expelled from Artemis’ company and turned into a bear.  In some stories, she was slain by Artemis’ arrow.  In others,  she was struck down by her own son who mistook  her for a prize hunt.  Zeus placed Callisto and her son in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Bears.

In Astronomy
Callisto is a heavily cratered, icy satellite.  Tidally locked in orbit, one hemisphere always faces Jupiter just as our moon always has one face visible from Earth.

Symbolism and Significance
Associated with the bear and the Pole Star, Callisto inherits a very ancient tradition worship.  Archaeologists have discovered paleolithic bear cults all over the world.  Some researchers conclude that the evidence identifies the bear as the most ancient deity.  Because the Pole Star approximates magnetic north and never sinks below the horizon in the northern hemisphere, the stellar body has been integral to navigation and is a symbol of fixedness and centrality.  Callisto is therefore connected to  Artemis, bears and bear deities, and the north.

 

Sources and further reading:
Mythology, Encyclopedia Mythica
Astronomical Data and Photos, NASA
Bear Cult, Wikipedia
Dictionary of Signs and Symbols Liungman, Carl G.

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