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Literature on the mythology of astronomical objects


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Hello all!

In my bookcase I have a few selected works that do a very good job of satisfying my curiosity about the scientific background information of the objects that I observe or image in the sky. 

However, I also have a strong interest in the cultural, historical and mythological stories behind these objects, and I would very much like to educate myself more on the subject. Telling these stories to friends and especially children could make them that much more interested in the night sky as well. Explaining gas compositions and distances in light years is fascinating too, but in a different way.

How Perseus saved princess Andromeda, why Orion is being chased by Scorpius, and so on. Many stars have their names from Arabic, what are the stories behind those?

Are there any books that would explain the stories of the heavenly bodies from this point of view?

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Hi Niko

I have read these and they might be the sort of thing you're looking for:

'The Human Cosmos - A secret History of the Stars' by Jo Marchant

'Beneath the Night - How the stars have shaped the history of humankind' by Stuart Clark

 

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5 minutes ago, Astro Noodles said:

Hi Niko

I have read these and they might be the sort of thing you're looking for:

'The Human Cosmos - A secret History of the Stars' by Jo Marchant

'Beneath the Night - How the stars have shaped the history of humankind' by Stuart Clark

 

Thank you Astro Noodles! I wasn't familiar with these books, and they both seem interesting! However, I'm not sure they are exactly what I'm after. If I understand correctly from the descriptions, the books are about the significance of stars and related myths on human cultural evolution and how the relationship has changed over time. While this is very interesting, I'm looking for a source for the myths themselves, if that makes sense.

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4 minutes ago, Nikodemuzz said:

Thank you Astro Noodles! I wasn't familiar with these books, and they both seem interesting! However, I'm not sure they are exactly what I'm after. If I understand correctly from the descriptions, the books are about the significance of stars and related myths on human cultural evolution and how the relationship has changed over time. While this is very interesting, I'm looking for a source for the myths themselves, if that makes sense.

Hi Niko

Both of these books have extensive footnotes and bibliographies. You could use them to track down what you are really looking for.

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1 minute ago, Astro Noodles said:

Hi Niko

Both of these books have extensive footnotes and bibliographies. You could use them to track down what you are really looking for.

This is a good idea, thanks! I can't believe there isn't a book on the market that would be a collection of these myths. I mean, they are probably among the oldest documented tales there are. Of course basically all cultures have their own, but you know what I mean. If such a book really doesn't exist, I'm thinking I will do the research and write one!

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5 minutes ago, Nikodemuzz said:

This is a good idea, thanks! I can't believe there isn't a book on the market that would be a collection of these myths. I mean, they are probably among the oldest documented tales there are. Of course basically all cultures have their own, but you know what I mean. If such a book really doesn't exist, I'm thinking I will do the research and write one!

I think it would be a hefty book because different cultures often have different myths.

The two books I have mentioned do briefly cover the mythologies associated with certain asterisms (Pleiades, Taurus, Orion). Associations between the Taurus constellation and a bull/aurochs seems to go back into pre-history. Myths associated with Pleiades seem to identify them a seven sister/young women in many cultures.

It is a fascinating subject. 🙂

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You could try Burnhams Celestial Handbook, Allens Star names, Ian RidPaths Star Tales and many more for what you are looking for. There is also Olcott's Star Lore. And mnay others.

 

Owen

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3 hours ago, Astro Noodles said:

I think it would be a hefty book because different cultures often have different myths.

The two books I have mentioned do briefly cover the mythologies associated with certain asterisms (Pleiades, Taurus, Orion). Associations between the Taurus constellation and a bull/aurochs seems to go back into pre-history. Myths associated with Pleiades seem to identify them a seven sister/young women in many cultures.

It is a fascinating subject. 🙂

It would indeed be a substantial tome, wouldn't it? 🙂 Basically an endless subject for study when you start looking at different cultures. I would be more than happy to start by knowing the stories behind the names I have come to know as a part of "western" cultures.

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18 minutes ago, icpn said:

You could try Burnhams Celestial Handbook, Allens Star names, Ian RidPaths Star Tales and many more for what you are looking for. There is also Olcott's Star Lore. And mnay others.

 

Owen

Thank you for the suggestions, I will take a look!

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41 minutes ago, Nikodemuzz said:

Thank you for the suggestions, I will take a look!

I have all 3 volumes of Burnhams Celestial Handbook (1978 edition) and I'm not aware of any information I think you are looking for in them. Around the same time I remember buying an excellent book on astronomical mythology, but like so many of my old books, it was consigned many years ago to boxes in the loft. If I get a chance this weekend I'll see if I can get up there and have look for it (but it's more than likely out of print now).

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I have a copy of a short and simple book with a guide to locating the constellations, and a section with the classical constellation myths retold briefly in a way suitable for telling to children :

A Walk through the Heavens By M D Heifitz and Wil Tirion

Last time I mentioned it to someone, I looked on Amazon and found plenty of second hand copies for sale .

Heather

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