Shooting stars, or “falling stars” have enchanted humankind since the dawn of time. These astrophysical phenomena are not actually stars, but meteoroids consisting of small rocks and dust that sometimes enter the Earth’s (or Mars’) atmosphere, according to NASA. Should a meteoroid penetrate our planet’s atmosphere, its particles then burn up, leaving a bright trail of light known as a meteor behind them. In the rare instance that a meteor survives the high temperatures and lands on Earth, its remaining parts are then classified as a meteorite. 

Despite the logical and scientific explanation for falling stars, they are still associated with many symbolic representations that are often mystical in nature. It is also the general consensus across the globe that seeing a shooting star is believed to signify something special and positive (per Medium). So if you are fortunate enough to witness this natural miracle, here is what it may mean.

A shooting star is a remarkable event across cultures

In the Old World, specifically the second century, a famous Greek philosopher named Ptolemy speculated that shooting stars were indicative of the gods observing the human world at that moment in time (per California Psychics). This may have been where the notion of “wishing upon a star” originated, as humans likely believed that if the gods were actively looking down on them, the stream of communication was not only open, but strong.

Other cultures throughout history have had their own interpretations of a meteor, as well. In Roman times, a shooting star acted as protection for the world as a whole (per Reference). Aborigines theorized that falling stars carried the dead up to heaven’s gates. In the Middle East, the religious site of Mecca hosts the Black Stone (a piece of meteorite) on a sacred shrine that is watched after by a male Muslim collective called the Sons of the Old Woman.

Not all cultures believe that shooting stars are a good omen, though. Several tribes in East Africa view them as a sign of something malevolent to come, while others believe they are a manifestation of a god or goddess, according to Sciencing. Despite this dichotomy, it is clear that meteors have always been considered a remarkable event to witness.

The individual and collective significance of a shooting star

You may witness a shooting star in real life, or see one in your dreams. Both instances have specific meanings that differ based on your independent experience. If you see a shooting star in the night sky, this can symbolize several things, including good luck, a significant change in your life, or even the ending of something, according to Medium.  If you are dreaming about a meteor, it may mean that your subconscious is trying to tell you something about your long-term goals or desires (per California Psychics).

Shooting stars can also take on special meaning depending on how they might make you feel, regardless of the circumstances in which you view one (per California Psychics). Maybe you’re looking at a NASA photograph of a meteor and it makes you feel more connected to the cosmos, or maybe you’re dreaming of a meteor shower and you in turn wake up feeling showered with optimism and hope.

For centuries, meteor showers have also been said to have a unifying and healing effect on communities. During the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, the International Dark-Sky Association wrote of the Perseid Meteor Showers — which occur annually from the months of July to August — that, “The star-filled sky keeps us grounded, brings continuity to our lives, and connects us to each other during isolation.”

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