The Cosmic Scorpion Evident in Ancient Cultures

The Cosmic Scorpion Evident in Ancient Cultures

Scorpions have inhabited the Earth for over 400 million years. They were one of the first seabed evolved creatures to climb out of oceans onto land. Although older than the dinosaurs and despite many species, there has been small change to their basic form over this vast time. Their mysterious appearance is deeply entangled in human culture and known for symbolizing danger, eroticism, the hidden and clandestine. A Roman war-machine, a yoga posture, and a star constellation take their name from this predatory arachnid. Like snakes and insects, the meaning of scorpions remains fairly constant across cultural boundaries and this has been the case with its constellated counterpart as well. 

Scorpius as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London (circa 1825). (Public Domain)

Scorpius as depicted in Urania's Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London (circa 1825). (Public Domain)

Astral Visions of the Scorpius Constellation

The Scorpius constellation belongs to a star group known as the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, stars which share a common space motion. This means that the shape of this star pattern, as viewed from Earth, would have remained reasonably constant for at least a million years. The Scorpius constellation has been an object of starwatching for millennia. More importantly, different human groups distanced by time and place have seen a scorpion in these stars. The ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian heritage of the celestial scorpion, which features in mythologies, seems to have come from Mesopotamian astronomers who named Scorpius zuqaqipu (‘scorpion’). However, the image of Scorpius extended far beyond the Near East and Mediterranean regions into different cultural settings.


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