Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Inanna (Pisces) and Tammuz (Aries) and the surrounding stars

Posted by Fredsvenn on October 7, 2015

Inanna and Tammuz

Inanna was the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare. Her symbol is an eight-pointed star or a rosette. She was associated with lions – even then a symbol of power – and was frequently depicted standing on the backs of two lionesses.

Her cuneiform ideogram was a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds, representing the doorpost of the storehouse (and thus fertility and plenty). She was associated with the planet Venus, which at that time was regarded as two stars, the “morning star” and the “evening star.”

Inanna was the goddess of the E-Anna (Sumerian: e-anna; Cuneiform: E.AN) temple or The House of Heaven at the city of Uruk, her main centre. She was the most prominent female deity in ancient Mesopotamia. As early as the Uruk period (ca. 4000–3100 BC), Inanna was associated with the city of Uruk.

Inanna’s name derives from Lady of Heaven (Sumerian: nin-an-ak). The cuneiform sign of Inanna, however, is not a ligature of the signs lady (Sumerian: nin; Cuneiform: SAL.TUG) and sky (Sumerian: an; Cuneiform: AN).

These difficulties have led some early Assyriologists to suggest that originally Inanna may have been a Proto-Euphratean goddess, possibly related to the Hurrian mother goddess Hannahannah, accepted only latterly into the Sumerian pantheon, an idea supported by her youthfulness, and that, unlike the other Sumerian divinities, at first she had no sphere of responsibilities. The view that there was a Proto-Euphratean substrate language in Southern Iraq before Sumerian is not widely accepted by modern Assyriologists.

Her temple in Uruk was the greatest of these, where sacred prostitution was a common practice. The deity of this fourth-millennium city was probably originally An. After its dedication to Inanna the temple seems to has housed priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Akitu (New Year) ceremony, at the spring Equinox.

According to Samuel Noah Kramer in The Sacred Marriage Rite, in late Sumerian history (end of the third millennium) kings established their legitimacy by taking the place of Dumuzi in the temple for one night on the tenth day of the New Year festival. A Sacred Marriage to Inanna may have conferred legitimacy on a number of rulers of Uruk. Gilgamesh is reputed to have refused marriage to Inanna, on the grounds of her misalliance with such kings as Lugalbanda and Damuzi.

Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries.

Pisces (constellation, Inanna)

Pisces (♓) (Ancient Greek: Ἰχθύες Ikhthues) is the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation. Its name is the Latin plural for fish. The symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite (also considered Venus) when she was born from the sea. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Vishnu, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, and Typhon.

Pisces lies between Aquarius to the west and Aries to the east. The ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect within this constellation and in Virgo. The Vernal equinox is currently located in Pisces, due south of ω Psc, and, due to precession, slowly drifting below the western fish towards Aquarius. According to some tropical astrologers, the current astrological age is the Age of Pisces, while others maintain that it is the Age of Aquarius.

Pisces spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area on average between February 19 and March 20, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called “Pisceans.”

While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from elliptical longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox is in the Pisces constellation.

The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature. Although they appear as a pair, the name of the sign in all languages originally referred to only one fish with the exception of Greek, Bulgarian and Dutch.

Pisces originates from some composition of the Babylonian constellations Šinunutu “the great swallow”, belonging to a group of passerine birds, in current western Pisces, and Antum, the Lady of the Heaven and the first consort of Anu, at the place of the northern fish.

In Akkadian mythology, Antu or Antum is a Babylonian goddess. She was the first consort of Anu, and the pair was the parents of the Anunnaki and the Utukki. Antu was a dominant feature of the Babylonian akit festival until as recently as 200 BC, her later pre-eminence possibly attributable to identification with the Greek goddess Hera. Antu was replaced as consort by Ishtar or Inanna, who may also be a daughter of Anu and Antu.

In the first Millennium BC texts known as the Astronomical Diaries, a collection of Babylonian cuneiform texts which contain systematic records of astronomical observations and political events, as well as predictions based on astronomical observations, part of the constellation was also called DU.NU.NU (Rikis-nu.mi, “the fish cord or ribbon”).

Pisces is associated with Aphrodite and Eros, who escaped from the monster Typhon by leaping into the sea and transforming themselves into fish. In order not to lose each other, they tied themselves together with rope. The Romans adopted the Greek legend, with Venus and Cupid acting as the counterparts for Aphrodite and Eros. The knot of the rope is marked by Alpha Piscium (α Psc), also called Al-Rischa (“the cord” in Arabic).

In 1754, the astronomer John Hill proposed to treat part of Pisces as a separate constellation, called Testudo (the Turtle) 24 – 27 – YY(30) – 33 – 29 Psc., centred a natural but faint asterism in which the star 20 Psc is intended to be the head of the turtle. However the proposal was largely neglected by other astronomers with the exception of Admiral Smyth, who mentioned it in his book The Bedford Catalogue, and it is now obsolete.

The Fishes are also associated with the German legend of Antenteh, who owned just a tub and a crude cabin when he met a magical fish. They offered him a wish, which he refused. However, his wife begged him to return to the fish and ask for a beautiful furnished home. This wish was granted, but her desires were not satisfied. She then asked to be a queen and have a palace, but when she asked to become a goddess, the fish became angry and took the palace and home, leaving the couple with the tub and cabin once again. The tub in the story is sometimes recognized as the Great Square of Pegasus.

The stars of Pisces were incorporated into several constellations in Chinese astronomy. Wai-ping (“Outer Enclosure”) was a fence that kept a pig farmer from falling into the marshes and kept the pigs where they belonged. It was represented by Alpha, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Mu, Nu, and Xi Piscium. The marshes were represented by the four stars designated Phi Ceti. The northern fish of Pisces was a part of the House of the Sandal, Koui-siou.

Alpha Piscium (star)

There are no prominent stars in the constellation, with the brightest stars being of only fourth magnitude. One star in the constellation, Alpha Piscium, is also known as Alrescha which comes from the Arabic al-rišā, meaning “the well rope,” or “the cord.” Ptolemy described Alpha Piscium as the point where the cords joining the two fish are knotted together. The astrological symbol shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails.

Aries (constellation, Tammuz)

Aries is one of the constellations of the zodiac. It is located in the northern celestial hemisphere between Pisces to the west and Taurus to the east. The name Aries is Latin for ram, and its symbol is ♈, representing a ram’s horns. It is a mid-sized constellation, ranking 39th overall size, with an area of 441 square degrees (1.1% of the celestial sphere).

Although Aries came to represent specifically the ram whose fleece became the Golden Fleece of Ancient Greek mythology, it has represented a ram since late Babylonian times. Before that, the stars of Aries formed a farmhand. Different cultures have incorporated the stars of Aries into different constellations including twin inspectors in China and a porpoise in the Marshall Islands.

In the description of the Babylonian zodiac given in the clay tablets known as the MUL.APIN, a comprehensive table of the risings and settings of stars, which likely served as an agricultural calendar, the constellation now known as Aries was the final station along the ecliptic. Modern-day Aries was known as MULLÚ.ḪUN.GÁ, “The Agrarian Worker” or “The Hired Man”.

Although likely compiled in the 12th or 11th century BC, the MUL.APIN reflects a tradition which marks the Pleiades as the vernal equinox, which was the case with some precision at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age.

The earliest identifiable reference to Aries as a distinct constellation comes from the boundary stones that date from 1350 to 1000 BC. On several boundary stones, a zodiacal ram figure is distinct from the other characters present. The shift in identification from the constellation as the Agrarian Worker to the Ram likely occurred in later Babylonian tradition because of its growing association with Dumuzi the Shepherd.

By the time the MUL.APIN was created—by 1000 BC—modern Aries was identified with both Dumuzi’s ram and a hired laborer. The exact timing of this shift is difficult to determine due to the lack of images of Aries or other ram figures.

In ancient Egyptian astronomy, Aries was associated with the god Amon-Ra, who was depicted as a man with a ram’s head and represented fertility and creativity. Because it was the location of the vernal equinox, it was called the “Indicator of the Reborn Sun”.

During the times of the year when Aries was prominent, priests would process statues of Amon-Ra to temples, a practice that was modified by Persian astronomers centuries later. Aries acquired the title of “Lord of the Head” in Egypt, referring to its symbolic and mythological importance.

Aquarius (constellation, Gula/Enki)

Aquarius is a constellation of the zodiac, situated between Capricornus and Pisces. Its name is Latin for “water-carrier” or “cup-carrier”, and its symbol is ♒, a representation of water. It is one of the oldest of the recognized constellations along the zodiac (the sun’s apparent path).

It is found in a region often called the Sea due to its profusion of constellations with watery associations such as Cetus the whale, Pisces the fish, and Eridanus the river. The Babylonian star-figure appears on entitlement stones and cylinder seals from the second millennium. It contained the winter solstice in the Early Bronze Age.

Aquarius is identified as GU.LA “The Great One” in the Babylonian star catalogues and represents the god Enki-Ea himself, who is commonly depicted holding an overflowing vase. Capricornus is generally accepted as the zodiac sign for Ea/Enki but Aquarius may also be Ea/Enki because in his human form the carved reliefs are identical to the earliest imagery of Aquarius with the water/nectar of the gods flowing out of his shoulder into the mouth of a fish in the cosmic sea sky area of the constellations.

Aquarius, the sign of the Water Pourer, is an Air rather than a Water sign. Aquarius, the Water Pourer, is linked to the Upper Waters or the Sky. When She pours the water from Her jugs rain falls on Earth. Essentially Aquarius symbolises the nourishing rain itself. Symbolically the vessel, cup, jar or vase represents the womb of the Goddess. It symbolises fertility, birth and life.

Across the desert in ancient Sumer the origins of Aquarius lie with the Goddess Gula, the Great One. She is described as a Goddess of Healing, but on closer inspection it becomes obvious that the healing that Gula gifts upon the Earth is that of the nourishing rain and fresh water floods that turn the dry land green again. Gula was linked to the Great Flood and is often depicted with dogs by Her side.

Later accounts describe Gula in the form of Mul Gula as being a male Water Pourer who is immortalised in the constellation of Aquarius. However, essentially the male Mul Gula is the same image as Enki, the Sumerian Lord of Fresh Water, who is often depicted pouring water from two jugs.

In Old Babylonian astronomy, Ea was the ruler of the southernmost quarter of the Sun’s path, the “Way of Ea”, corresponding to the period of 45 days on either side of winter solstice. Aquarius was also associated with the destructive floods that the Babylonians regularly experienced, and thus was negatively connoted. In Ancient Egypt, Aquarius was associated with the annual flood of the Nile; the banks were said to flood when Aquarius put his jar into the river, beginning spring.

In Greek mythology, Aquarius is sometimes associated with Deucalion, the son of Prometheus who built a ship with his wife Pyrrha to survive an imminent flood. They sailed for nine days before washing ashore on Mount Parnassus.

Aquarius is also sometimes identified with beautiful Ganymede, a youth in Greek mythology and the son of Trojan king Tros, who was taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus to act as cup-carrier to the gods.

Neighboring Aquila represents the eagle, under Zeus’ command, that snatched the young boy; some versions of the myth indicate that the eagle was in fact Zeus transformed. An alternative version of the tale recounts Ganymede’s kidnapping by the goddess of the dawn, Eos, motivated by her affection for young men; Zeus then stole him from Eos and employed him as cup-bearer. Yet another figure associated with the water bearer is Cecrops I, a king of Athens who sacrificed water instead of wine to the gods.

In Chinese astronomy, the stream of water flowing from the Water Jar was depicted as the “Army of Yu-Lin” (Yu-lin-kiun or Yulinjun). The name “Yu-lin” means “feathers and forests”, referring to the numerous light-footed soldiers from the northern reaches of the empire represented by these faint stars.

The constellation’s stars were the most numerous of any Chinese constellation, numbering 45, the majority of which were located in modern Aquarius. The celestial army was protected by the wall Leibizhen, which counted Iota, Lambda, Phi, and Sigma Aquarii among its 12 stars. 88, 89, and 98 Aquarii represent Fou-youe, the axes used as weapons and for hostage executions. Also in Aquarius is Loui-pi-tchin, the ramparts that stretch from 29 and 27 Piscium and 33 and 30 Aquarii through Phi, Lambda, Sigma, and Iota Aquarii to Delta, Gamma, Kappa, and Epsilon Capricorni.

Near the border with Cetus, the axe Fuyue was represented by three stars; its position is disputed and may have instead been located in Sculptor. Tienliecheng also has a disputed position; the 13-star castle replete with ramparts may have possessed Nu and Xi Aquarii but may instead have been located south in Piscis Austrinus. The Water Jar asterism was seen to the ancient Chinese as the tomb, Fenmu. Nearby, the emperors’ mausoleum Xiuliang stood, demarcated by Kappa Aquarii and three other collinear stars. Ku (“crying”) and Qi (“weeping”), each composed of two stars, were located in the same region.

Three of the Chinese lunar mansions shared their name with constellations. Nu, also the name for the 10th lunar mansion, was a handmaiden represented by Epsilon, Mu, 3, and 4 Aquarii. The 11th lunar mansion shared its name with the constellation Xu (“emptiness”), formed by Beta Aquarii and Alpha Equulei; it represented a bleak place associated with death and funerals. Wei, the rooftop and 12th lunar mansion, was a V-shaped constellation formed by Alpha Aquarii, Theta Pegasi, and Epsilon Pegasi; it shared its name with two other Chinese constellations, in modern-day Scorpius and Aries.

Piscis Austrinus

Piscis Austrinus (also known as Piscis Australis) is a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere. In the Greek tradition Aquarius became represented as simply a single vase from which a stream poured down to Piscis Austrinus (also known as Piscis Australis), a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere. The name in the Hindu zodiac is likewise kumbha “water-pitcher”, showing that the zodiac reached India via Greek intermediaries.

The name is Latin for “the southern fish”, in contrast with the larger constellation Pisces, which represents a pair of fishes. Prior to the 20th century, it was also known as Piscis Notius. Its only star brighter than 4th magnitude is Fomalhaut, which is a first-magnitude star and is the 18th brightest star in the night sky.

Piscis Austrinus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. The stars of the modern constellation Grus once formed the “tail” of Piscis Austrinus. In 1597 (or 1598), Petrus Plancius carved out a separate constellation and named it after the crane.

In Greek mythology, this constellation is known as the Great Fish and it is portrayed as swallowing the water being poured out by Aquarius, the water-bearer constellation. The two fish of the constellation Pisces are said to be the offspring of the Great Fish. In Egyptian mythology, this fish saved the life of the Egyptian goddess Isis, so she placed this fish and its descendants into the heavens as constellations of stars.

Stars of Aquarius

Despite both its prominent position on the zodiac and its large size, Aquarius has no particularly bright stars, with its 4 brightest stars less than magnitude 2. However, recent research has shown that there are several stars lying within its borders that possess planetary systems.

α Aquarii, also known as Sadalmelik, is a G2 spectral class star (yellow supergiant) named in Arabic for the phrase “the lucky stars of the king”. It is the second brightest star in Aquarius. β Aquarii, sometimes called Sadalsuud, is a G0 spectral class star (yellow supergiant) named for the Arabic phrase meaning “luckiest of the lucky stars”. It is the brightest star in Aquarius.

Virgo (constellation, the virgin)

The ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect within Pisces and in Virgo (♍), the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac. Virgo is the second-largest constellation. It spans the 150-180th degree of the zodiac, between 152.75 and 180 degree of celestial longitude.

Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between August 23 and September 22, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits the constellation of Virgo from September 17 to October 17. Individuals born during these dates, depending on which system of astrology they subscribe to, may be called Virgos or Virgoans.

Virgo is the Latin name for virgin. In the Middle Ages, Virgo was sometimes associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary. The symbol of the maiden is based on Astraea. She was the last immortal to abandon Earth at the end of the Silver Age, when the gods fled to Olympus – hence the sign’s association with Earth.

The Greeks and Romans associated Virgo with their goddess of wheat/agriculture, Demeter-Ceres, the mother of Persephone-Proserpina. Alternatively, she was sometimes identified as the virgin goddess Iustitia or Astraea, holding the scales of justice in her hand as the constellation Libra.

According to the Babylonian Mul.Apin, which dates from 1000–686 BCE, the constellation of Virgo was known as “The Furrow”, representing the goddess Shala’s ear of grain, and is often portrayed carrying two sheaves of wheat, one of which is marked by another star in this constellation, the bright star Spica, as it is Latin for “ear of grain”, one of the major products of the Mesopotamian furrow.

The constellation Virgo was also known as “AB.SIN” and “absinnu”. For this reason the constellation became associated with fertility. According to Gavin White the figure of Virgo corresponds to two Babylonian constellations: the “Furrow” in the eastern sector of Virgo and the “Frond of Erua” in the western sector. The Frond of Erua was depicted as a goddess holding a palm-frond – a motif that still occasionally appears in much later depictions of Virgo.

Icarius of Athens, Erigone and Maera

Another myth identifies Virgo as Erigone, the daughter of Icarius of Athens, who was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and had been taught how to make wine. Icarius was cordial towards Dionysus, who gave his shepherds wine.

While travelling, Icarius met some shepherds.They became intoxicated and killed Icarius, who had been favoured by Dionysus, thinking he had poisoned them. According to Ovid, Dionysus “deceived Erigone with false grapes”, that is, assumed the shape of a grape cluster to approach and seduce her.

Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with her dog Maera to find him. Maera led her to his grave, and both became so overwhelmed with grief that she hanged herself and Maera leapt off a cliff.

Upon hearing the news, Dionysus was angry and punished Athens by making all of the city’s maidens commit suicide in the same way. The plague did not cease until the Athenians introduced honorific rites for Icarius and Erigone.

There is a mosaic in Paphos, Cyprus, from a Roman villa from the mid 2nd century a.d. which is called “Dionysus House”. The mosaic First wine drinkers describes Dionysus giving the gift of vine and wine to Icarius as a reward for Icarius’ generous hospitality.

It was probably this Icarius whom Clement of Alexandria referred to as husband of Phanothea, a woman who was believed to have invented the hexameter, a metrical line of verses consisting of six feet. According to Greek mythology, hexameter was invented by the god Hermes.

Dionysus placed the father and daughter in the sky as the constellations Virgo (Erigone), Boötes (Icarius), and the star, Procyon (Maera), respectively.

Procyon (star of Canis Major)

Procyon (α CMi, α Canis Minoris, Alpha Canis Minoris) is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Minor. To the naked eye, it appears to be a single star, the eighth brightest in the night sky with a visual apparent magnitude of 0.34.

Its name comes from the ancient Greek Prokyon, meaning “before the dog”, since it precedes the “Dog Star” Sirius as it travels across the sky due to Earth’s rotation. Although Procyon has a greater right ascension, it also has a more northerly declination, which means it will rise above the horizon earlier than Sirius from most northerly latitudes. In Greek mythology, Procyon is associated with Maera, a hound belonging to Erigone, daughter of Icarius of Athens.

These two dog stars are referred to in the most ancient literature and were venerated by the Babylonians and the Egyptians, In Babylonian mythology, Procyon was known as Nangar the Carpenter, an aspect of Marduk, involved in constructing and organising the celestial sky.

The constellations in Macedonian folklore represented agricultural items and animals, reflecting their village way of life. To them, Procyon and Sirius were Volci “the wolves”, circling hungrily around Orion which depicted a plough with oxen.

Rarer names are the Latin translation of Procyon, Antecanis, and the Arabic-derived names Al Shira and Elgomaisa. Medieval astrolabes of England and Western Europe used a variant of this, Algomeiza/Algomeyza. Al Shira derives from aš-ši‘ra aš-šamiyah, “the Syrian sign” (the other sign being Sirius; “Syria” is supposedly a reference to its northern location relative to Sirius).

Elgomaisa derives from al-ghumaisa’ “the bleary-eyed (woman)”, in contrast to “the teary-eyed (woman)”, which is Sirius. At the same time this name is synonymous with the Turkish name “Rumeysa”, and it is commonly used a name in Turkey.

The modern Arabic name for Procyon is ghumūṣ. It is known as (Mandarin nánhésān, the “Third Star in the South of the River”) in Chinese, and it is part of the Vermilion Bird.

The Hawaiians saw Procyon as part of an asterism Ke ka o Makali’i (“the canoe bailer of Makali’i”) that helped them navigate at sea. Called Puana “blossom”, it formed this asterism with Capella, Sirius, Castor and Pollux.

In Tahitian lore, Procyon was one of the pillars propping up the sky, known as Anâ-tahu’a-vahine-o-toa-te-manava (“star-the-priestess-of-brave-heart”), the pillar for elocution. The Maori knew the star as Puangahori.

Procyon appears on the flag of Brazil, symbolising the state of Amazonas. The Kalapalo people of Mato Grosso state in Brazil called Procyon and Canopus Kofongo “Duck”, with Castor and Pollux representing his hands. The asterism’s appearance signified the coming of the rainy season and increase in food staple manioc, used at feasts to feed guests.

Known as Sikuliarsiujuittuq to the Inuit, Procyon was quite significant in their astronomy and mythology. Its eponymous name means “the one who never goes onto the newly formed sea-ice”, and refers to a man who stole food from his village’s hunters because he was too obese to hunt on ice. He was killed by the other hunters who convinced him to go on the sea ice.

Procyon received this designation because it typically appears red (though sometimes slightly greenish) as it rises during the Arctic winter; this red color was associated with Sikuliarsiujuittuq’s bloody end.

Spica (star)

Virgo is often portrayed carrying two sheaves of wheat, one of which is marked by the bright star Spica, (α Vir, α Virginis, Alpha Virginis), the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, and the 15th brightest star in the night sky. Located 250 ± 10 light years from Earth, it is actually a spectroscopic binary and rotating ellipsoidal variable—a system whose two main stars are so close together they are egg-shaped rather than spherical, and can only be separated by their spectrum.

Spica is believed to be the star that gave Hipparchus the data that led him to discover the precession of the equinoxes. A temple to Menat (an early Hathor) at Thebes was oriented with reference to Spica when it was built in 3200 BC, and, over time, precession slowly but noticeably changed Spica’s location relative to the temple.

The name Spica derives from Latin spīca virginis “the virgin’s ear of [wheat] grain”. It was also anglicized as Virgin’s Spike. Johann Bayer cited the name Arista. Another alternative name is Azimech, from Arabic al-simāk al-a‘zal ‘the Undefended’, and Alarph, Arabic for ‘the Grape Gatherer’. Sumbalet (Sombalet, Sembalet and variants) is from an Arabic sunbulah “corn ear”.

In Chinese astronomy, the star is known as Jiao Xiu 1, i.e. the first star of the Jiao Xiu asterism. In Hindu astronomy, Spica corresponds to the Nakshatra Chitra (“the bright one”). In his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Cornelius Agrippa attributes its kabbalistic symbol to Hermes Trismegistus.


Nakshatra is the term for lunar mansion in Hindu astrology. A nakshatra is one of 27 (sometimes also 28) sectors along the ecliptic. Their names are related to the most prominent asterisms in the respective sectors.

The starting point for the nakshatras is the point on the ecliptic directly opposite to the star Spica called Chitrā in Sanskrit (other slightly different definitions exist). It is called Meshādi or the “start of Aries”.

The ecliptic is divided into each of the nakshatras eastwards starting from this point. The number of nakshatras reflects the number of days in a sidereal month (modern value: 27.32 days), the width of a nakshatra traversed by the Moon in about one day.

Each nakshatra is further subdivided into four quarters (or padas). These play a role in popular Hindu astrology, where each pada is associated with a syllable, conventionally chosen as the first syllable of the given name of a child born when the Moon was in the corresponding pada.

The nakshatras of traditional bhartiya astronomy are based on a list of 28 asterisms found in the Atharvaveda (AVŚ 19.7) and also in the Shatapatha Brahmana. The first astronomical text that lists them is the Vedanga Jyotisha.

In classical Hindu mythology (Mahabharata, Harivamsa), the creation of the nakshatras is attributed to Daksha. They are personified as daughters of the deity and as mythological wives of Chandra, the Moon god, or alternatively the daughters of Kashyapa, the brother of Daksha.

Each of the nakshatras is governed as ‘lord’ by one of the nine graha in the following sequence: Ketu (South Lunar Node), Shukra (Venus), Ravi or Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Rahu (North Lunar Node), Guru or Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shani (Saturn) and Budha (Mercury).

This cycle repeats itself three times to cover all 27 nakshatras. The lord of each nakshatra determines the planetary period known as the dasha, which is considered of major importance in forecasting the life path of the individual in Hindu astrology.

In Vedic Sanskrit, the term nákṣatra may refer to any heavenly body or to “the stars” collectively. The classical sense of “lunar mansion” is first found in the Atharvaveda, and becomes the primary meaning of the term in Classical Sanskrit.

Boötes (constellation)

Boötes is a constellation in the northern sky, located between 0° and +60° declination, and 13 and 16 hours of right ascension on the celestial sphere. The three-letter abbreviation for the constellation, as adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1922, is ‘Boo’.

In his Uranometria, Johann Bayer used the Greek letters Alpha through to Omega and then A to k to label what he saw as the most prominent 35 stars in the constellation, with subsequent astronomers splitting Kappa, Mu, Nu and Pi as two stars each. Nu is also the same star as Psi Herculis. John Flamsteed numbered 54 stars for the constellation.

Located 36.7 light-years from Earth, Arcturus, or Alpha Boötis, is the brightest star in Boötes and the fourth brightest star in the sky at an apparent magnitude of −0.05; It is also the brightest star north of the celestial equator, just shading out Vega and Capella. Its name comes from the Greek for “bear-keeper”.

Eta Boötis appears close to the prominent star Arcturus (Alpha Bootis) in Earth’s sky, and Arcturus is in fact its closest stellar neighbor, as both stars are nearly identical in distance from the Sun. The two stars are about 3.24 light years apart, and each would appear bright in the other’s sky.

Arcturus would appear as roughly magnitude -5.2 (about 120 times brighter than it appears from Earth, or close to twice the brightness of Venus) in the night sky of a hypothetical planet orbiting Eta Boötis, while Eta Boötis would appear at about magnitude -2.5 in the sky of a hypothetical planet orbiting Arcturus, or over twice the brightness of Sirius in our night sky.

The name of the constellation comes from the Greek Boōtēs, meaning herdsman or plowman (literally, ox-driver; from bous “cow”). The “ö” in the name is a diaeresis, not an umlaut, meaning that each ‘o’ is to be pronounced separately.

It contains the fourth brightest star in the night sky, the orange-hued Arcturus (α Boo, α Boötis, Alpha Boötis). Boötes is home to many other bright stars, including eight above the fourth magnitude and an additional 21 above the fifth magnitude, making a total of 29 stars easily visible to the naked eye.

Boötes is a constellation bordered by Virgo to the south, Coma Berenices and Canes Venatici to the west, Ursa Major to the northwest, Draco to the northeast, and Hercules, Corona Borealis and Serpens Caput to the east.

Colloquially, its pattern of stars has been likened to a kite or ice cream cone. However, depictions of Boötes have varied historically. Aratus described him circling the North Pole, herding the two bears. Later ancient Greek depictions, described by Ptolemy, have him holding the reins of his hunting dogs (Canes Venatici) in his left hand, with a spear, club, or staff in his right hand.

After Hevelius introduced Mons Maenalus in 1681, Boötes was often depicted standing on the Peloponnese mountain. By 1801, when Johann Bode published his Uranographia, Boötes had acquired a sickle, which was also held in his left hand.

The placement of Arcturus has also been mutable through the centuries. Traditionally, Arcturus lay between his thighs, as Ptolemy depicted him. However, Germanicus Caesar deviated from this tradition by placing Arcturus “where his garment is fastened by a knot”.

One of the myths associated with Boötes by Hyginus is that of Icarius, who was schooled as a grape farmer and winemaker by Dionysus. Icarius made wine so strong that those who drank it appeared poisoned, which caused shepherds to avenge their supposedly poisoned friends by killing Icarius. Maera, Icarius’s dog, brought his daughter Erigone to her father’s body, whereupon both she and the dog committed suicide. Zeus then chose to honor all three by placing them in the sky as constellations: Icarius as Boötes, Erigone as Virgo, and Maera as Canis Major or Canis Minor.

Several former constellations were formed from stars now included in Boötes. Quadrans Muralis, the Quadrant, was a constellation created near Beta Boötis from faint stars. It was invented in 1795 by Jérôme Lalande, an astronomer who used a quadrant to perform detailed astronometric measurements.

Quadrans Muralis was formed from the stars of eastern Boötes, western Hercules, and Draco. It was originally called Le Mural by Jean Fortin in his 1795 Atlas Céleste; it was not given the name Quadrans Muralis until Johann Bode’s 1801 Uranographia. The constellation was quite faint, with its brightest stars reaching the 5th magnitude.

Mons Maenalus, representing the Maenalus Mountains, was created by Johannes Hevelius in 1687 at the foot of the constellation’s figure. The mountain was named for the son of Lycaon, Maenalus. The mountain, one of Diana’s hunting grounds, was also holy to Pan.

The stars of Boötes were incorporated into many different Chinese constellations. Arcturus was part of the most prominent of these, variously designated as the celestial king’s throne (Tian Wang) or the Blue Dragon’s horn (Daijiao); the name Daijiao, meaning “great horn”, is more common.

Arcturus was given such importance in Chinese celestial mythology because of its status marking the beginning of the lunar calendar, as well as its status as the brightest star in the northern night sky.

Two constellations flanked Daijiao, Yousheti to the right and Zuosheti to the left; they represented companions that orchestrated the seasons. Zuosheti was formed from modern Zeta, Omicron, and Pi Boötis, while Yousheti was formed from modern Eta, Tau, and Upsilon Boötis.

Dixi, the Emperor’s ceremonial banquet mat, was north of Arcturus, consisting of the stars 12, 11, and 9 Boötis. Another northern constellation was Qigong, the Seven Dukes, which was mostly across the Boötes-Hercules border. It included either Delta Boötis or Beta Boötis as its terminus.

The other Chinese constellations made up of the stars of Boötes existed in the modern constellation’s north; they are all representations of weapons. Tianqiang, the spear, was formed from Iota, Kappa, and Theta Boötis; Genghe, variously representing a lance or shield, was formed from Epsilon, Rho, and Sigma Boötis. There were also two weapons made up of a singular star. Xuange, the halberd, was represented by Lambda Boötis, and Zhaoyao, either the sword or the spear, was represented by Gamma Boötis.

Two Chinese constellations have an uncertain placement in Boötes. Kangchi, the lake, was placed south of Arcturus, though its specific location is disputed. It may have been placed entirely in Boötes, on either side of the Boötes-Virgo border, or on either side of the Virgo-Libra border. The constellation Zhouding, a bronze tripod-mounted container used for food, was sometimes cited as the stars 1, 2, and 6 Boötis. However, it has also been associated with three stars in Coma Berenices.

The constellation Boötes is sometimes identified with Arcas and also referred to as Arcas and Arcturus, son of Zeus and Callisto, a nymph of Lycaon. Transformed into a bear and set among the stars, she was the bear-mother of the Arcadians, through her son Arcas.

Big Dipper

The name Boötes was first used by Homer in his Odyssey as a celestial reference point for navigation, described as “late-setting” or “slow to set”, translated as the “Plowman”. Exactly whom Boötes is supposed to represent in Greek mythology is not clear.

According to one version, he was a son of Demeter, Philomenus, twin brother of Plutus, a ploughman who drove the oxen in the constellation Ursa Major. This is corroborated by the constellation’s name, which itself means “ox-driver” or “herdsman.”

The ancient Greeks saw the asterism now called the “Big Dipper” or “Plough” as a cart with oxen. This influenced the name’s etymology, derived from the Greek for “noisy” or “ox-driver”. Another myth associated with Boötes tells that he invented the plow and was memorialized for his ingenuity as a constellation.

The Big Dipper (US) or Plough (UK) is an asterism (not a constellation) of seven stars recognized as a distinct grouping in many cultures. These stars are the brightest of the formal constellation Ursa Major; six of them are second magnitude stars, while only Megrez (δ) is of third magnitude. The North Star (Polaris), the current northern pole star on Earth, can be located by extending an imaginary line from Merak (β) through Dubhe (α). This makes it useful in celestial navigation.

The constellation of Ursa Major has been seen as a bear by many distinct civilizations. This may stem from a common oral tradition stretching back for thousands of years. Using statistical and phylogenetic tools, Julien d’Huy reconstructs the following Palaeolithic state of the story: “There is an animal that is a horned herbivore, especially an elk. One human pursues this ungulate. The hunt locates or get to the sky. The animal is alive when it is transformed into a constellation. It forms the Big Dipper”.

Eta Boötis (star)

Eta Boötis (η Boo, η Boötis) is a star in the constellation Boötes. It has the traditional names Muphrid and Saak, and the Flamsteed designation 8 Boötis. Since 1943, the spectrum of this star has served as one of the stable anchor points by which other stars are classified.

Eta Boötis is only 3.3 light-years distant from Arcturus, and would have a visual magnitude −2.5, whereas an observer on the former system would find Arcturus as bright as Venus as seen from Earth.

The name Muphrid is from the Arabic mufrid ar-rāmiħ “the (single) one of the lancer”. In Chinese Yòu Niè Dī, meaning “the Right Conductor” refers to an asterism consisting of Eta Boötis, Tau Boötis and Upsilon Boötis. Consequently, Eta Boötis itself is known as Yòu Niè Dī yī (“the First Star of the Right Conductor”).

In the catalogue of stars in the Calendarium of Al Achsasi al Mouakket, this star was designated Ramih al Ramih (rumḥ al rāmiḥ), which was translated into Latin as Lancea Lanceator, possibly meaning the lance of the lancer.

Arcturus (star, Enlil)

Arcturus (α Boo, α Boötis, Alpha Boötis) of the constellation Boötes is the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. It is a relatively close star at only 36.7 light-years from Earth, and, together with Vega and Sirius, one of the most luminous stars in the Sun’s neighborhood.

With a visual magnitude of −0.05, it is the fourth brightest star in the night sky, after −1.46 magnitude Sirius, −0.86 magnitude Canopus, and −0.27 magnitude Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is a bright binary star, whose unresolved components to the naked eye are both fainter than Arcturus. This makes Arcturus the third brightest individual star, just ahead of Alpha Centauri A (α Cen A), whose visual magnitude is −0.01.

From the northern hemisphere, an easy way to find Arcturus is to follow the arc of the handle of the Big Dipper. By continuing in this path, one can find Spica, “Arc to Arcturus, then spike to Spica”.

The name of the star derives from Ancient Greek Arktouros and means “Guardian of the Bear”, ultimately from arktos (“bear”) and ouros (“watcher, guardian”). It has been known by this name since at least the time of Hesiod. This is a reference to its being the brightest star in the constellation Boötes (of which it forms the left foot), which is next to the Greater and Lesser Bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

In Ancient Rome, the star’s celestial activity was supposed to portend tempestuous weather, and a personification of the star acts as narrator of the prologue to Plautus’ comedy Rudens (circa 211 BC). In the Middle Ages Arcturus was considered a Behenian fixed star and attributed to the stone Jasper and the plantain herb. Cornelius Agrippa listed its kabbalistic sign under the alternate name Alchameth.

In Arabic, Arcturus is one of two stars called al-simāk (“the uplifted one”); the other is Spica. Arcturus is specified as as-simāk ar-rāmiħ “the uplifted one of the lancer”. The term Al Simak Al Ramih has appeared in Al Achsasi Al Mouakket catalogue (translated into Latin as Al Simak Lanceator).

This has been variously romanized in the past, leading to obsolete variants such as Aramec and Azimech. For example, the name Alramih is used in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolabe (1391). Another Arabic name is Haris-el-sema, from ħāris al-samā’ (“the keeper of heaven”) or ħāris al-shamāl’ (“the keeper of north”). In the Hebrew scriptures Arcturus is referred to in Job 38:32. Arcturus was once again called by its classical name from the Renaissance onwards.

In Chinese astronomy, Arcturus is called Da Jiao (pinyin: Dàjiǎo; literally: “great horn”), because it is the brightest star in the Chinese constellation called Jiao Xiu (pinyin: Jiǎo Xiǔ; literally: “horn star”). Later it become a part of another constellation Kang Xiu (pinyin: Kàng Xiǔ).

In Indian Astrology or Vedic Astrology or Sidereal Astrology, Arcturus is called ‘Swati’ which is a word meaning “very beneficent” derived from the language Sanskrit. It is the eponymous star of one of the nakshatras (lunar mansions) of Hindu astrology.

As one of the brightest stars in the sky, Arcturus has been significant to observers since antiquity. In Mesopotamia, it was linked to the god Enlil, and also known as Shudun, “yoke”, or SHU-PA of unknown derivation in the Three Stars Each Babylonian star catalogues and later MUL.APIN around 1100 BC. Ptolemy described Arcturus as subrufa “slightly red”, and it has a B-V color index of +1.23, roughly midway between Pollux (B-V +1.00) and Aldebaran (B-V +1.54).

Prehistoric Polynesian navigators knew Arcturus as Hōkūleʻa, the “Star of Joy”. Arcturus is the zenith star of the Hawaiian Islands. Using Hōkūleʻa and other stars, the Polynesians launched their double-hulled canoes from Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands.

Traveling east and north they eventually crossed the equator and reached the latitude at which Arcturus would appear directly overhead in the summer night sky. Knowing they had arrived at the exact latitude of the island chain, they sailed due west on the trade winds to landfall.

If Hōkūleʻa could be kept directly overhead, they landed on the southeastern shores of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. For a return trip to Tahiti the navigators could use Sirius, the zenith star of that island. Since 1976, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūle‘a has crossed the Pacific Ocean many times under navigators who have incorporated this wayfinding technique in their non-instrument navigation.

The French mathematician and astronomer Jean-Baptiste Morin observed Arcturus in the daytime with a telescope (a first for any star other than the Sun and supernovae) in 1635, and Arcturus has been seen at or just before sunset with the naked eye.


The name Kalliste (“most beautiful”), may be recognized as an epithet of the goddess herself, though none of the inscriptions at Athens that record priests of Artemis Kalliste, dates before the third century BCE.

Artemis Kalliste was worshipped in Athens in a shrine which lay outside the Dipylon gate, by the side of the road to the Academy. W. S. Ferguson suggested that Artemis Soteira and Artemis Kalliste were joined in a common cult administered by a single priest. The bearlike character of Artemis herself was a feature of the Braurona.

The myth in Catasterismi may be derived from the fact that a set of constellations appear close together in the sky, in and near the Zodiac sign of Libra, namely Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Boötes, and Virgo. The constellation Boötes, was explicitly identified in the Hesiodic Astronomia as Arcas, the “Bear-warden”.

As a follower of Artemis, Callisto, who Hesiod said was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, took a vow to remain a virgin, as did all the nymphs of Artemis. But to have sex with her Zeus disguised himself as Artemis (Diana) herself, in order to lure her into his embrace. Callisto was then turned into a bear.

Either Artemis “slew Kallisto with a shot of her silver bow,” perhaps urged by the wrath of Juno (Hera) or later Arcas, the eponym of Arcadia, nearly killed his bear-mother, when she had wandered into the forbidden precinct of Zeus. In every case, Zeus placed them both in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major, called Arktos (αρκτος), the “Bear”, by Greeks, and Ursa Minor.

According to Ovid, it was Jupiter (Zeus) who took the form of Diana (Artemis) so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs.

Callisto’s subsequent pregnancy was discovered several months later while she was bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs. Diana became enraged when she saw that Callisto was pregnant and expelled her from the group. Callisto later gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear. Sixteen years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest.

Just as Arcas was about to kill his own mother with his javelin, Jupiter averted the tragedy by placing mother and son amongst the stars as Ursa Major and Minor, respectively. Juno, enraged that her attempt at revenge had been frustrated, appealed to Oceanus that the two might never meet his waters, thus providing a poetic explanation for their circumpolar positions.

The stars of Ursa Major were all circumpolar in Athens of 400 BCE, and all but the stars in the Great Bear’s left foot were circumpolar in Ovid’s Rome, in the first century CE. Now, however, due to the precession of the equinoxes, the feet of the Great Bear constellation do sink below the horizon from Rome and especially from Athens; however, Ursa Minor (Arcas) does remain completely above the horizon, even from latitudes as far south as Honolulu and Hong Kong.


In Greek mythology, Arcas was the son of Zeus and Callisto. Callisto was a nymph in the retinue of the goddess Artemis. As she would not be with anyone but Artemis, Zeus cunningly disguised himself as Artemis and seduced Callisto. The child resulting from their union was called Arcas.

Hera became jealous, and in anger, transformed Callisto into a bear. She would have done the same or worse to her son, had Zeus not hidden Arcas in an area of Greece that would come to be called Arcadia, in his honor.

There Arcas safely lived until one day, during one of the court feasts held by king Lycaon (Arcas’ maternal grandfather), Arcas was placed upon the burning altar as a sacrifice to the gods. He then said to Zeus “If you think that you are so clever, make your son whole and un-harmed.” At this Zeus became enraged. He made Arcas whole and then directed his anger toward Lycaon, turning him into the first werewolf.

After this occurrence, Arcas became the new king of Arcadia, and the country’s greatest hunter. One day when Arcas went hunting in the woods, he came across his mother. Seeing her son after so long, she went forth to embrace him. Not knowing that the bear was his mother, he went to kill her with an arrow.

Zeus, taking pity upon the two, decided to avert the tragedy and put them both up in the heavens, and their constellations are now referred to as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the big and little bears. When Hera heard of this, she became so angry that she asked Tethys to keep them in a certain place, so that the constellations would never sink below the horizon and receive water.

Arcas was remembered for having taught people the art of weaving and baking bread. He was married to either Laodamia (Leaneira), daughter of Amyclas; Meganeira, daughter of Crocon; the nymph Chrysopeleia; or the Dryad Erato. He also left a number of children, including the sons Apheidas, Elatus, Azan and Triphylus, also an illegitimate son Autolaus and at least two daughters, Hyperippe and Diomeneia.

In the story Arcas was brought up by his maternal grandfather Lycaon, to whom one day Zeus went and had a meal. To verify that the guest was really the king of the gods, Lycaon killed his grandson and prepared a meal made from his flesh. Zeus noticed and became very angry, transforming Lycaon into a wolf and gave back life to his son. In the meantime Callisto had been transformed into a she-bear, by Zeus’s wife, Hera, who was angry at Zeus’s infidelity.

This is corroborated by the Greek name for Boötes, Arctophylax, which means “Bear Watcher”. Callisto in form of a bear was almost killed by her son who was out hunting. Zeus rescued her, taking her into the sky where she became Ursa Major, “the Great Bear”.

The name Arcturus (the constellation’s brightest star) comes from the Greek word meaning “guardian of the bear”. Sometimes Arcturus is depicted as leading the hunting dogs of nearby Canes Venatici and driving the bears of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Spring Triangle

The Great Diamond is an asterism. Astronomy popularizer Hans A. Rey called it the Virgin’s Diamond. It is composed of the stars Cor Caroli (“Charles’s Heart”) in Canes Venatici, Denebola (the tail of Leo), Spica (the wheat of Virgo), and Arcturus (in Boötes). It is somewhat larger than the Big Dipper.

The three southernmost stars are sometimes given their own asterism, the Spring Triangle, an astronomical asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn upon the celestial sphere, with its defining vertices at Arcturus, Spica, and Regulus. These stars forms part of a larger Spring asterism called the Great Diamond together with Cor Caroli.

This triangle connects the constellations of Boötes, Virgo, and Leo. It is visible rising in the south eastern sky of the northern hemisphere between March and May.

George Lovi of Sky & Telescope magazine had a slightly different Spring triangle, including the tail of Leo, Denebola, instead of Regulus. Denebola is dimmer, but the triangle is more nearly equilateral.

Canes Venatici is a small northern constellation. The stars of Canes Venatici are not bright. In classical times, they were included by Ptolemy within the constellation Ursa Major in his star catalogue.

In medieval times, the identification of these stars with the dogs of Boötes arose through a mistranslation. Some of Boötes’s stars were traditionally described as representing the club of Boötes. When the Greek astronomer Ptolemy’s Almagest was translated from Greek to Arabic, the translator Johannitius (following Alberuni) did not know the Greek word and rendered it as the nearest-looking Arabic word, writing in ordinary unvowelled Arabic text “al-`aşā dhāt al-kullāb”, which means “the spearshaft having a hook”.

When the Arabic text was translated into Latin, the translator Gerard of Cremona (probably in Spain) mistook the Arabic word for kilāb (the plural of kalb), meaning “dogs”, writing hastile habens canes (“spearshaft having dogs”). In 1533, the German astronomer Peter Apian depicted Boötes as having two dogs with him.

These spurious dogs floated about the astronomical literature until Hevelius decided to specify their presence in the sky by making them a separate constellation in 1687. Hevelius chose the name Asterion (from the Greek ‘αστέριον, meaning the “little star”, the diminutive of ‘αστηρ the “star”, or adjective meaning “starry”) for the northern dog and Chara (from the Greek χαρά, meaning “joy”) for the southern dog, as Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, in his star atlas. The constellation is often depicted in illustrations as representing the dogs of Boötes the Herdsman, a neighboring constellation. In his star catalogue, the Czech astronomer Bečvář assigned Asterion to β CVn and Chara to α CVn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: