Allerlei - Classical Constellations: Pisces to Serpens

Previous: Lupus to Perseus
Next: Taurus to Virgo


Pisces

Pisces, the Fishes, is usually shown as two fish connected by a cord. A Greek myth tells how one day the goddess Aphrodite and her son Eros were walking along a river bank. Suddenly the fire-breathing giant Typhon appeared. To make their escape Aphrodite and Eros jumped into the river. They turned into fish and swam safely away.

Sagitta

Sagitta, the Arrow, is a tiny constellation but once you find it you will not forget its shape.

Sagitta has been variously said to represent a number of different arrows found in old stories. One myth popular among the ancients was that it was the arrow shot by Hercules at the Stymphalian Birds. Another story is that this arrow was used by Apollo to slay a monster called the Cyclops.

Scorpius

Scorpius, the Scorpion, looks a lot like its namesake. It has many bright stars including a brilliant red star called Antares.

In a Greek legend the hunter Orion boasted that he could kill any animal on the earth. To stop his boasting the goddess Hera sent a tiny scorpion to punish Orion. The scorpion stung Orion and killed him. Hera honored the scorpion by placing it in the stars.

Polynesians saw the Fishhook of Maui in the stars that make up the tail of the Scorpion. Maui was very strong and he liked to play tricks on his older brothers. One time Maui stole their fishhook but then he accidentally dropped it into the sea and lost it. He dove into the water and found the fishhook stuck to the bottom of the ocean. Maui pulled and pulled on the fishhook but it would not budge. Finally Maui gathered up all of his strength and with one mighty pull he freed the fishhook. When he reached the surface he found that the fishhook was attached to a great big fish! The fish was covered with plants and there were even people living on it. What Maui had done was to pull up the island that we now call New Zealand! Maui was so happy that he danced and twirled and threw the fishhook into the sky where it can still be seen to this very day.

There is much folklore concerning scorpions. In one story it is said that if a scorpion is trapped by fire it will sting itself to death rather than be burned or caught. An old Greek story says that scorpions are afraid of sunflowers and that they will not enter any place that is surrounded by them.

Piscis Austrinus

Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish, contains only one bright star - Fomalhaut. There are not very many stories about the Southern Fish.

Sagittarius

Sagittarius, the Archer, is a bow yielding centaur.

Centaurs were mythological creatures who were half human and half horse. The story of the centaurs begins with Greek king named Ixion. When Ixion married he promised to give his wife's father many expensive gifts. But Ixion broke his promise and instead killed his father-in-law. The gods punished Ixion by bringing a terrible famine upon his kingdom. Ixion asked the gods for forgiveness and so Zeus, the king of the gods, pardoned him. Zeus invited Ixion to a banquet but while he was there Ixion fell in love with Hera, Zeus' wife. In order to protect his wife Zeus took a cloud and fashioned it to look just like Hera. It totally fooled Ixion and together Ixion and the cloud had a baby. That baby was the first centaur.

The centaurs were a rowdy race and were known as trouble makers. That is the type of centaur that Sagittarius represents. Of course there were also nice centaurs and that creature is represented in the sky by the constellation Centaurus.

Serpens

Serpens, the Serpent, has always been associated with the constellation Ophiuchus. In fact sometimes they were considered to be a single constellation. Ophiuchus honors Asclepius, a physician in Greek myth. Asclepius is usually pictured struggling with the Serpent, perhaps to represent his fight to conquer death.


Previous: Lupus to Perseus
Next: Taurus to Virgo