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Scorpio Mythology

In Greek mythology, the constellation Scorpius was identified with the scorpion that killed Orion, the mythical hunter. The two constellations lie opposite each other in the sky, and Orion is said to be fleeing from the scorpion as it sets just as Scorpius rises.

Orion was a giant hunter, some say the son of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon. He was considered a great hero, but he had a way of annoying the gods that both became his undoing and created the constellation Scorpio.

Old woodcarving of Scorpio - a scorpion

The primary story goes that Orion was the lover of Eos, the goddess of the dawn, and bragged about his conquests with her. This, of course, made her angry. Then Orion bragged about how he was such a great hunter that we was going to kill every creature on earth.

Normally in Greek myths this is the point where Artemis, the Greek hunting goddess, would take offense to anyone claiming superiority in hunting skills, and cut them down to size. The only thing was that Artemis had a big-time crush on Orion and actually found him charming. Her brother, Apollo, the sun god, did not find this claim quite so amusing, as he was also the god of the animal herds. Neither did Gaia, Greek mythology’s great earth goddess, for obvious reasons.

So Apollo and Gaia talked and decided that it was time for Orion to go, so Gaia created a giant scorpion to hunt the hunter. This is where Scorpio mythology essentially begins and ends. Orion pretty much knew he was screwed, so he ran, and Scorpio chased him.

Depending on which myth you want to go with, either Scorpio killed Orion, or Artemis accidentally shot Orion in the head thinking she was shooting Scorpio. Either way, Orion died.

The leader of the gods, Zeus, once again inserting himself at the tail end of a myth, had been watching the whole thing and put both Orion and Scorpio in the sky as constellations, but placing them 180 degrees apart so that they wouldn’t keep fighting in the heavens.

This doesn’t give us that great of a look at Scorpio himself. This myth pretty much is all about Orion, and Scorpio gets to be a bit player in his own mythology. Not exactly a tale befitting a major zodiac symbol.

Interestingly, the Scorpio zodiac symbol is often depicted in several different forms, including the shape of an eagle and a serpent, as well as a scorpion.

In ancient Greek times, the constellation Scorpius was significantly larger and comprised of two halves, one with the scorpion’s body and the sting, and one containing the claws. The latter was called Chelae, or “claws.” In the first century BC, the Romans turned the claws into a separate constellation, Libra, the Scales.

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