Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Ranna an aeir (Author: [unknown])


The Constellations

It is inquired here how many constellations are in the sky, in both southern and northern hemispheres.

Easily told: — thirteen constellations in the [northern], and eight in the [southern] hemisphere. And these are their names. Of the constellations of the southern hemisphere: — Idurus, Canicula, Lepus, Eridanus, Cetus, Centaurus, Argo, Pisces, Ara. Of the constellations of the northern hemisphere: — Septentriones, Draco, Arcturus which was called Bootes, Corona, Hercules which was called Nixus or Engonasin, Libra, Cygnus, Serpens, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Delaton, Eniochus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Ophiuchus, Delphinus, Aquila.

The Great Bear, whose proper name was Callisto, daughter of Lycaon king of the Arcadians. She dedicated her virginity to Diana, the goddess of hunting. And thereafter Jove son of Saturn loved Callisto, the daughter of Lycaon, and deceived her and corrupted her virginity: and the goddess Diana was incensed against Callisto the daughter of Lycaon, because of the corruption of her virginity; and Diana turned her into the form of a bear on that account. And thereafter Jove took Callisto with him among the upper constellations in the form of a bear.

The Little Bear, also, whose proper name was Cynosura: she was one of the nurses of Jove. For Jove had many nurses.


And she was one of the goddesses of Mount Ida; and for the good nursing Cynosura gave to Jove, Jove took her with him among the constellations, also in the form of a bear.

Serpens; that was a venomous snake which slept not one moment through the ages for ever, and it belonged to beautiful Juno: she was a goddess. It kept the garden of the Hesperides; it was ever in Mount Atlas; and this snake used to watch that garden, wherein were golden apples.

And then Hercules came and slew that serpent; and for that it was placed among the constellations. And Tiria [Hydra] was another name of that serpent which was killed by Hercules. It had seven heads at first; and when one of its heads was struck from it, seven heads grew in its place; so that then Hercules did this to it, when he struck one of his heads from it, he burned the head and its stump, and no head grew in its place upon [the hydra] until thus he killed it.

Arcturus; he was the son of Jove son of Saturn, and of Callisto daughter of Lycaon king of the Arcadians. And once [Arcas] came to the house of his grandfather; and thereupon Lycaon slew the son of his daughter and murdered him, and boiled him and gave him to Jove to eat: that is, to the father of the son who had come to him as a guest; and in guise of ox flesh was it given to him. And then Jove recognized that it was man's flesh that was given to him, and he refused the meat. And he was much enraged against Lycaon; and restored [Arcas] and life was given him again, and for this he was placed among the constellations.

Corona, that is a king's diadem which Vulcan made of gold, of gems and of Indian stones, and gave to Dionysus; and Dionysus gave it to Ariadne as a wooing-gift, and Ariadne gave it to Theseus; and it gave him knowledge of the labyrinth of Hercules. And for these virtues and for the number of its virtues and for the many deeds which were done by it on earth and in Hades it was placed among the constellations.

[Lyra.] It was the harp of Mercury at first; and then of Orpheus afterwards. There were seven strings in it; and the music that Mercury or Orpheus made on it, — men and beasts, and


streams and trees and stones used to come to listen to the music of that harp. So that therefore it was placed among the constellations.

Cepheus son of [Belus], king of the Ethiopians, father of Andromeda. And it happened one day between Andromeda and Cassiopeia, the wife of Cepheus, that Cassiopeia made a contest of beauty with the goddesses of the sea; and therefore she was placed among the constellations, with her head down and her feet up. And Andromeda the daughter of Cepheus was put among the constellations because of the rescue which Perseus made of her in face of the monster of the sea, when it wished to devour her.

Perseus; this is why he was placed among the constellations, because he slew the three Gorgons by means of Mercury's talaria and Vulcan's Sword and Minerva's battle-shield. And thus were the three Gorgons: they were three maidens, and they had one eye among the three; and the maiden whom they wished to go on an errand took the eye with her. And everyone whom that eye saw, it turned him into stone straightaway.

Eniochus, that is the charioteer; and his proper name was Erichthonius. And he was the first who yoked steeds (that is, horses) in a chariot, four in hand. Or, one of the nurses who received Jove was this Capra,— for her proper name was Capra 30 that is, a goat was under her shoulder, and a kid was in each of her hands; hence the proper name with her two daughters had; for ‘KId’ was the name of each. And this Capra was nurse to Jove, with her two daughters, and therefore bith Eniochus and this Capra with her two daughters were placed among the constellations.

Ophiuchus, for this reason is he among the constellations, because of the winged dragons which he drove in his own


chariot, and in the chariot of the Triptolemus, the foster-son of Ceres, goddess of corn throughout he world.

Aquila. It was placed for this reason among the constellations, because it took up Ganymede, son of the king of Troy, upon its own back to Jove, who loved him for his beauty and sinned with him.

Aries, that is the ram; and for him who would acquire knowledge of the origin of this ram and the golden fleece it had, this is it. Athamas31 the son of Aeolus was a man who lived in Asia, and he had a goddess as his wife: [Nephele] was her name. And she bore him two sons32 at one birth, called Phryxus and Helle. And Athamas took another wife, Mica daughter of Diomed.33 And Mica hated the children. And when [Nephele] their mother heard this, that Mica wished to sacrifice them to the gods, she came to rescue them, and brought with her a ram with a golden fleece, and thirty feet in length; and she placed her children on it, and the ram carried them over seas and lands until Helle fell off into the sea which is named hence the sea of Hellespont. And Phryxis came safely upon the ram to the land of Colchis, and the ram gave them its golden skin, and therefore they received employment from Aeëtes king of the Colchians; and through this it was placed among the constellations.

Taurus, that is the Bull. And this is why it was placed among the constellations, because it carried Europa daughter of Agenor, Jove's mistress, to the isle of Crete, the whole way upon its back, to Jove. And this is the nature of the Bull, he is stronger in front than behind; so the sun is stronger in the month of April than in the previous month.

Gemini, or Olor, or Cygnus, that is the Swan. And it is thus that Gemini was formed; Gemini is like a wheel, according to the writerss, and to two men bound in one place, as were Castor and Pollux. And it is thus they were bound in one place: — Jove son of Saturn was the most powerful of the gods,


and he loved a woman called [Leda]; and [Leda] had a pet swan, and it was dear to her. And Jove thought to go to her in guise of the swan, since he could deceive her in no other way until he went to her in guise of the swan. And he deceived her, and she became pregnant and bore two eggs of that pregnancy; and Castor and Pollux were in one egg, and Helen [daughter of ] Leda and Clytemnestra were in the other egg; that is to say these were two sons and two daughters born of the gods. And therefore there were placed among the constellations, because when Castor was taken against his will to Hades Pollux went to him in Hades, and brought him away by force.

Cancer, the ... crab, the king of crabs. And this is why it was placed among the constellations. At the time when Hercules was travelling along the shore and came upon the Hydra, odious, monstrous, multiform, and when Hercules fought with the Hydra stubbornly, valiantly, the crab came to them and took out a bite of the Hydra's foot, and it was lamed, and it fell thereby before Hercules.

Leo, the Lion. And thus is the Lion, hot and dry by nature, and wanton, violent and fierce according to his vigour and his wildness, and according to hs pride and strength and activity, and because of his being king over every lawless beast which is in the world. So that therefore he was placed among the constellations.

Virgo, that is the Maiden. This is a sign of the Zodiac. And it is thus a maid should be, by nature dignified, in the household courteous34 to slaves and to workers and to the gentlefolk of this family, and to remove cattle from place to place. And for this reason is this sign called the Maiden, because of its being like a maiden unfruitful; in this wise is the sun when it is in this sign, because it is consuming the feast through its heat, and accordingly the earth is unfruitful while the sun is in this sign, through the wasting of the feast of nature from the earth.


Libra, that is a weighing balance. And this is why it is called the Scales, because just as scales make a balance between two things so that one does not exceed the other, so does the sun in this sign, since day and night are equally measured, equally balanced and equally long in hours and in seconds in this month and in this sign, which is called Libra because it has the appearance of scales up among the constellations.

Scorpio that is a venomous reptile. And thus was this reptile, divided into two parts; that is to say divided like many reptiles and diverse creatures, and it had limbs strange, horrible, dissimilar extending from its body behind. So that from the number of limns it had, everyone who saw or heard it said that it would kill any creature living on the earth were not the dragon between them and this scorpion. So that for this reason it was placed among the constellations.

Sagittarius, that is the Archer. And it is thus he was; he was one of the Centaurs. And a Centaur was like this, he had horse's thighs and a horse's tail, and a pointed beard (?), as was the centaur whose proper name was Chiron son of Saturn, or Chiron the harper. And he was placed among the constellations because he had been a teacher of Achilles son of Peleus, and because of the extent of his truthfulness and because he was miraculous, — being a horse in part; for he was a horse below, and a man above.

Sagitta, that is the Arrow. It was placed among the constellations for this reason, because by it was wounded up in heaven Ganymede, son of the king of Troy; and by it did Apollo kill the Cyclopes, who made the thunderbolts for Jove by which Jove had slain Aesculapius the son of Apollo.

Capricornus, the sign which is called the Goat, was like this. He was a foster-brother of Jove; and some cause arose of strife or contention between the warrior Typhon and Capricorn the goat, until they came to fighting and to combat


with each other. And Capricorn fled before Typhon, and his head was turned into the head of a goat on this account, and he went thereafter in flight into the river Tiber, and his hinder part and his tail changed into the likeness of a fish in the river, so that in this way he became a monstrosity; and through this monstrosity he was placed among the constellations.

Aquarius, the sign which is named after water; Aquarius and water are the same. Thus is the likeness of this sign to water, because the person after whom the water of the gods was named used to serve that water to the hands of the gods. For the service of the water was given him because the pleasantness and the excellence of his comeliness, for which Jove loved him, because of the excellence of his comeliness; and to sin with him he gave him the service of water with the gods, to have him whether he would or not. And through this he was placed among the signs. —Or it is called Aquarius for this other reason. There was once a person, whose proper name was Pegasus; and thus was he created, from the blood35 of the three Gorgons, that is of the three maidens who had one eye in their heads. From the blood36 of these three was Pegasus born. And he struck a blow with his foot upon the earth, and a spring of sweet water welled up out of the earth; so that he is called Aquarius, and for this cause was placed among the signs.

Pisces, that is the two salmon which were created among the gods. And these are two salmon which are likened to Pisces, that is to a sign of the Zodiac, namely Venus and her son Cupid. And in fleeing from the same warrior Typhon they both went into the river Styx, and thery were made into two salmons; and therefore they were placed among the constellations. —Or it is for this reason that it is called Pisces, that these salmon are distributors of water of the gods from Aquarius. And they guarded the girl Io, Jove's second wife, who was caused to escape under the sea from beautiful Juno, another of Jove's wives.