Monthly Archives: November 2013
Etymology – The Scorpion
Scorpius or better known as Scorpio is one of twelve familiar constellations of the Classical Greek Zodiac. Its name is Latin for scorpion. Next to Virgo, it is one of the largest and brightest constellations in the night sky. The claws of the scorpion were “broken” off to form the constellation of Libra during Roman times.
Astronomy & Astrology
Much of the foundations of Western knowledge regarding the fields of Astronomy and Astrology owe its roots to Ancient Mesopotamian cultures. Many ancient cultures studied the stars, seeing in them patterns that are called constellations. These ancient astronomers were able to make predictable, annual turnings of the heavens that they could divide and mark for the passing of the Seasons and time. For the ancients, Astrology served as a precursor to Astronomy and they believed that by studying the heavens, they could foretell future events and even a person’s life path.
These ancient cultures would also meet and exchange ideas frequently and in this fashion, when the Greeks encountered the Persians, there was an exchange of knowledge regarding Astronomy that becomes the constellations and zodiacs so many know today. Eventually, there is no clear distinction between what ancient Mesopotamian Astronomers and Greeks Philosophers knew. Or who influenced who regarding the stories and myths behind the constellations. Even in current, modern times, the influence of these ancients is still known.
Scorpius is Latin for scorpion and is one of 48 constellations that were identified by Ptolemy, an astronomer who lived during the second century. In modern times, it is one of 88 known or recognized constellations and is located in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the 33rd in size for constellations in the night sky. Other constellations close to Scorpius are Sagittarius, Ophiuchus, Libra, Lupus, Norma, Ara and Corona Australis.
In China, the constellation of Scorpius is part of the heavens where the Azure Dragon rests.
The star Antares was called Huo Shing, meaning “the Fire Star” and was worshipped in order to guard against fires.
Among the ancient Egyptians, the constellation and zodiac of Scorpio was equivalent to the Serpent, as they were worshipped and associated with many of their deities such as Ra, Wadjet, Renenutet, and Meretseger to name a few. Each quarter of the city of Cairo, there was a serpent guardian.
The star Antares was seen to represent the scorpion goddess Serket, a symbol of Isis in the pyramidal ceremonies.
Orion the Hunter
The constellation of Scorpio is best known as representing the scorpion in the story of Orion the Hunter.
In this story, Orion, a giant huntsman went to the island of Crete to spend time hunting with the goddess Artemis and Leto. While there, Orion boasted to Artemis and Leto how he would kill every animal on earth. In some versions of this story, Artemis, being a goddess of the Hunt offers protection to the animals of the earth and Leto sends a giant scorpion to kill Orion. In other versions of this story, Gaia, on hearing Orion’s boast, sends the giant scorpion after him in order to punish him for his hubris.
Orion and the scorpion fought it out and the scorpion eventually stings Orion, killing him. At the request of Artemis and Leto, Zeus, the father of the gods placed Orion along with the Scorpion up into the heavens as constellations and memorials. Every winter Orion can be seen up in the heavens still hunting and fleeing in summer when the scorpion ascends in the heavens.
Yet another variation to this story has Orion being the better hunter than Artemis but telling her that she’s the better hunter so that Artemis would take a liking to Orion. Her twin brother, Apollo grew angry with Artemis’ affections towards Orion and he’s the one who sent the scorpion to kill Orion.
While most Greek stories mention Orion, a lesser known story involving a scorpion is that of Phaeton, the mortal son of Helios, the sun god who drove the sun across the sky with this chariot.
Now Helios had sworn by the river Styx to give his son anything he asked for. In this instance, Phaeton asked to drive his father’s Sun Chariot for a day. Helios tried to discourage his son from this activity, but being oath bound, he found himself allowing Phaeton to drive the chariot.
Once behind the reins of the chariot, Phaeton panicked as he found that the white horses who pulled Helios’ chariot were too much for him and he lost control. The horses ran rampant, running to high above the Earth that it grew cold. As the horses drove the chariot close to the celestial scorpion, it raised its stinger, ready to strike. The horses panicked and now moved closer to the Earth; too close as now the fiery wheels of the Sun Chariot burned all the vegetation, causing much of Africa to become desert and darkening the skin of the Ethiopians. So the story goes.
Finally, Zeus stepped in and hurled one of his thunderbolts at the runaway chariot and Phaeton. As a result, Phaeton fell into the Eirdanos River and Helios took back the reigns of his Sun Chariot.
Among the Javanese people of Indonesia, this constellation is known as Banyakangrem, meaning: “the brooded swan” or as Kalapa Doyong, which means “leaning coconut tree.”
The Mayans of Central America referred to Scorpius as “the Sign of the Death-god.”
The ancient Babylonians called this constellation: MUL.GIR.TAB, meaning “the Scorpion” and can also be read literally as “the creature with a burning sting.” The Claws of the Scorpion were seen as a separate constellation forming a set of Scales.
The star Antares was known by a variety of names in Mesopotamia such as: Urbat, Bilu-sha-ziri, meaning “the Lord of the Seed”, Kak-shisa, meaning “the Creator of Prosperity”), Dar Lugal, which means “The King”, Masu Sar, meaning “the Hero and the King”, and finally Kakkab Bir, which means “the Vermilion Star.” Antares is listed in the star scroll MUL.APIN as GABA GIR.TAB which means “the Brest of the Scorpion: Lishi, Nabu.”
A story found among the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean, tells the story of Dümur, the eldest son of Ligedaner who is the mother of all the stars. Ligedaner is identified as being the star Capella in the Auriga constellation, Dümur is identified as the star Antares and the youngest son is identified as Pleiades.
Ligedaner’s sons came down from the vault of Heaven to visit with her where she lived on the atoll Alinablab. While there, a contest was proposed that who ever was the first to reach a certain island somewhere out in the East would be named the King of Stars.
The contest was agreed to and the sons prepared themselves to take off to claim the title of King. Ligedaner asked Dümur to take her with him in his canoe. Dümur refused as he saw that his mother wanted to take as many things with her as she could and thereby slow down the canoe with its weight.
Ligedaner asked each of her sons in turn to take her with them in their canoes and each in turned refused. Until she got to her youngest son, Pleiades who finally accepted her request to go with him. Ligedaner had seven objects she was taking with her and as she got into the canoe, she instructed Pleiades where to load and place each object.
When they were finally loaded up, Pleiades took his place to start rowing. He was surprised to find that instead of being weighed and slowed down by all the objects, that his canoe shot out into the water with great ease nor did he have to use his oars. The seven objects it turned out, had been previously unknown sail rigging and with his canoe driven by the wind, it took no time at all to catch up with his brothers.
As Pleiades’ canoe caught up with Dümur’s canoe, Dümur demanded, on his rights as the first-born son that his youngest brother hand over his canoe to him. Dismayed, Pleiades complied with the demands. Ligedaner proceeded to play a rather mean trick on Dümur by turning the canoe around and then when she jumped with Pleiades into the sea, she took with her the yardarm. Together, Ligedaner and Pleiades swam on towards the island to the East.
Dümur found that in order to sail Pleiades’ canoe, he had to fasten the sail to his shoulders, causing him to become bent over. By the time Dümur reached the island, he found that his youngest brother Pleiades and Ligedaner had beaten him there already and that Pleiades now claimed the title of King of the Stars. Angry, Dümur desired to never see his brother Pleiades again. This separation fo Dümur and Pleiades can be seen in the night sky of the Southern Hemisphere as when Pleiades rises in the East, Dümur (as the star Antares) sets in the West. The bent back of Dümur is also seen represented by the curved line formed by the stars outlining the bent body of Scorpius.
In Hawaii and New Zealand, the constellation is recognized as being the demigod Maui’s Fishhook.
Roman Astronomy and Mythology
The Romans broke off the claws of Scorpius to form the constellation of Libra, perhaps hearkening back to how the ancient Mesopotamians cataloged their constellations.
Among the Romans, Scorpius was also known as “The Lurking One.”
Antares – The Heart of the Scorpion
Also known as Alpha Scorpii, it is the 16th brightest star in the night sky and a red supergiant. Antares is the brightest star found in the Scorpius constellation. Antares is part of a binary star system with a faint companion. Along with the stars Aldebaran, Regulus and Fomalhaut, Antares is part of a group of stars known as the “Royal stars of Persia.” Antares is also referred to as the “heart of the scorpion.”
Antares name comes from the Greek name: Άντάρης meaning “Anti-Ares” or “Anti-Mars” as both this star and the planet Mars have a similar reddish color. Some scholars think this comparison of Antares with Mars may have originated with Mesopotamian astronomers. Other scholars suggest that this star may have been named after Antar or Antarah ibn Shaddad, an Arab warrior-hero found in the Mu’allaqat, a series of Arabic Odes or Poems.
Antares has a number of different names from many cultures that it has been known by such as Urbat, Bilu-sha-ziri , Kak-shisa , Dar Lugal, Masu Sar, and Kakkab Bir in ancient Mesopotamia. Satevis in Persia, Jyeshthā in India as one of the Hindu lunar mansions, the Wotjobaluk Koori of Australia knew it as Djuit, son of Marpean-kurrk (Arcturus); the stars to either side represented his wives. In the same vein, the Kulin Kooris saw Antares as Balayang, the brother of Bunjil (the star Altair.)
The Maori of New Zealand called Antares Rehua and viewed it as the chief of all the stars. Rehua is the father of Puanga/Puaka (the star Rigel) and plays an important part in calculations of the Maori calendars. In the Arabic Qalb al-Άqrab, is was called Calbalakrab, a name directly translated from the Greek Kardia Skorpiū. The people of ancient Asia referred to antares as the “Grave Digger of Caravans.”
Other Stars Of Scorpius
Beta Scorpii – Also known as Acrab or Graffias is a multiple star system found in Scorpius. When viewed through a telescope, it appears as a binary star. The traditional name of Acrab has a couple of alternate spellings of Akrab and Elacrab which come from the Arabic language of al-’Aqrab which means “the scorpion.” The name Graffias is a name also shared by another star, Xi Scorpii which means “the claws.”
Lambda Scorpii – Also known as Shaula, it is the second brightest star in Scorpius and the 25th brightest star in the night sky. The traditional name of Shaula comes from the Arabic language of al-šawla´ which means “the raised tail.”
The Butterfly Cluster
Or Messier 6 was discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Batista Hodierna in 1654 and given the name of the Butterfly Cluster due the shape the stars appeared to form. Charles Messier added to his catalog of stars in 1764.
The Ptolemy Cluster
Also called Messier 7, it is another star cluster found within Scorpius. It has been called the Ptolemy Cluster as it was the famous Greek astronomer Ptolemy who first recorded it in 130 C.E. who thought it to be a nebula.
The Cat’s Paw Nebula
The Cat’s Paw Nebula or NGC 6334 was discovered by English astronomer John Herschel in 1837. It is a vast region of star formations that lies some 5,500 light-years from Earth. It is a nursery of sorts for the numerous new stars being formed within it and believed to contain some tens of thousands of stars.
There are a couple of meteor showers associated with this constellation. They are the Alpha Scorpiids and the Omega Scorpiids.
The constellation of Scorpio is the eighth sign of twelve signs that form the Zodiac. For those who study and are into the classical Greek Zodiacs, this time is typically said to be from October 23 to November 22. Due to the changes of the earth’s orbit and tilt, the best time to see this constellation is during July around 9 p.m. The planet Mars along with the dwarf planet Pluto are said to rule this Zodiacal sign and constellation. Its element is Water and is one of four Fixed signs.
Scorpios are seen as being very studious and serious and often like to learn everything they can about others. This can be a bad thing if there’s anything private or personal a person wants to be kept secret. A secret is what Scorpio’s love given their immense curiosities and love for learning. They’re good inquisitives and know how to trust their intuitions when figuring things out. Scorpio’s also love to be in charge of their own manifest destinies, doing what it takes to get them where they want to be in life. Downside is when they step on others to get their way with being a manipulative or are overbearing in the methods while pursuing their agendas. When motivated and after a goal, Scorpios can be very resourceful, bouncing back easily from set backs and being very stubborn in their drive to not give up. They can also be very vindictive whey they feel they’ve been wronged.