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Myths About Constellations

Aug 2, 2017

Constellations according to windows2universe.org are formed of bright stars which appear close to each other on the sky, but are really far apart in space. The shapes you see all depend on your point of view. Many societies saw patterns among the stars with gods and goddesses or stories from their culture. Most of the constellations with which we are familiar come from ancient Greece. But other civilizations created their own patterns in the sky based on stories and people that were important to them. The stories below provide an overview of some of the myths associated with the constellations identified by early civilizations around the world.
 
According to a Greek legend, the sea god Poseidon placed the figure of Cassiopeia among the stars. It is said that Cassiopeia has a ridiculous upside-down position to punish her for having been pretentious.
 
Ursa Major (Changing Bear Maiden)
 
In Navajo myth, Ursa Major, the Great Bear, originated from the story of the Changing Bear Maiden. In the story, a girl accepts a bear as her husband. Her younger sister tells the father, who in turn kills the bear. The older sister changes into a bear to get revenge.
 
The younger sister and seven brothers tried to flea their sister. The bear turns back into a girl and chases after her siblings. She eventually killed six of the brothers.
 
The seven brothers flew up into the sky and became Ursa Major.
 
Constellation of The Hand
 
According to the Lakota, the Constellation of the Hand, namely the bottom half of the constellation Orion, represents the arm of a great Lakota chief. The gods wanted to punish the Lakota's chief for his selfishness and made the Thunder People rip out his arm. The chief's daughter offered to marry anyone who would recover her father's arm.
 
Fallen Star, a young warrior whose father was a star and whose mother was human, returned the arm and married the daughter. The return of the arm to the chief symbolizes harmony between the gods and the people with the help of the younger generation.
 
Lakota hand constellation. The index finger is the bright star Rigel while the thumb is the Orion Nebula. Orion's belt makes up the wrist. The pinky is held by Beta Eridani, a star in the constellation Eridanis.
 
The seven Rishis
 
According to the epic Mahabharata, composed in about 500 B.C., the stars of the Big Dipper were the seven sages called Rishis. These seven sages are said to be those who made the Sun rise and shine. They were happily married to seven sisters named Krttika. They originally all lived together in the northern sky.
 
But one day, the god of fire, Agni, emerged from the flames of an offering performed by the seven Rishis and fell in love with the seven Krttika. Trying to forget his hopeless love for the Krttika, Agni wandered in the forest where he met Svaha. To conquer Agni's love, Svaha disguised herself as six of the seven Krttika. Svaha could mimic only six of the Krttika because the seventh sister Arundhati was too devoted to her husband to be imitated.
 
After a while, Svaha gave birth to a child that she named Skanda. With his birth, rumors began to spread that six of the Rishis' wives were his mother. Six of the Rishis divorced their wives. Arundhati was the only one that remained with her husband as the star Alcor. The other six Krttika went away to become the Pleiades.


Image:  Big Dipper's stars - clipartkid.com



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