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Stories of the Stars


Art by Grace Gill

In Greek mythology, stars are more than just stars. The connections and myths between the constellations chronicle epic feats of brave warriors, angry gods, fair maidens, and every kind of trick and trap. In addition, most people have fallen down the rabbit hole of zodiac signs, searching for every little detail that it can tell you about yourself, and I want to continue that search. Although the stories that I’m going to tell will not give you some spiritual connection with your personality, they are tales that have been lost to more popular entertainment and contain plots you’ve most likely never heard in your life. The goal is to shed some light on how enchanting and complicated Greek mythology is, and to uncover all of the secrets of the night sky.



#1: Artemis and Callisto: Ursa Major

Zodiacs: Cancer, Leo, and Virgo


Photo credit of DALL-E-2

In Ancient Greece, offending the gods was a big deal, and there were sure to be terrible punishments that followed. If you were friends with a god, ruining that relationship would only bring chaos.


Callisto was a nymph in the kingdom of Arcadia, and she had a pretty good life. If you didn’t know, nymphs were said to be the most beautiful creatures in all of Greece, and in Callisto’s case, her name translated to “most beautiful.” Callisto was a devoted follower of Artemis, who was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, and the moon, and protector of all girls and women who are not mothers. Artemis had taken a vow never to marry, and in turn, Callisto did the same.


Artemis appreciated Callisto’s devotion and thoughtfulness, and Callisto admired Artemis’ bravery and kindness. Callisto quickly became one of Artemis’ closest friends and confidants.

This relationship was all good and well until Callisto’s outstanding beauty caught the eye of a very famous god; Zeus. Now, it’s important to understand that Callisto was still good on her vow never to marry, and she didn’t plan to break that vow. She was Artemis’s dear friend, and everyone knew that you couldn’t be bothered with love if you planned to stay on her good side. Callisto also knew that Zeus was known not to treat the women he was supposed to be protecting very well. She convinced herself that she wouldn’t fall in love, no matter how hard he tried.


Zeus overwhelmed Callisto with gifts and wishes and compliments and tried so hard to make her happy. Over time, Callisto started to unravel and let her guard down. She began to fall in love. She couldn’t stress to Zeus enough how much he could NOT tell Artemis. It wouldn’t be good for either of them. (Artemis is known for her anger and over-the-top punishments throughout all of Greek mythology.)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before Artemis found out about the growing romance between Zeus and Callisto. She had learned that Callisto was pregnant, through another nymph named Amlia.


Artemis was furious. She couldn’t have any maidens around who were bearing children, but worst of all, Callisto, her BEST FRIEND had betrayed her. As Artemis watched Callisto packing up her things, one question burned in her mind. Who was the father?

At this point, Callisto felt that she at least owed Artemis the truth.


“It is Zeus,” she muttered.


Artemis was, as expected, outraged. Zeus was her enemy. The one god she didn’t respect. Callisto couldn’t have picked anyone else to betray her with?

Artemis grabbed her bow and arrow and prepared to take a shot. Callisto would die.


“Please!” Callisto begged. “Just wait until my child is born and then you can do as you wish.”


Artemis considered this. She was the protector of all women and children who weren’t mothers, and Callisto wasn’t technically a mother yet. She would not break her word, so she let Callisto off, but just until her baby was born.


A few weeks later, Callisto gave birth to a little boy named Arcus. In that time, Artemis had time to think. She wouldn’t kill Callisto, but she would still punish her by taking away her life as she knew it. So, late one night Artemis crept up on Callisto and Arcus who were sleeping and whispered a spell over Callisto’s body. Slowly, her shape started to change. She got bigger, and brown fur started to grow on her body. She grew claws and teeth, and then let out a sleepy growl. Artemis had turned Callisto into a bear.


Leaving her there in the forest, Artemis took the baby Arcus and delivered him to a mortal family who would go on to raise him until he was a grown man.


One day, Arcus was on a hunting trip in the forest when he came across some paw prints in the dirt. They seemed to come from a big animal, and he had gotten pretty good at hunting, so he decided to find out what this creature was. When Arcus came to the end of the tracks, he was led to a bear who was drinking by a small creek. This wasn’t just any bear, though. You probably guessed it– it was Callisto. Callisto also noticed Arcus, and even though she was a bear, she could recognize her son from anywhere. She hadn’t seen him in so long!


As she started toward him and Arcus took aim, Zeus was looking down at him from his high point in the sky. Could he let this happen? Could he let his own son kill his mother? He decided that he needed to stop it; so before Arcus had time to shoot, he flew down from Olympus and told him to stop. Arcus was confused as to why the mighty Zeus came to him just to stop the hunt of a measly bear, but he complied and was ushered out of the forest.

Although Zeus had stopped Arcus from killing Callisto, she was still devastated. She had been so close to her son, yet she couldn’t tell him who she was! After this, Callisto stopped eating and drinking, having lost her motivation to live.


Eventually, she passed away.


Zeus was heartbroken by all of this, so he decided to take action. He would make sure that Callisto was remembered as the loving and kind mother she was, so he placed her in the stars as a bright constellation-Ursa Major. When Arcus passed away many years later, Zeus placed him in the sky as well, as Ursa Minor, right next to his mother.

Now, the two are together in the sky forever and watch over the zodiac signs of Leo, Virgo, and Cancer.



#2: Orion and the Scorpion: Scorpius

Zodiacs: Scorpio (and Libra sometimes)


Photo credit of DALL-E-2

This one is a short one, and probably the most well-known out of the three stories here.


Through all of the complex twists and turns of Greek myths, there are so many strong princes and warriors and demi-gods and amazing people with gifts from the gods. Orion is one of those people. He was a warrior, and very, VERY strong. He defeated all creatures and monsters that he was challenged to, and no mortal could beat him in combat. He was rumored to be better than anyone, monster, human, or animal.


The goddess Gaia (goddess of plants and animals) didn’t like this. She wanted to prove that Orion wasn’t better than everyone, and ultimately humiliate him for being all talk. She sent down a monster, a giant scorpion who was matched in strength to Orion. The two were locked in combat for days, months, and some versions of the story even say years. Gaia was right in her calculations because these two were exactly equal. Down to the dot. When Orion attacked, Scorpius dodged, when Scorpius bit, Orion was right there ready to block it. It went on like this for so long before something finally happened. They both died. AT THE SAME TIME. Like wow, they were so equally matched that they killed each other at the exact moment too? That is amazing, and only a little bit creepy. Nobody was satisfied with this though. They had fought for so long and for what? Someone deserved to win and claim their victory. If that meant the gods putting them both in the sky to fight for the rest of eternity, so be it.


Both Scorpius and Orion are major constellations, but you will never see them in the sky at the same time. That's because as one of them sets, the other one rises, and vice versa. It’s said that this is because they are constantly chasing each other. Originally, Scorpius was made up of two constellations, with Libra making up the claws, and Scorpius making up the body. Eventually, Libra became a constellation of a different group, but it’s still included in association with Scorpius.



#3: Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Perseus: Cassiopeia

Zodiacs: Taurus, Capricorn, and Gemini.


Photo credit of DALL-E-2

Being vain never turned out well for anyone. Just look at Medusa! She’s stuck with a head full of snakes and managed to turn all the gods against her. Cassiopeia’s fate, in my opinion, wasn’t much better. Although Cassiopeia was the one who made this all happen, the real heroes in our story are her daughter, Andromeda, and her knight in shining armor; Perseus.


Andromeda, her father King Cepheus, and her mother Queen Cassiopeia were the royal family in a kingdom by the sea, in what is now modern-day Ethiopia. King Cepheus was known all across Greece for his amazing leadership. He treated his people well, and for this, the gods favored him. Andromeda, his daughter, was also an amazingly kind and selfless leader, but that wasn’t the thing that was most well-known about her. Like many women in these stories, Andromeda was known for her beauty. This was also something that no one would forget, as her mother, Cassiopeia, bragged about Andromeda’s beauty to whoever would listen. One fine day, Cassiopeia was going about her usual boasting.


“My daughter is more beautiful than all the flowers in the field of Olympus! She is more beautiful than the brightest star in the sky. In fact, she is even prettier than those lousy sea nymphs! She puts them to shame.”


Yup. In all of her talk, she had insulted the gods. The sea nymphs heard of this and they were furious. How dare a mere mortal challenge their beauty? They wouldn’t have it. Unfortunately for Cassiopeia, the sea nymphs were connected to someone who could do a LOT of damage, Poseidon; god of the oceans. The sea nymphs complained to Poseiden about Cassiopeia, and just as expected, he wasn’t too pleased. Poseidon decided to teach Cassiopeia a lesson, something that would make sure she never messed with the gods again. He flooded the kingdom that Cassiopeia and her family resided in and then sent a sea monster called Cetus to destroy the city where it stood. King Cepheus and his soldiers tried everything to get the situation under control. Trap the sea monster? It was too smart to fall for anything. Send gifts to Poseidon? They went ignored. Pray to Zeus? Well actually, that one worked.


Zeus told the king that he needed to show Poseiden that he would give anything up for him, that Poseiden was more important than anything else. Zeus said that the only way to keep the kingdom from eternal doom was to sacrifice Andromeda. This did not go over well with Cepheus, but when he weighed his options he realized it was the only thing he could do. He talked to his daughter, and although begrudgingly, she agreed. It was her life for thousands of people, and she knew that if she didn’t do it, she would end up regretting it. And so, the next morning, Andromeda was left chained to a tree, on a cliff overlooking the sea by the edge of the kingdom. Dramatic, I know.


Andromeda waited there for hours before she finally heard the distant splashes of a creature in the water. She saw huge fins and big teeth and prepared for death. Is this my fate? She thought to herself. At least I will die in honor.


Suddenly, before Cetus could reach the stranded princess, a loud cry was heard from the sky, Andromeda looked up, and saw a man riding a flying horse. He was carrying a large sword which he promptly swooped down with and stabbed Cetus before he could reach the cliff. Her rescuer turned out to be the demigod Perseus, son of Zeus. Before Andromeda could process what was happening, Perseus slayed the huge monster, flew down next to her and untied her chains.


“Fear not!” he said. “I am here to rescue you.” Andromeda was, to say the least, not impressed.


“I am here on my will!” she cried. “I was to save my kingdom.”


Perseus was confused. He was an amazingly good-looking prince, with a flying horse and a shiny sword. Wasn’t he supposed to save damsels in distress? As Andromeda explained her situation with Poseidon and her mother, Perseus quickly understood why she did what she did, but although Andromeda seemed like she wanted to be left alone, it wouldn’t have been very heroic of him to leave her to die. So, Perseus told her that he would reason with Poseidon, and she could leave here alive and well. And so, even though Andromeda had meant to sacrifice herself, this seemed like a much better option. Before Perseus left though, he spent the afternoon up on that cliff with Andromeda. They talked and laughed and told the stories that had shaped them. When the day was coming to a close, Perseus hesitantly asked the question he had been wanting to ask…


“Andromeda, as soon as I save your people from ruin, will you come with me on the rest of my journey?”


Andromeda was flattered. “As your companion?”


“No,” said Perseus. “As my wife.” She was overjoyed. It was so great that Perseus felt the same way she did! Plus, she was pretty sure her father would agree to the marriage after


Perseus saved his whole kingdom.


The next morning, Perseus had a long talk with Poseidon, in which he convinced the irritated god to let go of Andromeda's kingdom. He agreed, but on one condition: He would be able to get rid of Cassiopeia. Perseus was hesitant, but Poseiden assured him that he wouldn’t kill her, only put her out of the reach of anyone else she could bother. Perseus agreed, and Poseidon drew back his forces from the city.


Success! The kingdom was saved, and Andromeda and Perseus got their happy ending. Well, everyone was pretty happy except for Cassiopeia. Poseiden had placed her in the sky as a constellation, which is usually a very honorable act, but he had made it so that she was stuck in the sky forever in a very awkward, sideways position. Very unflattering. This story is a good example of how the gods can twist pretty much anything into a punishment.


As for everyone else though, Andromeda, Perseus, Cepheus, and even Perseus’s horse, Pegasus, all had a happy ending. At one point even, Zeus placed them all in the sky as well for being brave and kind warriors who protected the people they loved at all costs.

To this day, these constellations watch over the zodiac signs of Taurus, Capricorn, and Gemini.


Whether you read one, two, or all of these myths, I hope you found wonder in learning about the stories of the stars. There is so much legend in all of the vastness above us, and it’s important to focus and understand just exactly what you see. Furthermore, if you enjoyed the story associated with your zodiac sign, I do hope you look into it more and discover new things to explore. The next time you get a chance to look at the nighttime sky, take a moment to find the faces looking back at you.

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