- Education and Science»
- Astronomy & Space Exploration
The Story of The Seven Sisters
The myth and the truth known as The Seven Sisters
The Story of the Seven Sisters
There are several versions of the same myth. Depending on the research and your own personal preference the information actually remains pretty much the same. In a nutshell, the seven sisters were mortals whose parents were immortal...never a happy mix...and while they had their individual problems apparently one day they were out in the forest with their friend, Artemis, when along comes THE MIGHTY HUNTER! ORION! So here goes Orion, trying a few one line openers without success. Well really, what was Orion thinking? Artemis and all seven sisters were virgins and they were soooo NOT into boys! Their cold shoulder rebuke of his sexy self humiliated and bruised his giant ego so much that Orion just started to chase them through the forest.
What a jerk Orion was, as is, still, many of the other sex. This made Artemis so mad she decided she had to call in a favor from Zeus. Whatever made her think that was going to work out? The infamous saying "Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it" is a very old saying for a reason! Zeus helped the seven sisters all right...he turned them all into doves so they could fly away! Oh thanks a lot Great Zeus!
The seven doves flew so far into the heavens they became the stars known as the Pleiades. Poor Artemis was so upset to lose her friends that she put a bug in her brothers’ ear (that would be Apollo) to kill Orion by setting a trap for him with a monster Scorpion. That worked all right; Orion was killed, but here comes ole Zeus again and he puts Orion in the heavens right behind the Pleiades! So, the seven sisters are still being harassed by the mighty hunter, Orion. Zeus, ever the comedian, has the constellation Scorpio placed behind Orion so he is still being harassed by the Thing that was the cause of his death! Orion is so egotistical he thinks this is a GOOD DEATH!
And through it all who do you think is laughing the hardest? You got that right, ole Zeus sits back and belly laughs so hard it causes landslides and Tsunamis all around the Mediterranean!
To give Zeus a little credit, since Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, she is allowed to visit her friends, the seven sisters, whenever the moon passes close to the Pleiades. Thank the gods for small favors, eh?
What were their names?
The seven sisters, daughters of Atlas and Pleione, were as follows and also where the myths begin to fold upon themselves;
Celæno means swarthy and of all the sisters she seems to have led a rather dull life or was exceptionally good at escaping the paparazzi as there is no information except that she had two children, both sons, by Prometheus. Her sons were named Lycus (wolf) and Chimærus (he-goat)
Electra, means amber, shinging or bright. Electra of course, well known for her adventures after her father, Agamemnon returned from the fall of troy and found his wife, Electra's mother, in bed with another man! Electra's mother and lover killed Agamemnon then Electra sought revenge for her father by killing her own mother. Sweet daughter's love?
Taygeta means long-necked. Apparently Zeus wanted Taygeta, she resisted, Zeus had his way anyway and Taygeta gave birth to Lacedæmon, founder of Sparta. This made Taygeta an important goddess but she suffered from post partum depression and hanged herself! Now, I ask you, if so then how could she have been in the forest with her other sisters and Artemis when Orion came through? Or is Taygeta then the one sister that cannot be easily seen?
Maia means grandmother, mother or nurse. Maia was the oldest of the seven sisters and she was also involved intimately with Zeus! No wonder Zeus solved Artemis problem the way he did! He wanted all seven sisters for himself! Maia, seduced by Zeus gave birth to Hermes, messenger of the gods.
Merope means eloquent, bee-eater and mortal. Merope married Sisyphus. Sisyphus made it known that Zeus raped Ægina. For his punishment Zeus has Sisyphus roll a boulder up a hill in Hades that never stays at the top of the hill, making Sisyphus redo his punishment for all eternity.
Asterope, means lightning, twinkling, sun-faced or stubborn-face. Another sister not intimately involved with Zeus, Asterope was seduced by the Sea King, Poseidon. Asterope gave birth to Oenomaus, king of Pisa.
Alcyone (or Halcyone) means queen who wards off evil storms. Alcyone was also seduced by Poseidon and gave birth to Hyrieus (also the name of Orion's father, but not the same Hyrieus) or Anthas, founder of Anthæa, Hyperea, and Halicarnassus
The truth about the constellation, Pleiades or Messier 45:
The star cluster known as the seven sisters is visible to us in the Northern Hemisphere in late fall and throughout the winter months. It is one of the closest star clusters to earth. That must be why there are so many different "origin" stories, legends, myths about this constellation. It has always been very visible in the night sky regardless of where you were on the earths surface. In the Southern Hemisphere the Pleiades is visible during late spring and all summer. It was formed just one hundred million years ago, just a baby compared to our sun, who is way past its fifth billionth birthday! Although the Pleiades resembles a tiny dipper it is not part of either Ursa Major or Ursa Minor, rather a cluster of stars all of its own. It was the forty-fifth image cataloged by the 19th century, astronomer Charles Messier, hence the name Messier 45.
The NASA web site is my favorite spot to start looking for any information related to the night sky. There are beautiful pictures as well as information on when and where to search the heavens for the Pleiades. The web site for NASA is:
Another wonderful site for information about the constellation and star cluster itself is the Gibson website http://www.naic.edu/~gibson/pleiades/ where I found that the Pleiades are part of the Taurus constellation. And to go even further with site hopping for my research I found another website with an even larger set of pictures; the Astronomy resources website found here: http://www.stsci.edu/resources/
Even with all the truth the legend or myth is still larger than life. The Pleiades is covered in folklore in every culture and there are different stories for each culture. If you want to find other stories about the same group of stars check out these websites:
As you can see, the search for answers, which is what research is after all, will take you far away from your original subject matter. And that is the worth of research, that it feeds your curiosity and rewards you with every bit of new knowledge. I could have chosen any of the many legends concerning the Pleiades; I stayed with the Greek retelling because it is my personal favorite. The point of following one specific path for research is to help you stay focused. When you research a subject the path will lead you down many tangles and brambles that do not scratch but rather entice you to keep moving, keep looking, and keep learning.
Why this hubpage?
This hubpage came about because of the new quilt blck I am (ha) TRYING to learn. It is the Seven Sisters Quilt Block. And while I finally have my first of seven blocks completed, the making of the block led me down the path to see what I could find about the origin of the seven sisters itself. That gave me so much information I felt it deserved its own hubpage. I hope you have enjoyed this retelling as much as I have enjoyed the research journey itself!