Star Lore – Part 3

Orion Nebula

In the last blog we worked out how to find out direction by taking some time to see how the stars were moving through the night sky.  We also looked at the Greek origin myths surrounding Andromeda, Perseus, Pegasus, Cetus, Auriga and the Pleiades.  We also included a few other myths from other cultures that you might not have been aware of.  This nicely builds our knowledge of constellations up to eleven constellations and an asterism.  This blog will take a look at another seven constellations.

But first, where are you looking at the sky from?  I do it from my back garden which allows me a pretty good view of the sky.  This means I can practise often and just take 10-15mins to remind myself of the constellations I know and track their progression throughout the year, but also learn new ones.  No special equipment needed.  But I live on the edge of a town and sometimes the light pollution means that constellations to the south are difficult to make out.  So I also have a spot near me on an old ridgeway that is high and has good views of the sky; it is on the edge of a nature reserve, and is such a great place to lie down on a mat and stare at the sky.  Wrap up warm though… even in the summer, it can get a bit chilly after dark… oh and take a warm drink.  It’s like a period of mindfulness for me and I hope it’s good for you too.

The use of constellations as a calendar of events
We hear from many sources that individual stars and constellations have been used to mark events.  For example by priests to mark religious occasions and by farmers so that they can see when to plough or harvest.  It is easy today for a farmer to know when the best time to prepare the ground, plant seeds and harvest their crops.  They can use a calendar to know what date and month it is and to record the length of the growing season so they know well in advance to within a few days when it is best to harvest.  I have seen wall planners with it all laid out on in the offices of farm managers – obviously there is a margin of error for the weather but it is pretty well planned.  This wasn’t so easy for our ancestors, they didn’t have calendars or watches so had to use different methods for making decisions on when to prepare the ground, plant the seed and to reap what they had sowed.  There are many references to the use of constellations by European peoples to aid in the timing of such activities.  Most of them seem very similar in stating that the appearance of certain constellations heralded the time to undertake appropriate farming activities.  But very few actually name the constellations and I have found very few so far that indicate what it was about the constellation that actually triggered the need to carry out particular activity.  I have heard and read for example that the Plough was used as a marker for agricultural events such as ploughing.  But it is visible in the sky all year round in Europe and traditionally in medieval farming there were two ploughing seasons.  One in late March for the summer crops, and another in October for winter crops, so in this case, our ancestors must have been using the orientation of the Plough at a certain point in the night.  I have tried to find references for exactly how the constellations were used in Europe to waymark important events but have yet to find anything convincing or detailed.

We cannot also forget that our own sun is a star and the equinoxes and solstices were also used to determine important points in the year.  Celtic festivals were often tied to the halfway point between equinoxes and solstices such as Beltane, half way between spring equinox and summer solstice, Lughnasadh, half way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, Samhain, half way between the autumn equinox and winter solstice and Imbolc, half way between winter solstice and spring equinox.

In other parts of the world, where there are practices that have until recently or indeed are still in use today the use of constellations for marking different types of activity have been documented by anthropologists.  For example, the Amuesha of the forests at the foot of the Peruvian Andes use the position of their constellations and of individual stars to know when to carry out certain cultural activities.  They use the changing position of the red star Antares which for us is in Scorpius, but for them is called Chemuellem, to know when to collect red peach palm fruit, to burn new clearings, and for the growing cycle of maize.  To the Inuit of North Baffin Island and Melville Peninsula, the appearance of Betelgeuse and Bellatrix in Orion, high in the southern sky after sunset, indicated the beginning of spring and lengthening days in late February and early March.

Our ancestors needed easy to observe occurrences when reading the night sky to use it to plan events or activities.  The following have been documented as being used by many cultures for deciding when stars or constellations are in the right positions to carry out certain cultural activities and could well have been used in the UK too:

  • The heliacal rise – when a star or constellation can be seen on the eastern horizon for the first time just before dawn (after a period of not being visible).  Each night it will rise around four minutes earlier and be seen for longer before dawn until it can be seen all night.
  • The heliacal set – when a star or constellation sets on the western horizon just after sunset making it briefly visible.  On the next day it will have already set four minutes earlier and will not being seen again for a period of time.
  • When a star or constellation is in its highest point of the sky (culmination) at dawn.  Culmination is the midpoint between rising and setting as it crosses the north-south line across the observer’s sky.
  • When it is at its highest point of the sky (culmination) at dusk.

It is perhaps not surprising that dawn and dusk are used because although the clock time changes throughout the year people can easily tell when it is dawn and dusk.  It is not easy to know the time at night without a watch.

The constellations referenced as being used for agricultural purposes in Europe seem to be the Plough, Pleaides, Virgo, Corona Borealis, Orion, Lyra, Taurus and Cepheus.  However, in truth many other constellations could have been used, not only for agricultural purposes, but for religious ones and probably others too.  For example, any of the ones that become visible in late March/early April Spring such as Bootes, Cancer, Virgo, Leo, Hydra and Crater could have indicated the time to plough and sow the spring crops.  The ones that become visible in summer such as Aquila, Cygnus, Hercules, Lyra, Ophiuchus, Sagittarius, and Scorpius could have been used to indicate the time to make hay.  Similarly, the time for the second ploughing for winter crops could have been timed to coincide with the autumn appearance of Andromeda, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pegasus, and Pisces; while the winter constellations of Cetus, Gemini, Orion, Perseus, and Taurus reminded farmers to hunker down, butcher unnecessary livestock and make repairs.  And I believe that it would not have just been when they become visible, but also their orientation at important times that were important to our ancestor’s decision making.

But to make it slightly more complicated, the position of the stars and constellations now would not have been the same in the Neolithic period.  This is because of a phenomenon called precession.  Precession is the slow change in the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation over time – you may have seen – or even had as a toy – a gyroscope.  Remember how when it spins, it wobbles on its axis?  That is essentially what happens to the Earth and because of this, the orientation of the stars changes.  In other words, instead of rotating around a fixed axis every 24hrs the earth actually has a slight wobble on the axis which takes 25,772 years to complete a cycle.  This means that the Polaris the current north star has not always been the north star, and indeed in 2787BC, Thuban in Draco was the pole star.  In more modern times, from around 1700BC until around 300AD Kochab, one of the stars in the bowl of the little dipper, was the closest star to the pole.  So, historically the current alignment of individual stars or constellations would not necessarily match what our ancestors saw and used as their calendar of events and of course would have affected what they used to navigate too.

Precession is the slow change in the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation over time
Precession is the slow change in the direction of the Earth’s axis of rotation over time.

Below we have our updated map.  The first eleven constellations from the first two blogs and the next in our series: Pisces, Taurus, Orion, Lepus, Canis Major, Canis Minor, and Gemini.  Pisces is a bit of an interloper in this blog, it should really have been in the last one as it is in the same area of sky sitting between Pegasus and Cetus.  But I thought that it would be a constellation too many for that blog and as its origin myth was not related to the story of Andromeda and Perseus it could sit somewhere else.

The Night Sky for Part 3 of Star Lore
The Night Sky for Part 3 of Star Lore.

Pisces can be seen early in the morning from late September, but October to November is when it is easiest to see because it is visible from around 9pm.  The large V with a circlet on end is quite easy to locate between the Great Square of Pegasus and Cetus.  However, the stars are not the brightest, so if you live in a town with a lot of light pollution it might be a bit more difficult to see, so a good excuse to go up to that spot away from it all to lay back and watch the sky.

The Geek origin story is quite touching and illustrates the love of a mother for her child.  After the war between the Olympian gods and the titans, Gaia (the earth) coupled with Tartarus (the underworld) and produced Typhon, a monstrous being with a hundred dragons heads.  Gaia was still angry with the gods so sent Typhon to destroy them and in particular Zeus.  Meanwhile, Aphrodite and her son Eros were visiting Syria and were on the banks of the Euphrates. Pan, who also happened to be there spotted Typhon coming and so he shouted a warning before he gave himself a fish’s tail and leapt into the water to escape.  In a panic, Aphrodite decided to do the same, but to save her son she tied a cord around his ankle so they wouldn’t get separated.  She gathered him in her arms and jumped into the water, as they rose to the surface, they were transformed into fish with a cord joining them together.  And so the constellation is a representation of Aphrodite and her son Eros as two fishes tied together by a length of cord.


Taurus is regarded as a winter constellation, most visible from December to February.  It is very easily found because it flows from the bottom of Auriga.  Incidentally, we actually covered part of Taurus in the last blog too because the Pleiades are technically part of Taurus although not traditionally in the ‘structure’, so to speak, and as you know they have their own origin story.  Anyway, there is another star cluster which forms part of Taurus, and that is the Hyades which form the V of stars close to Aldebaran.  Aldebaran which means ‘follower’ in Arabic because it rises after the Pleiades and follows them through the sky is a giant star which is the 13th brightest in the night sky.  It is easy to spot due to its position as well as its brightness and is worthy of note as it marks the red eye of the bull.  If you follow the 3 stars in Orion’s belt in the opposite direction to Sirius, Aldebaran is the first bright star you come to.

Taurus is regarded as an ancient constellation representing the bull in many cultures even prior to the Greek mythological origin.  There is some suggestion that it is represented in the cave paintings in the Lascaux Caves in France which date back to around 15,000BCE.   It was known as the Heavenly Bull in 686BCE by the Babylonians, which relates to the Epic of Gilgamesh, a poem about the king of Uruk which is recorded on tablets from 1800BCE.  Gilgamesh was two thirds god and one third man and oppressed his people who cried out to the gods for help.  They sent a wild man called Enkidu to battle Gilgamesh, but he lost and they become friends instead going on an adventure together.  The Heavenly Bull was sent by the the goddess Ishtar to slay Gilgamesh for rejecting her advances.  His reasoning seems valid because she was known for her poor treatment of previous lovers.  Anyway, she used emotional blackmail to get her father to give her the Heavenly Bull, which she led to Uruk where it laid huge devastation on the land and people, in the end it did battle with Gilgamesh and Enkidu who killed the bull.

The Greeks have two origin myths for Taurus.  One is about Zeus and his roguish activities… this time he had taken a shine to Europa, the daughter of a Phoenician king.  She was playing on a beach with her friends when Zeus turned himself into a magnificent tame white bull, and mixing with her father’s herd, they wandered onto the seashore.  Europa could not resist the white bull and stroked it before getting on top to sit on it.  Zeus seized his chance and swam out to sea with Europa on his back.  He swam to Crete where he revealed himself and told Europa of his love, seducing her.  She bore Zeus 3 sons one of which was Minos who became king of Crete.  Zeus created the image of the white bull in the stars to commemorate the story.  Maybe this explains why Crete was famous for its reverence of bulls including bull jumping and of course the story of the Minotaur.

An alternative Greek story Taurus represents another lover of Zeus, this time it is Io princess of Argos.  In a vain attempt to hide her from his wife Hera, Zeus covered the word in a dark mist.  Obviously, Hera was suspicious and dispersed the mist to see what her husband was up to.  Zeus thinking on his feet, turned Io into a white cow and feigned surprise when Hera asked about it standing by his side.  Hera was not easily duped and obviously knew her husband well, so she asked for the cow as a present.  Zeus could hardly say no, so gave Io to Hera, who sent the cow far away and arranged for a hundred eyed giant to look over it.  Zeus was in a pickle.  So he sent his son Hermes to get Io back for him.  Hermes disguised himself as a musician and lulled the giant to sleep before killing him.  This by the way really annoyed Hera, who when she later found out, took Hermes’ eyes and put them into the tail of a peacock.  Anyway, Io was set free but still a white cow and Hera sent a fly to bite her sending her mad and wandering the world trying to escape the fly.  In her travels she came across Prometheus who was still chained to a rock.  He told her that she would wander for many years but would eventually be changed back into a woman and have a child.  Eventually Zeus was able to turn her back into her human form and have a son with Zeus.  It was her descendent Heracles that eventually set Prometheus free from the rock.

In the Dakota Sioux tradition, Aldebaran was the child of the sun and the lady blue star (Rigel).  He desired to hunt the White Buffalo (the Pleiades) and as he pulled a sapling from the ground to make a spear, he looked into the hole and saw all the people of the world below.  As he stared down, the white buffalo took its chance and pushed him through the hole to plummet down to the earth where he was found by an old woman.  He was then known as the Old Womans Grandson and gained a reputation for killing monsters that had been plaguing the people.  One such monster was the serpent that had caused drought.  When he killed the serpent, it released a great stream of water that then become the wondering Mississippi River.  Similarly, there is Canadian Inuit cosmology which also associates the Pleiades and Aldebaran with a hunt but it is the other way round.  The Pleiades are this time the hunters of a polar bear Aldebaran.

In Aboriginal culture of the Clearance River area of New South Wales, Aldebaran was known as the Ancestor Karambal, who stole another man’s wife.  The husband was not happy about this, so tracked down Karambal who was hiding her in a tree.  The husband set fire to the tree and the flames carried Karambal into the sky as smoke where he remains burning as the red star Aldebaran as a warning to others not to commit adultery.


Orion is best identified from around November to March, disappearing from our skies from May to July.  It is easy to spot as it contains some bright stars and well known features such as the asterism Orion’s Belt.  It also has a bright nebula which forms part of Orion’s Sword.  The nebula which is the middle star on the sword looks blurry to the naked eye, but if you look at it through a pair of decent binoculars it becomes much clearer.  A nebula is a giant cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases that sometimes originates from the explosion of a dying star and sometimes such as in the case of the Orion nebula it is a region where new stars are forming.  Orion has some bright and famous stars in Rigel and Betelgeuse.  Rigel is the brightest star – in fact it is the 7th brightest star on our sky – and is found at the bottom of the constellation and the Arabic means ‘foot of the great one’, the full name being ‘rigl al-gabbar’.  Betelgeuse is the next brightest star in the constellation and is on the shoulder of Orion.  It appears slightly reddish and has been associated with martial victories.  In South African mythology Betelgeuse is a lion eyeing up 3 zebra that form the belt of Orion.

Orion - Navigational Uses
Orion – Navigational Uses.

Orion has been used as a navigational aid by many cultures around the world. Because it sits pretty much on the celestial equator it can be seen around the world – although not all year round by everyone.  It also means that no matter whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere Orion will always rise in the east and set in the west and the key markers for this are the 3 stars that form Orion’s Belt.  They rise perpendicular in the east with the star Mintaka (from the Arabic for ‘belt’) leading the way and set perpendicular in the west with Mintaka again being the first to set.  But it is not just east and west, Orion can also point the way north and south in the northern hemisphere.  If a line is drawn from the heel of Orion straight up through Betelgeuse this will point to the northern sky – not directly to Polaris, but not too far off, so it can help in orientating yourself.  While the line of stars that form Orion’s sword point to the south.  As you will see from the diagram, the sword is more accurate as a pointer the more vertical Orion stands in the sky, this is because the more acute the angle,the harder it is by eye to see exactly where the line from the sword hits the horizon.

Orion - Movement through the sky
Orion – Movement through the sky.

Like Taurus, Orion is an ancient constellation.  We have already heard of Gilgamesh and how he fought the Heavenly Bull.  Well Orion, named Uru an-na (Light of Heaven), represents Gilgamesh in ancient Sumerian cosmology.

In Greek mythology, not surprisingly there are numerous different myths about Orion and confusingly not a single source tells a complete story from birth to death.  So we are left with an exciting mix of episodes and versions – for example there are at least 3 versions of his birth to various different parents and many versions of how he died too.  So here goes my interpretation… Orion’s father was Hyrieus king of Boeotia who although rich had not had any children.  He was visited by Zeus, Poseidon and Hermes in disguise and not knowing who they were he welcomed them and gave them a feast.  When they revealed themselves to Hyrieus, they asked him to name a reward for his generosity and he replied that it was his greatest wish to have a son.  The gods urinated onto a bull’s hide and told Hyrieus to bury it for 9 months.  When he dug it up, inside was a baby boy who he named Orion and raised as his own, when really he could be the son of the three gods and Gaia (the Earth).  Orion grew to be a great hunter and indeed become a friend to Artemis the goddess of the hunt.  When he travelled to Crete, they hunted together, and this was where his hubris got the better of him.  It was during a hunt that he boasted that he could kill any animal that existed.  Gaia was not impressed with this, and decided to punish his audacity by sending a giant scorpion to kill him.  Orion’s arrows could not penetrate the scorpion’s armour and it kills him with its poisonous sting.  After his death, Artemis asked Zeus to put him in the skies, where his now can be seen.  Some versions of the story say that his two hunting dogs are with him and they chase Taurus through the sky.

Curiously, many Australian Aboriginal cultures also associate Orion with a hunter or young man/men. For example, in Yolngu culture, Orion is called Djulpan, and one story is that the three stars of Orion’s belt are three brothers in a canoe, with Betelgeuse marking the front of the canoe, and Rigel the back of the canoe. The brothers were blown into the sky by the Sunwoman after one of them ate his totem animal, a king-fish, whose consumption was strictly prohibited by Yolngu law.  The Orion nebula is the fish, and the stars of Orion’s sword are the fishing line attached to the fish.  Some other Aboriginal cultures also associate Orion with young men, particularly those who are hunting or fishing, such as the Kaurna people who recognised Orion as a group of boys who hunt kangaroo and emu on the celestial plain.  The Murrawarri said that Orion (Jadi Jadi) wore a belt, carried a shield and stone axe, which is strikingly similar to the way it is symbolised in European culture.  People over a great area of central Australia regarded him as a ‘hunter of women’, and in particular the women in the Pleiades – a story which we have already encountered.


Lepus can be seen in our skies from around December through to March.  It represents a hare and can be found sat just by the feet of Orion which seems apt to me as hares do tend to hunker down in the grass hoping not to be seen, before running way just as you get to them.  Although, it is one of the original Greek constellations there does not seem to be any mythology associated with it.  Some ancient Greek cosmologists believed that Lepus was another of the creatures that Orion hunts with his two dogs alongside Taurus.

Canis Major
Canis Major.

Canis Major or the great dog can be found trailing slightly behind Orion and is easy to find with its bright star Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky.  Like Orion, it is considered a winter constellation and can be seen at the same time of year.  Sirius which means ‘scorching’ or ‘glowing’ in ancient Greek and is around twice the size of our sun but 25 times more luminous.  It is very close to the Earth, a mere 8.6 lightyears away and is actually moving closer to our solar system so will get even brighter – don’t worry it will move away but not for another 60,000 years.  It is actually a binary star, its partner Sirius B is a white dwarf that is a star that has collapsed into itself so it is very dense but does not emit much light.  It was the heliacal rising of Sirius that was used by the ancient Egyptians to help know when the annual flood of the Nile was about to take place.  The Romans on the other hand, believed that the ‘dog star’ as Sirius was known as, combined its heat with the sun and turned dogs berserk and men mad in the ‘dog days’ of summer following its heliacal rising.  The panting of dogs in the hot summer was associated with rabies which if they bit a human could lead to frenzy in the form of hydrophobia and death.

Sirius was also widely used by the Polynesians as a navigational aid.  Polynesians used zenith stars to help navigate at sea.  Zenith stars, are those that appear to pass directly over an island at their highest point in the sky.  So when the canoe is at the same latitude i.e. in a position either due east or due west of the island to make landfall, they aimed far upwind and up current (usually east) at the correct latitude, then sailed downwind using the destination island’s zenith star as a guide until they hit land.  Polynesians could not determine longitude so they would use the position of zenith stars to work out if they needed to go north or south to reach an island.  Sirius (often known as A’a to Hawaiians) is a zenith start that passes directly over Tahiti and so Polynesian navigators used to use it to find their way back from Hawaii.

As we might guess, there are a few Greek origin myths surrounding Canis Major.  One we have encountered, that of it being one of the hunting dogs of Orion, but another is that it is Laelaps, a dog given as a gift from Zeus to Europa, the lover that played a starring role in the Taurus origin story.  Laelaps never failed to catch its quarry and seemed to have been passed on to many different owners.  It was eventually set to catch the giant Teumessian fox which was sent by Zeus to punish the people of Thebes.  The Teumessian fox could not be caught, so the chase went on for a long time before Zeus faced with this paradox decided it had to be ended and turned them both into stone.  In one Greek myth Canis Minor represents the Teumessian fox.

Canis Minor
Canis Minor.

Canis Minor a winter constellation like Orion is also known as the lesser dog.  Easily seen between November and April in the UK it is a small constellation of just two easily viewable stars that can also be founding trailing behind Orion but between Canis Major and Gemini.  It can be located by drawing a line from Bellatrix and Betelgeuse (the shoulders of Orion), and continuing it on until you hit a bright star.  That star is Procyon which is the 7th brightest star in our night sky. 

It has a rich mythology associated with it.  We have already discovered two of the Greek stories behind it in the form of one of the hunting dogs following Orion and of it being the Teumessian fox being chased by Laelaps (Canis Major) in a hunt that was destined never to end until Zeus intervened.  A third Greek story is that it represents Maera, the faithful dog of Icarus of Athens a herdsman that was taught how to make wine by Dionysus.  Icarus was a herdsman who also grew grapes.  One day a disguised Dionysus was wandering past and asked Icarius if he could see his grapevines.  He was so impressed that he taught Icarius how to make wine.  Icarius was so taken with the taste that he invited some shepherd friends to drink with him at his farmhouse.  The party must have been well celebrated as they all fell over blind drunk and fell asleep.  Well, the next morning heralded the invention of the hangover! The shepherds woke with massive headaches, vomiting and feeling just like they had been poisoned… which, as it was the first hangover, is understandable.  They murdered Icarius in their mistaken belief that he had tried to kill them.  They hid his body in a ditch.  Icarius’ faithful dog Maera went to find his daughter Erigone and showed her where Icarius’ body lay hidden.  She was so grief-stricken that she hung herself.  While Maera jumped off a cliff.  Dionysus was so angry that he punished Athens with a drought and inflicting insanity on all the unmarried women, who all hanged themselves, imitating Erigone.  Dionysus placed Icarius, Erigone and Maera in the sky as the constellations Bootes, Virgo, and Canis Minor.

However, my favourite story is an Inuit one.  Procyon is called Sikuliarsiujuittuq, who was an enormously fat man – the name translates as ‘one who never goes out on the ice’, and that described him very well as he was extremely lazy.  He could not get a wife so married his sister.  When other men went to hunt, he stayed at home scared that he would fall through the ice; this annoyed all the men as he was not contributing to the community, and took food from others.  Finally as the ice got as thick as it ever got, he was persuaded by the hunters to go out on the ice to go seal hunting.  All went well and when they made camp out on the ice that night, the hunters told Sikuliarsiujuittuq that it was the custom on the first hunt to sleep tied up; so he was tied up with a thong, but after he fell asleep, they stabbed him with a harpoon.  He burst his bonds and rose into the sky dripping blood to become the star Sikuliarsiujuittuq or as know it, Sirius.


Gemini or the twins is often only visible as the two bright stars Castor and Pollux in the northern hemisphere.  It is most easily visible from around 9pm in January to March, but can be seen in late May / early June sitting low on the western horizon at dusk.  Although we typically see two in the UK, there are actually over 80 stars in the constellation, and I was delighted to see the full classical outline clearly in the skies when on a trip to the Kenyan bush where there was no light pollution– although admittedly it was sitting at a strange angle compared to my usual view here in the UK.  It is also the radiation point of the Geminids meteor shower, which we see in the middle of December, and which can have up to 100-160 meteors an hour which are quite slow moving giving us a great show.

There is a reasonably consistent Greek origin myth surrounding the constellation.  Gemini, known as the twins Caster and Pollux (Polydeuces is his actual Greek name) that are actually half-brothers.  Their mother Leda was a queen of Sparta married to the Spartan king Tyndareus. They had two sisters, one was the famous Helen of Troy and the other Clytemnestra.  Leda was well known as a beauty so much so that Zeus fell in love with her and he changed into a swan so he could seduce her.  On the night he ravished her, Leda also slept with her husband Tyndareus.  As a result she bore two sets of twins, one set Pollux and his sister Helen were Zeus’s and the other Castor and his sister Clytemnestra were Tyndareus’s.  As a result, Pollux was immortal while Castor was mortal.  However, the brothers were inseparable, and took part in many adventures together, becoming Argonauts alongside Jason on his travels to find the golden fleece.  Castor was known as a great horseman and Pollux for his prodigious strength and for boxing.

Castor and Pollux went on a cattle raid together with their cousins having agreed to share the spoils.  But when they all sat down to eat one of the cows they had stolen, their cousins suggested a wager that instead of sharing the spoils between four they should split them in two and have a competition to see which set of cousins would take home all the spoils.  One of the cousins of Caster and Pollux was called Idas, and happened to be a giant, and he ate both his and his bothers share in one go.  Having been duped, Castor and Pollux allowed the cousins to take their share of the cattle but vowed revenge.  The revenge came when their cousins came to visit their uncle king Tyndareus in Sparta.  Castor and Pollux took the opportunity to steal back the cattle.  At their destination, Castor climbed a tree to keep watch as Pollux round up the cattle.  But while they were at it, the cousins returned and seeing Castor in the tree from a distance, Idas threw his spear fatally wounding him.  A great fight took place between Pollux and his cousins.  Pollux killed one of the cousins but Idas seemed about to dispatch Pollux when Zeus seeing what was happening to his son threw a thunderbolt killing Idas.  Pollux begged Zeus to give his brother immortality which he did setting them together in the sky.

In Celtic mythology, Gemini is seen not as twins, but as two men fighting for the love of a woman. The two men are Gwyn and Gwythyr.  Gwythyr was engaged to marry Creiddylad the daughter of Lludd but she was stolen from him by Gwyn. Gwyn and Gwythyr fought viciously and Gwyn defeated Gwythyr and took back his betrothed and a number of nobles as prisoners.  King Arthur wished to see harmony restored, and ordered the release of the nobles and made peace between the two adversaries.  The two are known as the “Rivals of May” and are destined to fight over Creiddylad every May Day (Beltane) until Judgement Day in which the victor would keep her forever.  It is interpreted as being the contest between the light and dark halves of the year (winter and summer).

In Maori cosmology Castor and Pollux are also seen as twins.  They are the mortal children of Borabora.  The brothers were devoted to each other and preferred to play together instead of with other children.  This worried their parents and they decided to separate them.  The twins overheard their parents talking and decided to run away.  Taking a canoe they sailed away, but their mother was distraught and followed them from island to island, hoping to take them home.  She eventually caught up with them on Tahiti, where the twins hid in the mountains.  She discovered their hiding place and was about to catch them when they ran up a mountain and leapt into the sky where they remain together forever.

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