83 Beatrix

This minor planet is named after the Beatrice that appears in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. She acts as the guide of the self-insert character Dante, and she brings him up through the levels of Paradise to view all of creation, and ultimately, into experiencing a beatific vision - a view of the ultimate glory of God themself.

This character, in turn, is named after the real-life Beatrice di Folco Portinari (1265 - 1290), an Italian woman who Dante met only two or so times, and fell so deeply in love with that she became his muse in much of his poetry and writings. I sometimes wonder why he fell in love with her; he really didn't know her at all, or anything about her personality or character. And yet, Dante seems to exhibit a powerful (but courtly, inoffensive, and unrequited) love for her. According to his works, he viewed her as symbolic of salvation, of the goodness of the world, and of God's love. He loved what he perceived to be her kindness, radiance, and purity of heart.

One of his poems, the sonnet La Vita Nuova, tells of how he dreamed that she was sleeping in God's arms, and that she ate his flaming heart right out of his chest. All this, for a woman who perhaps thought of him less times than you could count on your hand! Perhaps sometimes, Cupid's arrow is less of a striking, impelling force that drives one to great actions, and is instead more of a burrowing dart, tipped with poison, reaching down into the deepest parts of us to alter our very view of the cosmos.

The symbol of this minor planet combines both Venus-like desirability and the Christian implications of her character in Dante's Paradiso. The symbol is a Christian cross intersecting a circular halo at the bottom, so as to appear as an inverted bisected Venus. This divided Venus could represent the dual nature of the real Beatrice and the fictional one, and the unknown discrepancies between them. Also, the element of the cross surmounting the circle calls to mind the position of Paradise above Earth in Dante's cosmology.

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