The Mythology Behind The Scorpio Constellation Explained

Scorpio, also known as Scorpius when the zodiac symbol is referred to as its constellation, lies on the ecliptic between Libra and Sagittarius (via Britannica). It features both the 15th brightest star in the sky, Antares (which is bright and red enough that its name means "rival of Mars"), and the brightest source of x-rays in the sky, the binary star Scorpius X-1 (per Britannica).

Despite its brilliant stars, the symbolism of Scorpio has been anything but obvious. While some constellations, such as Leo, had a set shape and story across ancient cultures (for instance, that of a lion), Scorpio's interpretation has varied considerably. In Indonesia, Javanese cultures refer to the constellation as a brooded swan or a leaning coconut tree; in Hawaii, it's a fishhook of Maui, a demigod; in China, the asterism was just a section of the larger constellation of the Azure Dragon (via Space). In Western astrology, of course, Scorpio is a scorpion, and part of a Greek myth tied to the story of Orion.

Scorpio, the champion of Gaia

As it's said in legend, Orion was a great hunter, who boasted that there was no animal he couldn't kill, according to EarthSky. He grew so proud and skillful, in fact, that he said he would kill every animal on the planet. This angered Gaia, the goddess of earth and protector of animals, so she sent her most fearsome animal — Scorpio, a giant scorpion — after Orion to kill him once and for all. In a legendary environmentalist victory, Scorpio stung Orion to death.

This is why when the gods put Scorpio and Orion in the night sky, they put them at opposite ends of the earth — Scorpio rises as Orion sets. The interpretation is that Orion is allowed to hunt during the winter, but is chased out by Scorpio in the spring, according to Globe at Night.

Scorpions are seen in other Greek myths tied to the constellation as well, according to Britannica. In one story, Phaeton, the foolish son of the god Helios, asked his father to let him drive the chariot that sent the sun across the sky (via Shmoop). As Phaeton got close to the constellation Scorpio, he became (understandably) terrified of the monster's stinger and lost control of the chariot.