Orion the hunter

Among many ancient groups throughout the world the constellation was depicted as a mighty hunter carrying a club, shield and sword in his belt. 'Orion the Hunter is arguably the most recognizable constellation worldwide, with portions of it visible all across the globe. It is a most conspicuous constellation, ranking 9th in overall brightness and it is the 26th largest in size out of the 88 constellations (covering 594.12 square degrees). It contains many bright stars with Rigel (beta Orionis) and Betelgeuse (alpha Orionis) shining as its two brightest stars. According to the 'Hipparcos' satellite data, Rigel is located approximately 773 light years away and Betelgeuse is located 427 L.Y. away. Within the constellation there are many asterisms and to people in Australia one of the most well known is probably the 'Saucepan'. The 'Saucepan' is positioned in the central part of the constellation, and is marked by the stars Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota. Where in Australia we call this shape the 'saucepan', in New Zealand they call this shape 'the Pot'. 


The Vultures 

The constellation that we now know as "Orion the hunter" has a different significance to the Chimu Indians of Peru. If we venture to the centre belt star of the hunter known to us as 'Alnilam' (epsilon). The Chimu saw this star as a thief. On each side of this star we have two other stars which we now call Mintaka (Delta) and Alnitak (Zeta) which the Chimu called "Pata," which means to hold or restrain. Their moon goddess was extremely angry with this thief so she sent forth the two "Pata" to restrain the thief. As punishment to the thief and warning to people not to steal, the thief was to be sacrificed to four circling vultures. The four stars are which we now know as Rigel (Beta), Saiph (Kappa), Bellatrix (Gamma) and Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis). 


The Kimono                                                                                                                   The The country of Japan has many myths and legends relating to the night sky and particularly to the constellation of Orion. In some regions of Japan the constellation is referred to as "Sode hoshi" which means 'sleeve stars'. The four stars that form a rectangular shape Rigel (beta Orionis), Saiph (kappa Orionis), Bellatrix (gamma Orionis) and Betelgeuse (alpha Orionis,) were seen as a 'kimono sleeve' by the early Japanese. They imagined a woman in a traditional kimono with her arm outstretched and the very long sleeve of the kimono hanging down to the ground towards the southern sky.


The Turtle

The indigenous Bororo people of South America who  live in the central Mato Grosso region of Brazil, saw the stars of Orion as a giant turtle. The Boro believed  that the stars of Orion shaped the turtle that they called "Jabuti." The Bororo Indians are expert hunters and they know the animals of their region extremely well. The stars Rigel (beta Orionis) and Saiph (kappa Orionis) marked the back legs of this heavenly creature, while Bellatrix (gamma Orionis) and Betelgeuse (alpha Orionis).marked "Jabuti's" front legs.  The stars (Phi 1, Phi 2 & Lambda Orionis) mark the head of the celestial turtle.






Updated 21st of November 2005