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Myths and constellations

-Yagyasha Rastogi

Humanity has always looked up to the sky with zeal and curiosity. Our ancestors knew the night sky at the back of their hands, their day-to-day activities depended on the positions of the stars, the moon, and the sun. This intertwining of humanity and the heavens has given birth to many interesting fables, rituals, folklores, and most importantly myths. Every culture in the world has its own set of stories and myths around constellations that are being passed on for generations. What appeared as a hunter to the greeks and Romans, looked like the incarnation of Vishnu( Hindu god)  through the eyes of Hindus.  Here is a collection of some myths created around constellations from different cultures around the world: 1.   Milky way through the eyes of Africans The ancient people of Africa considered the milky way as delicious roasted roots and ashes. As the story goes, these roots were thrown into the sky by a strong-willed girl who was angry at her mother for not giving her these delicious roasted roots to eat. Now, these red roots and bright ashes shine as red and white stars glittering the night sky with their presence.

The Xhosas (African tribe), viewed the milky way as the raised bristles on the back of an angry dog. Whereas, to the Sohos and Twanas, the milky way appeared as the molalatladi, the place where lightning rests.

2. Constellation Scorpio from the perspective of greeks

To the Greeks of the ancient world, the constellation Scorpius was a scorpion placed in the sky. According to Greek mythology, when the famous hunter Orion wanted to kill all the animals of the earth, the earth goddess Gaia, not pleased by Orion’s intentions sent a giant scorpion to defeat Orion.

However hard Orion tried, he was not able to overpower the gigantic scorpion. In the end, the scorpion stung Orion and killed the hunter. To honor the scorpion for its service, Mother Gaia placed him in the sky.

Even today, it looks as if the scorpion is chasing down the hunter in the sky.

3. The seven Rishis of Hindus

According to Mahabharata, a Hindu scripture written in 500 B.C, the stars of the big dipper constellations were seven sages who were responsible for the rising and setting of the sun. They were married to the seven krittika sisters.

One day, the god of fire, Agni emerged from the flames lighted by the rishis and fell in love with the seven sisters. To distract himself from the matter, he decided to take a walk in the forest where he met savaha, a secret admirer of his. Savannah in order to impress the fire god mimicked six sisters (excluding Arundhati)

When the rumors of the affairs of the fire god and the six kritikas reached the sages’ ears they were angered and divorced their wives. The six sisters (excluding Arundhati) went off to form the Pleiades cluster.

4. Corona Borealis- The northern crown of the greeks

According to the Greek tale, Minos, who was the second king of Crete, built an elaborate maze to trap the ferocious beast, Minotaur. Every year, the king used to send some beautiful young people to the maze as an offering to the beast.

Theses, the king of Athens was selected in the third group that was to be sent for the beast. However, Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with Theses, to save her love she gave Theseus a magical thread that will help him defeat the monster and trace his way back out from the labyrinth. Her only condition was that after coming back from the labyrinth, theses will take her with him when he escaped.

Theses as planned defeated the minotaur and escaped, he then sailed to the island of Naxos with Ariadne. However, he abandoned her on the island and fled. Ariadne was left heartbroken and alone. When Dionysus, the god of wine and party, saw her in this condition, he took care of her with the utmost affection, and the two fell in love soon after.

Dinyosus gifted his beloved Ariadne, a crown laden with the seven most precious jewels of the world. After Ariadne died, Zeus placed the crown in the sky, in the form of the constellation Corona Borealis.



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