With Valentines Day right around the corner, love is in the air. Although romantic love is the focus this time of year, with red and pink hearts everywhere you look, let’s not forget that love takes many forms. A particularly binding love is that of the love we share in our families – specifically with our siblings. Although many brothers and sisters squabble and fight through the years, their strong family ties usually keep them close.
One of the winter constellations that is visible in the February night skies is Gemini, which symbolizes a brotherly love so strong that it was rewarded with immortality in the stars. The constellation Gemini is known as “The Twins,” and is composed of two bright stars representing two young brothers – Castor and Pollux.
According to Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, by Edith Hamilton, Castor and Pollux were both born to the same mother, Leda, who was the Queen of Sparta. Castor was born to the mortal King Tyndareus, while Pollux was born after Leda’s tryst with Zeus (The Lord of the Sky in Greek Mythology). Although technically only half brothers (and one of them immortal at that), Castor and Pollux were known for sharing many adventures together. They participated in the epic Calydonian boar hunt, they joined Jason on the Quest for the Golden Fleece, and they even rescued Helen of Troy when Theseus carried her off. (Fun fact – Helen was also born out of the Leda & Zeus tryst, causing her to share immortality with her brother Pollux).
Castor and Pollux were bound very closely; they admired and loved each other very much. So much, in fact, that when poor, mortal Castor was killed, his immortal brother Pollux begged to die also. Zeus took pity on Pollux and allowed him to share his life with Castor, spending
“Half of thy time beneath the earth and half
Within the golden homes of heaven.”
Castor and Pollux were never separated again, dwelling one day in Hades and the next day in Mount Olympus. Can you imagine offering to give up a lifetime of good living in Mount Olympus to spend half your time in the dark underworld, just so that can spend more time with your brother? That’s love.
Throughout January and February, the Gemini constellation can be found rising in the southeast. As a zodiac constellation, it is found along the ecliptic (an imaginary line that marks the path of the sun, moon, planets, and zodiac constellations). Look for two stars, spaced about two finger widths apart. The bottom star, Pollux, is slightly brighter.
The picture shows where Gemini is in relation to the more familiar constellation of Orion. Note that there is a similar constellation (two stars spaced about two finger widths apart) found below Gemini, marked by the star Procyon. This constellation is known as Ursa minor (the little dog) and although Procyon is brighter than Castor and Pollux, the Gemini twin stars can be distinguished by their place above Ursa minor.
As you walk home after your candlelit dinner this weekend (or head home after the singles dance party, or step outside for some fresh air between episodes of your television show marathon), take a moment to glance up and look for Gemini. Their deep, abiding love can serve as a reminder to all of us – love your brother!