Monday, May 17, 2010

Crescent Moon with 20-pointed Star over Manila's night skies

A heavenly spectacle greeted Manilenos last night. What we saw was spectacular---a crescent moon with a star on top. It reminded me of Islam. Many Islamic countries, like Turkey and Mauritania use this symbol in their national flags. 

What is the meaning of this "heavenly" sign?

Ancient peoples ascribe meanings to this astronomical sign. Moon worshippers in ancient Carthaginia, use this symbol to represent the goddess Tanit or Diana in Greek which was worshipped in Central Asia and Siberia. 

The symbol was used to depict cities and commemorate battles. Most of the ancient world believe that the appearance of this sign signals war or battle since the Greek goddess Diana was likewise the Goddess of the moon and the hunt. 

Most often than not, this symbol is erroneously ascribed to Islam. Fact is, the symbol is of pre-Islamic origins. It does not represent Islam. It was adopted by the Turks when they defeated the Christians in Constantinople. 

The crescent moon with the star above is not inspired by Islamic teachings. Its use is being disputed throughout the Islamic world. Most even say that this symbol represents shirkism, meaning, innovation. 

What does Wikipedia says about this night time anomaly?

The star and crescent appear in combination in finds from in and around ancient Israel. It has been associated with the Moabites (14th or early 13th century B.C – 6th century B.C.[2]), as the symbol or symbols appear on what are thought to be Moabite name seals.[3] Crescents appearing together with a star or stars are a common feature of Sumerian iconography, the crescent usually being associated with the moon god Sin and the star (often identified as Venus) with Ishtar. However, in this context, there is a third element often seen, that being the sun disk of Shamash. Academic discussion of a star or stars together with crescents in Sumerian representations does not always clearly indicate if they appear in isolation (the "star and crescent" as such) or as part of a triad of symbols, "the three celestial emblems, the sun disk of Samas, the crescent of Sin, and the star of Istar"[4] or "the crescent of Sin (the moon god), the star of Ishtar and the ray of Shamash"[5]. Nevertheless, later use of the star and crescent by the Parthians, and other Iranian dynasties is often traced to earlier use in Mesopotamia. As one scholar observed, "[t]he Parthian king Mithradates I conquered Mesopotamia around 147 B.C., and Susa in about 140 B.C. A later Parthian king, Orodes II (58-38 B.C.), issued coins at Susa and elsewhere which display a star and crescent on the obverse. The succeeding ruler, Phraates IV (38-3/2 B.C.), minted coins showing either a star alone or a star with crescent moon. In representing the star and crescent on their coins the Parthians thus adopted traditional symbols used in Mesopotamia and Elam more than two millennia before their own arrival in those parts."[6] Along these lines, some scholars maintain that later use of the symbol arose from Babylonian mythology in which the juxtaposition of Sin (moon god, father of time) and Shamash (supreme ruling sun god, judge of heaven and earth) was a metaphor for the cosmic powers given to the Babylonian king to rule.[7]

[edit]Iran, Mithra and Mithradates

The star and crescent was also the emblem of Mithradates VI Eupator. "His royal emblem, an eight rayed star and the crescent moon, represented the dynasty's patron gods, ZeusStratios, or Ahuramazda, and Men Pharmacou, a Persian form of the native moon goddess."[8] Other scholars have suggested that the star and crescent are more directly related to the cult of the god Mithra. Ustinova associates the star and crescent motif attested in a number of finds in the Bosporan Kingdom (which date from the 5th century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.) with the cult of Mithras, and indicates the star and the crescent together constituted the emblem of Pontus and its kings, asserting that it was introduced to the Bosporus by Mithradates and his successors, where it is attested on coins, locally produced jewelry and other objects. She suggests that this emblem indicates "the possibility of an earlier association of the Pontic dynasty with the cult of mounted Mithra. Mithra in fact must have been one of the most venerated gods of the Pontic Kingdom, since its rulers bore the theomorphic name of Mithradates […] although direct evidence for this cult is rather meager."[9] McGing also notes the asso
ciation of the star and crescent with Mithradates VI, discussing it's appearance on his coins, and its survival in the coins of the Bosporan Kingdom where "[t]he star and crescent appear on Pontic royal coins from the time of Mithradates III and seem to have had oriental significance as a dynastic badge of the Mithridatic family, or the arms of the country of Pontus."[10]
As a Turkish scholar has observed:
"The significance of the star and crescent on royal coins has also been frequently debated. Many scholars have identified the star and the crescent as royal symbols of the Pontic kingdom. Their appearance on every royal issue suggests they were indeed important symbols, and the connection of this symbol to the royal family is definite. The nature of it, however, is still uncertain. Kleiner believed they were symbols of an indigenous god and had their origins in Persia. He associated the star and crescent with the god Men and saw them as representations of night and day (the star may be considered the sun here). Ritter, on the other hand, suggested that the star and crescent symbols derived from Perseus, just as the star symbol of the Macedonians did. […] Ma and Mithras are two other deities with whom the star and crescent symbol are associated. Olshausen believed that the star and crescent could be related to a syncretism of Pontic and Iranian iconography: the crescent for Men and the star for Ahura Mazda. Recently, Summerer has convincingly suggested that Men alone was the inspiration for the symbol on the royal coins of the Pontic kingdom."[11]

Queen Purandokht, daughter of Khosrau II, the last woman and one of the last rulers on the throne of the Sassanid dynasty, 630
A combined star and crescent motif is commonly found on later coins minted by the Sassanids.[12] This has led some researchers to suggest that Muslims adopted the symbol in the context of its use by Sassanian rulers. After describing the crowns of a number of Sassanid kings, which featured a crescent, sphere and crescent, or star and crescent, H. Ayatollahi remarks, "Sasani coins remained in circulation in Moslem countries up to the end of the first century [Hijra]. This detailed description of Sasani crowns was presented because the motifs mentioned, particularly the crescent and star gradually changed into Islamic symbols and have often appeared in the decorative patterns of various periods of Islamic art." This author asserts that "The flags of many Islamic countries bear crescents and stars and are proof of this Sasani innovation.".[13]

So, there. 

How does the US Naval Observatory says about this?

As seen from parts of southeast Asia, the moon passes in front of Venus at about 10 hours Universal Time today. Unfortunately this is not visible to North American or European observers, but we haven’t lost out entirely. Tonight, just as it gets dark, look to the western sky and, weather permitting, you should see a beautiful sight — bright Venus with the waxing crescent moon nearby. You should have no trouble finding either object as long as your skies are clear and you are facing west. Venus is a brilliant beacon to the lower right of the moon. Look early, as the two set less than three hours after the sun. By the way, the moon is currently said to be “waxing” in the sense that it is becoming a bit more full each evening.
If you are a regular reader of EarthSky Tonight, you may have noticed over the years that we have reported passages of the crescent moon near Venus several times. In fact it isn’t that unusual. The moon passes somewhere near Venus about once a month, although we don’t always mention it simply because the conditions for observing aren’t always favorable. However, what you haven’t ever seen is a mention of the quarter moon, or gibbous moon, or full moon passing near Venus. Yet we sometimes report when these phases of the moon pass near Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. So why is it that only the crescent moon ever passes Venus?
That’s because Venus is “inferior.” No, I don’t mean that it is less valuable in any way. Used in this context, “inferior” means “lower than.” Venus is “lower than” the Earth relative to the sun. In other words, Venus is closer to the sun. Because of this, Venus never appears very far away from the sun in Earth’s sky. It oscillates back and forth from one side of the sun to the other, much like a race car moving from the left side to the right side of a circular track as we watch it from the stands. Thus, Venus sometimes appears in the evening twilight, and sometimes in the dawn twilight. The point is that it is never far from the sun. The farthest it can get from the sun (called an “elongation”) is slightly more than 47 degrees. So when the moon appears to pass Venus, it does so at about the same elongation from the sun. Since 47 and fewer degrees correspond to a crescent phase, only the crescent moon can appear to pass near Venus in the sky. The quarter moon is 90 degrees from the sun, and the full moon is 180 degrees, so you will never see those phases near Venus.
Mercury is an inferior planet as well, but its maximum elongation is only 28 degrees, so only a very thin crescent moon can ever appear near Mercury. On the other hand, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are farther from the sun than Earth, making them “superior.” From time to time they can appear at any angle from the sun, and the quarter or full moon phases can pass near them (sometimes even occulting them).

Astrologers say that this sign just means that Venus is in a retrograde.

Definition of Retrograde

The term applied to an apparent backward motion in the Zodiac of certain planets when decreasing in longitude as viewed from the Earth. It can be compared to the effect of a slow-moving train as viewed from another train traveling parallel to it but at a more rapid rate, wherein the slower train appears to be moving backwards. However, in the case of the celestial bodies it is not a matter of their actual speed or travel, but of the rate at which they change their angular relationship.

Retrograde planets in a birth map were anciently said to be weak or debilitated, but a more logical interpretation would seem to indicate that the influence is rendered stronger, which in the case of a malefic planet is definitely unfortunate. That it continues to retrograde for a period after birth might detract from its capacity to incite progress, but if so the extent of retardation must be judged from its relative nearness to its second station.

It is averred by some astrologers that a planet in retrograde motion partakes of the nature of the Mars end of the spectrum. This hardly appears a safe generalization, for according to the laws of spectroscopy a planet moving away from us - the distance between it and the Earth increasing - produces a slight shift of frequences toward the red end of the spectrum, and with diminishing distance a relative shift towards the red end begins immediately after the opposition of a major planet to the Sun, and continues until just before the conjunction; and that it can hardly be said to apply at all to a minor planet.

And how does the US observatory views this so-called Venus retrograde? Let me quote their website today