What did Orion mean to a stone-ager?

Orion is my favorite winter constellation – easy to spot even in London, and somehow a comforting presence on clear winter nights. It seems that our ancestors also thought Orion was important, because they aligned several prehistoric sites with the constellation.

Sigurd Towrie at Orkneyjar has an interesting theory about the layout of three henges in Orkney. The relative position of the three sites mimics the layout of the three stars in Orion’s belt. He also observes that in midwinter, Orion would have risen and set with a similar alignment to the sun, suggesting that perhaps Orion can be linked to another local monument, Maeshowe, already famous for its alignment to the setting mid-winter sun.

In Egypt, the pyramids are supposed to have been laid out according to Orion’s belt. Frank Dörnenburg’s website links Orion to the Egyptian god Osiris.

Another site linked to Orion is the Thornborough Henge Complex in North Yorkshire, which is almost 1000 years older than the pyramids. According to BBC News, the henges are thought to have been built to mirror Orion’s belt for its religious focus.

Sigurd Towrie’s article also discusses stonehenge, and the theory that it may be associated with a mid-winter healing deity. Did Orion represent this ancient prehistoric god? A deity who presided over the darkest time of the year?


About singinghead

druid, mathematician, blogger, gardener...
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