Mythology of the Pleiades

By Mike Glazier

You will find conflicts and contradictions when you come to the mythological origins of star groups because some of the myths originate from different parts of the world and bear little resemblance to each other. There is however some semblance of main stream ideas and this can be found to a degree in Pleiades.

In Greek mythology the Pleiades were the 7 daughters of the Titan Atlas, who was ordered by Zeus to support the world on his back, and his wife the Oceanid Pleione. The sisters were  called Alcyone, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Merope, Sterope, and Taygete.  The daughters were all beautiful and most of the Olympian gods including Zeus, Poseidon and Ares were all at some time or another involved in relationships with them, which resulted in the birth of children. Upon the deaths of  these children, their half sisters, known as the Hyades, allegedly committed suicide and were all placed in the sky by Zeus ( the ruler of the Greek gods) to share immortality. It is also interesting to note that the Hyades were also daughters of Atlas and his other partner Aethra. The gods had always worked very hard to keep the lustful Orion a safe distance from all these girls because of his romantic reputation.


The Pleiades, an open star cluster lies at a distance of 424 light years and as such can be seen from most places on Earth, they are visible from as far North as the pole and as far South as the tip of South America. They appear quite early on in the year as a ‘fuzzy patch’ of light rising up from the East and traceable from both Orion and Taurus. People with keen eyesight can on a clear  night make out the 7 stars but there are in fact more than 20 and when observed through low power resemble a shape not dissimilar to a miniature Ursa Major.


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