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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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While far Orion o'er the waves did walk

That flow among the isles.

Shelley's The Revolt of Islam.

Orion with his glittering belt and sword

Gilded since time has been, while time shall be.

.     .     .     .

Thou splendid soulless warrior! What to thee,

Marching along the bloodless fields, are we!

Lucy Larcom's Orion.

Orion, the Giant, Hunter, and Warrior

admired in all historic ages as the most strikingly brilliant of the stellar groups, lies partly within the Milky Way, extending on both sides of the  p304 celestial equator entirely south of the ecliptic, and so is visible from every part of the globe.

With Theban Greeks of Corinna's time, about the year 490 before our era, it was Ὠαρίων, the initial letter having taken the place of the ancient digamma, ϝ, which, pronounced somewhat like the letter W, rendered the early word akin to our Warrior. Corinna's pupil Pindar followed in Ὠαριώνειος, but by the time of Euripides the present Ὠρίων prevailed, and we see it thus in Polymestor's words in the Ἐκάβη of 425 B.C.:

through the ether to the lofty ceiling,

Where Orion and Seirios dart from their eyes

The flaming rays of fire.

Catullus transcribed Oarion from Pindar, shortened to Arion, and sometimes changed to Aorion; but the much later Argion, attributed to Firmicus,​a was for Procyon, probably from Ἀργος, the faithful dog of Ulixes.

The derivation of the word has been in doubt, but Brown refers it to the Akkadian Uru‑Anna,​1 the Light of Heaven, originally applied to the sun, as Uru‑ki, the Light of Earth, was to the moon; so that our title may have come into Greek mythology and astronomy from the Euphrates. The Οὐρίον, Οὐρον, or Ὑριών of the Hyriean, or Byrsaean, story, the Urion of the original Alfonsine Tables, graphically explained by Minsheu, is in no sense an acceptable title, although Hyginus and Ovid vouched for it, thus showing its currency in their day. Caesius' derivation from Ὤρα, as if marking the Seasons, seems fanci­ful.

At one time it was Ἀλετροπόδιον, found in the Uranologia of Petavius of the 16th century, which Ideler said should be Ἀλεκτροπόδιον, Cock's Foot, likening the constellation to a Strutting Cock; but Brown goes back to Ἀλη, Roaming, and so reads it Ἀλητροπόδιον, the Foot-Turning Wanderer, mythologically recorded as roaming in his blindness till miraculously restored to side by viewing the rising sun.

The Boeotians, according to Strabo, fellow-countrymen of the earthly Orion, called his stars Κανδάων, their alternative title for Ἄρης, the god of war, well agreeing with, perhaps originating, the Greek conception of the Warrior.

Ovid said that the constellation was Comesque Boötae; and some authors asserted that Orion never set, an idea possibly coming from the confusion in name with Boötes already alluded to; although even as to that constellation the assertion would not have been strictly correct. Matthew Arnold similarly wrote in his Sohrab and Rustum:

 p305  the northern Bear,

Who from her frozen height with jealous eye

Confronts the Dog and Hunter in the South.

Dianae Comes, and Amasius, Companion, and Lover of Diana, were other titles, the Hero, after his death from the Scorpion's sting inflicted for his boastfulness, having been located by Jove in his present position, at the request of the goddess, that he might escape in the west when his slayer, the Scorpion, rose in the east, — as Aratos said:

When the Scorpion comes

Orion flies to utmost end of earth.

Thompson sees in this alternate rising and setting of these two sky figures an astronomic explanation of the symbolism in classic ornithology of the mutual pursuit and flight of Haliaëtos and Keiris, the Sea Eagle and Kingfisher, compared in the poem Ciris to these opposed constellations.

In Horace's Odes the constellation is termed pronus; and Tennyson had

Great Orion sloping slowly to the west,

which, with the rest of the beauti­ful opening passage, adds much to the charm of his Locksley Hall.

Homer, who made but a single allusion in the Iliad to this constellation, followed by a parallel passage in the Odyssey [XI.310], wrote of "the might of huge Orion," and described the earthly hero as the "Illustrious Orion, the tallest and most beauti­ful of men, — even than the Aloidae," adjectives all well applied to our stellar figure; Hesiod said:

When strong Orion chaces to the deep the Virgin stars;

Pindar, that he was of monstrous size; as did Manilius in his Magna pars maxima coeli; and nearly all authors, as well as illustrators, have thus described Orion, and as an armed warrior.​b In the Ἐκάβη we read:

with his glittering sword Orion arm'd;

in Ovid's works, of ensiger Orion; in Lucan's, of ensifer; and Vergil has a fine passage in the Aeneid quaintly translated in 1513 by the "Scottis" Gavin Douglas, where Palinurus

Of every sterne the twynkling notis he

That in the still hevin move cours we se,

Arthurys house, and Hyades betaikning rane,

Watling strete,​c the Horne and the Charlewane,

The fiers Orion with his goldin glave;

 p306  these last a very liberal translation of the much quoted armatumque auro. But later on in the voyage, when the fleet was off Capreae, the old pilot, in his astronomical enthusiasm dum sidera servat, lost his balance, and tumbled overboard.

The constellation's stormy character appeared in early Hindu, and perhaps even in earlier Euphratean days, and is seen everywhere among classical writers with allusions to its direful influence. Vergil termed it aquosus, nimbosus, and saevus; Horace, tristis and nautis infestus, Pliny, horridus sideribus; and the Latin sailors had a favorite saying, Fallit saepissime nautas Orion. Polybios, the Greek historian of the second century before Christ, attributed the loss of the Roman squadron in the first Punic war to its having sailed just after "the rising of Orion"; Hesiod long before wrote of this same rising:

then the winds war aloud,

And veil the ocean with a sable cloud:

Then round the bark, already haul'd on shore,

Lay stones, to fix her when the tempests roar;

and Milton, in Paradise Lost:

when with fierce winds Orion arm'd

Hath vex'd the Red-sea coast, whose waves o'erthrew

Busiris and his Memphian chivalry.

Many classical authors variously alluded to it as a calendar sign, for its morning rising indicated the beginning of summer, when, as we find in the Works and Days, the husbandman was instructed to

Forget not, when Orion first appears,

To make your servants thresh the sacred ears;

his midnight rising marked the season of grape-gathering; and his evening appearance the approach of winter and its attendant storms: an opinion that prevailed as late as the 17th century, for in the Geneva Bible, familiarly known as the Breeches Bible, the marginal reading in the Book of Job, xxxviii.31, is "which starre bringeth in winter." Plautus, Varro, and others called the constellation Jugula and Jugulae, the Joined, referring to the umeri, the two bright stars in the shoulders, as if connected by the jugulum, or collar‑bone. Such, at least, is the generally received derivation, but Buttman claimed it as from jugulare, and hence the Slayer, a fitting title for the Warrior.

The Syrians knew it as Gabbārā;​d the Arabians, as Al Jabbār, both signifying "the Giant," Γίγας with Ptolemy, — and in Latin days occasionally Gigas;  p307 the Arabian word gradually being turned into Algebra, Algebaro, and especially in poetry, Algebar, which Chilmead gave as Algibbar.

In early Arabia Orion was Al Jauzah, a word also used for stars in Gemini, and much, but not satisfactorily, discussed as to its derivation and meaning in its stellar connection. It is often translated Giant, but erroneously, for it, at first, had no personal signification. Originally it was the term used for a black sheep with a white spot in the middle of the body, and thus may have become the designation for the middle figure of the heavens, which from its preëminent brilliancy always has been a centre of attraction. Some think that the Belt stars, δ, ε, ζ, known to the Arabs as the Golden Nuts, first bore the name Jauzah, either from another meaning of that word, — Walnut, — or because they lay in the centre of the splendid quadrangle formed by α, β, γ, and κ; or from their position on the equator, the great central circle; the title subsequently passing to the whole figure. Grotius adopted the first of these derivations, quoting from Festus the passage quasi nux juglans, that a lesser light, Robert Hues, thus enlarged upon:

Now Geuze signifieth a Wall-nut; and perhaps they allude herein to the Latine word Jugula, by which name Festus calleth Orion; because he is greater than any of the other Constellations, as a Wall-nut is bigger then any other kinde of nut.

In mediaeval as well as in later astronomy, the original appears in degenerate forms, such as Elgeuze, Geuze, Jeuze, and the Geuzazguar of Grotius.

Al Sufi's story of the feminine Jauzah has been noticed at the star Canopus and under Canis Minor.

Hyde quoted from an Arabian astronomer, Al Babādur, the Strong One, as a popular term for the constellation. Sugia and Asugia were thought by Scaliger to be corruptions of the Arabs' Al Shujāʽ, the Snake, applied to Orion in the sense of Audax, Bellator and Bellatrix, Fortis and Fortissimus, Furiosus and Sublimatus, and all proper names for it in Bayer's and other early astronomical works, Chilmead translating Asugia as "the Madman." Similar titles at one time obtained for Hydra.

Al Firuzabadi's Al Nusuḳ may be equivalent to the Nasaḳ, a Line, or Row, applied to the Belt stars, but there signifying a String of Pearls.

Niphla, attributed to Chaldaea, has not been confirmed by modern scholars.

In Egypt, as elsewhere, Orion was of course prominent, especially so in the square zodiac of Denderah, as Horuse in a boat surmounted by stars, followed by Sirius, shown as a cow, also in a boat; and nearly three thousand years previously had been sculptured on the walls of the recently discovered step-temple of Saḳḳara, and in the great Ramesseum of Thebes about 3285 B.C. as Sahu. This twice appears in the Book of the Dead:

 p308  The shoulders of the constellation Sahu;


I see the motion of the holy constellation Sahu.

A similar title, but of Akkad origin, appeared for Capricornus. Egyptian mythology laid to rest in this constellation the soul of Osiris, as it did in the star Sirius that of Isis; and, again, in the Book of the Dead we read:

The Osiris N is the constellation Orion;

in this connection, Orion was known as Smati-Osiris, the Barley God.

The Giant generally has been represented with back turned toward us and face in profile, armed with club, or sword, and protected by his shield, or, as Longfellow wrote,

on his arm the lion's hide

Scatters across the midnight air

The golden radiance of its hair.

Dürer drew him facing the Bull, whose attack he is warding off; but the Leyden Manuscript has a lightly clad youth with a short, curved staff in the right hand, and the Hare in the background.

The head is marked by λ, φ1, and φ2, the stars α and γ pointing out the shoulders, β and κ the left foot and right knee. But Sir John Herschel observed from southern latitudes that the inverted view of the constellation well represents a human figure; the stars that we imagine the shoulders appearing for the knees, Rigel forming the head, and Cursa of Eridanus, one of the shoulders.

In astrology the constellation was Hyreides, Bayer's Hyriades, from Ovid's allusion to it as Hyriea proles, thus recalling the fabled origin from the bull's hide still marked out in the sky. This, formerly depicted as a shield of rawhide, is now figured as a lion's skin; and it perhaps was this Hyriean story that gave the stellar Orion the astrological reputation, recorded by Thomas Hood, of being "the verie cutthrote of cattle";​f at all events, it certainly gave rise to the τρίπατρος and Tripater, applied to him

Saturnus has been another title, but its connection here I cannot learn, although I hazard the guess that as this divinity was the sun-god of the Phoenicians, his name might naturally be used for Uruanna-Orion, the sun-god of the Akkadians.

Anterior to much of this, we find in the various versions of the Book of Job and Amos the word Orion for the original Hebrew word Kᵋsīl, literally signifying "Foolish," "Impious," "Inconstant," or "Self-confident."  p309 This perhaps is etymologically connected with Kislev, the name for the ninth month of the Hebrew calendar, the tempestuous November-December. Julius Fürst considered this Kislev an early title for Orion. The epithet "Inconstant" has fancifully been referred to the storms usual at his rising.

The Kᵋsīlīm of Isaiah xiii.10, rendered "constellations" in some versions, is also thought to refer to it and other prominent sky figures; in fact, Cheyne translates the word as "the Orions" in the Polychrome Bible; while Rahab, in the Revised Version of the Book of Job, ix.13, — the "proud helpers" in the Authorized, — is referred by Ewald, Renan, and others to this, — possibly to some other group of stars, — with the same significations as those of Kᵋsīl, or perhaps "Arrogance," "Rebellion," "Strength," or "Violence."

Later on the Jews called Orion Gibbōr, the Giant, considered as Nimrod bound to the sky for rebellion against Jehovah, whence perhaps came the Bands, or Bonds, of Orion, which some say should be Cords, or a Girdle; but the conception of Nimrod as "the mighty Hunter before the Lord," at least in the ordinary sense of that word, is erroneous, for the original, according to universal Eastern tradition, signifies a Lurking Enemy, or a Hunter of men rather than of beasts. This idea may have led to a Latin title, Venator, for the stellar Orion.

But, relative to the renderings of biblical words supposed to refer to sky groups, the Reverend Doctor Adam Clarke wrote in his Commentary

that ᾽Aish has been generally understood to signify the Great Bear; Kesil Orion; and Kimah the Pleiades, may be seen everywhere; but that they do signify these constellations is perfectly uncertain. We have only conjectures concerning their meaning.

.     .     .     .     .     .

As to the Hebrew words, they might as well have been applied to any of the other constellations of heaven; indeed, it does not appear that constellations at all are meant.

The discordance between the various renderings would indicate the probable correctness of these comments, and that we are in no respect assured as to the identification of Bible star‑names. Yet it is worth noting that the three constellations adopted by the translators of Book of Job and of Amos in the Revised Version fitly represent the cardinal points of the sky: the Bear in the north, Orion in the south, and the Pleiades rising and setting in the east and west.

In the Hindu Brahmanas Orion is personified as Praja-pāti,​2 under the form of a stag, Mriga, in pursuit of his own daughter, the beauti­ful roe Rohini, our Aldebaran. In his unnatural chase he was transfixed by the  p310 three-jointed arrow — the Belt stars — shot by the avenging Hunter, Sirius, which even now is seen sticking in his body. This hero was the father of twenty-seven daughters, the wives of King Soma, the Moon, with whom the latter equally divided his time, thus referring to the nakshatras.

The Chinese made up their 4th sieu from the seven conspicuous stars in the shoulders, belt, and knees of Orion, with the title Shen, or Tsan, Three Side by Side, anciently Sal, which may have originated from the Belt having at first alone formed the sieu. Indeed, the lunar asterism was mentioned in the She King as the Three Stars. δ was its determinant; but it overlapped the corresponding nakshatra, although entirely district from the 4th manzil in the feet of the Twins. Orion was worshiped in the China during the thousand years before our ear as Shen, or Shï Ch'en, from the moon station; but it also was known as the White Tiger, a title taken from the adjacent Taurus.

The Khorasmians adopted Orion's stars as a figure of their zodiac in place of Gemini.

The early Irish called it Caomai, the Armed King; the Norsemen, Orwandil; and the Old Saxons, Ebuðrung, or Ebiðring, — words that Grimm thought connected with Iringe, or Iuwaring, of the Milky Way.​g

Caesius cited the singular title Ragulon, perhaps from Al Rijl, the Arabic designation for the star β, but he made this the equivalent of the Latin Vir, the Man par excellence, the Hero; and suggested that Orion represented Jacob wrestling with the angel; or Joshua, the Hebrew warrior; but Julius Schiller, that it was Saint Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin. Weigel figured it as the Roman Two-headed Eagle; and De Rheita, of 1643, found somewhere among its stars Christ's Seamless Coat and a Chalice; but he was addicted to such discoveries.

Argelander has 115 stars here; Heis, 136; and Gould, 186; while the whole is as rich in wonder­ful telescopic objects as it is glorious to the casual observer. Flammarion calls it the California of the sky.

α, Irregularly variable, 0.7, orange.

Betelgeuze is from Ibṭ al Jauzah, the Armpit of the Central One; degenerated into Bed Elgueze, Beit Algueze, Bet El‑geuze, Beteigeuze, etc., down to the present title, which itself also is written Betelgeuse, Betelguese, Betelgueze, Betelgeux, etc. The Alfonsine Tables had Beldengenze, and Riccioli, Bectelgeuze and Bedalgeuze.

The star also was designated by various Arabian authors as Al Manib, the Shoulder; Al Dhirāʽ, the Arm; and Al Yad al Yamnā᾽, the Right Hand,  p311 — all of the Giant; but Chilmead wrote "Ied Algeuze, — that is, Orion's Hand," quoted from Christmannus.

The title Mirzam, from Al Murzim, the Roarer, or perhaps the Announcer, originally used for γ, also is applied to this as heralding the rising of its companions. La Lande, borrowing the full name of that star for this, quoted it as Almerzamo nnagied.

Sayce and Bosanquet identify α with the Euphratean Gula, other stars possibly being included under this title; and Brown says that Kakkab Sar, the Constellation of the king, or Ungal, refers to α with γ and λ. We can see in this signification the origin of the astrologer's idea that Betelgeuze portended fortune, martial honors, wealth, and other kingly attributes.

α alone constituted the 4th nakshatra, Ārdrā, Moist, depicted as a Gem, with Rudra, the storm-god, for its presiding divinity, and so, perhaps the origin of the long established stormy character of Orion. This lunar station, therefore, formed but a part of the 4th sieu, and differed entirely from the 4th manzil. Individually the star was the Sanskrit Bāhu, Arm, probably from the Hindu conception of the whole figure as a running Stag, or Antelope, of which α, β, γ, and κ marked the legs and feet, with α on the left forearm; the adjacent Sirius being the hunter Mrigavyadha.

Brown mentions its equivalent Persian title, Besn, the Arm, and the Coptic Klaria, an Armlet.

Bayer quoted γλήνεα from Aratos, but it is not in original; and Chrysococca had Ὤμος διδύμων, the Shoulder of — i.e. next to — the Twins.

Among the many queerly worded descriptions in the 1515 Almagest, perhaps none in more so than that of this star, reading in part thus: ipsa tendit ad rapinam quae appropinquat ad terram. This tendit ad rapinam, also used for the star Antares, apparently has been an unsolved puzzle; and as I have never seen any explanation, my own suggestion may not be amiss. The 1515 Almagest followed Ulug Beg's Tables, and these followed Ptolemy, who characterized the color of α as ὑπόκιρρος, which Ulug Beg's translation turned into rubedinem, "ruddiness," and the Almagest into the not very different word of the quotation, expressing ideas of war and carnage, astrology's attributes of red stars. The appropinquat ad terram doubtless refers to the comparatively elevation of the star above the horizon.​g

Professor Young says that at times, when near a minimum, it closely matches Aldebaran in color and brightness, and Lassell described it as a rich topaz. Secchi makes it the typical star of his third class with a banded spectrum, suggesting that it may be approaching the point of extinction. Elkin finds its parallax insensible; according to Vogel, it is receding from the earth at the rate of 10½ miles a second.

 p312  It was first seen to be variable by Sir John Herschel in 1836, from which time till 1840 "its variations were most marked and striking." A similar period began in 1849, and on the 5th of December, 1852, "it was actually the largest star in the northern hemisphere." It was especially brilliant in 1894. Argelander found a period of 196 days, but Schoenfeld thought periodicity questionable.

Its position is less than 3° west of the solstitial colure; it rises at sunset on the 30th of December, and culminates on the 29th of January. It has an 8th‑magnitude companion 20′ away, first observed by Wilhelm Struve as double, 18″.5 apart, and the great glasses of the present day reveal other members in combination still nearer and smaller than the original companion; while Barnard has discovered about it large and diffused nebulosity.

β, Double, 0.3 and 8, both bluish white.

Algebar and Elgebar are seen in poetry for the star, but it universally is known as Rigel, from Rijl Jauzah al Yusrāʽ, the Left Leg of the Jauzah, by which extended title the Arabians knew it after the word Jauzah had become a personal title; the modern name first appearing in the Alfonsine Tables of 1521. These say of it, in connection with Eridanus:

Lucida que est in pede sinistro: et est communis ei et aquae: et dicitur Algebar nominatur etiam Rigel.

Riccioli had Regel; Schikard, Riglon; and Chilmead, Rigel Algeuze, or Algibbar.

Al Sufi gave the earlier popular name Rāʽi al Jauzah, the Herdsman of the Jauzah, whose camels were the stars α, γ, δ and κ; and Al Najīd, the Conqueror, which also was given to α and γ.

Chrysococca termed it Πούς δίδυμων, the Foot of — i.e. next to — the Twins; and Bayer, the Hebrew Kesil, of the constellation.

Smyth wrote that

independent of the "nautis infestus Orion" character of the constellation, Rigel had one of his own; for it was to the astronomical rising of this "marinus aster," in March, that St. Marinus and St. Aster owe their births in the Romish calendar.

He gave, however, no explanation of this, and these saints certainly are not familiar in any stellar connection. Possibly its "marine" character came from its location at the end of the River, and from its being given in the various editions of the Syntaxis and in the Alfonsine Tables as common  p313 to both constellations; although the supposed stormy character of the whole group in affecting navigation may have induced the epithet for Orion's greatest star.

Astrologers said that splendor and honors fell to the lot of those who were born under it.

In the Norsemen's astronomy Rigel marked one of the great toes of Orwandil, the other toe having been broken off by the god Thor when frost-bitten, and thrown to the northern sky, where it became the little Alcor of the Greater Bear.

Although lettered below Betelgeuze, it is usually superior to it in brightness, being estimated in the Harvard Photometry as exactly equal to Arcturus, Capella, and Wega. Its spectrum is like that of Sirius, and it is receding from our system about 10¼ miles a second.

The smaller star, at a position angle of 200°, is 9″.1 away, but not easily seen owing to the brightness of the principal. It is strongly suspected that this smaller star itself is closely double.

Another minute companion is 44″.5 away.

γ, Slightly variable, 2, pale yellow.

Bellatrix, the Female Warrior, the Amazon Star, is from the translation, rather freely made in the Alfonsine Tables, of its Arabic title, Al Najīd, the Conqueror. Kazwini had this last, but Ulug Beg said Al Murzim al Najīd, the Roaring Conqueror, or, according to Hyde, the Conquering Lion heralding his presence by his roar, as if this star were announcing the immediate rising of the still more brilliant Rigel, or of the whole constellation. This Murzim occasionally appears in our day as Mirzam, which is also applied to both of the stars β in the two Dogs as heralds of Sirius and Procyon.

Al Sufi had Al Ruzam, which Hyde said was another of the very many Arabic words for the lion, but Beigel thought it also a reference to the camel, another roarer. Still it is well to remember in this connection Ideler's remark that "etymology has full play with a word which has not traveled beyond astronomical language," — a statement equally applicable to very many other star‑names.

Caesius cited Algauza from the name for the whole.

γ marks the left shoulder of Orion, and naturally shared the Arabs' Mankib, and the Hindus' Bahū, titles of the star α on the right shoulder of Orion and forearm of the Stag.

In Amazon River myth Bellatrix is a Young Boy in a Canoe with an old  p314 man, the star Betelgeuze, chasing the Peixie Boi, a dark spot in the sky near Orion.

In astrology it was the natal star of all destined to great civil or military honors, and rendered all women born under its influence lucky and loquacious; or, as old Thomas Hood said, "women born under this constellation shall have mighty tongues."

Its spectrum is Sirian in character, and indicates that it is receding from our system at the rate of about 5¾ miles a second.

δ, Double and slightly variable, 2.4 and 6.8, brilliant white and pale violet.

Mintaka, from Al Minṭakah, the Belt, is the first star seen in that portion of the rising constellation. Burritt has it Mintika.

Astrologers considered it of importance as portending good fortune.

It is about 23′ of arc south of the celestial equator, the components 53″ apart, at a position angle of 0°. The spectrum is Sirian, and the star seems to have very little motion either of approach or recession.

Burnham has discovered still another companion of the 13th to 14th magnitudes, one of the faintest ever seen near a brilliant star.

ε, 1.8, bright white.

Alnilam, Anilam, Ainilam, and Alnihan are from Al Niṭhām, or Al Naṭhm, the String of Pearls, or as Recorde said, the Bullions set in the middle of Orion's Belt.

It portended fleeting public honors to those born under its influence.

The spectrum is Sirian, and the star recedes from us at the rate of about 16½ miles a second.

It is the central one of the Belt, culminating on the 25th of January.

ζ, Triple, 2.5, 6.5, and 9, topaz yellow, light purple, and gray.

Alnitak, or Alnitah, for this, the lowest star in the Belt, is from Al Niṭāk, the Girdle.

The spectrum is Sirian, and the star recedes from us about nine miles a second.

One of its components, 2″.4 distant from the largest, at a position angle of 155°, was singularly missed by Sir William Herschel, but discovered by Kunowski in 1819, and seems of some nondescript hue about which observers  p315 do not agree. The elder Struve called it, in one specially manufactured word, olivaceasubrubicunda, "slightly reddish olive."

Orion's studded belt.

Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel.

These Arabian titles of δ, ε, and ζ, although now applied to them individually, were at first indiscriminately used for the three together; but they had other names also, — Al Nijād, the Belt; Al Nasaḳ, the Line; Al Alḳāṭ, the Golden Grains, Nuts, or Spangles; and Faḳār al Jauzah, the Vertebrae in the Jauzah's back. Niebuhr cited the modern Arabic Al Mīzān al Ḥaḳḳ,º the Accurate Scale-beam, so distinguishing them from the curved line of the fainter c, θ, ι, d, and κ, Al Mīzān al Baṭīl, the False Scale-beam. The Chinese similarly knew them as a Weighing-beam, with the stars of the sword as a weight at one end.

They were the Jugula and Jugulae of Plautus, Varro, and others in Roman literature; the Balteus, or Belt, and the Vagina, or Scabbard, of Germanicus. The Zona of Ovid may have been taken from the Ζώνη of Aristotle.

The early Hindus called them Iṣus Trikāṇḍā, the Three-jointed Arrow; but the later transferred it to the nakshatra title, Mrigaçiras.

The Sogdian Rashnawand and the Khorasmian Khawiya have significations akin to our word "Rectitude," which this straight line of stars personified. The Rabbi Isaac Israel said that it was the Mazzārōth, Mazzālōth, or Mazlātha that most of his nation applied to the zodiac.

Riccioli cited Baculus Jacobi, which became in popular English speech Jacob's Rod or Staff, — the German Jakob Stab, — from the tradition given by Eusebius that Israel was an astrologer, as, indeed, he doubtless was; and some had it Peter's Staff. Similarly, it with the Norse Fiskikallar, or Staff; the Scandinavian Frigge Rok, Frigg's, or Freya's Distaff, — in West Gothland Frigge Rakken, — and Maria Rok, Mary's Distaff; in Schleswig, Peri-pik. In Lapland it was altered to Kalevan Miekka, Kaleva's Sword, or still more changed to Niallar, a Tavern; while the Greenlanders had a very different figure here, — Siktut, the Seal‑hunters, bewildered when lost at sea, and transferred together to the sky.

The native Australians knew the stars as Young Men dancing a corroboree, the Pleiades being the Maidens playing for them; and the Poignave Indians of the Orinoco, according to Von Humboldt, as Fuebot, a word that he said resembled the Phoenician.

The University of Leipsic, in 1807, gave to the Belt and the stars in the Sword the new title Napoleon, which a retaliating Englishman offset by Nelson; but neither of these has been recognized on star‑maps or -globes.

 p316  Seamen have called it the Golden Yard-arm; tradesmen, the L, or Ell, the Ell and Yard, the Yard-stick, and the Yard-wand, as occupying 3° between the outer stars, — the Elwand of Gavin Douglas; Catholics, Our Lady's Wand; and the husbandmen of France and along the Rhine, Râteau, the Rake. In upper Germany it has been the Three Mowers; and it is often the Magi, the Three Kings, the Three Marys, or simply the Three Stars, that Tennyson had in his Princess, —

those three stars of the airy Giants' zone

That glitter burnished by the frosty dark.

The celestial equator now passes through the Belt, but was 12° below it 4000 years ago.

η, Triple, 3.5, 5, and 5,

occasionally and very appropriately has been designed Saiph, from Saif al Jabbār, the Sword of the Giant; but this title included other adjacent stars in the same line oversight, — the Ensis of Cicero, — and all supposed to have been a separate constellation with Pliny.

Al Sufi called them Al Alḳāṭ, which we have seen applied to the Belt; and Burritt, the Ell, because this line of stars "is once and a quarter the length of the yard."

θ1, 4.6, pale white,

although not individually named, marks the Fish-mouth of the Great Nebula, NGC 1976, 42 M., in the sword scabbard of the figure, with the celebrated Trapezium in its midst. De Quincey gave a characteristic description of it in one of his Essays in Philosophy.

This nebula, faintly visible to the naked eye, was not even mentioned by Galileo, and is generally thought to have been accidentally discovered by Christian Huygens in 1656, and described in his Systema Saturnium half a century after Galileo's adaptation of the principle of the telescope to astronomical use; but Cysatus of Lucerne had already known it in 1618, This was the first​3 object to which Sir William directed, on the 4th of March, 1774, the first serviceable telescope of his own construction after two hundred failures; and the first nebula to be successfully photographed, as it was by Professor Henry Draper, at Hastings-upon‑Hudson, on the 30th of September, 1880.

 p317  Its spectrum is purely gaseous, and spectroscopic investigations by Sir William and Lady Huggins seem to show "a unity of composition of the [trapezium] stars and nebulae which surround them and link them together." Keeler finds from spectroscopic observations that it and our system are separating at the rate of ten miles a second. Holden thinks it of fluctuating brightness.

The nebula proper covers a space equal to the apparent size of the moon, but nebulosity extends over a very much larger area, for recent observations by Swift, by William H. Pickering in 1889 from Wilson's Peak, reveal nebulous matter, 14° or 15° in diameter, that includes the Belt and much of the body of Orion. Barnard says of it: "Compared with this enormous nebula, the old θ, or so‑called Great Nebula, is but a pigmy." A million of globes, each equal in diameter to that of the earth's orbit, would not equal this in extent. One of the Harvard photographs of 1889 showed a certain amount of spiral structure in the Great Nebula.

The adjacent nebula, NGC 1982, catalogued separately by Messier as 43, is shown on a photograph of the 30th of November, 1886, by Roberts, to be connected with it by threads of nebulosity.

At least six stars are found in the Trapezium, the four largest being of the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th magnitudes, easily visible in a 2¼-inch glass with a power of 140. They may form a system. Huygens noted the triplicity of θ1 when he discovered the nebula; the 4th component was first seen in 1684; the 5th was "discovered by Robert Hooke in 1664, but forgotten and rediscovered by Struve in 1826"; and the 6th was first seen by Sir John Herschel, on the 13th of February, 1830. More are claimed by some recent observers, but Burnham disputes their existence.

In 3.36 square degrees of the θ1 nebula Bond catalogued nearly 1000 stars.

ι, Triple and nebulous, 3.5, 8.5, and 11, white, pale blue, and grape red.

Al Tizini designated this as Nā'ir al Saif, the Bright One in the Sword, but it is practically unnamed with us, although far more deserving of the title Saiphº than is the succeeding star κ.

In China it was Fa, a Middle-man, υ and intermediate stars being included under this name; but Edkins translates the word "Punishment," and gives another title for it, — Tui, or Jui, the Sharp Edge, analogous to the Arabian Saif and perhaps taken from it.

 p318  It lies just south of θ, inclosed in faint nebulosity. The two larger stars are 11″.5 apart, with a position angle of 142° the 11th‑magnitude companion is 49″ away, at a position angle of 103°.

κ, 2.4,

located near the right knee, was appropriately described by the Arabic astronomers as Rijl Jauzah al Yamnā, the Right Leg of the Jauzah, but we now know it as Saiph, from Al Saif, the Sword, although it is at some distance from that weapon, and the name really belongs to η, ι, and stars near by.

In his vast Head immerst in boundless spheres

Three Stars less bright, but yet as great, he bears.

But further off remov'd, their Splendor's lost.

Creech's Manilius.

λ, Double, 3.8 and 6, pale white and violet.

Al Maisān, the title of γ Geminorum, by some error of Firuzabadi was applied to this star as Meissa, and is now common for it. Al Sufi called it Al Taḥāyī; but Al Ferghani and Al Tizini knew it as Rās al Jauzah, the Head of the Jauzah, which it marks.

The original Arabic name, Al Haḳʽah, a White Spot, was from the added faint light of the smaller φ1 and φ2 in the background, and has descended to us as Heka and Hika. These three stars were another of the Athāfiyy of the Arabs; and everywhere in early astrology were thought, like all similar groups, to be of unfortunate influence in human affairs.

They constituted the Euphratean lunar station Mas-tab-ba-tur-tur, the Little Twins, a title also found for γ and η Geminorum; and inactively were important stars among the Babylonians, rising to them with the sun at the summer solstice, and, with α and γ, were known as Kakkab Sar, the Constellation of the King. In other lunar zodiacs they were the Sogdian Marezānā, and the Khorasmian Ikhma, the Twins; the Persian Aveçr, the Coronet; and the Coptic Klusos, Watery. They also were the 3rd manzil, Al Haḳʽah the sieu Tsee, or Tsuy He, the Beak, or Pouting Lips, anciently Tsok, which Reeves gave as Keo; and the nakshatra Mrigaçiras, or Mrigaçirshā, the Head of the Stag, — Soma, the Moon, being its presiding divinity, and λ the junction star toward Ārdrā, and its determinant. As to this lunar station Professor Whitney very reasonably wrote:

It is not a little strange that the framers of the system should have chosen for marking the 3d station this faint group, to the neglect of the brilliant and conspicuous pair β and  p319 ζ Tauri, the tips of the Bull's horns. There is hardly another case where we have so much reason to find fault with their selection.

But they were possibly influenced by recollection of the fact that the vernal equinox lay here 4500 B.C. In addition to the customary Hindu title, Weber mentioned Andhakā, Blind, apparently from its dimness; Āryikā, Honorable, or Worthy; and Invakā, of doubtful meaning, sometimes read Invalā.

In China these stars were Sï ma ts'ien, the Head of the Tiger.

Ulug Beg, as well as Naṣr al Din, likened the group to the letter of the Persian alphabet that was similar in form to the Greek Λ. La Lande wrote of them:

qui ressemblent à un jeu de trois noix, ce qui a fait appellerº cette constellation Nux, ou Juglans, Stella jugula.

Hipparchos did not allude to them, but Ptolemy called them ὁ νεφελοειδής, the Nebulous One, for such is their appearance to the casual observer, and has been their designation in all early catalogues, even to Flamsteed's in his in capite Orionis nebulosa.

Although called double, λ has a second faint companion 149″ above it, visible by a 3½-glass; and another, of the 12th magnitude, 27″ distant. The two largest stars are 4″.2 apart, at a position angle of 40°.3.

λ and the two stars φ furnish an easy refutation of the popular error as of that apparent magnitude of the moon's disc, Colas writing of this in the Celestial Handbook of 1892:

In looking at this triangle nobody would think that the moon could be inserted in it; but as the distance from λ to φ1 is 27′, and the distance from φ1 to φ2 is 33′, it is a positive fact;

the moon's mean apparent diameter being 31′7″. This illusion, prevalent in all ages, has attracted the attention of many great men; Ptolemy, Roger Bacon, Kepler, and others having treated of it. The lunar disc, seen by the naked eye of an uninstructed observer, appears, as it is frequently expressed, "about the size of a dinner-plate," but should be seen as only equal to a peppercorn, or as a circle a half-inch in diameter fifty-seven inches away; or, to write it astronomically, equal to the planet Jupiter viewed at opposition through a telescope magnifying forty diameters; or equal to Mars magnified seventy-four times when at his nearest approach to the earth and distant thirty-four millions of miles. To still better illustrate this, Professor Young tells us that the planet Venus,

when about midway between greatest elongation and inferior conjunction, has an apparent diameter of 40″, so that, with a magnifying power of only 45, she looks exactly like the moon four days old, and of precisely the same apparent size.

 p320  ν, 4.7, and ξ, 4.6,

were the Chinese Shwuy Foo, a Water-depot.

They mark Orion's right hand, any being the radiant point of the fine meteor stream, the Orionids, of the 18th of October.

ο1, ο2, π1, π2, π3, π4, π5, π6, and g,

all of the 4th to the 5th magnitudes, in a vertical line at the right of the figure, indicate the lion's skin; but Al Tizini said that they were the Persians' Al Tāj, the Crown, or Tiara, of their kings; and the Arabians' Al Kumm, the Sleeve of the garment in which they dressed the Giant, the skin being omitted.

Ulug Beg called them Al Dhawāib, Anything Pendent; and the Borgian globe had the same, perhaps originated it; but Al Sufi's title was Manica, a Latin term for a protecting Gauntlet; and Grotius gave a lengthy dissertation on the Mantile which some anonymous person applied to them, figured as a cloth thrown over the Giant's arm.

With Pliny these stars in the lion's skin are supposed to have been a separate constellation known as the Shield, made from the bull's hide of the Hyriean legend.

They were the Chinese Tsan Ke, the Three Flags.

τ, 3.6, lies just north of Rigel, and was known in China as Yuh Tsing, the Golden Well.

υ, 4.7.

Thabit is Burritt's name for an unlettered star on his Atlas, the υ of Heis.

It lies on the lower edge of the tunic, but I cannot learn the derivation or history of the title, although the Arabic Al Thābit signifies the "Endurer."

The Author's Notes:

1 This divinity was the later Chaldaeo-Assyrian sun-god Dumu‑zi, the Son of Life, or Tammuz, widely known in classical times as Adonis. Aries also represented him in the sky.

2 He was also, and differently, represented in the sky by Hindu astronomers as an immense figure stretching from Boötes through Virgo, Corvus, and Libra into Scorpio.

3 Similarly, too, it was the last object viewed by Sir William through his forty-foot reflector, on the 19th of January, 1811, when the great glass was laid aside forever.

Thayer's Notes:

a No form of Argion is to be found in the Mathesis.

b An exception is Diodorus (IV.85), for whom — or rather, for whose sources — Orion though a giant was not a warrior, but "a lover of the chase and the builder of mighty works", who altered the topography of the Strait of Messina that cleaves Sicily off from mainland Italy.

c Watling Street is a very old name for several Roman roads in England, and in particular the largest of them, from Dover to Wroxeter (for which, in exhaustive detail, see Chapters 2 and 3 of Codrington's Roman Roads); here the name serves to designate the Milky Way.

d The Armenians have long known Orion as Haik, yet another Giant; for further details, see Kurkjian, pp50‑51.

e Plutarch (Is. et Or. 21) understands the Egyptians as believing that Orion is "the soul of Horus".

f For a somewhat more balanced astrological view of Orion, see Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 1.9.

g See Allen's alternate explanation, in connection with Antares, s.v. Scorpio.

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