stars


stars
   Even apart from the complexities of astrology, stars (which, in popular speech, included planets, meteors, and *comets) were thought to affect, or at least to indicate, the character and destiny of individuals and nations. To doubt this seemed almost immoral; in Shakespeare it is villains who deny the power of stars - Cassius (Julius Caesar, i. ii), and Edmund (King Lear, i. ii). Sirius, the Dog-Star, was thought to have a particularly baleful effect in July and August, when it rose at day-break, causing heat-waves, fevers, and madness. To point at stars or try to count them was reckoned unlucky, or even sinful, in the 19th century; it was said people had been struck dead for doing so.
   The Bible included among the signs of Doomsday that 'the stars shall fall from heaven' (Matthew 24: 29), confirming a widespread fear that shooting stars meant death or disaster. Comets were even more dreaded, and were interpreted in national and political terms; famously, one was seen in 1066, and another shortly before the Great Plague.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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