In June

Venus crossed the sun. How many of us looked up? Ray Bradbury died. How many of us read Dandelion Wine, much less remember the magic of Douglas Spaudling’s conjuring of dawn at a precocious twelve from a Midwestern cupola? Time passes, summer unfolds without our looking much or paying attention other than to water, worry about a tomato yield, complain about the fickle promise of rain? Spring was a flurry of politics for those paying attention – marches, rallies, calls to recognize our common humanity. In the end even we who cared and occasionally waved signs retreat to the quick comfort of the NBA playoffs, of the post-sunset ease of these infernal mosquitoes, of closet cleaning and catching up on long-postponed projects.

June is named for Juno, and also possibly February bears an ancient name of the same goddess linked to the flow of waters and her importance in fertility. She was the wife of Jupiter, with martial connotations also, and her name is said to connote the female version of genius. Our genius hasn’t always been innate – one ancient understanding of genius has men having a kind of double tutor that is their genius, while women have a junos as the counterpart. Wikipedia informs me thusly:

The genius was believed to be associated with the forehead of each man, while goddess Juno, not the juno of every woman, was supposed to have under her jurisdiction the eyebrows of women[186] or to be the tutelary goddess of the eyebrows of everybody, irrespective of one’s sex.

I know, the eyebrow part is what first catches your eye. The eyebrow? What the hell kind of thing is that to be a goddess of? The men get war, and eternal damnation, and cloaking themselves as golden rainbows or what have you to impregnate unknowing maidens and you get the eyebrows? The Ledbetter Pay Act seems like the most recent recognition that we ovaried humans get the short straw. For this, Juno married the king of the Roman gods (spoiler alert) who was also her brother?

But your raised eyebrows tell everything here. My friend, the poet Coy King, once said that the reason humans love dogs is because they have eyebrows. Which seems like exactly the thing a bass-playing poet might say, but a stare into your dog”s eager eyes reveals some truth here. Our cat gestures with his eyes, sure, but it’s with an ever-intensifying squint of disapproval or a wide-pupiled gesture of imminent trouble-making. The dog has a whole different range, possibly influenced by her eyebrows (small as they are) that make her seem somehow more like us.

Think about it. Ever had a conversation with someone lacking eyebrows? Maybe one of those ladies who have decided (for whatever reason) to remove theirs and draw them on several inches above the normal place? Hard to read, right? Even deeply disturbing and not just on an aesthetic level. You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to get the eyebrow.

And then it goes without saying, though I will of course say it anyway, the cultural studies bit about the ladies and their modern obsession with the threading/waxing/tweezing of the eyebrows.

Digression noted, here she is, the deeply conflicted goddess of June. No vestal virgins for her are noted in the historical record. She was the daughter of Saturn, the god of time. He was evidently troubled by a prophecy that a child of his would depose him, which he responded to by eating his offspring – a habit familiar to anyone who has owned hamsters or guinea pigs. When Saturn’s wife Ops (also his sister) had Jupiter, she hid him away on the island of Crete (later known mostly for minotaurs) and fed a stone in swaddling clothes to ravenous Saturn. He was evidently fooled, because babies totally taste like rocks. Later Jupiter snuck back into the throne room as a cup-bearer and fed his dad some poison. This caused Saturn to vomit up Jupiter’s siblings. A war ensued. Long story short, Jupiter won with the help of Prometheus and some big monsters, to ascend the throne. Depending on which version you believe, Saturn either died horribly or fled to Rome to establish a Golden Age – thus the idea of the feast of Saturnalia, when slaves ate at the same table as their masters.

Little word on what Juno was up to during all this. We do know that Jupiter caused her to be vomited up, and perhaps even with all that nastiness he felt compelled to take her as his wife. And here she is, ushering in a month of stagnant heat and baseball and international financial turmoil. Which, if it doesn’t cause you to raise at least one eyebrow, well, I don’t know what will.

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