Mythology, art or science, all dwell in the realm of wonder…
The term Galaxy is an ancient Greek one. It comes from the word milk, since the cluster of celestial material is such that colours the night sky with a white stripe, like a milk splash. What a beautiful image that is…. This image inspired so many more images, wordy, musical or visual, ever since…. This is what I love about wonder and curiosity! It gets imagination going to explore both the magic and the reality out there. It helps our growth with the nutritious elements of knowledge and beauty…
Similar to a previous post , where I was talking about the inspirational drive that mythology has put into the arts, here is another great sample of human creativity par excellence, namely ‘The Birth of the Milky Way“, (ca. 1637), by Peter Paul Rubens. This work of art now belongs to and can be seen at the Prado Museum, Madrid.
But even the etymology of the terms ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Milky Way’ are poetic. Here is what Wikipedia says on the terms’ provenance:
The word galaxy derives from the Greek term for our own galaxy, galaxias (γαλαξίας, “milky one”), or kyklos (“circle”) galaktikos (“milky”)for its appearance as a lighter colored band in the sky. In Greek mythology, Zeus places his son born by a mortal woman, the infant Heracles, on Hera’s breast while she is asleep so that the baby will drink her divine milk and will thus become immortal. Hera wakes up while breastfeeding and then realizes she is nursing an unknown baby: she pushes the baby away and a jet of her milk sprays the night sky, producing the faint band of light known as the Milky Way.
In the astronomical literature, the capitalized word ‘Galaxy’ is used to refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way, to distinguish it from the billions of other galaxies. The English term Milky Way can be traced back to a story by Chaucer:
“See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë
Which men clepeth the Milky Wey,
For hit is whyt.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer. The House of Fame, c. 1380.