On Dec. 25, the last day of Saturnalia, the ancient Romans celebrated the birthday of the sun god Mithra. There were many gods depicted as being born on this date, and eventually Christians used it for their version of the Christ character. Today Americans, who are constitutional beings, get to hear about how the supernatural monarch was magically born on this date.

Even though all gods are purely fictional, the seasons are not and the very lives of the ancients depended upon observing them for planting, harvesting and to prepare for the harsh winter. The equinoxes and the solstices represented important turning points. Mythologically, the winter was a time in which the sun god would descend into darkness and do battle with the imagined forces of evil. In the spring, the god would be resurrected to new life and victorious, along with nature.

Little did our ancient ancestors know that one day Mithra will go nova, swelling up into a giant red star and incinerating all of the inner planets, while vaporizing the colossal atmospheres of the gas giants and probably incinerating their rocky cores. The sun will expel its outer mass and eventually become nothing but a burnt-out husk, roughly the size of Earth. I guess you could say Mithra lost the final battle. The remains of the solar system will fall sway to cosmic gravity.

One imagines that humans will have long since learned how to master space travel, and will be some place else in the galaxy. Perhaps around some other stable unconquered sun.

Terry E. LibbySkowhegan