Science has taught us about the origin of meteors crossing our skies. Meteorites are small pieces of rock from very distant comets or stars. Although these objects still preserve a great mystery, it is far different from the believes ancient cultures and indigenous tribes held or still hold about meteors and shooting stars. Read along to find out about some of these meteor myths.
1. The tears of St. Lawrence
Although science has overruled most former spiritual and mythological beliefs about meteors, there are some traditions left. In today’s Western society we ‘sort of’ believe stars falling from the sky are a good omen: we wish upon a star and hope our lives get (even) better. Catholics see the Perseids, an annual meteor shower, as “the tears of Saint Lawrence”. St. Lawrence was the early Christian version of Robin Hood, executed on the 10th of August in the year 258. Since the Perseids reach peak activity between the 9th and 14th of August you can see “the tears of St. Lawrence” fall from the sky every August 10th. With good weather, that is.
2. Falling star as an omen
Many other cultures believe a shooting star brings luck, like the Swabians in Germany who thought it signalled a year of good fortune. Unless you saw three meteors in one night, in which case death was upon you. The Yolngu Aborigines used to believe that when they died they were taken by a mystical canoe. After arriving safely in spirit land, the dead would send the canoe back to earth as a shooting star for their loved ones to see.
But falling stars were not always seen as a good omen. Some ancient cultures believed meteors to be a display of anger from their gods. The Kawaiisu tribe of Northern America feared meteors that would start high in the sky and fall down to the horizon, for they were a sign sickness and death would come to the tribe. The Nunamiut Eskimos used to think meteors were the faeces of stars, while in Siberia falling stars were seen as ‘bloodsucking fireworms’.
3. The Black Death
People tend to search for an explanation for bad things that have happened to them. In 1665 about a quarter of London’s population was killed by “The Black Death”, also known as The Plague. One year later The Great Fire of London ruined the lives of many and left the city in ashes. The comets that were spotted in 1664 and 1665 were later seen as a prophecy of these terrible events, which is why these “omens from the skies” were feared by many in the 17th century
4. The power of meteorites
Nowadays we collect meteorites because they are fascinating, sometimes beautiful rock formations from afar and mysterious place in the universe. In the old days meteorites were often used for building sacred Greek and Roman temples. Meteorites have been found in Indian graves, and many other cultures have been known to worship these “heavenly gifts”. Some indigenous tribes still do. A well-known example of the presumed mystical powers of meteorites is the “Kris”; a dagger used in Indonesia. It is thought that when a Kris is made from nickel from the 1749 meteorite near Prambanan, one only needs to point the dagger to another person in order to kill.
Although most societies no longer believe meteors have a spiritual side, meteorites still hold a very special status. They come from parts of the universe we will never see up close, and they give us a peek into their fascinating stories. Take a look at our meteorites auctions to find out about some of these magnificent objects!
At Catawiki, you’ll be surprised every week with the impressive selection of special objects we have on offer. Create your free account today and explore our weekly auctions curated by our team of experts.Create account