THE PLEIADES IN MYTHOLOGY
In the clear night skies of antiquity the Pleiades star cluster was an object of wonder and a subject of myth in almost every culture on the planet. The heliacal (near dawn) rising of the Pleiades in spring in the northern hemisphere has from ancient times augured the opening of the seafaring and farming season: while its dawn autumnal setting marked the season’s end.
The Pleiades are among the first stars mentioned in literature, appearing in Chinese annals of about 2350 BC. The earliest European references are somewhat later, in a poem by Hesiod in about 1000 BC and in Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad and later the Bible.
The etymological derivation of the name Pleiades (Πλειαδεσ) is uncertain, a possible root is from Pindar, an early Greek poet, who named the cluster the Peleiades – ‘a flock of Doves’ – is, perhaps, the original form.
The 19th century poet Alfred Lord Tennyson described, in his poem Locksley Hall, the rising Pleiades:
Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.