Saturday 16 February 2013

Which Goddess is Trying to Get in Touch?

What made this hole in Lake Chebarkul?
It is a huge relief that nobody--especially none of those terrified schoolchildren--seems to have been seriously injured or killed by any of the shards of the ten-tonne meteor over the Urals yesterday. But I am extremely curious about the actual meteorite which crashed into the lake outside Chebarkul, and hope that divers get sent down to examine it as soon as possible, although the lake apparently remains iced over until May.

Aphrodite's Message to Cyprus
Pagan Greek gods—or usually goddesses—often send messages in the form of meteorites. Astronomers and geologists still argue whether the conical stone found near the temple of Aphrodite at Paphos in Cyprus is a meteorite. That is, of course, to miss the point, which was that in sending the rock Aphrodite was showing her good taste in islands in clearly indicating the one where she wanted her worship to be centred.

Artemis, too, took the form of a sky-fallen rock at the temple of Artemis Pergeia in southern Turkey. [Eternal thanks to Prof. I. Rutherford of Reading University for querying my earlier allegation that it was Hera]. And the great Asiatic mother goddess Cybele was worshipped in the form of a black stone cone in Phrygia. The Romans purloined it in 205 BC since the Sibylline Oracle told them that it would help keep the Carthaginians at bay.

"That was like shitting a brick"
Meteorites can also have a useful emetic function. Because Zeus’ father, Cronos, swallowed all his other children when they were born, his wife Rhea gave him a meteorite wrapped in a cloth and said it was a new baby. This made him sick. Zeus retrieved the stone and recycled it to mark the centre of the world at Delphi.

So what is the message delivered to Chebarkul? Perhaps Artemis is getting in touch. She was worshipped at Ephesus and Tauris (the Crimea, not far from the Urals) in the form not of meteorites but of statues which fell from the sky. She might be wrathful at the Russian government for imprisoning Pussy Riot. I would love to think there is now a statue of Artemis at the bottom of Lake Chebarkul, or even an emetic.  But there is another, more alarming possibility.
Is something like this in the lake?

Chebarkul was part of the realm of the ancient Scythian nomads, and they believed that the world was created when a meteorite in the form of a lump of gold fell onto their land from the sky; the first man to pick it up became the first king (Herodotus 4.5).  

Vladimir Putin, who is of course an experienced scuba diver, is presumably planning to get himself over there quickly. He needs to grab the new meteorite before anyone else declares himself  to be Monarch of the World.

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