Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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Orion constellation

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on June 23, 2019

The constellation of Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and is therefore visible throughout the world. Its brightest stars are the supergiants: The red Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) and the blue-white Rigel (Beta Orionis). It was named after Orion, a hunter in Greek mythology. Orion is used as a symbol in the modern world.

The distinctive pattern of Orion is recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths are associated with it. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky yet it has no place in the modern zodiac.

The earliest depiction linked to the constellation is a prehistoric (Aurignacian) mammoth ivory carving found in a cave in the Ach valley in West Germany in 1979. Archaeologists estimate that it was fashioned approximately 32,000 to 38,000 years ago.

Orion’s seven brightest stars form a distinctive hourglass-shaped asterism, or pattern, in the night sky. Four stars – Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix and Saiph – form a large roughly rectangular shape, in the centre of which lie the three stars of Orion’s Belt – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Orion’s right shoulder is marked by the bright star Betelgeuse, and his left foot by Rigel.

Orion is bordered by Taurus (Latin for “bull”) to the northwest, Eridanus, which is represented as a river, to the southwest, Lepus (Latin for “hare”) to the south, Monoceros to the east, and Gemini (Latin for “twins”) to the northeast.


Gemini lies between Taurus to the west and Cancer to the east, with Auriga and Lynx to the north and Monoceros and Canis Minor to the south. The easiest way to locate the constellation is to find its two brightest stars Castor and Pollux eastward from the familiar “V” shaped asterism of Taurus and the three stars of Orion’s belt.

Gemini is the third astrological sign in the zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini.  The Sun resides in the constellation of Gemini from June 20 to July 20 each year and under the tropical zodiac, the sun transits this sign between about May 21 and June 21.

Gemini is associated with the twins Castor and Pollux, known as the Dioscuri, in Greek mythology. The divine twins are a mytheme of Proto-Indo-European religion. One recurring element in the divine twin theme is that, while identical, one is divine and the other is human.

In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins. The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.


Taurus (Latin for “the Bull”) is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. It hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades, also known as the Seven Sisters and Messier 45, and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye.

Taurus is today the second astrological sign in the present zodiac. It spans from 30° to 60° of the zodiac. The Sun transits in this sign from approximately April 21 until May 21 in western astrology. It is a Venus-ruled sign, just like Libra.

Taurus was, however, the first sign of the zodiac established among the ancient Mesopotamians, who called it as “The Great Bull of Heaven”, because it was the constellation through which the Sun rose on the vernal equinox in the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries.

At the beginning of the list with MUL.MUL, the Pleiades, corresponds to the situation in the Early to Middle Bronze Age when the Sun at vernal equinox was close to the Pleiades in Taurus (closest in the 23rd century BCE), and not yet in Aries.

Its importance to the agricultural calendar influenced various bull figures in the mythologies of Ancient Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Cults centered around sacred bulls began to form in Assyria, Egypt, and Crete during The Age of Taurus, or “The Age of Earth, Agriculture, and the Bull”.


Eridanus is a constellation in the southern hemisphere. It is represented as a river. However, according to one theory, the Greek constellation takes its name from the Babylonian constellation known as the Star of Eridu (MUL.NUN.KI).

Eridu was an ancient city in the extreme south of Babylonia; situated in the marshy regions it was held sacred to the god Enki-Ea who ruled the cosmic domain of the Abyss – a mythical conception of the fresh-water reservoir below the Earth’s surface.

The stars that correspond to Eridanus are also depicted as a river in Indian astronomy starting close to the head of Orion just below Auriga. Eridanus is called Srotaswini in Sanskrit, srótas meaning the course of a river or stream.

Specifically, it is depicted as the Ganges on the head of Dakshinamoorthy or Nataraja, a Hindu incarnation of Shiva. Dakshinamoorthy himself is represented by the constellation Orion.


Lepus, immediately south of Orion, is most often represented as a hare being hunted by Orion or, alternatively, by Orion’s hunting dogs: Canis Major (“greater dog”) and Canis Minor (“lesser dog”).

Four stars of this constellation (α, β, γ, δ Lep) form a quadrilateral and are known as Arsh al-Jawzā (“the Throne of Jawzā”) or Kursiyy al-Jawzā’ al-Mu’akhkhar (“the Hindmost Chair of Jawzā’) and al-Nihāl (“the Camels Quenching Their Thirst”) in Arabic.

Jawza’ as a rain asterism forms the center of the larger celestial complex also known as Jawza’, the only fully articulated human figure in the ancient Arabian sky. The name Jawza’ is a feminine derivative of the word that means “middle”.

In the earliest times, the name referred to only the three bright stars that are lined up in the middle of the figure. A trio of very bright blue-white stars that are lined up in a perfectly straight line. Each of the side stars is equidistant from the center one. This grouping is known in modern astronomy as the Belt of Orion.


Monoceros is a faint constellation on the celestial equator. Its name is Greek for unicorn. It is bordered by Orion to the west, Gemini to the north, Canis Major to the south and Hydra to the east. Other bordering constellations include Canis Minor, Lepus and Puppis.

In Western astronomy, Monoceros is a relatively modern constellation, not one of Ptolemy’s 48 in the Almagest. Its first certain appearance was on a globe created by the Dutch cartographer Petrus Plancius in 1612 or 1613 and it was later charted by German astronomer Jakob Bartsch as Unicornu on his star chart of 1624.

French astronomer Camille Flammarion, however, believed that a former constellation, Neper (the “Auger”), Ideler’s Bohrer, occupied the area of the sky now home to Monoceros and Microscopium, but this is disputed.

Canis Major and Canis Minor

Both Canis Major (Latin for “greater dog”), a constellation in the southern celestial hemisphere, and Canis Minor (Latin for “lesser dog”), a small constellation in the northern celestial hemisphere, are commonly represented as following the constellation of Orion the hunter through the sky. The two dog stars are referred to in the most ancient literature and were venerated by the Babylonians and the Egyptians.

The Milky Way passes through Canis Major and several open clusters lie within its borders, most notably M41. Canis Major contains Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, known as the “dog star”. In ancient Mesopotamia, Sirius, named šukūdu (meaning “arrow”) by the Akkadians and KAK.SI.DI by the Babylonians, was seen as an arrow aiming towards Orion, while the southern stars of Canis Major and a part of Puppis were viewed as a bow, named BAN in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

The Ancient Greeks replaced the bow and arrow depiction with that of a dog. In Greek Mythology, Canis Major represented the dog Laelaps, a gift from Zeus to Europa; or sometimes the hound of Procris, Diana’s nymph; or the one given by Aurora to Cephalus, so famed for its speed that Zeus elevated it to the sky.

It was also considered to represent one of Orion’s hunting dogs, pursuing Lepus the Hare or helping Orion fight Taurus the Bull; and is referred to in this way by Aratos, Homer and Hesiod. The ancient Greeks refer only to one dog, but by Roman times, Canis Minor appears as Orion’s second dog.

The Roman myth refers to Canis Major as Custos Europae, the dog guarding Europa but failing to prevent her abduction by Jupiter in the form of a bull, and as Janitor Lethaeus, “the watchdog”.

In medieval Arab astronomy, the constellation became al-Kalb al-Akbar, “the Greater Dog”, transcribed as Alcheleb Alachbar by 17th century writer Edmund Chilmead. Islamic scholar Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī referred to Orion as Kalb al-Jabbār, “the Dog of the Giant”.

Among the Merazig of Tunisia, shepherds note six constellations that mark the passage of the dry, hot season. One of them, called Merzem, includes the stars of Canis Major and Canis Minor and is the herald of two weeks of hot weather.

Canis Minor contains only two stars brighter than the fourth magnitude, Procyon (Alpha Canis Minoris), the brightest object in the constellation of Canis Minor and usually the eighth-brightest star in the night sky, with a magnitude of 0.34, and Gomeisa (Beta Canis Minoris), with a magnitude of 2.9. The ancient Egyptians thought of this constellation as Anubis, the jackal god.

Canis Minor was one of the original 48 constellations formulated by Ptolemy in his second-century Almagest, in which it was defined as a specific pattern (asterism) of stars; Ptolemy identified only two stars and hence no depiction was possible.

The Ancient Greeks called the constellation Procyon, “coming before the dog”, transliterated into Latin as Antecanis, Praecanis, or variations thereof, by Cicero and others. In Greek mythology, Canis Minor was sometimes connected with the Teumessian Fox, a beast turned into stone with its hunter, Laelaps, by Zeus, who placed them in heaven as Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (Teumessian Fox).

Roman writers also appended the descriptors parvus, minor or minusculus (“small” or “lesser”, for its faintness), septentrionalis (“northerly”, for its position in relation to Canis Major), primus (rising “first”) or sinister (rising to the “left”) to its name Canis.

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.

The medieval Arabic astronomers maintained the depiction of Canis Minor (al-Kalb al-Asghar in Arabic) as a dog; in his Book of the Fixed Stars, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi included a diagram of the constellation with a canine figure superimposed.

There was one slight difference between the Ptolemaic vision of Canis Minor and the Arabic; al-Sufi claims Mirzam, now assigned to Orion, as part of both Canis Minor—the collar of the dog—and its modern home.

Among the Merazig of Tunisia, shepherds note six constellations that mark the passage of the dry, hot season. One of them, called Merzem, includes the stars of Canis Minor and Canis Major and is the herald of two weeks of hot weather.

Canis Minor was also given the name DAR.LUGAL, its position defined as “the star which stands behind it [Orion]”, in the MUL.APIN; the constellation represents a rooster. This name may have also referred to the constellation Lepus. DAR.LUGAL was also denoted DAR.MUŠEN and DAR.LUGAL.MUŠEN in Babylonia. Canis Minor was then called tarlugallu in Akkadian astronomy.


The Arabic names for both Procyon and Gomeisa alluded to their proximity and resemblance to Sirius, though they were not direct translations of the Greek; Procyon was called ash-Shi’ra ash-Shamiya, the “Syrian Sirius” and Gomeisa was called ash-Shira al-Ghamisa, the Sirius with bleary eyes.

The name Procyon 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. Eratosthenes accompanied the Little Dog with Orion, while Hyginus linked the constellation with Maera, a dog owned by Icarius of Athens.

Icarius was a follower of the wine god Dionysus and had been taught how to make wine. While travelling, Icarius met some shepherds and gave them wine; they became intoxicated and believed Icarius had poisoned them, so they killed him. Erigone was worried about her father, and set off with 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. On discovering the latter’s death, the dog and Icarius’ daughter Erigone took their lives and all three were placed in the sky – Erigone as Virgo and Icarius as Boötes. As a reward for his faithfulness, the dog was placed along the “banks” of the Milky Way, which the ancients believed to be a heavenly river, where he would never suffer from thirst.

Upon hearing the news, Dionysus was angry and punished Athens with a plague, inflicting insanity on all the unmarried women, who all hanged themselves, imitating Erigone. The plague did not cease until the Athenians introduced honorific rites for Icarius and Erigone. Dionysus placed Icarius, Erigone and Maera in the sky as the constellations Virgo (Erigone), Boötes (Icarius), and the star, Procyon (Maera).

Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second-largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra) and the largest constellation in the zodiac. It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica.

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 name comes from the Greek Boōtēs (“herdsman” or “plowman”; lit. “ox-driver” from bous “cow”).

In Babylonian mythology, Procyon was known as Nangar (the Carpenter), an aspect of Marduk, involved in constructing and organising the celestial sky. 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.

Though strongly associated with the Classical Greek uranographic tradition, Canis Minor originates from ancient Mesopotamia. Procyon and Gomeisa were called MASH.TAB.BA or “twins” in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

The meaning of MASH.TAB.BA evolved as well, becoming the twin deities Lulal and Latarak, who are on the opposite side of the sky from Papsukal, the True Shepherd of Heaven in Babylonian mythology. In the later MUL.APIN, this name was also applied to the pairs of Pi3 and Pi4 Orionis and Zeta and Xi Orionis.


Canis Major contains Sirius (designated α Canis Majoris (Latinized to Alpha Canis Majoris, abbreviated Alpha CMa, α CMa), the brightest star in the night sky. It is known colloquially as the “dog star”, reflecting its prominence in its constellation, Canis Major (“the Greater Dog”). Canis Major was classically depicted as Orion’s dog.

Its name is derived from the Greek word Seirios (“glowing” or “scorching”). The Greek word itself may have been imported from elsewhere before the Archaic period, one authority suggesting a link with the Egyptian god Osiris.

Sirius is bright because of its proximity to the Solar System. In contrast, the other bright stars of the constellation are stars of great distance and high luminosity. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, Sirius is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the second-brightest star in the night sky, after Sirius.

Sirius is a binary star consisting of a main-sequence star of spectral type A0 or A1, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, termed Sirius B. The distance between the two varies between 8.2 and 31.5 astronomical units as they orbit every 50 years.

Sirius has over 50 other designations and names attached to it. In Sanskrit it is known as Mrgavyadha “deer hunter”, or Lubdhaka “hunter”. As Mrgavyadha, the star represents Rudra (Shiva). In Scandinavia, the star has been known as Lokabrenna (“burning done by Loki”, or “Loki’s torch”).

Many cultures have historically attached special significance to Sirius, particularly in relation to dogs. Many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines. In Chinese astronomy Sirius is known as the star of the “celestial wolf” in the Mansion of Jǐng.

The brightest star in the night sky, Sirius is recorded in some of the earliest astronomical records. The heliacal rising of Sirius marked the flooding of the Nile in Ancient Egypt and the “dog days” of summer for the ancient Greeks.

The ancient Greeks observed that the appearance of Sirius heralded the hot and dry summer and feared that it caused plants to wilt, men to weaken, and women to become aroused. Due to its brightness, Sirius would have been seen to twinkle more in the unsettled weather conditions of early summer.

To Greek observers, this signified certain emanations which caused its malignant influence. Anyone suffering its effects was said to be “star-struck” (astrobólētos). It was described as “burning” or “flaming” in literature.

The season following the star’s reappearance came to be known as the “dog days”. The Ancient Greeks thought that Sirius’s emanations could affect dogs adversely, making them behave abnormally during the “dog days”, the hottest days of the summer.

The inhabitants of the island of Ceos in the Aegean Sea would offer sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus to bring cooling breezes and would await the reappearance of the star in summer. If it rose clear, it would portend good fortune; if it was misty or faint then it foretold (or emanated) pestilence. Coins retrieved from the island from the 3rd century BC feature dogs or stars with emanating rays, highlighting Sirius’s importance.

The Romans knew these days as dies caniculares, and the star Sirius was called Canicula, “little dog”. The excessive panting of dogs in hot weather was thought to place them at risk of desiccation and disease. In extreme cases, a foaming dog might have rabies, which could infect and kill humans they had bitten.

The Romans celebrated the heliacal setting of Sirius around April 25, sacrificing a dog, along with incense, wine, and a sheep, to the goddess Robigo so that the star’s emanations would not cause wheat rust on wheat crops that year.

Ptolemy of Alexandria mapped the stars in Books VII and VIII of his Almagest, in which he used Sirius as the location for the globe’s central meridian. He depicted it as one of six red-coloured stars. The other five are class M and K stars, such as Arcturus and Betelgeuse.

Around the year 150 CE, the Greek astronomer of the Roman period, Claudius Ptolemy, described Sirius as reddish, along with five other stars, Betelgeuse, Antares, Aldebaran, Arcturus and Pollux, all of which are of orange or red hue.

Bright stars were important to the ancient Polynesians for navigation between the many islands and atolls of the Pacific Ocean. Sirius marked winter and was an important reference for their navigation around the Pacific Ocean.

They also served as latitude markers; the declination of Sirius matches the latitude of the archipelago of Fiji at 17°S, an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 km; 1,300 mile) northeast of New Zealand’s North Island, and thus passes directly over the islands each night.

Sirius served as the body of a “Great Bird” constellation called Manu, with Canopus, the brightest star in the southern constellation of Carina, as the southern wingtip and Procyon, the brightest object in the constellation of Canis Minor, the northern wingtip, which divided the Polynesian night sky into two hemispheres.

Carina is a constellation in the southern sky. Its name is Latin for the keel of a ship, and it was formerly part of the larger constellation of Argo Navis (the ship Argo, the great ship of Jason and the Argonauts who searched for the Golden Fleece) until that constellation was divided into three pieces, the other two being Puppis (the poop deck), and Vela (the sails of the ship).

Just as the appearance of Sirius in the morning sky marked summer in Greece, it marked the onset of winter for the Māori, whose name Takurua described both the star and the season. Its culmination at the winter solstice was marked by celebration in Hawaii, where it was known as Ka’ulua, “Queen of Heaven”.

Many other Polynesian names have been recorded, including Tau-ua in the Marquesas Islands, Rehua in New Zealand, and Ta’urua-fau-papa “Festivity of original high chiefs” and Ta’urua-e-hiti-i-te-tara-te-feiai “Festivity who rises with prayers and religious ceremonies” in Tahiti.

In Iranian mythology, especially in Persian mythology and in Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, Sirius appears as Tishtrya and is revered as the rain-maker divinity (Tishtar of New Persian poetry).

Known as “Tir”, the star was portrayed as the arrow itself in later Persian culture. Beside passages in the sacred texts of the Avesta, the Avestan language Tishtrya followed by the version Tir in Middle and New Persian is also depicted in the Persian epic Shahnameh of Ferdowsi.

Due to the concept of the yazatas, powers which are “worthy of worship”, Tishtrya is a divinity of rain and fertility and an antagonist of apaosha, the demon of drought. In this struggle, Tishtrya is depicted as a white horse.

Several cultures also associated the star with a bow and arrows. The ancient Chinese visualized a large bow and arrow across the southern sky, formed by the constellations of Puppis and Canis Major. In this, the arrow tip is pointed at the wolf Sirius. A similar association is depicted at the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, where the goddess Satet has drawn her arrow at Hathor (Sirius).

Sirius is mentioned in Surah, An-Najm (“The Star”), of the Qur’an, where it is given the name (transliteration: aš-ši‘rā or ash-shira; the leader). Ibn Kathir said in his commentary “that it is the bright star, named Mirzam Al-Jawza’ (Sirius), which a group of Arabs used to worship”. The alternate name Aschere, used by Johann Bayer, is derived from this.

In theosophy, it is believed the Seven Stars of the Pleiades transmit the spiritual energy of the Seven Rays from the Galactic Logos to the Seven Stars of the Great Bear, then to Sirius. From there is it sent via the Sun to the god of Earth (Sanat Kumara), and finally through the seven Masters of the Seven Rays to the human race.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Sirius, named šukūdu (meaning “arrow”) by the Akkadian and KAK.SI.DI by the Babylonians, was seen as an arrow aiming towards Orion, while the southern stars of Canis Major and a part of Puppis were viewed as a bow, named BAN in the Three Stars Each tablets, dating to around 1100 BC.

In the later compendium of Babylonian astronomy and astrology titled MUL.APIN, Sirius (“the arrow”), was linked with the warrior Ninurta, and the bow with Ishtar, daughter of Enlil. Ninurta was linked to the later deity Marduk, who was said to have slain the ocean goddess Tiamat with a great bow, and worshipped as the principal deity in Babylon.

Astronomers of the eighth and seventh centuries BC identified Ninurta (or Pabilsaĝ) with the constellation Sagittarius. Its name is Latin for the archer, and its symbol is a stylized arrow. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur pulling back a bow. It lies between Scorpius and Ophiuchus to the west and Capricornus and Microscopium to the east.

Alternatively, others identified him with the star Sirius. The constellation of Canis Major, of which Sirius is the most visible star, was known as qaštu, meaning “bow”, after the bow and arrow Ninurta was believed to carry. The Ancient Greeks replaced the bow and arrow depiction with that of a dog.

Egyptian calender and Sirius

Sirius (designated α Canis Majoris (Latinized to Alpha Canis Majoris, abbreviated Alpha CMa, α CMa), is the brightest star in the night sky. Its displacement from the ecliptic causes its heliacal rising to be remarkably regular compared to other stars, with a period of almost exactly 365.25 days holding it constant relative to the solar year. This rising occurs at Cairo on 19 July (Julian), placing it just prior to the summer solstice and the onset of the annual flooding of the Nile during antiquity.

Owing to the flood’s own irregularity, the extreme precision of the star’s return made it important to the ancient Egyptians, who worshipped it as the goddess Sopdet (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt, “Triangle”; Greek: Sō̂this), guarantor of the fertility of their land.

The Egyptian civil calendar was apparently initiated to have its New Year “Mesori” coincide with the appearance of Sirius, although its lack of leap years meant that this congruence only held for four years until its date began to wander backwards through the months.

The Egyptians continued to note the times of Sirius’s annual return, which may have led them to the discovery of the 1460-year Sothic cycle and influenced the development of the Julian and Alexandrian calendars.

During the early period of Egyptian civilization, the heliacal rising of Sirius preceded the usual annual flooding of the Nile. It was therefore apparently used for the solar civil calendar which largely superseded the original lunar calendar in the 3rd millennium BC.

Despite the wandering nature of the Egyptian calendar, the erratic timing of the flood from year to year, and the slow procession of Sirius within the solar year, Sopdet continued to remain central to cultural depictions of the year and to celebrations of Wep Renpet (Wp Rnpt), the Egyptian New Year.

A tablet from the reign of the First-Dynasty pharaoh Djer (c. 3000 BC) was once thought to indicate that the Egyptians had already established a link between the heliacal rising of Sirius and the beginning of their year, but more recent analysis has questioned whether the tablet’s picture refers to Sirius at all.

Similarly, based on the Palermo Stone, Scharff proposed that the Old Kingdom observed a 320-day year but his theory has not become widely accepted. Some evidence suggests the early civil calendar had 360 days, although it might merely reflect the unusual status of the five epagomenal days as days “added on” to the proper year.

The civil calendar was established at some early date in or before the Old Kingdom, with probable evidence of its use early in the reign of Shepseskaf (c. 2510 BC, Dynasty IV) and certain attestation during the reign of Neferirkare (mid-25th century BC, Dynasty V). It was probably based upon astronomical observations of Sirius whose reappearance in the sky closely corresponded to the average onset of the Nile flood through the 5th and 4th millennium BC.

A recent development is the discovery that the 30-day month of the Mesopotamian calendar dates as late as the Jemdet Nasr Period (late 4th-millennium BC), a time Egyptian culture was borrowing various objects and cultural features from the Fertile Crescent, leaving open the possibility that the main features of the calendar were borrowed in one direction or the other as well.

The civil year comprised exactly 365 days, divided into 12 months of 30 days each and an intercalary month of five days, were celebrated as the birthdays of the gods Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys.

The regular months were grouped into Egypt’s three seasons, which gave them their original names, and divided into three 10-day periods known as decans or decades. In later sources, these were distinguished as “first”, “middle”, and “last”.

It has been suggested that during the Nineteenth Dynasty and the Twentieth Dynasty the last two days of each decan were usually treated as a kind of weekend for the royal craftsmen, with royal artisans free from work.

Dates were typically expressed in a YMD format, with a pharaoh’s regnal year followed by the month followed by the day of the month. For example, the New Year occurred on I Akhet 1.

The importance of the calendar to Egyptian religion is reflected in the use of the title “Lord of Years” (Nb Rnpt) for its various creator gods. Time was also considered an integral aspect of Maat, the cosmic order which opposed chaos, lies, and violence.

The civil calendar was apparently established in a year when Sirius rose on its New Year (I Akhet 1) but, because of its lack of leap years, it began to slowly cycle backwards through the solar year.

Sirius itself, about 40° below the ecliptic, follows a Sothic year almost exactly matching that of the Sun, with its reappearance now occurring at the latitude of Cairo (ancient Heliopolis and Memphis) on 19 July (Julian), only two or three days later than its occurrence in early antiquity.

Following Censorinus and Meyer, the standard understanding was that, four years from the calendar’s inception, Sirius would have no longer reappeared on the Egyptian New Year but on the next day (I Akhet 2); four years later, it would have reappeared on the day after that; and so on through the entire calendar until its rise finally returned to I Akhet 1 1460 years after the calendar’s inception, an event known as “apocatastasis”.

Owing to the event’s extreme regularity, Egyptian recordings of the calendrical date of the rise of Sirius have been used by Egyptologists to fix its calendar and other events dated to it, at least to the level of the four-Egyptian-year periods which share the same date for Sirius’s return, known as “tetraëterides” or “quadrennia”.

For example, an account that Sothis rose on III Peret 1—the 181st day of the year—should show that somewhere 720, 721, 722, or 723 years have passed since the last apocatastasis. Following such a scheme, the record of Sirius rising on II Shemu 1 in 239 BC implies apocatastases on 1319 and 2779 BC ±3 years. Censorinus’s placement of an apocatastasis on 21 July ad 139 permitted the calculation of its predecessors to 1322, 2782, and 4242 BC.

The last is sometimes described as “the first exactly dated year in history” but, since the calendar is attested before Dynasty XVIII and the last date is now known to far predate early Egyptian civilization, it is typically credited to Dynasty II around the middle date.

The classic understanding of the Sothic cycle relies, however, on several potentially erroneous assumptions. Following Scaliger, Censorinus’s date is usually emended to 20 July but ancient authorities give a variety of ‘fixed’ dates for the rise of Sirius. His use of the year 139 seems questionable, as 136 seem to have been the start of the tetraëteris and the later date chosen to flatter the birthday of Censorinus’s patron.

Perfect observation of Sirius’s actual behavior during the cycle—including its minor shift relative to the solar year—would produce a period of 1457 years; observational difficulties produce a further margin of error of about two decades.

Although it is certain the Egyptian day began in the morning, another four years are shifted depending on whether the precise start occurred at the first light of dawn or at sunrise.

It has been noted that there is no recognition in surviving records that Sirius’s minor irregularities sometimes produce a triëteris or penteteris (three- or five-year periods of agreement with an Egyptian date) rather than the usual four-year periods and, given that the expected discrepancy is no more than 8 years in 1460, the cycle may have been applied schematically according to the civil years by Egyptians and the Julian year by the Greeks and Romans.

The occurrence of the apocatastasis in the 2nd millennium BC so close to the great political and sun-based religious reforms of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton also leaves open the possibility that the cycle’s strict application was occasionally subject to political interference. The record and celebration of Sirius’s rising would also vary by several days (equating to decades of the cycle) in eras when the official site of observation was moved from near Cairo.

The return of Sirius to the night sky varies by about a day per degree of latitude, causing it to be seen 8–10 days earlier at Aswan than at Alexandria, a difference which causes Krauss to propose dating much of Egyptian history decades later than the present consensus.


The proper name “Sirius” comes from the Latin Sīrius, from the Ancient Greek (Seirios, “glowing” or “scorcher”). The Greek word itself may have been imported from elsewhere before the Archaic period, one authority suggesting a link with the Egyptian god Osiris.

The Ancient Egyptians associated the stars of Orion with Osiris, the sun-god of rebirth and afterlife, and one of the most important gods of the ancient Egyptians. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother, Seth, then briefly brought back to life by his sister and consort Isis to father the god Horus. Orion was considered the abode of Osiris following his resurrection. Isis dwelt on Sirius.

Egyptians saw Osiris in the Moon, whose phases caused the all-important Nile to rise and fall each month, and in the constellation Orion, whose appearance was connected with the annual flood. As god of the dead, Osiris welcomed the recently deceased to their new world. Osiris was believed to be the lord of the underworld, Duat. He was the first mummy as depicted in the Osiris myth and he personified rebirth and life after death.

Duat has been represented in hieroglyphs as a star-in-circle. The Duat was the region through which the sun god Ra traveled from west to east each night, and it was where he battled Apophis, who embodied the primordial chaos which the sun had to defeat in order to rise each morning and bring order back to the earth. It was also the place where people’s souls went after death for judgement, though that was not the full extent of the afterlife.

Through the hope of new life after death, Osiris began to be associated with the cycles observed in nature, in particular vegetation and the annual flooding of the Nile, through his links with the heliacal rising of Orion and Sirius at the start of the new year. Osiris was widely worshipped until the decline of ancient Egyptian religion during the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire.


Sopdet (Ancient Egyptian: Spdt, Sepedet or Sopdet, “Triangle” or “The Sharp One”), known to the ancient Greeks as Sothis, is the ancient Egyptian name of the star Sirius, which was the basis for the ancient Egyptian calendar, and its personification as an Egyptian goddess.

She was also venerated as a goddess of the fertility brought to the soil by the flooding. During the Old Kingdom, she was an important goddess of the annual flood and a psychopomp guiding deceased pharaohs through the Egyptian underworld.

During the Middle Kingdom, she was primarily a mother and nurse and, by the Ptolemaic period, she was almost entirely subsumed into Isis, while the male Sopdet was conflated with the dog-headed Anubis, the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head.

From the Middle Kingdom, Sopdet sometimes appeared as a god who held up part of Nut (the sky or firmament) with Hathor. As a sky deity, Hathor was the mother or consort of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship, and thus she was the symbolic mother of their earthly representatives, the pharaohs.

Isis and Osiris were considered Horus’s parents in the Osiris myth as far back as the late Old Kingdom, but the relationship between Horus and Hathor may be older still. If so, Horus only came to be linked with Isis and Osiris as the Osiris myth emerged during the Old Kingdom.

Even after Isis was firmly established as Horus’s mother, Hathor continued to appear in this role, especially when nursing the pharaoh. Images of the Hathor-cow with a child in a papyrus thicket represented her mythological upbringing in a secluded marsh.

Sopdet is the consort of Sah, the personified constellation of Orion near Sirius. Their child Venus was the hawk god Sopdu, “Lord of the East”. As the “bringer of the New Year and the Nile flood”, she was associated with Osiris from an early date and by the Ptolemaic period Sah and Sopdet almost solely appeared in forms conflated with Osiris and Isis.

She was depicted as a woman with a five-pointed star upon her head, usually with a horned hedjet similar to Satis. In the Ptolemaic and Roman period, the European notion of the “Dog Star” caused her to sometimes be represented as a large dog or as a woman riding one sidesaddle.


In ancient Egypt, the stars of Orion were regarded as a god called Sah, known as the “Father of the gods”. Sha was the Egyptian counterpart of the Babylonian “Good Shepherd of Anu” or “Loyal Shepherd of Heaven” (Sumerian: MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, Akkadian: šitaddaru).

Sah was in turn the anthropomorphic representation of a large Egyptian constellation that today is represented by the modern myths of Orion and Lepus constellation (but also borrowing stars from modern Eridanus, Monoceros and Columba constellations).

Because Orion rises before Sirius, the star whose heliacal rising was the basis for the Solar Egyptian calendar, Sah was closely linked with Sopdet, the goddess who personified Sirius, who was his consort.

Sah came to be syncretized with Osiris, while Sopdet is syncretized with Osiris’ mythological wife, Isis. In the Pyramid Texts, from the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, Sah is one of many gods whose form the dead pharaoh is said to take in the afterlife.


Sopdu (also rendered Septu or Sopedu) was a god of the sky and of eastern border regions in ancient Egyptian religion. He is said to be the son of Sah and Sopdet. Khensit was the wife of Sopdu and the daughter of Ra, and was depicted as a uraeus.

As a sky god, Sopdu was connected with the god Sah, the personification of the constellation Orion, and the goddess Sopdet, representing the star Sirius. According to the Pyramid Texts, Horus-Sopdu, a combination of Sopdu and the greater sky god Horus, is the offspring of Osiris-Sah and Isis-Sopdet.

As a god of the east, Sopdu was said to protect Egyptian outposts along the frontiers and to help the pharaoh control those regions’ foreign inhabitants. He was referred to as Lord of the East, and had his greatest cult centre at the easternmost nome of Lower Egypt, which was named Per-Sopdu, meaning place of Sopdu. He also had shrines at Egyptian settlements in the Sinai Peninsula, such as the turquoise mines at Serabit el-Khadim.

“Sopdu” in hieroglyphs Sopdu’s name is composed of the hieroglyph for sharp, a pointed triangle, and the 3rd person plural suffix (a quail); thus a literal translation of his name is sharp ones. He was said, in the Pyramid Texts, to protect the teeth of the deceased pharaoh.

Sopdu was depicted as a falcon sitting on a religious standard, often with a two-feathered crown on his head and a flail over his shoulder. In his border-guarding role he was shown as a Near Eastern warrior, with a shemset girdle and an axe or spear.


Satis (Ancient Egyptian: Sṯt or Sṯı͗t, lit. “Pourer” or “Shooter”), also known by numerous related names, was an Upper Egyptian goddess who, along with Khnum and Anuket, formed part of the Elephantine Triad. Under the interpretatio graeca, she was conflated with Hera and Juno.

A protective deity of Egypt’s southern border with Nubia, she came to personify the former annual flooding of the Nile and to serve as a war, hunting, and fertility goddess. The exact pronunciation of Egyptian is often uncertain since vowels were not recorded until a very late period. In transcription, the goddess’s name also appears as Setis, Sati, Setet, Satet, Satit, and Sathit.

Derived from sṯ, meaning “eject”, “shoot”, “pour”, or “throw”, her name can be variously translated as “She who Shoots” or “She who Pours” depending on which of her roles is being emphasized. She was also known by epithets, such as “Mistress of Elephantine” and “She Who Runs Like an Arrow”, thought to refer to the flowing river current.

She was sometimes conflated with Isis and Sopdet, goddess of the bright star Sirius, which the Egyptians connected with the onset of the Nile flooding. She was particularly associated with the upper reaches of the Nile, which the Egyptians sometimes considered to have its source near Aswan.

A goddess of the Upper Egyptians, her cult is first attested on jars beneath the Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Dynasty III). She appears in the Pyramid Texts (Dynasty VI) purifying a deceased pharaoh’s body with four jars of water from Elephantine.

Her principal center of worship was at Abu (Elephantine), an island near Aswan on the southern edge of Egypt. Her temple there occupied an early predynastic site shown by Wells to be aligned with the star Sirius. Other centers include Swenet (Aswan proper) and Setet (Sehel Island nearby).

Myths As a war goddess, Satis protected Egypt’s southern Nubian frontier by killing the enemies of the pharaoh with her sharp arrows. As a fertility goddess, she was thought to grant the wishes of those who sought love. She seems to have originally been paired with the Theban god Montu but later replaced Heket as the consort of Khnum, guardian of the source of the Nile.

By Khnum, her child was Anuket, goddess of the Nile. After Khnum was conflated with Ra, she sometimes became an Eye of Ra in place of Hathor. Together Khnum, Anuket, and Satis formed the Elephantine Triad.

Representation Satis was usually pictured as a woman in a sheath dress wearing the hedjet, the conical crown of Upper Egypt, with antelope horns. She is sometimes depicted with bow and arrows; holding an ankh or scepter; or offering jars of purifying water. She also appears in the form of an antelope. Her symbols were the arrow and the running river.


In Greco-Roman Egypt, the male Sopdet was conflated with the dog-headed Anubis, the Greek name of a god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion, usually depicted as a canine or a man with a canine head. Archeologists have identified Anubis’s sacred animal as an Egyptian canid, the African golden wolf.

“Anubis” is a Greek rendering of this god’s Egyptian name. Before the Greeks arrived in Egypt, around the 7th century BC, the god was known as Anpu or Inpu. The root of the name in ancient Egyptian language means “a royal child.”

Inpu has a root to “inp,” which means “to decay.” The positions that he had were also reflected in the titles he held such as “He Who Is upon His Mountain,” “Ruler of the Nine Bows,” “The Dog who Swallows Millions,” “Master of Secrets,” “Lord of the Sacred Land,” “Foremost of the Westerners,” “Foremost of the Divine Booth” and “He Who Is in the Place of Embalming.”

Like many ancient Egyptian deities, Anubis assumed different roles in various contexts. Depicted as a protector of graves as early as the First Dynasty (c. 3100 – c. 2890 BC), Anubis was also an embalmer. By the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055 – 1650 BC) he was replaced by Osiris in his role as lord of the underworld.

One of his prominent roles was as a god who ushered souls into the afterlife. He attended the weighing scale during the “Weighing of the Heart,” in which it was determined whether a soul would be allowed to enter the realm of the dead.

Anubis was depicted in black, a color that symbolized regeneration, life, the soil of the Nile River, and the discoloration of the corpse after embalming. Anubis’ female counterpart is Anput. His daughter is the serpent goddess Kebechet.


Anubis is associated with Wepwawet (also called Upuaut, Wep-wawet, Wepawet, and Ophois), another Egyptian god portrayed with a dog’s head or in canine form, but with grey or white fur. Historians assume that the two figures were eventually combined. His name means opener of the ways and he is often depicted as a wolf standing at the prow of a solar-boat.

In late Egyptian mythology Wepwawet was originally a war deity, whose cult centre was Asyut in Upper Egypt (Lycopolis in the Greco-Roman period). Wepwawet originally was seen as a wolf deity, thus the Greek name of Lycopolis, meaning city of wolves.

It is likely the case that Wepwawet was originally just a symbol of the pharaoh, seeking to associate with wolf-like attributes, that later became deified as a mascot to accompany the pharaoh. Likewise, Wepwawet was said to accompany the pharaoh on hunts, in which capacity he was titled (one with) sharp arrow more powerful than the gods alone.

Over time, the connection to war, and thus to death, led to Wepwawet also being seen as one who opened the ways to, and through, Duat (Ancient Egyptian: dwꜣt, Egyptological pronunciation “do-aht”, also appearing as Tuat, Tuaut or Akert, Amenthes, Amenti, or Neter-khertet), the realm of the dead in ancient Egyptian mythology, for the spirits of the dead.

Through this, and the similarity of the jackal to the wolf, Wepwawet became associated with Anubis, a deity that was worshiped in Asyut, eventually being considered his son. Seen as a jackal, he also was said to be Set’s son. Consequently, Wepwawet often is confused with Anubis. This deity appears in the Temple of Seti I at Abydos.

In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet usually was shown with grey, or white fur, reflecting his lupine origins. He was depicted dressed as a soldier, as well as carrying other military equipment—a mace and a bow.

For what generally is considered to be lauding purposes of the pharaohs, a later myth briefly was circulated claiming that Wepwawet was born at the sanctuary of Wadjet, the sacred site for the oldest goddess of Lower Egypt that is located in the heart of Lower Egypt. Consequently, Wepwawet, who had hitherto been the standard of Upper Egypt alone, formed an integral part of royal rituals, symbolizing the unification of Egypt.

In later pyramid texts, Wepwawet is called “Ra” who has gone up from the horizon, perhaps as the “opener” of the sky. In the later Egyptian funerary context, Wepwawet assists at the Opening of the mouth ceremony and guides the deceased into the netherworld.

The Giza pyramids

The Orion theory by Robert Bauval first published in 1989 propose that the Giza pyramids were a physical representation of the three stars that make up Orion’s belt. Although aspects of the original theory were heavily refuted, the main tenet of the theory still holds true.

In addition to the ground-plan of the pyramids themselves being identified with Orion, the ‘Star chambers’ have also been shown to have a correlation with Orion, Sirius and the Pole stars of the day.

The theory has been contentious since its outset. Ed Krupp (Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles) and Anthony Fairall (astronomy professor at the University of Cape Town) have both criticised the astronomical observations which underpin the theory and even suggested that in order to make the facts fit the map of the pyramids had to be inverted.

However, Archie Roy (Professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Glasgow University) and Percy Seymour (astronomer and astrophysicist at Plymouth University) have defended the theory and noted that the visual correlation is striking when the pyramids of Giza are viewed from the north.

Furthermore, there is some support for it in the fact that the Pyramid Texts (which date to the fifth dynasty but were most likely formed from earlier religious concepts) make frequent references to the connection between the the resurrection of the king and Sahu (The earliest Egyptian representation of Orion).

The ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ at Teotihuacán has the same base dimensions as the Great pyramid of Giza, but is is exactly half the height. It appears as if both cultures incorporated Pi into their dimensions.

Triple Circles/ Henges in the UK

England is home to examples of numerous double circles, as well as several ‘Triple-circles’ such as ‘The Hurlers’, Merrivale, Stanton Drew,, Avebury, Thornborough and Grey Wethers, to name but a few. Their exact purpose is still only to be guessed at, but a geometric and/or astronomic association is predicted.

An example of a ‘Triple RSC’ can be found at Loanhead of Daviot, in Scotland, where three Neolithic recumbent circles were once aligned. The circle in Daviot churchyard was removed in 1820, and all that remains of New Craig is the recumbent, its flankers and a few odd stones now built into a field wall.

The theme of triple-aligned circles is also common to Henges, such as the Priddy circles, and Thornborough. The largest triple Henge in Britain is at the Thornborough complex. It also shows a slight ‘dog-leg’, and work by Prof. Clive Ruggles, who postulated that there were demonstrable alignments between the Henges and the astronomical features of Orion was later supported by the research of the eminent archaeologist, Dr. Harding, senior lecturer at Newcastle University.

He demonstrated the similarity of the placing of the three great Henges on the landscape and the three stars of Orion’s Belt. In addition, archaeological work at Thornborough suggested that Orion was significant prior to the construction of the three Henges. The first major monument on the site was built around 3,500BC. This was a 1.2km long Cursus, aligned so its western end pointed towards the mid-winter setting of Orion. This also meant the eastern end aligned to the midsummer solstice.

At around 3000 BC, when the three Henges at Thornborough were constructed, they appear to have been deliberately laid out to mirror Orion’s Belt. Not only this, but their southern entrances framed the rising of the bright star, Sirius, which in turn meant their axis aligned on the midwinter solstice.

A similar layout has been shown to exist at the Hurlers stone circle, which was orientated towards Orion on the summer solstice. The Hurlers have been dated at c. 1,500 BC, while the Henges at Thornborough are dated at around 3,500 BC, suggesting a continuous form of Orion worship existed in the UK for around 2,000 years. A recent dig has uncovered a ‘crystal (quartz) avenue running between the circles.


Orion’s current name derives from Greek mythology, in which Orion was a gigantic, supernaturally strong hunter of ancient times, born to Euryale, a Gorgon, and Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

In ancient Greek mythology, Orion was a giant hunter. He features in numerous legends, many of which give contradictory accounts of his life and exploits. Every version agrees, however, that after his death he became a constellation in the night sky.

In most accounts, Orion was either the son of Hyreius, king of Boeotia, or of the deities Dionysus and Demeter. A few myths state that his mother was Gaia, the earth goddess; elsewhere his parents are said to have been either Poseidon and Euryale or Hyrieus and the nymph Clonia.

One myth attributed Orion’s origin to a bull hide: childless Hyrieus asked for an heir by sacrificing a bull to Zeus, Hermes, and Poseidon; they urinated on the hide, and Orion was born from it.

The outline of the group of stars named for him appears to show the hunter wearing a lion’s skin, carrying a club, and accompanied by two hunting dogs. Like most of Poseidon’s children, Orion was a man of gigantic proportions. He also was quite the hunter, and the constellation that bears his name forms the shape of a great hunter in a defensive pose against Taurus, the bull.

One myth recounts Gaia’s rage at Orion, who dared to say that he would kill every animal on the planet. The angry goddess tried to dispatch Orion with a scorpion. This is given as the reason that the constellations of Scorpius and Orion are never in the sky at the same time.

However, Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, revived Orion with an antidote. This is said to be the reason that the constellation of Ophiuchus stands midway between the Scorpion and the Hunter in the sky. The constellation is mentioned in Horace’s Odes (Ode 3.27.18), Homer’s Odyssey (Book 5, line 283) and Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid (Book 1, line 535).

While a young man Orion walked to Chios over the Aegean, and Oenopion (“wine drinker”, “wine-rich” or “wine face”), who was a legendary ruler of Chios and son of the Cretan princess Ariadne by Dionysus, welcomed him with a banquet.

Orion fell in love with Merope, a mortal princess in Greek mythology, who was the daughter of Oenopion and Helike. Orion sought to marry Merope and he remained in the king’s service for some time attempting to win his favor, but Oenopion dragged his feet in arranging the marriage.

Impatient, Orion assaulted Merope. In revenge, Oenopion stabbed out Orion’s eyes, and then threw him off the island. He got Orion drunk, and when the giant fell asleep, Oenopion put his eyes out and threw him out towards the sea.

Orion wandered around blind until he bumped into Hephaestus, who, taking pity on the blind Orion and gave him his servant Cedalion or Kedalion as a guide. Orion took up Cedalion and set the youth upon his shoulders for a guide to the East, where the rising sun, the rays of Helios, restored his sight.

One traditional etymology of Cedalion is from kēdeuein “to take charge, to care for”. Another traditional interpretation is “phallos”, from a different sense of the same verb: “to marry” (said of the groom). According to one tradition, he was Hephaestus’s tutor, with whom Hera fostered her son on Naxos to teach him smithcraft.

He has been compared to the Cabeiri, to Chiron (“hand”), who was held to be the superlative centaur amongst his brethren, as he was called as the “wisest and justest of all the centaurs”, and to Prometheus, who is known for his intelligence and as a champion of mankind and also seen as the author of the human arts and sciences generally.

Once again a while man and extremely angry, Orion set out to kill Oenopion, but the Chians had built the king an underground fortress, and Orion couldn’t find him. (Other sources say it was an iron fortress, built by Hephaestus, who had foreseen this and built Oenopion an underground chamber to keep him safe.)

Unable to find the king of Chios, Orion gave up, and instead went with the rosy-fingered, saffron-robed and golden-throned goddess Eos (“dawn”), a Titaness and the goddess of the dawn, who rose each morning from her home at the edge of the Oceanus and goes up to Olympus to announce the light to the immortals. Eos, had fallen in love with him. She took him to Delos, where he served her sexually.

Eos fell in love several times. According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, it was the jealous Aphrodite who cursed her to be perpetually in love and have an unsatisfiable sexual desire because once had Eos lain with Aphrodite’s sweetheart Ares, the god of war. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion, and Cleitus.

As a young man Orion courted Merope, one of the Pleiades, seven nymphs who were companions of the Greek goddess Artemis (the others were Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Sterope, and Taygete). Merope rejected his advances.

In one story, she married a mortal, Sisyphus, king of Corinth. According to another version, Merope became betrothed to Orion, but her father—Oenopion, king of Chios, an island in the Aegean Sea—kept postponing the date of the wedding.

Eventually Orion lost patience and raped Merope; Oenopion blinded him in revenge. Orion then wandered helplessly until the god Hephaestus took pity on him and sent his own attendant, Kedalion, to help the blinded man.

Sitting on top of Orion’s shoulders, Kedalion guided him to the abode of Helios, the sun god, and Eos, goddess of the dawn. When Eos saw Orion she was moved to tears—they became the glistening morning dew—and immediately restored his sight.

On seeing his savior, Orion fell in love with her, but this angered the gods, who ordered Artemis, goddess of hunting, to slay the man with her arrows. Before he died, however, Orion repaid his debt to Hephaestus by building a subterranean temple in his honor in Sicily. He also built walls around the island’s coast to protect it from the sea.

The Heavenly Shepherd

Orion was listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century AD. However, it was recorded by the Babylonians as early as 686 BCE in the astronomical tablets MUL.APIN as SIPA.ZI.AN.NA or Sibzianna (“The true shepherd of Anu” or “the Loyal Shepherd of Heaven”).

The earliest story concerning Orion was recorded by the Sumerians. It represented their hero Gilgamesh, whose exploits were immortalised in the first surviving piece of heroic literature called the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia that is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature.

The literary history of Gilgamesh begins with five Sumerian poems about Bilgamesh (Sumerian for “Gilgamesh”), king of Uruk, dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC). These independent stories were later used as source material for a combined epic in Akkadian.

While records point to Gilgamesh being a historical king who ruled over the Sumerian city of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia sometime between 2700 and 2500 BC, the mythology describes Gilgamesh as a demigod possessing superhuman strength whose great accomplishments assured his divine status amongst his subjects.

In 2334 BC, the Sumerian city-states of Mesopotamia were conquered by the Akkadian ruler Sargon, with the new empire they created eventually passing into the hands of the Babylonians after being conquered by Hammurabi in 1787 BC.

Amongst Gilgamesh’s many great deeds was ordering the city walls of Uruk to be built, and wrestling with the wild man, Enkidu “Enki’s creation”), formerly misread as Eabani, representing the natural world, who was sent by the gods to humble him. Enkidu was formed from clay and water by Aruru, the goddess of creation, to rid Gilgamesh of his arrogance.


Following a fierce battle, Gilgamesh and Enkidu became great friends, and enjoyed many adventures together, including killing Gugalanna (“the Bull of Heaven”), who had been unleashed by the supreme god Anu to kill Gilgamesh after an appeal by his daughter the goddess Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar) whose affections Gilgamesh had spurned.

The Sumerians subsequently honored the struggle by depicting Gilgamesh in the celestial heavens as the constellation of URU AN-NA (“the light of heaven”) fighting a bull, GUD AN-NA (“the Bull of Heaven”). The Light of Heaven represents the constellation we know today as Orion, and the Bull of Heaven represents the constellation now called Taurus.

Taurus marked the point of vernal (spring) equinox in the Chalcolithic and the Early Bronze Age, from about 4000 BC to 1700 BC, after which it moved into the neighboring constellation Aries. The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC.

In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was listed in the MUL.APIN as GU.AN.NA, “The Bull of Heaven”. As this constellation marked the vernal equinox, it was also the first constellation in the Babylonian zodiac and they described it as “The Bull in Front”.

In early Mesopotamian art, the Bull of Heaven was closely associated with Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility, and warfare. One of the oldest depictions shows the bull standing before the goddess’ standard; since it has 3 stars depicted on its back (the cuneiform sign for “star-constellation”), there is good reason to regard this as the constellation later known as Taurus.

In the Old Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar sends Taurus, the Bull of Heaven, to kill Gilgamesh for spurning her advances. Enkidu tears off the bull’s hind part and hurls the quarters into the sky where they become the stars we know as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Some locate Gilgamesh as the neighboring constellation of Orion, facing Taurus as if in combat, while others identify him with the sun whose rising on the equinox vanquishes the constellation.


Gilgamesh was the Sumerian equivalent of Heracles, a Greek hero and god, who was equivalent of the Roman divine hero Hercules. One of the labours of Heracles was to catch the Cretan bull, which would fit the Orion–Taurus conflict in the sky.

Amongst the attributes ascribed to the constellation of URU AN-NA was a bow in Gilgamesh’s left hand, an axe in his right, and a sword hanging from his belt. The axe has become a club and the bow has become the skin of the Nemean lion. Thus Orion is also being associated here with Heracles.

Heracles (“Glory/Pride of Hera”), born Alcaeus (Alkaios) Alcides (Alkeidēs), was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene (Latin: Alcumena means “strong in wrath”), the wife of Amphitryon (usually interpreted as “harassing either side”).

He was the greatest of the Greek heroes, a paragon of masculinity, the ancestor of royal clans who claimed to be Heracleidae, and a champion of the Olympian order against chthonic monsters. In Rome and the modern West, he is known as Hercules, with whom the later Roman emperors, in particular Commodus and Maximian, often identified themselves.

The Romans adapted the Greek hero’s iconography and myths for their literature and art under the name Hercules. In later Western art and literature and in popular culture, Hercules is more commonly used than Heracles as the name of the hero.

The Romans adopted the Greek version of his life and works essentially unchanged, but added anecdotal detail of their own, some of it linking the hero with the geography of the Central Mediterranean. Details of his cult were adapted to Rome as well.

In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his numerous far-ranging adventures. Hercules was a multifaceted figure with contradictory characteristics, which enabled later artists and writers to pick and choose how to represent him.

Heracles was a great-grandson and half-brother (as they are both sired by the god Zeus) of Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae, an archaeological site near Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece, and of the Perseid dynasty.

Perseus beheaded the Gorgon Medusa for Polydectes and saved Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. He was the son of Zeus and the mortal Danaë, as well as the half-brother and great-grandfather of Heracles.

Perses was left in Aethiopia and was believed to have been an ancestor of the Persians. Classical Greek myths assert that Mycenae was founded by Perseus, grandson of king Acrisius of Argos, son of Acrisius’s daughter, Danaë and the god Zeus.

Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. The most prominent site was Mycenae, in the Argolid, after which the culture of this era is named.

Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace-centered states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax. The feminine form is anassa, “queen” (from wánassa, itself from *wánakt-ja).

The Mycenaean Greeks introduced several innovations in the fields of engineering, architecture and military infrastructure, while trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the Mycenaean economy. Their syllabic script, the Linear B, offers the first written records of the Greek language and their religion already included several deities that can also be found in the Olympic Pantheon.

Constellation Hercules

In the sky, Orion is depicted facing the snorting charge of neighbouring Taurus the Bull, yet the myth of Orion makes no reference to such a combat. However, the constellation can be traced back to the Sumerians, who saw in it their great hero Gilgamesh fighting the Bull of Heaven.

It might seem that Orion is Heracles in another guise. Ptolemy described him with club and lion’s pelt, both familiar attributes of Heracles, and he is shown this way on old star maps. Yet despite these parallels, no mythologist hints at a connection between this constellation and Heracles, which is consigned to a much more obscure area of sky.

Hercules is a constellation named after Hercules, the Roman mythological hero adapted from the Greek hero Heracles. It is the second largest of the modern constellations. It is bordered by Draco to the north; Boötes, Corona Borealis, and Serpens Caput to the east; Ophiuchus to the south; Aquila to the southwest; and Sagitta, Vulpecula, and Lyra to the west.

The traditional visualization imagines α Herculis as Hercules’s head; its name, Rasalgethi, literally means “head of the kneeling one”. Hercules’s left hand then points toward Lyra from his shoulder (δ Herculis), and β Herculis, or Kornephoros (“club-bearer”) forms his other shoulder.

His narrow waist is formed by ε Herculis and ζ Herculis. Finally, his left leg (with θ Herculis as the knee and ι Herculis the foot) is stepping on Draco’s head, the dragon/snake who Hercules has vanquished and perpetually gloats over for eternities.

Ninshubur – Papshukal

Around 1000 BC, Babylonian astronomers then compiled the MUL.APIM, a comprehensive star and constellation catalogue in which the constellation of Orion was called MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, meaning the “True Shepherd of Anu”, referring to the Sumerian attendant deity Ninshubur, who served as a messenger to Anu, the god of the sky, and supreme ruler of heaven.

Ninshubur was also a personal attendant to the goddess Ishtar (Sumerian: Inanna), the Queen of Heaven, who had earlier been rejected by Gilgamesh, but later Mesopotamian traditions would subsequently assimilate Ninshubur with the Akkadian messenger god Papshukal to become a herald to the general pantheon of gods.

Ninshubur (also known as Ninshubar, Nincubura or Ninšubur) was the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology. Her name means “Queen of the East” in ancient Sumerian.

The land of Subartu (Akkadian Šubartum/Subartum/ina Šú-ba-ri, Assyrian mât Šubarri) or Subar (Sumerian Su-bir4/Subar/Šubur) is mentioned in Bronze Age literature. Subartu was apparently a polity in Upper Mesopotamia, at the upper Tigris, located in what is now known as the Armenian Highlands, to the southwest of Lake Van, bordering on Ararat proper.

Subartu may have been in the general sphere of influence of the Hurrians. Shupria (Shubria) or Arme-Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was a Hurrian kingdom, known from Assyrian sources beginning in the 13th century BC.

Scholars have linked the district in the area called Arme or Armani to the name Armenia. Armani-Subartu (Hurri-Mitanni), Hayasa-Azzi and other populations of the region such as the Nairi fell under Urartian (Kingdom of Ararat) rule in the 9th century BC, and their descendants later contributed to the ethnogenesis of the Armenians.

Ninshubur accompanied Inanna as a vassal and friend throughout Inanna’s many exploits. She helped Inanna fight Enki’s demons after Inanna’s theft of the sacred me. Later, when Inanna became trapped in the Underworld, it was Ninshubur who pleaded with Enki for her mistress’s release.

In Sumerian mythology, a me (Akkadian: paršu) is one of the decrees of the gods that is foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods.

In the Sumerian myth of “Inanna and Enki,” Ninshubur is described as the one who rescues Inanna from the monsters that Enki has sent after her. In this myth, Ninshubur plays a similar role to Isimud, who acts as Enki’s messenger to Inanna.

Inanna’s descent to the Underworld In the Sumerian myth of Inanna’s descent into the Netherworld, Ninshubur is described as the one who pleads with all the gods in an effort to persuade them to rescue Inanna from the Netherworld.

In Sumerian mythology, Ninshubur is portrayed as “unshakably loyal” in her devotion to her mistress. In addition to being a source of great wisdom and knowledge, Ninshubur was also a warrior goddess. She was the guardian and messenger of the god An. She is said to have walked in front of An wherever he went, a position traditionally reserved for a bodyguard.

In older sources, Ninshubur herself is usually referred to as a male god as well; more recent sources have recognized this portrayal as erroneous. The gender of a sukkal always matches the gender of the deity it serves. Thus, Enki’s sukkal Isimud is male, but Ninshubur is female. In her primary aspect as the sukkal to Inanna, Ninshubur was female, but, when she served as the sukkal to An, he was male.

In the Babylonian star map, the constellation depicted Ninshubu (Papshukal) as a shepherd with his left foot forward, and a staff in his extended left hand. Traditionally, the deity was symbolized as the figure of a walking bird, and behind and below the messenger god was imagined a Rooster, with both separate constellations representing Papshukal in his bird and human forms.

The Babylonian star catalogues of the Late Bronze Age name Orion MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “True Shepherd of Anu” – Anu being the chief god of the heavenly realms. The Babylonian constellation is sacred to Papshukal and Ninshubur, both minor gods fulfilling the role of ‘messenger to the gods’.

Papshukal is closely associated with the figure of a walking bird on Babylonian boundary stones, and on the star map the figure of the Rooster is located below and behind the figure of the True Shepherd—both constellations represent the herald of the gods, in his bird and human forms respectively.

Ninurta and Nergal

In Assyro-Babylonian ecclesiastical art the great lion-headed colossi serving as guardians to the temples and palaces seem to symbolise Nergal, just as the bull-headed colossi probably typify Ninurta, an ancient Mesopotamian god associated with farming, healing, hunting, law, scribes, and war who was first worshipped in early Sumer.

In artistic representations, Ninurta is shown as a warrior, carrying a bow and arrow and clutching Sharur, his magic talking mace. He sometimes has a set of wings, raised upright, ready to attack. In Babylonian art, he is often shown standing on the back of or riding a beast with the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion.

On kudurrus from the Kassite Period (c. 1600 — c. 1155 BC), a plough is captioned as a symbol of Ninĝirsu. The plough also appears in Neo-Assyrian art, possibly as a symbol of Ninurta. A perched bird is also used as a symbol of Ninurta during the Neo-Assyrian Period.

According to the Talmudists, the emblem of Nergal was a cockerel or rooster and Nergal means a “dunghill cock”, although standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion, and boundary-stone monuments symbolise him with a mace surmounted by the head of a lion.

As god of the plague, he was invoked during the “plague years” during the reign of the Hittite king Suppiluliuma, when this disease spread from Egypt. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld.

In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person.

Nergal’s fiery aspect appears in names or epithets such as Lugalgira, Lugal-banda (Nergal as the fighting-cock), Sharrapu (“the burner”, a reference to his manner of dealing with outdated teachings), Erra, Gibil (though this name more properly belongs to Nusku), and Sibitti or Seven.


In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was syncretized with the male messenger deity Papsukkal, who the Akkadians associated with a lamassu, an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.

Lamassu represent the zodiacs, parent-stars, or constellations. They are depicted as protective deities because they encompass all life within them. In the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is where the lammasu iconography originates, they are depicted as physical deities as well,

Although lamassu had a different iconography and portrayal in the culture of Sumer, the terms “lamassu”, “alad”, and “shedu” evolved throughout the Assyro-Akkadian culture from the Sumerian culture to denote the Assyrian-winged-man-bull symbol and statues during the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Akkadians associated the god Papsukkal with a lamassu and the god Išum with shedu, which refers to the male counterpart of a lamassu. Ishum is a minor god in Akkadian mythology, the brother of Shamash and an attendant of Erra, the god of mayhem and pestilence who is responsible for periods of political confusion.

Ishum may have been a god of fire and, according to texts, led the gods in war as a herald but was nonetheless generally regarded as benevolent. He developed from the Sumerian figure of Endursaga, the herald god who leads the pantheon, particularly in times of conflict in the Sumerian mythology.

The trickster

Much like Iris or Hermes in later Greek mythology, Ninshubur served as a messenger to the other gods. Hermes is the god of trade, heraldry, merchants, commerce, roads, thieves, trickery, sports, travelers, and athletes; the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, the daughter of Atlas and Pleione the Oceanid, and the oldest of the seven Pleiades.

Hermes was the emissary and messenger of the gods. Hermes was also “the divine trickster” and “the god of boundaries and the transgression of boundaries, … the patron of herdsmen, thieves, graves, and heralds.” He is described as moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, and was the conductor of souls into the afterlife.

His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster, the tortoise, satchel or pouch, winged sandals, and winged cap. His main symbol is the Greek kerykeion or Latin caduceus, which appears in a form of two snakes wrapped around a winged staff with carvings of the other gods.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, who developed many similar characteristics such as being the patron of commerce. Mercury is a major god in Roman religion and mythology, being one of the 12 Dii Consentes within the ancient Roman pantheon.

Mercury appears in his earliest forms to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms. He is often depicted holding the caduceus in his left hand. Similar to his Greek equivalent Hermes, he was awarded the caduceus by Apollo who handed him a magic wand, which later turned into the caduceus.

Turms is portrayed as a messenger of the gods, particularly Tinia, although he is also thought to be ‘at the service’ (ministerium) of other deities. Tinia was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology.

He was the husband of Thalna, a divine figure usually regarded as a goddess of childbirth, or Uni, the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia, and the father of Hercle. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology.

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, also known as Odin, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

Odin is associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty, the gallows, knowledge, war, battle, victory, sorcery, poetry, frenzy, and the runic alphabet, and is the husband of the goddess Frigg. Óðr or Óð, sometimes anglicized as Odr or Od (Old Norse for the “Divine Madness, frantic, furious, vehement, eager”, as a noun “mind, feeling” and also “song, poetry” or “the frenzied one”) is a figure associated with the major goddess Freyja.

The rooster

The Batak of Sumatra marked their New Year with the first new moon after the sinking of Orion’s Belt below the horizon, at which point Betelgeuse remained “like the tail of a rooster”. According to the Talmudists, the emblem of the Sumerian god Nergal was a cockerel and his name means a “dunghill cock”.

Based on these historical descriptions, we know that Nergal was said to be worshipped in the form of a Cock (Rooster), or a man with the head of a Cock. But he is also found depicted as a “Man-Lion” with the body of a man and head of a lion. Standard iconography pictured Nergal as a lion.

GAL is the Sumerian cuneiform for “great”. In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal (DEREŠ.KI.GAL, lit. “Queen of the Great Earth”) was the goddess of Kur, the land of the dead or underworld in Sumerian mythology.

In later East Semitic myths, she was said to rule Irkalla alongside her husband Nergal. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler, and sometimes it is given as Ninkigal, lit. “Lady of the Great Earth”.

In ancient Sumerian mythology, Ereshkigal is the queen of the Underworld. She is the older sister of the goddess, Inanna. Inanna and Ereshkigal represent polar opposites. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven, but Ereshkigal is the queen of Irkalla.

Nergal seems to be in part a solar deity, sometimes identified with Shamash, but only representative of a certain phase of the sun. Portrayed in hymns and myths as a god of war and pestilence, Nergal seems to represent the sun of noontime and of the summer solstice that brings destruction, high summer being the dead season in the Mesopotamian annual cycle. He has also been called “the king of sunset”.

Over time Nergal developed from a war god to a god of the underworld. In this capacity he has associated with him a goddess Allatu or Ereshkigal, though at one time Allatu may have functioned as the sole mistress of Aralu, ruling in her own person. In the mythology, this occurred when Enlil and Ninlil gave him the underworld.

The Gala (Sumerian: gala, Akkadian: kalû) were priests of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, significant numbers of the personnel of both temples and palaces, the central institutions of Mesopotamian city states, individuals with neither male nor female gender identities.

The ancient Mesopotamian underworld was often known in Sumerian as Kur, Irkalla, Kukku, Arali, or Kigal and in Akkadian as Erṣetu, although it had many names in both languages. In Sumerian and ancient Mesopotamian religion, gallûs (also called gallas; Akkadian gallû; Sumerian were great demons or devils of the ancient Mesopotamian Underworld.

The English word cock or rooster in Latin is gallus or gallinaceous which refers to a “rooster or cockerel” (male chicken) and the term gallīna is used for a “hen” (female chicken). A Gallus (pl. Galli) was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the state religious practices of ancient Rome.


Orion was known to Hittites as Aqhat, a handsome and famous hunter. The battle goddess Anat fell in love with Aqhat, but when Aqhat rejected her and refused to lend her his bow, she sent another man to steal it.

This chap bungled the job, and wound up killing Aqhat and dropping the bow into the sea. This is said to explain the astronomical fact that Orion and the Bow (an older version of the constellation) drops below the horizon for two months every spring.


Hayk the Great, also known as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the “head of family” or patriarch, is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. The Armenians identified him with Orion. Hayk is also the name of the Orion constellation in the Armenian translation of the Bible.

Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi, was one of the three chief deities of Urartu. He was a warrior god to whom the kings of Urartu would pray for victories in battle. Ḫaldi was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion.

His principle shrine was at Ardini (Muṣaṣir). The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields hung from the walls and were sometimes known as “the house of weapons”.

He was the primary god of the most prominent group of Urartian tribes, which eventually evolved into the Armenian nation. Some sources claim that the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenians, Hayk, is derived from Ḫaldi,


The term Amurru in Akkadian and Sumerian texts refers to both the Amorites (Sumerian MAR.TU; Akkadian Amurrūm or Tidnum; Egyptian Amar; Hebrew ʼĔmōrī), an ancient Semitic-speaking people from Syria, and to their principal deity, sometimes called Ilu Amurru (DMAR.TU).

Amurru is sometimes described as a ‘shepherd’ or as a storm god, and as a son of the sky-god Anu. He is sometimes called bêlu šadī or bêl šadê, ‘lord of the mountain’; dúr-hur-sag-gá sikil-a-ke, ‘He who dwells on the pure mountain’; and kur-za-gan ti-[la], ‘who inhabits the shining mountain’.

Amurru also has storm-god features. Like Adad, Amurru bears the epithet ramān ‘thunderer’, and he is even called bāriqu ‘hurler of the thunderbolt’ and Adad ša a-bu-be ‘Adad of the deluge’. Yet his iconography is distinct from that of Adad, and he sometimes appears alongside Adad with a baton of power or throwstick, while Adad bears a conventional thunderbolt.


In ancient Aram, the constellation was known as Nephîlā′, the Nephilim are said to be Orion’s descendants. The Nephilim were the offspring of the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” before the Deluge, according to Genesis 6:1-4.

A similar or identical biblical Hebrew term, read as “Nephilim” by some scholars, or as the word “fallen” by others, appears in Ezekiel 32:27. The word is loosely translated as giants in some Bibles and left untranslated in others. The “sons of God” have been interpreted as fallen angels in some traditional Jewish explanations.

It has been proposed that the tale of the Nephilim, alluded to in Genesis 6 is based on some of the negative aspects of the Apkallu tradition. The apkallu in Sumerian mythology were seven legendary culture heroes from before the Flood, of human descent, but possessing extraordinary wisdom from the gods, and one of the seven apkallu, Adapa, was therefore called “son of Ea” the Babylonian god, despite his human origin.


The Bible mentions Orion three times, naming it “Kesil” (literally – fool). Though, this name perhaps is etymologically connected with “Kislev”, the name for the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar (i.e. November–December), which, in turn, may derive from the Hebrew root K-S-L as in the words “kesel, kisla” (hope, positiveness), i.e. hope for winter rains.: Job 9:9 (“He is the maker of the Bear and Orion”), Job 38:31 (“Can you loosen Orion’s belt?”), and Amos 5:8 (“He who made the Pleiades and Orion”).

The Bible names some half-dozen star groups, but authorities differ widely as to their identity. In a striking passage, the Prophet Amos glorifies the Creator as “Him that made Kimah and Kesil”, rendered in the Vulgate as Arcturus and Orion.

Now Kimah certainly does not mean Arcturus. The word, which occurs twice in the Book of Job (9:9; 38:31), is treated in the Septuagint version as equivalent to the Pleiades. This, also, is the meaning given to it in the Talmud and throughout Syrian literature.

This is supported by etymological evidences, the Hebrew term being obviously related to the Arabic root kum (accumulate), and the Assyrian kamu (to bind); while the “chains of Kimah”, referred to in the sacred text, not inaptly figure the coercive power imparting unity to a multiple object.

The associated constellation Kesil is doubtless no other than Orion. Yet, in the first of the passages in Job where it figures, the Septuagint gives Herper; in the second, the Vulgate quite irrelevantly inserts Arcturus; Karstens Niebuhr (1733–1815) understood Kesil to mean Sirius; Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) held that it indicated Canopus.

Now kesil signifies in Hebrew “impious”, adjectives expressive of the stupid criminality which belongs to the legendary character of giants; and the stars of Orion irresistibly suggest a huge figure striding across the sky. The Arabs accordingly named the constellation Al-gebbar, “the giant”, the Syriac equivalent being Gabbara in old Syriac version of the Bible known as Peshitta.

We may then safely admit that Kimah and Kesil did actually designate the Pleiades and Orion. But further interpretations are considerably more obscure. The Jewish Biblical Commentator Rashi says that Kimah emits cold, and that is what makes winter so cold. However, Kesil emits heat preventing the winter from getting too cold.

The giant

Many ancient cultures referred to Orion as a “the Giant” or “the Mighty”. To the Jews Orion was known as Gibbor, the giant who they considered Nimrod the great hunter, and this Nimrod was bound to the sky for rebellion against Yahweh.

The Arabians know Orion as al Jabbar the giant, although the use of the traditional Arabic name al-Jauzā’ in the name of the star has continued. Orion’s sixth brightest star, Saiph, is named from the Arabic, saif al-jabbar (“sword of the giant”; Arabic “Saif,” for “Sword”).

Other Arabic names recorded include Al Yad al Yamnā (“the Right Hand”), Al Dhira (“the Arm”), and Al Mankib (“the Shoulder”), all appended to “of the giant”, as Mankib al Jauzā’. The 17th-century English translator Edmund Chilmead gave it the name Ied Algeuze (“Orion’s Hand”).

The designation Al Jauzah, which was a term used to describe a black sheep with a white spot in the middle of its body. The left leg of Orion, known to us as the star Rigel, was known as Rijl Jauzah al Yusrāʽ. The right shoulder of Orion, known to us as Betelgeuse, was known as Ibt al Jauzah – “the armpit of the Central One.”

In Egypt the Great Pyramid of Khufu along with the pyramids Khafre and Menkaure were built on a plateau that is called today the Giza Plateau and is known in Arabic as Al Jizah.  Somehow the Arabs that named this area Al Jizah knew what this sacred plateau represented, as Al Jizah easily correlates with Al Jauzah.

There is a popular theory about the three pyramids representing Orion’s belt, made most famous by author Robert Bauval in his book “The Orion Mystery”. This has been disputed by leading Egyptologists most likely because it didn’t dawn on them first.


Algebra (from Arabic “al-jabr”, literally meaning “reunion of broken parts” or “reintegrate, reunite, consolidate” ) is one of the broad parts of mathematics, together with number theory, geometry and analysis. In its most general form, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols; it is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics.

The term comes from the title of the famous treatise on equations (“Kitab al-Jabr w’al-Muqabala” “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West.

It was written by the Persian mathematician and astronomer Abu Ja’far Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (Persian: Muḥammad Khwārizmī‎, Arabized as al-Khwarizmi with al- and formerly Latinized as Algorithmi; c. 780 – c. 850), who produced works in mathematics, astronomy, and geography under the patronage of the Caliph Al-Ma’mun of the Abbasid Caliphate. Around 820 AD he was appointed as the astronomer and head of the library of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.

The word entered the English language during the fifteenth century, from Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin. It originally referred to the surgical procedure of setting broken or dislocated bones. The word was used to mean “bone-setting”. The mathematical meaning was first recorded in the 1600. The accent shifted 1700 from second syllable to first.

So Algebra comes from the Arabic al Jebr, refers to bone setting, and is etymologically correlative to al Jabbar. Those familiar with the ancient Egyptian story of Osiris and Isis will remember Osiris being hacked to pieces by his brother Set and then re-assembled by the love of his wife Isis. How this all interestingly enough adds up is Osiris is equated many times in the Pyramid texts to Orion.  For example text 820 states “Behold Osiris has come as Orion.”

The action of al Jabbar refers to the setting of broken bones while the thing it refers to is a giant in the sky and that giant is Orion. This is only scratching the surface as what we have just learned branches off in many interesting directions that are well worth following. I’ll just follow one branch for now and that is concerning the stars that make up the constellation of Orion and how they relate back to our friend Osiris.

Mriga (The Deer)

The Rig Veda refers to the Orion Constellation as Mriga (“The Deer”). It is said that the two bright stars in the front and the two bright stars in the rear are “The Hunting Dogs”, the one comparatively less bright star in the middle and the one ahead of two front dogs is “The Hunter”, the three aligned bright stars in the middle of all four hunting dogs is “The Deer” (The Mriga) and the three little aligned but less brighter stars is “The Baby Deer”.

The Mriga (“The Deer”) is locally known as Harnu in folk parlance. There are many folk songs narrating the Harnu. Hindu scriptures describe hunting as an acceptable occupation, as well as a sport of the kingly. Even figures considered godly are described to have engaged in hunting.

In Sanskrit mriga is used in the sense of game animals, deer being the most common. One of the names of the god Shiva is Mrigavyadha, which translates as “the deer hunter” (“mriga” means deer; “vyadha” means hunter).

The word “Mriga”, in many Indian languages including Malayalam, not only stands for deer, but for all animals and animal instincts (Mriga Thrishna). Shiva, as Mrigavyadha, is the one who destroys the animal instincts in human beings.

The Dhamek Stupa is said to mark the spot (“Rishipattana” which can be translated as “where the Rishi arrived”) where the Buddha gave the first sermon to his five disciples after attaining enlightenment, “revealing his Eightfold Path leading to nirvana”.

In several of the ancient sources the site of the first sermon is mentioned to have been at a ″Mriga-dayaa-vanam″ or a sanctuary for animals. The last royal endowment at the site is dated to about 12th c. CE, after which the location of the Mrigadayavanam seems to have been lost even to the devout.

In India, Nataraja (“the lord of dance”; an avatar of Shiva) is seen in the constellation Orion. Nataraja is a depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the cosmic ecstatic dancer. His dance is called Tandavam or Nadanta, depending on the context of the dance.

The sculpture is symbolic of Shiva as the lord of dance and dramatic arts, with its style and proportions made according to Hindu texts on arts. The pose and artwork is described in many Hindu texts such as the Anshumadbhed agama and Uttarakamika agama, the dance relief or idol featured in all major Hindu temples of Shaivism.

The Archer

In old Hungarian tradition, “Orion” is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). The “π” and “o” stars (on upper right) form together the reflex bow or the lifted scythe. In other Hungarian traditions, “Orion’s belt” is known as “Judge’s stick” (Bírópálca).

In recently rediscovered myths, he is called Nimrod (Hungarian “Nimród”), the greatest hunter, father of the twins “Hunor” and “Magor”. According to Simon of Kéza, Hunor and Magor were the sons of Ménrót, a mythical giant, who he partly identified with Nimrod of the Bible (the great-grandson of Noah).

Orion’s Belt

Orion’s Belt or The Belt of Orion is an asterism in the constellation Orion, consisting of the three bright stars Zeta (Alnitak), Epsilon (Alnilam), and Delta (Mintaka). They mark the northern night sky when the Sun is at its lowest point, and were a clear marker for ancient timekeeping.

Alnitak, designation ζ Orionis (Latinised to Zeta Orionis, abbreviated Zeta Ori, ζ Ori) and 50 Orionis (abbreviated 50 Ori), is a triple star system several hundred parsecs from the Sun in the constellation of Orion. Alnitak has been known since antiquity and, as a component of Orion’s belt, has been of widespread cultural significance. The traditional name Alnitak, alternately spelled Al Nitak or Alnitah, is taken from the Arabic an-niṭāq, “the girdle”.

The traditional name  Alnilam, designation ε Orionis, (Latinized to Epsilon Orionis, abbreviated Epsilon Ori, ε Ori) and 46 Orionis (46 Ori), derives from the Arabic al-niẓām ‘arrangement/string (of pearls)’. Related spellings are Alnihan and Alnitam: all three variants are evidently mistakes in transliteration or copy errors, the first perhaps due to confusion with al-nilam ‘sapphire’.

Mintaka, designation Delta Orionis (δ Orionis, abbreviated Delta Ori, δ Ori) and 34 Orionis(34 Ori), is easily visible to the naked eye, one of the brightest stars in the sky, and has been known since antiquity. Mintaka was seen by astrologers as a portent of good fortune.

There are many folk names for the Belt of Orion. English ones include: Jacob’s Rod or Jacob’s Staff, Peter’s Staff, the Golden Yard-arm, The L, or Ell, The Ell and Yard, the Yard-stick, and the Yard-wand, the Ellwand, Our Lady’s Wand, the Magi, the Three Kings, the Three Sisters, the Three Marys, or simply the Three Stars.

In pre-Christian Scandinavia, the belt was known as Frigg’s Distaff (Friggerock) or Freyja’s distaff. Jacob’s Rod or Jacob’s Staff and Peter’s Staff were European biblical derived terms, as were the Three Magi, the Three Marys or the Three Kings.

The three belt stars were collectively known by many names in many cultures. Arabic terms include Al Nijād ‘the Belt’, Al Nasak ‘the Line’, Al Alkāt ‘the Golden Grains or Nuts’ and, in modern Arabic, Al Mīzān al Ḥaqq ‘the Accurate Scale Beam’.

In Chinese mythology they were known as The Weighing Beam. The belt was also Shēn Xiù (“the Three Stars mansion”): one of the Twenty-eight mansions of the Chinese constellations. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.

In Chinese, Shēn Xiù refers to an asterism consisting of Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka (Orion’s Belt), with Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph and Rigel later added. Consequently, the Chinese name for Alnitak is Shēn Xiù yī (“the First Star of Three Stars”). It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger.


The stars start appearing in early January around the time of Epiphany, the Christian holiday commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Child Jesus. Epiphany, also Theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, or Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.

In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Moreover, the feast of the Epiphany, in some Western Christian denominations, also initiates the liturgical season of Epiphanytide.

Eastern Christians, on the other hand, commemorate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, seen as his manifestation to the world as the Son of God. Qasr el Yahud in the West Bank, and Al-Maghtas in Jordan on the east bank, is considered to be the original site of the baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist.

Frigg’s Distaff

In Scandinavian tradition, “Orion’s belt” was known as Frigg’s Distaff (friggerock) or Freyja’s distaff. In Norse mythology the goddess Frigg spins clouds from her bejewelled distaff in the Norse constellation known as Frigg’s Spinning Wheel (Friggerock, also known as Orion’s belt).

A 12th century depiction of a cloaked but otherwise nude woman riding a large cat appears on a wall in the Schleswig Cathedral in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany. Beside her is similarly a cloaked yet otherwise nude woman riding a distaff. Due to iconographic similarities to the literary record, these figures have been theorized as depictions of Freyja and Frigg respectively.

The Dawn Goddess was associated with weaving, a behaviour sometimes used as a metaphor for the generative properties of sunlight. This characteristic is normally seen in solar goddesses and it might indicate a large amount of syncretism between dawn and solar deities.

The spindle is closely associated with many goddesses, including the Germanic Holda, Norse Frigg and Freya, Egyptian Isis, Greek Artemis and Athena. It is often connected with fate, as the Greek Fates and the Norse Norns work with yarns that represent lives.

Because the spinning wheel was not in common use before the 16th century in Europe, the older stories are certainly referring to hand spinning done on a spindle. Chief among these is the French fairy tale The Sleeping Beauty, where the princess is erroneously shown to prick her hand on some part of a spinning wheel in modern illustrations, rather than a spindle.

A distaff (also called a rock) is a tool used in spinning. It is designed to hold the unspun fibers, keeping them untangled and thus easing the spinning process. It is most commonly used to hold flax, and sometimes wool, but can be used for any type of fiber. Fiber is wrapped around the distaff, and tied in place with a piece of ribbon or string. The word comes from dis in Low German, meaning a bunch of flax, connected with staff.

The term distaff is also used as an adjective to describe the matrilineal branch of a family (e.g., the “distaff side” of a person’s family refers to the person’s mother and her blood relatives). This term developed in the English-speaking communities where a distaff spinning tool was used often to symbolize domestic life.

Orion’s club

Stretching north from Betelgeuse are the stars that make up Orion’s club. Mu Orionis marks the elbow, Nu and Xi mark the handle of the club, and Chi1 and Chi2 mark the end of the club. Just east of Chi1 is the Mira-type variable red giant U Orionis.

Orion’s shield

West from Bellatrix lie six stars all designated Pi Orionis (π1 Ori, π2 Ori, π3 Ori, π4 Ori, π5 Ori and π6 Ori), a group of fairly widely scattered stars in the constellation Orion that constitute the asterism Orion’s Shield or Orion’s Bow.

Orion’s Sword

Descending from the Belt of Orion can be seen a smaller line of three faint stars, an astronomical asterism in the constellation Orion commonly referred to as Orion’s Sword, which contains the Orion Nebula, the Messier 43 nebula, the Running Man Nebula, and the stars Theta Orionis, Iota Orionis, and 42 Orionis, pointing to a southerly direction. Together they are thought to resemble a sword or a scabbard, also known as the hunter’s sword.

M42, also known as the Great Nebula, can be seen as a hazy patch of diffuse light surrounding the group of stars at the lower end of the sword. M42 takes the form of a giant, irregular cloud and shines because of the stars embedded within it. On dark and clear nights the Great Nebula is visible as a faint glowing patch and it is remarkable that its existence was not noted until 1611.

Origins behind Orion’s Sword are based in mostly Greco-Roman tradition, though this group of stars is referenced as a weapon in multiple cultural contexts. In his De Astronomia, Hyginus describes the constellation Orion having three faint stars where the sword is depicted. Cicero and Germanicus, the translators of Aratus’s Phaenomena, expressed it as ensis, Latin for “sword”.

Aratus (c. 315 BC/310 BC – 240) was a Greek didactic poet. His major extant work is his hexameter poem Phenomena (“Appearances”). Although Aratus was somewhat ignorant of Greek astronomy, his poem was very popular in the Greek and Roman world, as is proved by the large number of commentaries and Latin translations, some of which survive.

The first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus, an ancient Greek astronomer, mathematician, scholar, and student of Archytas and Plato. It describes the constellations and other celestial phenomena. The second half is called the Diosemeia (“Forecasts”), and is chiefly about weather lore.

Aratus goes into significant detail about the Orion constellation as well, proclaiming: “Should anyone fail to catch sight of him (Orion) up in the heavens on a clear night, he should not expect to behold anything more splendid when he gazes up at the sky.”

Arabic astronomers also saw this asterism as a sword, calling it Saif al Jabbār, Sword of the Powerful One or Sword of the Giant. Chinese astronomers made the sword a sub-constellation within Shen called Fa.


The astronomical asterism known as Orion’s Sword is not always associated with swords. In the myths of the Namaqua, Orion’s sword was the arrow of the husband of the Pleiades, daughters of the sky god, who was represented by the star Aldebaran, designated α Tauri (Latinized to Alpha Tauri, abbreviated Alpha Tau, α Tau) in the zodiac constellation Taurus.

Aldebaran was originally Nā᾽ir al Dabarān in Arabic (meaning “the bright one of the follower”). al Dabarān then applied to the whole of the lunar mansion containing the Hyades. It is assumed that what it was following is the Pleiades during the nightly motion of the celestial sphere across the sky.

Forming the profile of a Bull’s face is a V or K-shaped asterism of stars. This outline is created by prominent members of the Hyades, the nearest distinct open star cluster after the Ursa Major Moving Group. In this profile, Aldebaran forms the bull’s bloodshot eye, which has been described as “glaring menacingly at the hunter Orion”, a constellation that lies just to the southwest.

When he fired his arrow at three zebras (Orion’s belt) and missed, he was too afraid to retrieve the arrow due to its proximity to a fierce lion, represented by Betelgeuse. Therefore, he sits in the cold, suffering from hunger but too ashamed to return home.


Betelgeuse, designated α Orionis (Latinised to Alpha Orionis, abbreviated Alpha Ori, α Ori), is generally the ninth-brightest star in the night sky and second-brightest in the constellation of Orion (after Rigel). It is one of three stars that make up the Winter Triangle asterism, and it marks the center of the Winter Hexagon.

It is a distinctly reddish, semiregular variable star. At the beginning of January of each year, it can be seen rising in the east just after sunset. Between mid-September to mid-March (best in mid-December), it is visible to virtually every inhabited region of the globe, except in Antarctica at latitudes south of 82°.

Betelgeuse is often mistranslated as “armpit of the central one”. In his 1899 work Star-Names and Their Meanings, American amateur naturalist Richard Hinckley Allen stated the derivation was from the Ibṭ al-Jauzah, which he claimed degenerated into a number of forms including Bed Elgueze, Beit Algueze, Bet El-gueze, Beteigeuze and more, to the forms Betelgeuse, Betelguese, Betelgueze and Betelgeux.

The star was named Beldengeuze in the Alfonsine Tables, and Italian Jesuit priest and astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli had called it Bectelgeuze or Bedalgeuze. Paul Kunitzsch, Professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Munich, refuted Allen’s derivation and instead proposed that the full name is a corruption of the Arabic Yad al-Jauzā’ meaning “the Hand of al-Jauzā'”, i.e., Orion.

European mistransliteration into medieval Latin led to the first character y (with two dots underneath) being misread as a b (with only one dot underneath). During the Renaissance, the star’s name was written as Bait al-Jauzā’ (“house of Orion”) or Baţ al-Jauzā’, incorrectly thought to mean “armpit of Orion” (a true translation of “armpit” would be transliterated as Ibţ).

This led to the modern rendering as Betelgeuse. Other writers have since accepted Kunitzsch’s explanation. The last part of the name, “-elgeuse”, comes from the Arabic al-Jauzā’, a historical Arabic name of the constellation Orion, a feminine name in old Arabian legend, and of uncertain meaning. Because j-w-z, the root of jauzā’, means “middle”, al-Jauzā’ roughly means “the Central One”.

The modern Arabic name for Orion is al-Jabbār (“the Giant”), although the use of al-Jauzā’ in the name of the star has continued. The 17th-century English translator Edmund Chilmead gave it the name Ied Algeuze (“Orion’s Hand”), from Christmannus. Other Arabic names recorded include Al Yad al Yamnā (“the Right Hand”), Al Dhira (“the Arm”), and Al Mankib (“the Shoulder”), all appended to “of the giant”, as Mankib al Jauzā’.

Other names for Betelgeuse included the Persian Bašn “the Arm”, and Coptic Klaria “an Armlet”. Bahu was its Sanskrit name, as part of a Hindu understanding of the constellation as a running antelope or stag.

In traditional Chinese astronomy, the name for Betelgeuse is Shēnxiùsì (the Fourth Star of the constellation of Three Stars) as the Chinese constellation originally referred to the three stars in the girdle of Orion. This constellation was ultimately expanded to ten stars, but the earlier name stuck.

In Japan, the Taira, or Heike, clan adopted Betelgeuse and its red color as its symbol, calling the star Heike-boshi, while the Minamoto, or Genji, clan had chosen Rigel and its white color. The two powerful families fought a legendary war in Japanese history, the stars seen as facing each other off and only kept apart by the Belt.

Other cultures have produced different myths. It has been proposed that the constellation of Orion could have represented the Greek mythological figure Pelops, who had an artificial shoulder of ivory made for him, with Betelgeuse as the shoulder, its color reminiscent of the reddish yellow sheen of ivory.

In Greek mythology, Pelops was king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. His father, Tantalus, also called Atys, was a Greek mythological figure, most famous for his eternal punishment in Tartarus, the deepest portion of the Underworld.

Tantalus, through Pelops, was the founder of the House of Atreus (from ἀ-, “no” and τρέω, “tremble”, “fearless”), which was named after his grandson Atreus. Atreus was a king of Mycenae in the Peloponnese, and the father of Agamemnon and Menelaus.

Tantalus was initially known for having been welcomed to Zeus’ table in Olympus, like Ixion. There, he is said to have misbehaved and stolen ambrosia and nectar to bring it back to his people, and revealed the secrets of the gods.

Most famously, Tantalus offered up his son, Pelops, as a sacrifice. He cut Pelops up, boiled him, and served him up in a banquet for the gods. The gods became aware of the gruesome nature of the menu, so they did not touch the offering; only Demeter, distraught by the loss of her daughter, Persephone, absentmindedly ate part of the boy’s shoulder.

Clotho, one of the three Fates, was ordered by Zeus to bring the boy to life again. She collected the parts of the body and boiled them in a sacred cauldron, rebuilding his shoulder with one wrought of ivory made by Hephaestus and presented by Demeter.

The revived Pelops grew to be an extraordinarily handsome youth. The god Poseidon took him to Mount Olympus to teach him to use chariots. Later, Zeus threw Pelops out of Olympus due to his anger at Tantalus. The Greeks of classical times claimed to be horrified by Tantalus’s doings; cannibalism and filicide were atrocities and taboo.

Tantalus’s punishment for his act, now a proverbial term for temptation without satisfaction (the source of the English word tantalise), was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from his grasp.

Whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. Over his head towers a threatening stone like the one that Sisyphus is punished to roll up a hill. This fate has cursed him with eternal deprivation of nourishment.

Pelops was venerated at Olympia, where his cult developed into the founding myth of the Olympic Games, the most important expression of unity, not only for the Peloponnesus (“island of Pelops”), but for all Hellenes.

At the sanctuary at Olympia, chthonic night-time libations were offered each time to “dark-faced” Pelops in his sacrificial pit (bothros) before they were offered in the following daylight to the sky-god Zeus.

The red star

Classified as a red supergiant of spectral type M1-2, Betelgeuse is one of the largest stars visible to the naked eye. Due to its distinctive orange-red color, Betelgeuse is easy to spot with the naked eye in the night sky.

With the history of astronomy intimately associated with mythology and astrology before the scientific revolution, the red star, like the planet Mars that derives its name from a Roman war god, has been closely associated with the martial archetype of conquest for millennia, and by extension, the motif of death and rebirth.

A Sanskrit name for Betelgeuse is ārdrā “the moist one”, eponymous of the Ardra lunar mansion in Hindu astrology. The Rigvedic God of storms Rudra, a Rigvedic deity associated with wind or storm and the hunt, presided over the star. This association was linked by 19th-century star enthusiast Richard Hinckley Allen to Orion’s stormy nature.

The Hindu god Shiva shares several features with the Rudra: the theonym Shiva originated as an epithet of Rudra, the adjective shiva (“kind”) being used euphemistically of Rudra, who also carries the epithet Aghora, Abhayankar (“extremely calm [sic] non terrifying”).

Usage of the epithet came to exceed the original theonym by the post-Vedic period (in the Sanskrit Epics), and the name Rudra has been taken as a synonym for the god Shiva and the two names are used interchangeably.

The ploughman

The constellations in Macedonian folklore represented agricultural items and animals, reflecting their village way of life. To them, Betelgeuse was Orach “the ploughman”, alongside the rest of Orion which depicted a plough with oxen. The rising of Betelgeuse at around 3 a.m. in late summer and autumn signified the time for village men to go to the fields and plough.

The Big Dipper is one of the most easily recognizable asterisms in the night sky, found in the constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear. It is well-known in many cultures and goes by many names, among them the Plough, the Great Wagon, Saptarishi, and the Saucepan.

The asterism is particularly prominent in the northern sky in the summer, and is one of the first star patterns we learn to identify. It is often confused for the constellation Ursa Major itself and its name used synonymously with the Great Bear. However, it is not itself a constellation, but only the most visible part of Ursa Major.

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 name comes from the Greek Boōtēs, meaning “herdsman” or “plowman” (literally, “ox-driver”; from bous “cow”).

It contains the orange giant Arcturus, designation α Boötis (Latinized to Alpha Boötis, abbreviated Alpha Boo, α Boo), which is the brightest star in the constellation of Boötes, the fourth-brightest in the night sky, and the brightest in the northern celestial hemisphere.

In ancient Babylon, the stars of Boötes were known as SHU.PA. They were apparently depicted as the god Enlil, who was the leader of the Babylonian pantheon and special patron of farmers. Boötes may have been represented by the foreleg constellation in ancient Egypt. According to this interpretation, the constellation depicts the shape of an animal foreleg.

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 plowman 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 relates that he invented the plow and was memorialized for his ingenuity as a constellation.

Spring Triangle

Together with Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), and Regulus, Arcturus is part of the Spring Triangle asterism and, by extension, also of the Great Diamond along with the star 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.

Spica, designated α Virginis (Latinised to Alpha Virginis, abbreviated Alpha Vir, α Vir), is the brightest object in the constellation of Virgo, while Regulus, designated α Leonis (Latinized to Alpha Leonis, abbreviated Alpha Leo, α Leo), is the brightest object in the constellation of Leo and one of the brightest stars in the night sky.

George Lovi of Sky & Telescope magazine had a slightly different Spring triangle, including the tail of Leo, Denebola, designated Beta Leonis (β Leonis, abbreviated Beta Leo, β Leo), the second brightest star in the zodiac constellation of Leo, instead of Regulus. Denebola is dimmer, but the triangle is more nearly equilateral.


Rigel, designated β Orionis (Latinized to Beta Orionis, abbreviated Beta Ori, β Ori), is generally the seventh-brightest star in the night sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion. Although appearing as a single star to the naked eye Rigel is actually a multiple star system composed of at least four stars: Rigel A, Rigel Ba, Rigel Bb, and Rigel C.

It is a prominent equatorial navigation star, being easily located and readily visible in all the world’s oceans (the exception is the area within 8° of the North Pole). Culminating at midnight on 12 December, and at 9 PM on 24 January, Rigel is visible in winter evenings in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, Rigel is the first bright star of Orion visible as the constellation rises.

In the constellation of Orion, as the mythological Greek huntsman, Rigel represents his knee or (as its name suggests) foot; with the nearby star Beta Eridani marking Orion’s footstool. Rigel is presumably the star known as “Aurvandil’s toe” in Norse mythology. In the Caribbean, Rigel represented the severed leg of the folkloric figure Trois Rois, himself represented by the three stars of Orion’s Belt.

The earliest known recording of the modern name Rigel is in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521. It is derived from the Arabic name Rijl Jauzah al Yusrā (“the left leg (foot) of Jauzah”) (i.e. rijl meaning “leg, foot”), which can be traced to the 10th century. An alternative Arabic name was riǧl al-ǧabbār (“the foot of the great one”), which is the source of the rarely used variant names Algebar or Elgebar.

Winter Hexagon

Rigel is a vertex of the Winter Hexagon or Winter Circle/Oval, an asterism appearing to be in the form of a hexagon with vertices at Rigel (Orion), Aldebaran (Taurus), Capella (Auriga), Pollux (Gemini), Procyon (Canis Minor), and Sirius (Canis Major). It is mostly upon the Northern Hemisphere’s celestial sphere.

On most locations on Earth (except the South Island of New Zealand and the south of Chile and Argentina and further south), this asterism is prominently in the sky from approximately December to March. In the tropics and southern hemisphere, this (then called “summer hexagon”) can be extended with the bright star Canopus in the south.

Winter Triangle

Both Sirius (the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon) and Betelgeuse (Orion’s shoulder) are two of the vortices of the Winter Triangle (also known as the Great Southern Triangle), which show as an equilateral triangle in the night sky.

The Winter Triangle is an approximately equilateral triangle that shares two vertices (Sirius and Procyon) with the Winter Hexagon. The third vertex is Betelgeuse, which lies near the center of the hexagon. These three stars are three of the ten brightest objects, as viewed from Earth, outside the Solar System.

Betelgeuse is also particularly easy to locate, being a shoulder of Orion, which assists stargazers in finding the triangle. Once the triangle is located, the larger hexagon may then be found. Several of the stars in the hexagon may also be found independently of one another by following various lines traced through various stars in Orion.


Bellatrix is one of the four navigational stars in Orion that are used for celestial navigation. It was designated Gamma Orionis by Johann Bayer, but is known colloquially as the “Amazon Star”. It serves as Orion’s left shoulder. It is the third-brightest star in the constellation of Orion, 5° west of the red supergiant Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis).


Saiph, designation Kappa Orionis (κ Orionis, abbreviated Kappa Ori, κ Ori) and 53 Orionis (53 Ori), is the sixth-brightest star in the constellation of Orion. Of the four bright stars that compose Orion’s main quadrangle, it is the star at the south-eastern corner. A northern-hemisphere observer facing south would see it at the lower left of Orion, and a southern-hemisphere observer facing north would see it at the upper right.


Scorpio is the eighth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Scorpius. It is an ancient constellation that pre-dated the Greeks. It lies between Libra to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It is a large constellation located in the southern hemisphere near the center of the Milky Way. It contains many bright stars, including Antares.

The Western astrological sign Scorpio differs from the astronomical constellation. Astronomically, the sun is in Scorpius for just six days, from November 23 to November 28. Much of the difference is due to the constellation Ophiuchus, which is used by few astrologers. Scorpius corresponds to the Hindu nakshatras Anuradha, Jyeshtha, and Mula.

The Babylonians called this constellation MUL.GIR.TAB (“Scorpion”), the signs can be literally read as ‘the (creature with) a burning sting’. In some old descriptions the constellation of Libra is treated as the Scorpion’s claws. Libra was known as the Claws of the Scorpion in Babylonian (zibānītu (compare Arabic zubānā)) and in Greek.

The star once designated γ Sco (despite being well within the boundaries of Libra) is today known as σ Lib. Moreover, the entire constellation of Libra was considered to be claws of Scorpius (Chelae Scorpionis). In Ancient Greek times these western-most stars was represented by a set of scales held aloft by Astraea (represented by adjacent Virgo). The division into Libra was formalised during Roman times.

There are several myths which are often associated with Scorpio, which is often associated with Orpheus, from the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the Greco-Roman gods Ares/Mars and sometimes the god Hades/Pluto.

Ishara (išḫara) is an ancient deity of unknown origin from northern modern Syria. She is a pre-Hurrian and perhaps pre-Semitic deity, later incorporated into the Hurrian pantheon from which she found her way to the Hittite pantheon.

The etymology of Ishara is unknown. Ishara is the Hittite word for “treaty, binding promise”, also personified as a goddess of the oath. Variants of the name appear as Ašḫara (in a treaty of Naram-Sin of Akkad with Hita of Elam) and Ušḫara (in Ugarite texts). In Ebla, there were various logographic spellings involving the sign AMA “mother”.

In Hurrian and Semitic traditions, Išḫara is a love goddess, often identified with Ishtar. Her main epithet was belet rame, lady of love, which was also applied to Ishtar. In the Epic of Gilgamesh it says: ‘For Ishara the bed is made’ and in Atra-hasis she is called upon to bless the couple on the honeymoon.

In Alalah, her name was written with the Akkadogram IŠTAR plus a phonetic complement -ra, as IŠTAR-ra. Worship “Ishara first appears in the pre-Sargonic texts from Ebla and then as a goddess of love in Old Akkadian potency-incantations.

She was associated with the underworld. Her astrological embodiment is the constellation Scorpio and she is called the mother of the Sebitti (the Seven Stars). While she was considered to belong to the entourage of Ishtar, she was invoked to heal the sick.

As a goddess, Ishara could inflict severe bodily penalties to oathbreakers, in particular ascites. In this context, she came to be seen as a “goddess of medicine” whose pity was invoked in case of illness. There was even a verb, isharis- “to be afflicted by the illness of Ishara”.


Antares, designated α Scorpii (Latinised to Alpha Scorpii, abbreviated Alpha Sco, α Sco), is the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky, and the brightest object in the constellation of Scorpius. The name comes from “Rival of Mars”, so named because of its distinct reddish hue.

Often referred to as “the heart of the scorpion”, Antares is flanked by σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii in the center of the constellation. It is visible all night around May 31 of each year, when the star is at opposition to the Sun. Antares then rises at dusk and sets at dawn as seen at the equator.

For two to three weeks on either side of November 30 Antares is not visible in the night sky, because it is near conjunction with the Sun. This period of invisibility is longer in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere, since the star’s declination is south of the celestial equator.

In ancient Mesopotamia, Antares may have been known as Urbat, Bilu-sha-ziri (“the Lord of the Seed”), Kak-shisa (“the Creator of Prosperity”), Dar Lugal (“The King”), Masu Sar (“the Hero and the King”), and Kakkab Bir (“the Vermilion Star”).

In the Babylonian star catalogues of MUL.APIN, which dates between 1100 and 700 BC, Antares was called GABA GIR.TAB, “the Breast of the Scorpion”. It marked the breast of the Scorpion goddess Ishara.

Later names that translate as “the Heart of Scorpion” include Calbalakrab from the Arabic Qalb al-Άqrab. This had been directly translated from the Ancient Greek Kardia Skorpiū. Cor Scorpii translated above Greek name into Latin.

In ancient Egypt, Antares represented the scorpion goddess Serket (and was the symbol of Isis in the pyramidal ceremonies). It was called tms n hntt “the red one of the prow”. In Persia Antares was known as Satevis, one of the four “royal stars”. In India, it with σ Scorpii and τ Scorpii were Jyeshthā (the eldest or biggest, probably attributing its huge size), one of the nakshatra (Hindu lunar mansions).

The ancient Chinese called Antares was known as Xīnxiù’èr (“Second Star of Mansion Heart”), because it was the second star of the mansion Xin. It was the national star of the Shang Dynasty, and it was sometimes referred to as Huǒxīng (“fiery star”) because of its reddish appearance.

Artemis and Gaia 

The locations of Orion and Scorpius at the opposite ends of the celestial sky, with their corresponding bright red variable stars Betelgeuse and Antares were noted by ancient cultures around the world and were considered significant. They were seen as a pair of scorpions. Scorpion days marked as nights that both constellations could be seen.

Stories of the death of Orion are numerous and conflicting. In Greek mythology, the myths associated with Scorpio almost invariably also contain a reference to Orion. The setting of Orion and rising of Scorpius signify the death of Orion by the scorpion. Astronomical mythographers such as Aratus, Eratosthenes and Hyginus were agreed that a scorpion was involved.

The Batak of Sumatra marked their New Year with the first new moon after the sinking of Orion’s Belt below the horizon, at which point Betelgeuse remained “like the tail of a rooster”. In China they signify brothers and rivals Shen and Shang. One rising and the other falling, shen and shang, two stars in the west and east respectively, never meet.

In some versions, Orion is killed by Artemis, while in others he is killed by a scorpion sent by Gaia. As a virgin, Artemis had interested many gods and men, but only her hunting companion, Orion, won her heart. Orion was Artemis’ hunting companion. In some versions, Orion tries to seduce Opis, one of Artemis’ followers, and she kills him. In a version by Aratus, Orion takes hold of Artemis’ robe and she kills him in self-defense.

In yet another version, Apollo sends the scorpion. According to Hyginus Artemis once loved Orion (in spite of the late source, this version appears to be a rare remnant of her as the pre-Olympian goddess, who took consorts, as Eos did), but was tricked into killing him by her brother Apollo, who was “protective” of his sister’s maidenhood.

In one version, told by Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Orion boasted to goddess Artemis and her mother, Leto, that he was the greatest of hunters and that he would kill every animal on the Earth. He declared to Artemis, the goddess of hunting, and Leto, her mother, that he could kill any beast on Earth.

Although Artemis was known to be a hunter herself she offered protection to all creatures. Artemis and her mother Leto sent a scorpion to deal with Orion. The Earth shuddered indignantly and from a crack in the ground emerged a scorpion which stung the presumptuous giant to death. The pair battled and the scorpion killed Orion.

However, the contest was apparently a lively one that caught the attention of the king of the gods Zeus, who later raised the scorpion to heaven and afterwards, at the request of Artemis, did the same for Orion to serve as a reminder for mortals to curb their excessive pride.

The outcome was that Orion and the scorpion (the constellation Scorpius) were placed on opposite sides of the sky, so that as Scorpius rises in the east, Orion flees below the western horizon. ‘Wretched Orion still fears being wounded by the poisonous sting of the scorpion’, noted Germanicus Caesar.

There is also a version that Orion was better than the goddess Artemis but said that Artemis was better than he and so Artemis took a liking to Orion. The god Apollo, Artemis’s twin brother, grew angry and sent a scorpion to attack Orion. After Orion was killed, Artemis asked Zeus to put Orion up in the sky. So every winter Orion hunts in the sky, but every summer he flees as the constellation of the scorpion comes.

In another Greek story involving Scorpio without Orion, Phaeton (the mortal male offspring of Helios) went to his father, who had earlier sworn by the River Styx to give Phaeton anything he should ask for. Phaeton wanted to drive his father’s Sun Chariot for a day. Although Helios tried to dissuade his son, Phaeton was adamant.

However, when the day arrived, Phaeton panicked and lost control of the white horses that drew the chariot. First, the Earth grew chill as Phaeton flew too high and encountered the celestial scorpion, its deadly sting raised to strike. Alarmed, he dipped the chariot too close, causing the vegetation to burn.

By accident, Phaeton turned most of Africa into desert and darkened the skin of the Ethiopian nation until it was black. Eventually, Zeus was forced to intervene by striking the runaway chariot and Phaeton with a lightning bolt to put an end to its rampage and Phaeton plunged into the River Eridanos.


Orion is one of the few constellations to have parallel identities in European and Chinese culture. In China, Orion was known as Sieu or Shen (Xiu; 宿, lit. meaning “three”, for the stars of Orion’s Belt), the hunter and warrior. It was also somehow associated with judicial investigations and punishments.

The opposed locations of Orion and Scorpius, with their corresponding bright red variable stars Betelgeuse and Antares, were noted by ancient cultures around the world. The setting of Orion and rising of Scorpius signify the death of Orion by the scorpion. In China they signify brothers and rivals Shen and Shang.

Shen was at the centre of a great celestial hunting scene, for the full Moon was in this part of the sky during the hunting season, November and December. Being one of the oldest Chinese constellations, Shen gathered many different and conflicting identities down the ages.

Shen featured in an ancient Chinese legend concerning two sons of the Emperor, Shichen and Ebo, who were always fighting. So bad was the antagonism that the Emperor had to banish them both. Shichen was sent away to become responsible for sacrifices to Shen, while Ebo became responsible for sacrifices to the lunar mansion Xin, in present-day Scorpius on the opposite side of the sky from Shen.

This story parallels the Greek legend of Orion and his antagonist the scorpion being placed on opposite sides of the sky to keep them permanently apart.

The Chinese character 參 (pinyin shēn) originally meant the constellation Orion (Chinese: 參宿; pinyin: shēnxiù); its Shang dynasty version, over three millennia old, contains at the top a representation of the three stars of Orion’s belt atop a man’s head (the bottom portion representing the sound of the word was added later).

The Three Stars mansion (simplified Chinese: 参宿; traditional Chinese: 參宿; pinyin: Shēn Xiù) was one of the 28 lunar mansions of the Chinese constellations. It is one of the western mansions of the White Tiger, sometimes called the White Tiger of the West (西方白虎, Xī Fāng Bái Hǔ), one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. The White Tiger represents the west in terms of direction and the autumn season.

Orion (mythology)

The Hunter

Orion the Giant, the Hunter

Orion the Hunter – King of the Winter Sky

The Ancient Epic of Gilgamesh and the Precession of the Equinox

Orion the Hunter and Heavenly Shepherd

Jawza’, Snow Queen of the Arabs

Orion (Greek mythology)

Orion Constellation Myths of Sumer, Babylon and Egypt

Constellations of Words: Orion


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