If the skies are clear this weekend, prepare to witness a spectacular display from above. The Perseid meteor shower is set to reach its peak from Aug. 11 to 13, with a barely visible new moon promising ideal viewing conditions.
Every summer, Earth passes through the debris trail from the Swift-Tuttle comet, causing a shower of meteors that appear to come from the Perseus constellation. People have been amazed by celestial events like these long before we understood anything about them. Meteorites, comets and asteroids were viewed as mysterious objects sent from above and were often associated with religion, superstition and spirituality.
In Catholicism, the Perseid meteor shower is sometimes referred to as “the tears of St. Lawrence”. A Robin Hood-like figure, St. Lawrence was executed by the Romans on Aug. 10 in the year 258. Since the Perseid’s tend to peak around Aug. 10, they are said to be the tears he shed during his martyrdom.
Some cultures interpret the appearance of celestial objects as a gift from a higher power, while other cultures think such events are bad omens. Indigenous tribes like the Kawaiisu believe falling meteors are a sign of illness and death. In certain parts of Asia, shooting stars are said to be tears from the moon and signal conflict and destruction. In the 17th century England, some believed that comets foretold The Plague and the Great Fire of London that followed.
Some Indigenous groups, like the Pawnee and Yolngu, include meteors and falling stars as a part of their stories about reincarnation and souls passing on and see these events as good omens. In Ancient Greece, an astronomer named Ptolemy claimed that shooting stars would occur when the gods opened up the sky to watch the humans below. People started wishing upon the stars in hopes that the gods were listening at that very moment.
Even today, though science has given us rational explanations for the amazing things we see above, we still can’t help but assign mystical and magical qualities to them. And perhaps for good reason. Many believe that cosmic events, like meteor showers, have a strong effect on us. For instance, the Perseids is said to light a path to guide us toward a new direction we may be seeking.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself struck with inspiration this weekend. Grab a blanket and head outside after sundown and soak in the Perseids. Take the time to listen to the wisdom the universe is offering you. Meditate, journal or just watch. Whatever you do, let the insight and innovation in!