Orion, Am I Lyin’?

Orion, Am I Lyin’?

1/11/12- Orion, Am I Lyin’ ?

The Facts Are These:

Orion the Hunter
Orion the Hunter
  • Orion is one of the biggest and brightest constellations in the sky: of the 88 known constellations, Orion is the ninth brightest and 26th largest.
  • The star that makes up Orion’s left shoulder is a a red giant star called “Betelgeuse” that could supernova at any moment!
  • Orion is easily identified by the three stars that make up his belt which were all named by Arab astronomers: Alnitak “The girdle,” Alnilam, “String of pearls,” and Mintaka which means “Belt.”
  • Below the belt of Orion is the Orion Nebula (M42 in the Messier Catalogue), a beautiful star-forming nebula that appears in brilliant reds and purples around the start of winter (for a picture of the Orion Nebula, see the “Picture Of the Week” page).
  • The brightest star in Orion is called Rigel from the Arabic “rijl”, which means  ‘foot,’ since Ptolemy described it as ‘the bright star in the left foot’ (Source: Ian Ridpath’s “Star Tales”).
  • The constellation Orion is always below the constellation Taurus the Bull, and the Pleiades star cluster.
  • Orion is visible from November to February to observers in the Northern Hemisphere.

Western Myths About Orion the Hunter:

Orion as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825.
Orion as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c. 1825.

The Greeks and Romans viewed Orion as a giant, handsome man. In some myths, he was the son of the sea god Poseidon, and had the power to walk on water. He would often go looking for mythical beasts such as Lepus the rabbit (which you seen underneath him in the card to the left).

Orion had a strong relationship with Dianna, the virgin goddess of the hunt; she gave him his famous hunting dogs Canis Major and Canis Minor, who hang in the sky next to him forever. Ironically though, in some versions of the myth, Dianna unwilling kills Orion by accidentally hitting him with her arrows, while he was concealed in a bush.

In another version of the myth, Orion meets his end in a more subtle way: Orion was in love with the seven daughters of the titan Atlas, which angered the god Apollo and Zeuss the king of the Gods. Zeus sent Taurus the Bull to guard the Pleiades from Orion’s grasp, while Apollo sent Scorpius the Scorpion to kill the young hunter with a sting. This is why Scorpio is on the opposite side of the sky from Orion, and why the young hunter pursues the young maidens to this day.

The Greco-Roman myths of Orion could have their origins in a much older story: The story of Gilgamesh, written in modern-day Iraq around 2500 BC tells of a strong warrior who fights off a bull sent by the gods in an epic quest. This could be the inspiration for Orion’s story after centuries of revision by the Greeks.

Eastern Myths about Orion

The Japanese have an entirely different perception of Orion: They perceive his constellation as a woman with her arms outstretched wearing a  kimono!

There are many other myths about Orion from all over the world; it is a highly visible constellation and has inspired many different myths, but I don’t really have the space to do them all. In the meantime, I’ll direct you to some more research to carry on yourself:


Plus, one more video about Orion in myth and in fact from the History Channel:


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