h Phoenix Qi: July 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Symbolism of Orion's Belt

The identification of these three stars as a belt is a very old one. The Arabic names of two of the stars reflect this: Mintaka means 'the belt' and Alnitak means 'the girdle'. (The name of the third star, Alnilam, means 'the string of pearls'.) It has been suggested that the three Belt-stars influenced the placing of the Pyramids at Giza, and it is certainly true that there is a remarkable correspondence of position between the Pyramids and the stars. (courtesy of glyphweb.com)

Across the centuries, the three stars we know familiarly as Orion's Belt have held a special meaning to many people in many cultures, especially when the number three held spiritual significance as kings, wise men, or gods.

Here are a few of those stories:

The Three Kings of the pyramids



Egyptian Name

Greek Name

Star in Orion

great pyramid




center pyramid




smallest pyramid




The Three Magi of Christian Tradition
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Magi

The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos (μαγος pl. μαγοι), which is a derivative from Old Persian Magupati. The term is a specific occupational title referring to the priestly caste of a branch of Zoroastrianism known as Zurvanism. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology.

The phrase from the east is the only information Matthew provides on where the Magi came from, apart from identifying that they come from their own country rather than Judea. Traditionally the view developed that the Magi were Persian or Parthian, a view held for example by John Chrysostom, and Byzantine art generally depicted them in Persian dress. The main support for this is that the first Magi were from Persia and that land still had the largest number of them. Some believe they were from Babylon, which was the centre of Zurvanism, and hence astrology, at the time. Brown comments that the author of Matthew probably didn't have a specific location in mind and the phrase from the east is for literary effect and added exoticism. Though the Bible does not number the Magi [nor, apparently, name them], traditionally there were always seen to be three, as three of the gifts were specifically named.

In the Eastern church a variety of different names are given for the three, but in the West the names have been settled since the 8th century as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The names of the Magi derive from an early 6th century Greek manuscript in Alexandria, translated into the Latin Excerpta Latina Barbari. The Latin text Collectanea et Flores continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details of their clothes, coming from Syria. This text is said to be from the 8th century, of Irish origin. In the Eastern churches, Ethiopian Christianity, for instance, has Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater, while the Armenians have Kagbha, Badadakharida and Badadilma.

In China, the three stars of Orion's Belt represented the Three Pristine Ones in Daoism: Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure, Celestial Worthy of Original Beginnings, Celestial Worthy of the Dao and Inner Power

Also from China, the three belt stars represented the Chinese Star Lords of Good Fortune whose worship began in the 15th c., Fu (Prosperity/Wealth), Lu (Success) and Shu (Longevity). However, Shu was worshipped much earlier, as early as the 3rd c. BCE

In Shinto beliefs: http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/orion.htm According to Uchida (1973), many Japanese came to call the three belt stars of Orion Taishikou San Daishi. Taishikou refers to Winter, and San Daishi refers to three great preachers or teachers. Around the 11th month of each lunar calendar year, on the 23rd and 24th days, various celebrations were and still are made honoring three particularly significant Buddhist teachers who founded sects of that religion in the Nara and Heian eras of Japan: Tendai Daishi (founder of the Tendai Buddhist Sect), Saichou (follower and teacher of the Tendai sect), and Kobo Daishi (founder of the Shingon sect and also famous for establishing the 88 temples of Shikoku around the 9th century).

One can hardly speak of the stars of the Belt of Orion without mentioning the significance of Sirius, the Dog Star. For more information on Sothis/Sopdet/Sirius the Dog Star see How Long Does a Phoenix Live .