is not an Earth Angel. He is an angel from the cluster of stars known as Pleiades, in the constellation of Taurus.

Pleiades Mythology
The mythology associated with the Pleiades cluster is extensive; Burnham’s Celestial Handbook (Revised & Enlarged Edition, 1976, Robert Burnham Jr., Dover Publications Inc.) devotes eight pages to the subject. Here only Greek legends are presented. The information below was taken from Burnham’s; Thomas Bullfinch’s The Age of Fable, 1942, Heritage Press; The Reader’s Encyclopedia 2/e by William Rose Benet, 1965, Thomas Y. Crowell Company; and Ian Ridpath’s Star Tales, 1988, Universe Books. If you are aware of additional information or corrections, please let me know.

Possible name derivations:

  • plein, `to sail’, making Pleione `sailing queen’ and her daughters `sailing ones.’ The cluster was visible all night during summer sailing season in ancient Greece, serving as a seasonal guide.
  • pleos, `full’, of which the plural is `many’, appropriate for a star cluster.
  • peleiades, `flock of doves’, consistent with the sisters’ mythological transformation.

The Pleiad(e)s were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and half-sisters of the Hyades, whose mother was Æthra. Both Pleione and Æthra were Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, the titans who ruled the outer seas before being replaced by Poseidon. Atlas was another titan, who was condemned by Zeus after the war with the gods to hold up the heavens on his shoulders. The Seven Sisters were also nymphs in the training of Artemis.

What is known about each of the sisters:

  • Alcyone – Seduced by Poseidon. Children…?
  • (A)sterope – Ravished by Aries and gave birth to Oenomaus, king of Pisa.
  • Celæno – Seduced by Poseidon. Children…?
  • Electra – Seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Dardanus, founder of Troy.
  • Maia – Eldest and most beautiful of the sisters. Seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Hermes. Later became foster-mother to Arcas, son of Zeus and Callisto, during the period while Callisto was a bear, and before she and Arcas were placed in the heavens by Zeus (she as Ursa Major, he as either Boötes or Ursa Minor).
  • Merope – Married Sisyphus, son of Æolus, grandson of Deucalion (the Greek Noah), and great-grandson of Prometheus. Sisyphus founded the city of Ephyre (Corinth) and later revealed Zeus’s rape of Ægina to her father Asopus (a river), for which Zeus condemned him to roll a huge stone up a hill in Hades, only to have it roll back down each time the task was nearly done.
  • Tayget(e/a) – Seduced by Zeus and gave birth to Lacedæmon, founder of Sparta.

One day the great hunter Orion saw the Pleiads (perhaps with their mother) as they walked through the Boeotian countryside, and fancied them. He pursued them for seven years, until Zeus answered their prayers for delivery and transformed them into birds (doves or pidgeons), placing them among the stars. Later on, when Orion was killed (there are many conflicting stories as to how), he was placed in the heavens behind the Pleiades, immortalizing the chase.

The `lost Pleiad’ legend came about to explain why only six are easily visible to the unaided eye. This sister is variously said to be Electra, who veiled her face at the burning of Troy, or Merope, who was shamed for marrying a mortal, or Celæno, who was struck by a thunderbolt. Missing Pleiad myths also appear in other cultures, prompting Burnham to speculate stellar variability (Pleione?) as a physical basis. It is difficult to know if the modern naming pays attention to any of this. Celæno is the faintest at present, but the “star” Asterope is actually two stars, both of which are fainter than Celæno if considered separately.

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Rev.Cassandra Anaya, Ph.D. (email)

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