Legends About the Stars
For thousands of years, stars have been the muse of many a storyteller. If you will allow them to, stars, like a book, can tell you a tale, even today! Legends abound in the sky. In the past, everything celestial was a fascination to cultures who couldn't fathom what the cosmos held.
In Homers' Iliad, Achilles' shield was crafted by the god Hephaestus. On Achilles' shield were images of all celestial bodies. The earth, the sky, the stars, the weariless sun and the moon and many constellations. They were there for his protection. In Homer's time, many thousands of years ago, most stars were not associated with myths, but were themselves, divine.
The Indians have more legends about stars than could be written in one article. The Big Dipper and Little Dipper appeared in more than one Indian myth. A Navajo myth makes Ursa Major into the Great Bear. According to Lakota legend, the bottom half of Orion is the great arm of the Lakota chief.
The Mayans believed that the Milky Way was a crystal road that souls used to walk into the Underworld. The Mayans, in particular, understood that stars were also maps and a way to determine when to plant and when to harvest. One of the most interesting facts about the Mayans is they actually tracked their creation stories in relation to the movement of the stars. This is not terribly different than cosmologists and astrophysicists of today.
Even Australia's Aborigines have tales and legends about the stars. They have an old legend about an Aboriginal King who in his quest became lost and became a falling star. Another Aboriginal tribe believes that the falling stars are lost souls trying to return to earth.
In past and present cultures, people the world over have tried to explain their surroundings and things they don't understand, by creating myths and legends. Some so spectacular and awe inspiring they are still passed down today.
Some of the most popular and widely known come from Greek mythology. From Zeus and Pegasus to Andromeda and Cassiopeia, the Greeks and Romans have legends for almost every star pattern in the sky. Some of the most popular and even followed today, is, of course, the Zodiac. Because the Greek calendar began with Aries, we will start there as well.
Each of the Greek Zodiac signs are based on animals, their characteristics and their position and placement of each constellation in the sky. It is amazing that they had this kind of knowledge, considering the equipment they worked with. The depth of the imagination of these cultures must have been truly extraordinary!
For as long as people have been on the planet, stars have held a real fascination for them. And every time a little child makes a wish on a falling star, that fascination continues. Perhaps we will never understand the magic of these celestial bodies, but it is great fun trying!