Contributed Talk - Splinter Culture

Tuesday, 14 September 2021, 09:35   (virtual Cult)

Constellation Cetus: Whale or Monster?

Doris Vickers, Susanne Hoffmann, Michael Geymeier
Ancient Skies, Michael Stifel Center for Data-Driven and Simulation Science Jena, Independent Scholar

In most European languages, the colloquial translation for the constellation of Cetus matches the expression “whale” (French baleine, German Wal, Russian кит, Hungarian cet). Given the mythological context of the constellation in the sky, this circumstance may appear somewhat surprising on second sight, since the myth of Andromeda does not refer to an actually existing animal but to a sea monster bearing the proper name Ketos. This issue gives rise to an astronomical, cultural and philological question: Why and since when is the mythological creature equalled with a real animal? We try to tackle this question with a data-driven approach: First, we compile a database containing most depictions and corresponding terms referring to the Ketos myth and its analoga (Jona, etc.). Second, we analyse the clustered data based on specific criteria. Our study is intended to serve as a case study presenting a method which may be used for re-examining the culture-historical evolution of other constellations as well.