the Pleiades

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?” — Job 38:31

There are myths about the Pleiades from all around the world. The repeating themes that appear on six continents are:
– children, playing rather than working
– women, usually running from a suitor or grieving the death of one
– fire, either as the birthplace of fire or the gateway through which fire is received
– and though most cultures list them as seven, some only have six, Muhammad claimed there were twelve
– several cultures say it is a hundred stars

I had hoped to find the mythology of the Pleiades was localized thematically, where very similar myths would have been in one geographic area and another type of myth in another. That would have made it easier to interpret the myths as seeing some cosmic event differently from different quarters. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

There seem to be two motifs connected with the Pleiades: first, people rising up to become the stars (whether six or seven females or up to 400 boys) and, second, something coming from the cluster (fire or water).

In the Mayan corpus, it is important as well and is mentioned in the legend of the Hero Twins as the 400 boys who were killed by a son of Seven Macaw. (And why would the Big Dipper mean so very much to them, anyway?) In Saturnian Cosmology, it is contended that the planet Saturn was in the northern region for centuries and that all early religions pointed to the polar sky as the home of the god. Well, perhaps all religions but the Mayan (though I have yet to see more than one or two that actually claim such). The Mayan claim Seven Macaw (the Big Dipper) claimed the glory of the god but was never actually the head honcho.

The Aztecs were even more concerned about the Pleiades as they used the Fire Ceremony every 52 years when the fires were extinguished until the Pleiades passed the zenith and the morning light began to grow in the east.

Exactly what the Aztecs were afraid of is not known. Unless, of course, it had to do with the “fire ceremony” they tell about the gods. The Aztecs thought Teotihuacán was the home of the gods and tell of a mythical event that happened there: the Sun had gone out and the gods gathered around a ceremonial fire they set up to decide who would become the next Sun. One proud and haughty god demanded the honor and went to through himself on the flames (and thus somehow become the next Sun). Three times he approached the flames but they roared up and forced him back. Then a small pock-marked god rushed past and flung himself into the flames. The Sun ignited and he became the new Sun.

Though this is very telling in many respects, it was after the Mayan period and does not specifically concern the Pleiades.

From website of Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis we learn that there are many ancient myths from around the world that tell of how humanity suffered through repeated destructions by fire and flood. These tales of catastrophe were usually thought to be nothing more than exaggeration. But there are too many traditions connecting the Pleiades with some kind of catastrophe to be overlooked.

There is the Osiris/Saturn legend from Egypt. Osiris was drowned by Seth, who then cut the body to pieces and scattered them to the sky where they became the Pleiades. Saturn (Khima) is connected with the Pleiades. Their names are frequently confused in the Holy Bible where Khima is translated as “Pleiades” instead of as “Saturn”. The Pleiades is also connected with the Flood of Noah. The third Deluge occurred when the male waters from the sky met the female waters issuing forth from the ground. The male waters from the sky fell through holes in the sky which were made by God when he removed stars out of the constellation of the Pleiades. Some scholars hypothesize that the Universal Deluge of Noah was caused by a passing cosmic body but Velikovsky claims it was caused by the planet Saturn.

The connection between Saturn and the Pleiades seems well-founded in ancient times but the meaning still seems a little obscure.

Several Sanskrit texts refer to a nova or brightening of a star in the cluster of Pleiades. There is also a story about a strange fire associated with this cluster by which the seasons were reversed as a war broken between gods and demons. A large fiery body then fell to Earth, causing earthquakes, a rise in the sea-level, widespread drought, and severe famine.

Some scholars date the observation of a super nova to c.2500-3000 B.C. or even earlier. The impact crater and the falling meteors could have occurred c.1800-2200 B.C.

Very far away, the Aztecs of Mexico believed that these stars could prevent the demons of darkness from descending to Earth and devouring men. For this reason, they offered their deities human sacrifices. Their depressing vision of doom came from their Legend of the Five Suns: the universe was impermanent and would come to an end like everything else. The cycle would not continue for ever, allowing for only be five “Suns” each with its own name.

The first sun was Four Water. The second was Four Jaguar. Then came Four Rain, followed by Four Wind, and then the fifth and final sun: four Movement. This world, our world, will be destroyed by earthquakes. Five was for the Aztecs a sacred number, based on the five directions (the four cardinal directions PLUS the center).

And for the Aztecs, the center was understood to be the star cluster of the Pleiades.


Returning to the problem quoted from the Book of Job at the top, what are the cords of Orion? What are the chains of the Pleiades?

Could there have been some cycle of long-standing nature by which planet Earth was “chained” to some action perceived to have come to us through the intervention of the Pleiades?

The precise nature of that action is still unknown. Whether it came down from there or rose up to there (or perhaps a bit of both) we may never know.

All we know for certain is that many ancient peoples from around the world stood in awe of the pretty little cluster of lights.

Awe… and more than a little fear.


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