Orion

The Hunter or The Giant

Orion Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Orion

The Story

An Ancient Constellation

The constellation of the Hunter is of great antiquity. It was known to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia as Uru-anna or the Light of Heaven. It was identified with the great Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, who was seen as battling the Bull of Heaven, Gut-anna, which we see as the constellation of Taurus.

Introducing Orion

According to myth Orion was the son of the God of the Sea Poseidon and Euryale, the daughter of King Minos of Crete. It was said of Orion that he was so tall that he could stride across the bottom of the sea with his head sticking out above the waves, but his father Poseidon gave him the ability to walk on the surface of the water. In the sky Orion carries an unbreakable bronze club. In his other hand he bears the pelt of a lion.

Trouble With Women

Orion got in trouble repeatedly over women. One time in he fell for Merope, the daughter of King Oenopion. He wooed her without success. Then one day after he had had too much wine, he stumbled off and tried to take the lady by force. For this the king had Orion blinded and banished from his realm. In his blind state Orion sought the aid of Hephaestus, the God of the Forge, and eventually his sight was restored by the healing rays of the rising sun. The Hunter

Chasing the Pleiades

In another story Orion fell in love with the Pleiades; some say that it was the mother of the Pleiades whom Orion loved. Her name was Pleione. The story has it that Zeus snatched up the Seven Sisters who are the Pleiades and placed them in the sky where Orion still pursues them.

The Fatal Scorpion

Myth has it that Orion was killed by the sting of a Scorpion. The Scorpion is identified with the constellation of Scorpius, halfway around the sky from Orion. Some say that the Scorpion was sent by the Gaia the Goddess of the Earth; others say it was Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, who sent the Scorpion to kill Orion, because Orion had dared to hunt down all the animals of the earth. Others say that Orion had attempted to force himself on Artemis and that it was because of his unwanted attentions that Artemis sent the Scorpion after him. But as the Scorpion rises in the east, Orion sets, indicating the victory of the Scorpion over the Hunter.

Resurrected!

After being poisoned by the Scorpion, Orion was resurrected by Asclepius the God of Healing, whom we see in the sky as Ophiuchus, the Serpent Wrestler. Asclepius himself was killed by a thunderbolt of Zeus, because he was restoring too many souls to life so that the Underworld, the realm of the dead, was becoming depopulated.

Crushing the Scorpion

Thanks to Asclepius, we see Orion later in the year rising as the Scorpion sets, crushed by the heel of Ophiuchus.

The End of Orion Again

There is another very different story of the death of Orion holds that Orion was in fact betrothed to Artemis, but Apollo, the brother of Artemis was opposed to the wedding. Artemis was very proud of her skill as an archer. So one day Apollo challenged Artemis to put an arrow through a small dark object that could be seen far off in the distance bobbing above the waves of the sea. Artemis easily pierced the object with a single shot and was horrified that she had killed her husband-to-be Orion. Filled with grief, she placed him among the stars.  
 


Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Arnold V. Lesikar,
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Physics, Astronomy, and Engineering Science,
St. Cloud State University,St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

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