Lesson #70: Orion

Orion is one of about four constellations I can find and name. Astronomy? Not my strong suit. I like the science of space, but don’t necessarily care about the constant of it. It just sort of is.

In the literary tradition, however, Orion is a Greek legend and his existence as a constellation predates the oldest Greek piece of literature (Homer’s Iliad* where he is mentioned as a constellation…he is met in The Odyssey as a hunter in the underworld). In the mythology, Orion is the son of Poseidon and Euryale (one of the gorgons) and is said to be a great hunter. All that aside, he’s not exactly the most upstanding character. In his early days, impatient at the slow pace of wedding arrangements to Merope, Orion raped her and, as a result, was separated from his eyes by the king, Oenopion. Later, he ran into Hephaestus who gave him a boy as a guide and when Orion faced the east as the sun rose, his sight was restored. The angry Orion then went in search of Oenopion, in order to kill him, but Hephaestus had foreseen that point and stashed Oenopion away. Instead, Orion decided to hang out and be Eos’ sex slave for a while. There’s no explanation for why the two were parted, but they were and Orion went on to become a follower of Artemis, who ended up killing him in the end. Stories vary as to why or how, but all of them attribute his death to Artemis whether by Apollo’s deceit (which leads to her shooting him in the head with an arrow) or as a punishment (in which he is poisoned by a scorpion in retribution for his bloodlust towards the animals of earth).**

*I promise this wasn’t mentioned by design — I truly didn’t know that — but secretly I’m hoping that if I mention it often enough, you’ll go read it. Because it’s awesome.

**More can be read here and here.

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