Re: Doggone (was: Re: sacred geometry)

Eric Watt Forste (
Wed, 24 Sep 1997 12:03:25 -0700

Kennita Watson writes:
> I'd guess they were named at about the same time, since the Great
> Dog is Orion's hunting dog, and it makes a great story all together.
> And while it's quite possible that Leo and Scorpio were named first,
> Orion's Belt is one of the most easily-recognized star formations
> in the night sky, and may have caught people's attention before
> they thought of putting together a zodiac.

Yeah, your point about the Belt is the main reason why I'm
guessing that Orion was named before Canis Major, which with
the exception of Sirius is not a very impressive constellation
from northern latitudes (I wonder how it looks from Australia,
where it gets high in the sky?). The story about the hunting
dogs could easily have been tacked on as an afterthought.

But I've read a bunch of different people's opinions (can't remember
cites offhand, sorry) that the bright-star constellations of the
zodiac are far and away the oldest. The planets, which move from
night to night, are much more eye-catching even than Orion's belt,
and so the stars Regulus, Spica, and Antares (which make frequent
lovely and eyecatching "conjunctions" with the planets as they
pass) and their constellations were for this reason probably among
the first to be named. I have a book in which they list, among
other things, all the constellations mentioned in the Old Testament
and in Homer (they only mention a few, and Homer does the better
of the two), and there's also a bit of evidence about which
constellations the Sumerians wrote about as well.

(Oh, the title of the book is THE CAMBRIDGE GUIDE TO THE
CONSTELLATIONS, if I'm remembering right. Recommended to
anyone who is into this stuff. Also has the lists of the 200
nearest stars, and things like that.)

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd