Explore the etymology and symbolism of the constellations

Reticulum Rhomboidalis

the Rhomboidal Net


Johann Bode's Uranographia, 1801

Reticulum means a netlike formation or structure; a network. A reticle was a scientific instrument used to measure star positions, a grid of fine lines in the focus of an optical instrument, used for determining the scale or position of what is being looked at. The grid lines of meridians and parallels lines on a map is sometimes referred to as a net.

"A crosshair or reticle is a shape superimposed on an image that is used for precise alignment of a device. Crosshairs are most commonly a "+" shape, though many variations exist, including dots, posts, circles, and chevrons. Most commonly associated with telescopic sights for aiming firearms, crosshairs are also common in optical instruments used for astronomy and surveying, and are also popular in graphical user interfaces as a precision pointer. The crosshair was invented by Robert Hooke, and dates to the 17th century" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reticle

Reticulum comes from the Indo-European root *era-2 'To separate'. Derivatives: ratite, reseau, rete, retiary, reticle, reticule, hermit (from Greek eremos, empty, desolate, desert), hermitage, retiarius (an ancient Roman gladiator who fought using a net), reticule, retina, retinol. [Pokorny 3 er- 332. Watkins] Ernst Klein (Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary) provides more meanings for this root: rood, 'rod, pole; measure of land; cross', rod, and rare from rarus, and the first element in Ardhanari ('ardha', 'nari' is an androgynous deity composed of Shiva and his consort Shakti, representing the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies).

"In Ancient Rome a class of gladiator, the retiarius, was armed with a net which he used to immobilize his opponent by entangling him in the meshes, thus placing him at his mercy", "Nets may also be compared with the web in which spiders lurk for prey" [Penguin Dictionary of Symbols].

Hephaestus' net: Hephaestus/Vulcan, the fire and smith-god, was married to Aphrodite/Venus, and found out that she was having an affair with Ares/Mars. He forged a net, a mesh of thinnest links of bronze, too fine for eye to see, with which he laid a trap for the lovers [1]. One day he surprised them as they lay together in bed and threw his magic net over them. Hephaestus invited the other gods of Olympus to come and witness the humiliated adulterers, and asked them what would be just retribution for his dishonor. The gods roared with laughter at the sight of the naked lovers trapped in the net. There is some dispute over whether the resulting laughter of the gods was directed at Aphrodite and Ares, or at Hephaestus himself [2]. From their embrace Harmonia was born "thus harmonizing the male (Mars) and female (Venus) energies". Reticulum is related to the first element in Hindu Ardhanari (from the I.E. root *era-2 above). In Hinduism Ardhanari (ardha-nari) is an androgynous deity composed of Shiva and his consort Shakti, representing the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies [3], the horizontal lines of a net have feminine associations and vertical lines has masculine associations.

This constellation was originally named Rhombus. Rhomboid is the name given to the shape we call a parallelogram. In geometry, a rhombus (also known as a rhomb) is a quadrilateral in which all of the sides are of equal length. More colloquially it may be described as a diamond or lozenge shape. Since the definition of rhomboid comes before the definition of parallel lines, Euclid defines the rhomboid as "that which has its opposite sides and angles equal to one another but is neither equilateral nor right-angled." (see rhombus at the MathWords webpage.) A rhombus shape has the reticulated appearance of a mesh in a fishing net. The rhombus 'bullroarer', was a four sided object that was swung on the end of the string. It was an ancient Minoan object that twisted as it twirled and made the roaring sound that was called a rhomb.

Reticulum, a net, represents crossing lines, the nodes, the nexus, the connecting lines. The English word 'net' comes from the Indo-European root *ned-, 'To bind, tie'. Derivatives; net1, nettle, ouch2 (a broach), node, nodule, nodus, noil, noose, denouement, from Latin nodus, a knot. adnexa, annex, connect, from Latin nectere (past participle nexus), to tie, bind, connect. [Pokorny 1. ned- 758. Watkins] Nettles or plants of closely related genera such as hemp were used as a source of fiber.

In science Reticulae is the term used for reptilian scales. The reticulae have been shown to be identical to crocodilian scales both in composition and their location on the DNA strand [4].

In Egyptian mythology, Neith (also known as Nit, Net and Neit, her name might ultimately be related to our word Net) was pictured as a woman nursing a baby crocodile, and she was titled Nurse of Crocodiles. She was also viewed as the mother of Sobek, the crocodile god (sob-; crocodile tears; lizards were the first to evolve tear-ducts). "Neith took up the shuttle, strung the sky on her loom, and wove the world. She then wove nets and from the primordial waters pulled up living creatures, men and women among them" [5].

“A hair-net (reticulum) is what gathers the hair, so named because it 'holds hair' (retinere crines), so that it is not loose. [Translator's note: Isidore may tacitly refer to the word rete, 'net,' as a basis of the etymology.] [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.391.]

© Anne Wright 2008.

Fixed stars in Reticulum
Star 1900 2000 R A Decl 1950 Lat Mag Sp
delta 05ARI39 07LEO02 059 29 15 -61 32 27 -75 54 39 4.41 M2
alpha 06ARI05 07ARI28 063 26 38 -62 35 55 -78 02 30 3.36 G5
epsilon 18ARI13 19ARI36 063 54 15 -59 25 18 -76 19 09 4.42 K5
beta 19PIS59 21PIS22 055 53 29 -64 57 50 -76 05 03 3.80 G9

from Star Names, 1889, Richard H. Allen

Reticulum Rhomboidalis, the Rhomboidal Net is generally supposed to be of La Caille's formation as a memorial of the reticle which he used in making his celebrated southern observations; but {Page 349} it was first drawn by Isaak Habrecht, of Strassburg, as the Rhombus, and so probably only adopted by its reputed inventor. It lies north of Hydrus and the Greater Cloud, containing thirty-four stars from 3.3 to 7th magnitudes.

It is the French Reticule or Rhombe, the German Rhomboidische Hetz, and the Italian Reticolo.

[Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Richard H. Allen, 1889.]