Monday, January 21, 2013

Orion Myth Part I

Orion the Mighty Hunter is one of the most beloved and easiest to recognize constellations in the night sky. Cold, crisp winter nights are the best time to observe the "belted one" in the southern sky. Over the course of the next few weeks I'll share some Greek myths that show Orion does not stand alone in the winter sky.  If you use your ancient Greek imagination when looking at the stars, you may see him surrounded by a bull with seven women on its back, while two hunting dogs chase unicorn and a bunny rabbit down by the river... SAY WHAT!

Let's start with Orion. According to Greek myths he was a big, strong, tough guy. One day he was out hunting. When he took a break on this hilltop, he beheld a sight that took his breath away. There were seven women dancing in a clearing while a huge crowd cheered them on. These were the Seven Sisters, or the Pleiades. Orion fell in love... with all of them.

Now, Orion was very brave in battle but not very courageous when it came to talking to women. So he needed to work up all his courage just to even speak to the sisters. One day he finally met them and asked for their 14 hands in marriage. The sisters were so outraged that they rejected him and strode away. Orion didn't know much about dating, but he heard somewhere that women respond well to a man who is persistent. So he kept meeting the sisters at awkward times and asking them again and again to marry him. After a week of this, the sisters couldn't take it anymore. They asked for divine intervention. The gods listened and promptly turned the Pleiades into doves. They immediately flew away from Orion - as fast as they could - and headed higher and higher into the sky. Eventually they decided to stay in the heavens and became stars.

You can find the Pleiades high in the south after sunset. We'll learn more the rest of the story in Part II. So tune in!