Where the Forest Murmers 
Vol VI,  by Fiona Macleod

The Rainy Hyades

"Where is the star Imbrifer? Let us adore it."

Years ago I remember coming upon this mysterious phrase in a poem or poetic drama by a French writer. The pagans, led by a priest, then went into the woods; and, in a hollow made of a hidden place swept by great boughs, worshipped a moist star. I forget whether the scourge of drought ended thereafter, and if winds lifted the stagnant branches, if rains poured through the leaves and mosses and reached the well-springs. I recall only the invocation, and some faint and broken memory of the twilight-procession of bitter hearts and wild voices, weary of vain lamentation and of unanswered prayers to sleeping or silent gods. But often I wondered as to Imbrifer, that dark lord with the sonorous name. Was he a Gaulish divinity, or, as his name signals, a strayed Latin? And was he, as our Manan of the West, a sea-deity, or a divinity of the clouds, clothed, like the shepherd Angus Sunlocks, in mist, so as the more secretly to drive before him down the hidden ways of heaven the myriad hosts of the rain? Or had he an angelic crest, with wings of unfalling water, as a visionary once portrayed for me a likeness of Midir, that ancient Gaelic god at whose coming came and still come the sudden dews, or whose presence, or the signs of whose passage, would be revealed and still are revealed by the white glisten on thickets and grasses, by the moist coolness on the lips of leaf and flower.
The name, too, or one very like it, I heard once in a complicated (and, alas, for the most part forgotten) tale of the Kindred of Manan, the Poseidon of the Gael: remembered because of the singular companionship of three or four other Latin-sounding names, which the old Schoolmaster-teller may have invented, or himself introduced, or mayhap had in the sequence of tradition from some forgotten monkish reciter of old. Aquarius and either Cetus or Delpbinius (quaintly given as the Pollack, the porpoise) were of the astronomical company, I remembe--r-and Neptheen or Nepthuinn (Neptune), notwithstanding his oneness with Manan's self.
But Imbrifer had faded from my mind, as though washed away by one of his waves of rain or obliterated by one of his dense mists, till the other day. Then, as it happened, I came upon the name once more, in a Latin quotation in an old book. So, he was of the proud Roman clan after all! and, by the context, clearly a divinity of the autumnal rains, and of those also that at the vernal equinox are as a sound of innumerable little clapping hands.
Could he be an astronomical figure, a Zodiacal prince of dominion, I wondered. In vain I searched through all available pages connected with the Hyades, the Stars of Water: in vain, the chronicles of Aquarius, of Cetus and the Dolphin, of Hydra and Pisces and Argo, that proud Ship of March. But last night, sitting by the fire and hearing the first sleet of winter
whistle through the dishevelled oaks and soughing firs, when I was idly reading and recalling broken clues in connection with the astrological "House of Saturn," suddenly, in pursuit of a cross-reference to some detail in connection with the constellation of Capricorn, I encountered Imbrifer once more. "Imbrifer, the RainBringing One."
So, then, he is more than an obscure divinity of the woods and of remote ancestral clans! Greater even than Midir of the Dews, one of the great Lords of Death: greater than the Greek Poseidon or the Gaelic Manan, heaven-throned among the older gods, though seen of mortals only on gigantic steeds of ocean, vast sea-green horses with feet of running waves and breasts of billows. For he is no other than one of the mightiest of the constellations, Capricorn itself! The name, in a word, is but one of several more or less obscure or forgotten analogues of this famous constellation, concerning which the first printed English astrological almanac (1386) has "whoso is born in Capcorn schal be ryche and wel lufyd"!
Imbrifer himself or itself . . . is certainly not "wel lufyd" on many of these October and November days of floods and rains! Imbrifer . . . the very name is a kind of stately, Miltonic, autumnal compeer of our insignificant (and in Scotland, dreaded!) rain-saint of July, Swithin of dubious memory!
Truly a fit Constellation of late autumn,Capricornus.

"Thy Cold, for Thou o'er Winter Signs dost reign,
   Pullst back the Sun . . ."

as a bygone astronomical versifier has it.
Perhaps he had in mind Horace's "tyrannus Hesperiae Capricornus undae" who in turn may have recalled an earlier poet still, English'd thus:

". . . Then grevious blasts
Break southward on the Sea, when coincide
The Goat and Sun: and then a heaven-sent cold."

Many of us will remember with a thrill Milton's magnificent image

". . . Thence down amain
As deep as Capricorn,"

and others will recall the often-quoted line of Dante in the Paradiso (relative of the Sun's entrance into Capricorn between January 18 and February 14).

"The horn of the Celestial Goat doth touch the Sun."

May and November are the two "fatal" months with the Celtic peoples: the first because of the influence of the Queen of Faerie (she has many names), and the second because of Midir, who sleeps in November, or, as another legend has it, "goes away" in that month. In that month too the Daughter Midir has departed on her long quest of her brother Aluinn Og (is this a legend or a confused traditionary remembrance, or a mythopoeic invention . . . I have come upon it once only), to find him asleep under the shaken fans of the Northern Lights, and to woo him with pale arctic fires, and auroras, and a faint music wrought out of the murmur of polar airs on a harp made of a seal's breastbone. It is but in another guise the old Greek legend of Persephone in the Kingdom of Aidoneus. Again, it is in November that the touch of Dalua, the Secret Fool or the Accursed of the Everlasting Ones, gives death. Once more, it is in November that Lir holds his great banquet, a banquet that lasts three months, in Tir-fo-tuinn, the Country under the waves. In one way or another all these dreams are associated with the sea, with water and the Winter Solstice. By different ways of thought, of tradition, and of dreaming phantasy, the minds of this race or that people, of these scattered tribes or those broken claiis, have reached the same strange goals of the imagination. The spell of Capricorn may be of the Waters of all time, since the Horned Goat of our Celtic forbears, the "Buccan Horn" of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, the Latin "Imbrifer" or "Gelidus" or "Sea-Goat" (in several variants), the Greek "Athalpees" or the commoner term signifving a Horned Goat, the ancient Egyptian Chnemu, God of the Waters, the perhaps as ancient Aztec Cipactli, imaged like the narwhal, the Chinese Mo Ki and the Assyrian Munaxa, both signifying Goat Fish---and so forth, East and West, in the dim least and the confused present,---are all directly or indirectly associated with the element of Water, with the Sea, or rains, storm and change and subtle regeneration. The Greek writers called the allied constellation of Aquarius Hydrochos, the Water-Pourer, in mythological connection (a Latin commentator avers) with Deucalion and the great Flood, that many believe to have been an ancestral memory of the Deluge which submerged Atlantis. The Anglo-Saxons gave it the same name, "se waetergyt." There is a breton legend in connection with Ys, that dim Celtic remembrance of vanished Lyonesse or drowned Atlantis, to the effect (for I know it only in modern guise) that on the fatal night when King Gradlon saw his beautiful city unloosened to the devouring waves by Dahut the Red, his Daughter, the Star of Water shook a fiery rain upon land and sea, and the floods of heaven fell, from the wake of the Great Galley (the Great Bear) to the roots of the unseen tree that bears the silver Apples (the Pleiades), and as far as the hidden Well-springs (the Constellation of Capricorn) and The Mansion of the White King (the Constellation of Aquarius)---the White King being water personified.
Nearly all the ancient Greek and Asian analogues for the last named, Aquarias, relate to water. One of the few old-world exceptions was that Roman Zodiac on which the constellation figured as a peacock, symbol of Hr (Juno), because that in her month Gamelion (part January, part February) the sun enters this sign. The Greek Islanders of Ceos called it Aristaeus, in memory of a native Rain Bringer. Another name was Cecrops, because the Cicada or Field-cricket is nourished by the dews and has its eggs hatched by the vernal rains. It would be wearisome to collate superfluous instances. Enough, now, that the Arab, the Persian, the Syrian, and the Israelite, were at one with the Hellene and the Anglo-Saxon in the designation of the Water-Pourer, or an equivalent such as the Arabian Al Dalw, the Well-Bucket: that in China of old its sign was recognised as a symbol of the Emperor Tchoun Hin, the Chinese Deucalion: and that still among the astrologers of Central Asia and Japan it has for emblem the Rat, the far-Asiatic ideograph for water. Strange too that Star-Seers so remote as the Magi of the East and the Druids of the West should centrate their stellar science on this particular constellation. And, once more, not less strange that alike by the banks of the Euphrates where it was called the Star of Mighty Destiny, on the Arabian Sands where it was called the Fortune of all Fortune, and in the Druidic woods of the Gaul and the Gael where too it symbolised Fortune, a star of its group should be the Star of Fortune---the group alluded to by Dante in the Purgatorio;

". . . geomancers their Fortuna Major
See in the Orient before the dawn

Again, is it tradition or coincidence that the Platonists of old held "the stairs of Capricorn" to be the stellar way by which, the souls of men ascended to heaven, so that the constellation became known as the Gate of the Gods, and that to-day the astrologers and mystics of the West share the same belief? Even the Caer Arianrod of our Celtic forbears---the Silver Road, as generally given though obviously very loosely . . . and may not the name more likely, especially in connection with a basic legend of the constellation of Corona Borealis, be the "Mansion of Ariand " (Ariadne)? . . . though commonly applied to the Milky Way or less often to the Northern Crown, is sometimes in its modern equivalent used to designate Capricorn. Naturally, to astrologers, this Constellation with that of Aquarius, is of greatest import, for at a certain time the "House of Saturn" is here to be discerned.
It is a drop from such sounding names as these to "the Skinker." Yet by this name our English forefathers probably knew in common speech the constellation of Aquarius. At any rate a Mr. Cock, "Philomathemat," in a rare book of some 200 years ago, Meteorologiae, speaks of Aquarius by this singular name, and as though it were the familiar and accepted designation, "Jupiter in the Skinker opposed by Saturn in the Lion did raise mighty Southwest Winds." Here again in this old English word, meaning a tapster, we have an analogue of the Water-Pourer, that universal Zodiacal sign of Aquarius.
But for all that Horace, and following him James Thomson in the Seasons ("Winter"), say of "Fierce Aquarius staining the inverted year," the constellation is more associated with the rain-tides of spring. It is then, too, in mid-February to mid-March, that, following its passage through Capricorn, the Sun enters it-so that "benign" and not "fierce" becomes the apt epithet.
All these "watery constellations"---Aquarius, Capricorn, Cetus, the Dolphin, Hydra, Pisces---are set aside, in the mouths of poets and in the familiar lore of the many, for the Hyades, that lovely sestet of Taurus which in these winter-months are known to all of us, where they flash and dance south-east of the Silver Apples of childtiood's sky---the clustered Pleiades. They have become the typical stars of the onset of winter---The Lords of Rain
--- sad companions of the turning year" as an old Roman poet calls them, "the seaman noted Hyades " of Euripides, "the Boar-Throng" (feeders on the mast brought down in late October and November by the autumnal rains) of our Anglo-Saxon fathers, the "Storm-Star" of Pliny, the Moist Daughters of Spenser, so much more familiar to us in Tennyson's.

"Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea."

Of old the whole group was called Aldebaran, but now we recognise in that name only the superb star whose pale-rose flame lights gloriously "the cold forehead of the wintry sky" to quote an undeservedly forgotten poet. And now, Aldebaran stands apart in Taurus, and the six storm-stars are torches set apart.
Well, the Season of the Rainy Hyades has come. The Water-Pourer, the Whale and swift Dolphin, Pisces ("Leaders of the Celestial Host" and "the Diadem of November"), Hydra the Water-Snake, every Rain-Star, from flashing Corona, Bride of the White Hawk, to the far southern torch of splendid Achernar in Eridanus the Celestial River, all have lent the subtle influences of the first of the Elements, Water. In the mystic's language, we are now in the season when the soul may least confusedly look into its life as in a shaken mirror, and when the spirit may "look before and after." For, they tell us, in the occult sense, we are the Children of Water.
To-night, looking at the Hyades, dimmed in a vaporous haze foretelling coming storm, as yet afar off, I find myself, I know not why, and in a despondency come I know not whence, thinking of and repeating words I read to-day in a translation of the Bhagavad Gita:---" I am in the hearts of all. Memory and Knowledge, and the loss of both, are all from Me. There are two entities in this world, the Perishable and the Imperishable. All creatures are the Perishable and the unconcerned One is the Imperishable."

The unconcerned One!