by Kim Pederson…….
I see it over my head all the time here. On clear nights that is. Usually hanging directly above, it seems, the street where my house (and we) live. I’m speaking of (well, writing of) the constellation Orion, of course. We see it so often here because Orion sits on the celestial equator, which is the projection of the earth’s equator into outer space. We’re on the same plane or near enough to it here in Key West. Orion shares this plane with other constellations such as Leo, Pisces, and Aquarius. It’s two brightest stars, Betelgeuse (a blue-white star) and Rigel (a red giant star), sit above and below the “belt.”
The earliest known depiction of Orion was found in a cave in Germany. It dates back some thirty-two to thirty-eight thousand years. Obviously, they didn’t call it Orion because the ancient Greek tale of the hunter Orion didn’t mythoterialize until many, many years later. They probably named it something like “arghbark” or “grrrrlugg.”
There are many myths swirling around the constellation Orion but the most well-known is likely the Greek confabulation. His story in brief is this: he was born, met a woman, was blinded by her father, regained his sight, went hunting with the goddess Artemis, and then was killed by an arrow from her bow (friendly fire?) or the sting of the giant scorpion that became the constellation Scorpius. After his death, Zeus elevated Orion to his current place in the heavens. Odysseus, according to Homer, met the shade of Orion while he, Odie that is, was visiting the underworld. No word on what they spoke about.
It seems a little sad that for something/someone so famous and recognized, we know so little about him. What tales Orion might have to tell us if we, like Odysseus, could travel to Hades and invite him to come drink some sheep’s blood, which apparently shades like to do. I like to think that Orion would have smiled on learning of the magazine named after him, the one whose “fundamental conviction [is] that humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature” (the magazine was originally the Orion Nature Quarterly). As a hunter, he would have shared in this bond with nature I presume. He might also enjoy articles like “The Panther You Want” and “Showering with Spiders.” And he would grin and nod at these lines from Ellen Watson’s poem “Be Here First”: “Everything eager, rude and alive…. Take your pick: the ridge hurtling for the last rag of snow or simply lifting off with the first smack of dawn.”
*Star formation in the constellation Orion as photographed in infrared by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Public Domain.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.