Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Perseus

P is our letter in this year’s A-Z challenge tour through the heavens.   There are nine constellations that begin with a “P”:  Pavo, Pegasus, Perseus, Phoenix, Pictor, Pisces, Piscis Austrinus, Puppis, and Pyxis.  Of those, only three are well known: Pegasus, Perseus and Pisces. There is also Pleiades, the seven sisters, which while not listed as a constellation is certainly a well known formation in the sky. Knowing it was going to be hard to pick, I covered Perseus under “F” for “flying horse.”  We could explore Pisces, which is one of the Zodiac constellations, but instead I’m going to go to Perseus.  We’re already met Perseus, who saved and then married the lovely Andromeda after he’d beheaded the horrific Medusa.  But there’s a lot more to his story.
Perseus is the son of Jupiter (you know, the god who had a thing for beautiful mortal women).  His mother was the beautiful Danae, who lived in Argos that was ruled by her father, Acrisius.  His was a dysfunctional family if there ever was one.  He was afraid that his daughter was going to kill his son, so he locked her up in a tower, not allowing her to marry.  But Jupiter, being a god, wasn’t deterred by a tower.  From their union came Perseus.  Acrisius then cast his daughter and grandson out to sea in a chest.  With the gods watching over them, they ended up on the island of Seriphos. 

While Perseus was away, the wife of Polydectes, the island’s chief, died.  He set his eyes on Danae, but she didn’t love him.  In retaliation, he made her his slave.  Of course, this didn’t please her son, Perseus, who was ready to kill Polydectes.  But instead of killing him, he acted on a dream and the aide of gods and went off to kill Medusa, one of the Gorgon sisters.  Mercury had loaned him his flying shoes and Minerva loaned him a sword and a bright shield that she suggested he use to look at Medusa, for to look at her head would mean certain death.   On the way to find the Gorgons, Perseus stopped by Atlas who was tired of holding up the earth.  Atlas gave Perseus a special helmet that allowed him to be invisible, asking Perseus to stop by and show him Medusa’s head when he was done.  Perseus cut off the head of Medusa, stopped by and showed it to Atlas (who turned to stone and became a mountain in Africa).  As he was making his way home, he saved Andromeda.  When he finally got back home, seven years later, there was a banquet where he displayed Medusa, turning the chieftain and his guests into stone.   

Perseus is best seen in the autumn sky as he leads his wife, Andromeda, up into the sky.  He is just above the Pleiades (the seven sisters).   The constellation has a number of interesting stars including Algol, a binary star that significantly changes in magnitude every 69 hours (as one star crosses in front of the other).  In the ancient world, this star which would be in Medusa’s head was seen as the winking eye of the beast. 

Late at night in mid-August is the Perseids meteors (which I wrote about under the letter M for “meteor”).  


  1. Very interesting challenge topic! I must catch up now :-) MDC

  2. I had no idea about this, as the above comment said your topic(theme) is not easy!

  3. very cool. i didn't know that his mom was turned into a slave. so awesome to learn something new about mythology.

    fantastic post.

  4. I didn't know this about Perseus.
    You are doing so well in this A-Z challenge series.

    All the best Jan

  5. All this drama makes current events pale by comparison!

    Once upon a time, I could pick out the Pleiades.

  6. Fascinating story. Whenever I read about Medusa, I feel like she was misunderstood.

  7. The history of these is like a soap opera! :)

  8. Once again, this is all new to me. Thanks for sharing this interesting post. :-)

    Cait @ Click's Clan

  9. Perseus was always one of my favourite mythological heroes. :-)

  10. Fascinating post, Sage. Thought-provoking too. Until this moment I don't think I made the connection between Jupiter and Zeus impregnating mortal women and God impregnating Mary. It's the same story, but I never made the connection because God is God and Mary is Mary ~ real as opposed to legends. Kind of like when I saw a statue of Osiris at the moment of rising or resurrecting, and it sunk in that this was a god resurrecting. You read these stories, one is true and the other is not, until it hits you, and you think, "Wait a minute!" Then it really twists your mind around as you try to figure out the meaning behind all of these non and Christian stories. Duh! I always thought Pleiades was a constellation. I'm never too old to learn! Have a good one!

  11. So many interesting stories associated with the heavenly wonders! Sometimes I wonder which of them deserves more wonder :)
    Well presented!
    Best wishes :)
    'Don't QUIT' #AtoZChallenge

  12. Thanks for this great story. I wondered about 'I covered Perseus under “F” for “flying horse.' Did you mean Pegasus??