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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Festival Of Castor And Pollux

Castor and Pollux, in Roman mythology, were the twin demi-god offspring of Jupiter and Leda and equivalent to the Dioscuri of Greek mythology. They are also represented in the constellation Gemini. Pollux was considered immortal whilst his brother was mortal; both were particularly associated with cavalry. July 15th marks Castor and Pollux festival. 

Castor and Pollux were renowned for their athletic ability and are usually depicted as horsemen. They shared the same mother, Leda, but Castor was the son of Tyndareus and was therefore mortal, while Pollux was the son of Zeus and immortal. When they got into an argument with Idas and Lynceus, another set of twins, Castor was slain. Pollux was heartbroken because, as an immortal, he could not join his brother in death. Zeus finally allowed them to stay together, dividing their time between the heavens and the underworld. 

 In Roman times, a cavalry parade was held every July 15th to commemorate the victory at Lake Regillus which was attributed to the twins. The parade was led by two young men on white horses, representing Castor and Pollux, and included up to 5,000 knights who carried spears and shields and wore purple robes and olive wreaths. In one of the earliest myths about the twins, Castor and Pollux rescued their sister Helen* after she had been kidnapped by Theseus*, king of Attica. Helen would later gain fame as the person who caused the Trojan Warf. The twins also accompanied Jason* and the Argonauts on their voyage in search of the Golden Fleece. During that expedition, Pollux demonstrated his boxing skills by killing the king of the Bebryces. When a storm arose on the voyage, the Argonaut Orpheus* prayed to the gods and played his harp. The storm immediately ceased, and stars appeared on the heads of the twins. It is because of this myth that Castor and Pollux came to be recognized as the patrons of sailors.

Another story concerns the death of Castor. According to one account, the twins wanted to marry their cousins Phoebe and Hilaria. However, the women were already promised to two other cousins, Idas and Lynceus. Castor and Pollux carried the women away to Sparta, pursued by their male cousins. In the fight that followed, the twins succeeded in killing both Idas and Lynceus, but Castor was fatally wounded.

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