Orion's Be(e): A Tale Retold by Stephanie Pope published in Mythopoetry Scholar Jan., 2010 volume one; publisher mythopoetry.com
myth and poetry

Annual Reflections In Depth Perspectives
Mythopoetry Scholar January, 2010
scanner Art by Richard Lance Williams
This Issue: Health & Well-Being


Orion's Be(e): A Tale Retold
by Stephanie Pope

    I’ll example you with thievery. The sun’s a thief,
      and with his great attraction robs the vast sea.
                            –Shakespeare, Timon, Act IV

      I drank as earth imbibes the shower
      or as the rainbow drinks the dew
                            -Hippolytus Capilupus,

      Nature’s holy law is drinking
                           -Thomas Moore, Ode XXI

The whatness out of which the image begins in substantive nature may have surfaced in the doctor’s office. This is the moment the image of Orion’s be-ness resurrects out of my not quite forgotten, quiet humiliation nightly brewed in childhood when each morning as a young girl I awaken to find during the night I’ve wet the bed.

Urine becomes once more psyche’s image-drink of choice to convey to me psyche’s pronouncements of ‘health’ one early morning at summer’s end. This particular October morning my doctor is conveying to me the results of my urinalysis saying, “Your urine is so pure I can drink it.” (!)

It seems this is all it takes for me to imbibe the notion of having fallen once more in/to the drink, ‘drinking urine’, drinking ourios, from ouron, the Greek word for urine, that ‘sea’ out of which Orion springs—not in the naturalistic way October earth imbibes nature’s showers at Demeter’s end in warmly arid September. Rather I imbibe in the symbolic way analogies through mythic images are made. The quiet humiliation works…well, quietly or remotely or beyond me in my unselfconscious blotting out of it over the years. The ‘blot’ is a remote yellow stain upon the fibers in image-weave I cannot bleach clean. It is all that remains of remaining and from where re-maining—James Hillman’s notion for the return of the main repressed proceeds.1

The Be of Memory And Beyond the Memory of Bees

Memory is like a bee and the imaginal ‘be’ is an alien, ununderstandable image at first. Now central to soul-making, this night bee covers shame and so does Lethe.2 The cover of night can be a honey-salve and a saving balm. With the bee dawns a faded, fragmented, long ago experience of the darkly golden humiliation; it consoles like a cure in a sting.  The bee I fear may carry the bee-ing I really imitate when be-ing myself. That’s because what is horrifying on a naturalistic level is often symbolically good.3 No doubt my doctor’s humor means to convey to me through the horrific notion of drinking my own urine some good news about my health!

This reflection piece undertakes a turn of trope re-visioning the myth of Orion using a girlhood memory of wetting the bed.  The memory is faded and nameless but its one characteristic is place. Where it takes place is under the covers at night and under cover of night—under the skin where night ferments in the staining power in the weave in be-ing to undo what day has done.4

The form the memory of wetting the bed has taken is a yellow stain. Much like a bee in the hive of a hide, the stain is not placeless although ‘the here’ where it takes place is not exactly ‘here’. It is like the remains of a stain and not the staining moment itself. The image is like honey in a cave in a moment of excessive overflow.

Honey doesn’t ferment in the hive. It ferments when water is mixed with it and the mixture is exposed to heat. Karl Kerényi notes the time of this occurrence in antiquity is during the rising of the dogstar, Sirius who accompanies Orion to the midheavens.5 Nature’s drink that overfills it happens under the cover of night. Night’s power undoes the day; heat to honey. What is this drink? What of its purity?

The beverage is not yet wine but honey-mead just as Orion, the great hunter is not yet the god who is a great hunter (Zagreus) but gigantes, its opposition, its friction, its flaring up…its further soul; the time of purity is like getting a place ready to bring the secret near. The beverage is already pure, a pure place in a pure time, a festive one; so pure you can almost imbibe. (You already are.)

The archetypal situation in nature marks a transcendence from within Nature of that moment in its first creation. It is a visionary moment; it is the image-place of a supernatural existence marked such as image-places are in the coming and going of being.  

Kerényi calls this image-experience zoë; zoë marks the return from states of nonexperience such as is waking up; it presupposes infinite life; it cannot be destroyed.6 And Kerényi furthers, “the common—archetypal and biologically grounded—factor is that in addition to nourishment…zoë seeks sweetness and finds intensification in it.”7 Plotinus calls zoë a “time of the soul.”8 Homer equates the two by saying psyche for zoë.9

One can now consider the image-place of being in the experience of zoë is equivalent to a time of (pure) soul. Consider Kerényi’s final thought in the introduction to Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life:

As always, the Greek religion points to figures and images that bring the secret close to man. Elements that in everyday speech, related to everyday events and needs, stand side by side and are often intermingled, are transposed into pure time…pure place: the scene of events that are enacted…in a dimension of their own…10

That original moment creating my now faded memory went unworded. It reappears in an image of psyche; it says this stain (and no other) is like Orion is to honey—so pure you can drink it! Does the shadowy stain express in image exteriority the nameless movement that left it hiving in the hide? Does what it is reveal it in as-form as living psychic reality, as zoë, as psyche-making? The essential be-ing it places lies in a largely unselfconscious intentionality composed of three primary characteristics: 1) ambiguity in meaning, 2) indeterminancy in outcome and 3) openness to the shape in life that life is coming to be(e).


The central image of the myth accents Orion’s birth and death and employs the myth of the leather sack.11 Specifically his birth happens through excessive spilling of godseed into an animal covering, skin or hide. The hide is sealed and buried. Orion’s birth arises out of this ‘flow’ of divine excess months later. In other words, god’s creation, Orion exceeds its own creation in the form of the soul by way of god’s (or gods’) creative overflow. So this is what “image of psyche” means to amplify. The subsequent growth of the animal soul of Orion is excessive. He is a giant, one of extreme beauty. Psyche’s epiphanies are (beautiful). He strides the waves of the Aegean. His feet are firmly planted in the sea. He is a master animal, a master of animals, the image of a Great Hunter throughout the story of his myth. There are two variations of Orion’s birth myth. The focus in this essay is specific: three gods fill an animal hide with godseed after a night of hospitable eating and drinking. The wetting and coming alive of this animal soul is like (a) ‘pissing’ rain.

Orion, the great hunter, holds special relationship to Artemis in the myth and she, as the idea of that mistress governing all wild nature—or so the, perhaps Paleolithic idea of master and mistress of animal natures go, must be won over to the side of the hunter.12 By Homer’s time this nature-sphere of activity as an Olympian goddess is greatly surpressed and acculturated to the archetype of girlhood but before this in one of her epithets, potnia theron Walter Burkert suggests what one version of the myth suggests: Artemis is attributed with causing Orion’s accidental death. 

One version this paper examines suggests the trickery of Apollon is involved. If nature’s first law is drinking, divine drinking is excessive and this excessiveness of the gods gives birth to Orion. That Apollon is involved in halting the excesses of the gigantes’ flow suggests the sun a thief. This version of Orion’s death is an example of the son’s thievery to preserve the powers and principles of Zeus; Apollon is sun as son of Zeus. The myth says Apollon tricks Artemis into shooting her arrows to hit a mark farther out to sea. Unbeknownst to her the mark she is to hit is Orion. She takes her twin’s dare and hits her mark but by killing Orion (a life which cannot really die since it is born of zoë alone) what she is really doing undoes what day has done. The actions of the goddess Artemis are similar to those of the goddess Night in this instance.  

Once more, the image goes beyond the mark to suggest the marksmanship of the mistress of the animal soul is ultimately restorative and regenerative and something other than this animal soul. The myth goes on to say that in her grief at having slain Orion she gives him the starry place on Night’s heavenly garment. It is, of course, the origin in the heavens from which Orion’s ‘place’ or ‘soul’ springs to life in the first place!

Orion’s birth myth suggests he is an earth-born psychic reality; earth-born means autochthonous, and this can be said of his ‘birth’, he is gigantes, of Zeus and of the fluids of Ge (Poseidon) and of the fluid Hermes (the chthonic, hidden or invisible world). He is that which springs forth out of what already preexists in the heaven’s nightly sea; he is the suggestion of this pure ‘place’ living beyond dualities within every creation and destruction.

The excessive fluidities in motion are mixtures exteriorized in nightly mix under the guiding lights of fixed stars. Orion constellates out of this flux and appears in a region of heaven. So Orion is a fixed, but ‘moist’ star, a lapis imbrifer. Orion harbours in felt-sense the waters of the wild Artemis that can be as fierce and as cold as autumnal storms and floods, seasonal yet unpredictable events which threaten the life of animals and cities of men. But, in another way Orion is a mixture created out of the aerial imagination and the imagination of water.

In relation to the wild soul of nature’s psyche as ‘Artemis’, Orion is an attribute of her wildness; she, a guardian and protector to an untamed, vegetative nature in his soul. Orion’s ‘death’ by Artemis means—not death! It suggests the time under Orion in which the animal soul underwent metamorphoses and returned to its image-source; her marksmanship marks out the myth logical moment, the space in which (a) soul-making took ‘place’.  

Perhaps this suggests the boast in the myths Orion is said to have made. There are a number of versions of his death which suggest he eventually threatens to kill every beast there is on earth; whereupon, in her anger, the Earth sends up against him a scorpion of very great size by which he is stung and dies.

I can’t help remember here the metaphorical ‘sting that consoles’. It is through the favour of Artemis Orion does not die and since he can’t die anyway because he’s made up in the image and likeness of psyche’s ‘time of being’, his transformations reflect the achievement of the dimension of the pure ‘place’ and the pure time.

Soul movements operate between local and remote, interiority and exteriority just as Orion moves from the local sphere to the remote heavens in an image transcending from within itself. Having done so, likewise disappears he in/to the heavenly drink out of which first he springs.

How like the tale of the salt doll from the parables of Sri Ramakrishna which state something similar. A little salt doll wading into the ocean to measure its depths discovers it is of the same substance as these depths it comes to measure and because it is of the same being as the cosmic sea, it dissolves when entering therein; now who is there but the groundless ground behaving itself?

Orion’s troubles seem to really announce this soul-path (or is it pathos?) in transformation. His desires exceed those of dualities. He likes hunting but he also likes drinking. Like isn’t strong enough a word. Orion lusts after life and to excess. He expresses an appetite like the gods’ divine overflow which create him. Here then has come together the triple trope expressed as Orion: drinking, night and Orion’s be(e)-ness, his raison d’etre to honey.

Further Considerations

This paper is loosely organized using a notion of insemination and dissemination in the legacy of the vegetative soul in Elaine P. Miller’s The Vegetative Soul: From Philosophy of Nature To Subjectivity In The Feminine13 and two ideas of ‘place’ regarding the local and the remote put forth by Andrew J. Blum.14 One notion belongs to Edward Relph who defines ‘place’ as that place from which perceptions matter as profound centers of human existence, centers expressing psyche’s unselfconscious intentionality.15 The other suggests it is an imaginative coherence which operates in how psyche’s images of the remote— such images as those in myth and in memories and local images such as that brief encounter in the doctor’s office this past October I describe, bring to our perceptions a sort of “temporary patch”, to quote Blum, where the discontinuities of our world come to belong-together.  The mythic image of the leather sack in which Orion is hidden away for a time and the psychic image of the nightly ‘golden stain’ taking place while ‘in the sack’ of nightly slumber as a young girl are like this temporal patch; it holds in my story such ‘place’ where profoundly disparate images nonetheless cohabit and cohere.

Nature’s Drink; Drinking One’s Nature

As Kerenyi notes of mythographers integrating old myths into new ones through puns,16 mythologers like myself are no less susceptible to the practice. The brood of night and the nightly brewed of childhood are linked metaphors which I’ve internalized apparently. This early October moment in the doctor’s office reopens a now twilight memory from childhood of wetting the bed. The early but now dimmed memory links through urine the story of Orion’s origin in god’s (or gods’) creative flow.  Ovid will tell how three divinities, Jupiter (Zeus), Neptune (Poseidon) and Mercury (Hermes) visit an old farmer, Hyrieus.

Hyrieus is quite old and he does not recognize being visited by gods. Although they are unrecognizable to him, Hyrieus opens his door to the three and offers them hospitality. This delights them, causing Jupiter to offer Hyrieus his heart’s desire. Ovid continues

Jupiter’s words were: ‘Wish whatever you desire; you shall have it all.’ The kind man’s words were: ‘I had a dear wife, whom I knew in first youth’s flower. Where is she now, you ask? Sealed in an urn. I gave her an oath, with you my witness. “You alone, I declared, shall be my wife.” I’ve kept my word, but my desire has changed. I want to be, not a husband, but a father.’ All nodded; all stood by the hide of the ox.’

And then Ovid says, “I am ashamed to speak any further.”17

From the Latin ūrīna and Greek ouron, ‘urine’ has its Indo European root in wē-r revealing images of water or watering or moisture and moistening, liquid or flow and flowing and finally, milk, in this case milk of gods.18 The variant base awer and its sense for moistening flow and flowing moisture alludes to the salty sea and even, as in raining, a drizzle. Orion is conceived in a ‘flood of watering’. That’s the sense of it, three gods see to a “pissing rain.” Afterward, the leather hide is made into a sack that, once sealed, is buried for some months at which time Orion is born. No wonder then, Ovid’s shame. Flesh is marked as that emblem of god’s boundless overflow. God’s ‘seed’ overfills creation in carnal excess. It has exteriority in Orion and as a gigantes marks that moment god’s creative motion exceeds creation.

It may be that Ovid invents Hyrieus or he is a culture hero but nevertheless Orion’s birth from godseed sealed in a sack or animal hide links Orion to Boetia and the city of Hyria and the word hyron, Cretan for both ‘beehive’ and ‘swarm of bees.’19 Town folk are sailors and farmers and Orion’s ‘be’, his groundless ground is located here. That is, Orion constellates in a star pattern familiar enough to people Hesiod can use the myth of Orion to teach succeeding generations of farming sailors and sailing farmers how to engage Orion’s be(e) appearing in the heavens and whose path across the heavens might then guide folk when to hunker down their boats and return to farming the land.20 Hesiod notes

As for the laborers, spur them to thresh Demeter’s holy grain as soon as mighty Orion appears…when Orion and Sirius come into mid-heaven…and rose-fingered dawn meets Arcturus, then set about cutting off the grape-clusters for home. Expose them to the sun for ten days and ten nights, cover them over for five and on the sixth draw merry Dionysos’ gift off into jars. But when the Pleiades and Hyades and mighty Orion are setting, then be thinking of ploughing in its season…if now the desire to go to sea (disagreeable as it is) has hold of you: when the Pleiades, running before Orion’s grim strength, are plunging into the misty sea, then blasts of every kind of wind rage; at this time do not keep ships on the wine-faced sea….wait till the time of sailing comes.

Hesiod goes on to say this ‘design’ belongs to Zeus and Poseidon and you will not smash your ships unless these gods will it. Over and over Hesiod will warn against doing anything outside a measured response, “It is a fearful thing to die among the waves,” he says. Not two sentences later he says, “…it is a fearful thing to meet with disaster among the waves.” Hesiod will go so far as to suggest one not trust the sea’s flow even in calm weather but “…come home again as quickly as you can, and do not wait for the new wine and the autumn rains, the onset of winter and the fearsome blasts of the South Wind, which stirs up the sea as it comes with heaven’s plentiful rains of autumn, and makes the waves rough.”21

It seems the plentiful rains of autumn are the ‘pissing’ rains and one can sail in ships in want of wealth and prosperity, according to Hesiod, but one ought, when not running from riches, beware the poverties also in gods’ design. Here I would like to stress James Hillman’s idea regarding the fear of be(e)ing as really a fear of the encounter with the depths of be-ing because we come face to face with soul’s pathos in which an individual dissemination is underway. Hesiod fears the rising flood of gods’ waters, the divine excesses, the overflow, for it rises in winter and it troubles the seas, makes their surfaces rough, and it troubles the land with flood and storms. Of course, what he’s saying is an individual fate is attached to chance. 

Chance one evening would have it Zeus and Poseidon along with Hermes visit an old farmer or hospitable king who is granted a wish by the three. And what he wishes more than anything is for an earthborn son, a child born of water and earth and of starry heaven. It is just here the image of three gods at the end of an evening respite in an act of nightly overflow resurface the secret humiliation I suffer as a young girl. This is what Blum calls ‘finding oneself living locally in a place that is not local at all.”22

This primary image-experience forms the concealed ground of Orion’s essential being. Miller speaks of Derridian dissemination drawing attention to the whole history of philosophy encompassing nature conceived metaphorically as a book and specifically the book of gods through the notion of the logos spermatikos articulated by Plato, “…of writing with strewing seed, speech with animal insemination.23 The imagery conflates with the humiliating childhood memory and says to me “God’s bounty lights up and overfills its creation.” Likewise, poetic life overtakes my own. Kerényi reminds how before this was Orion it was ‘honey’ playing the role of the life substance in an animal hide. Poetic language plays such a role; poetic language speaks in a honey tongue.

Gantz gathers a tangle of notions regarding Orion from Homer and in later story the appearance of the otherness of his birth links his name to the Olympian gods’ urine and an early marriage to Side, which means pomegranate. This is a reference to Persephone, Demeter’s daughter and her psyche given over to chthonic nourishment when she eats some of its fruit, i.e. its pomegranate. An imaginal so-ing of the seed formula might here take over. Metaphors of vegetative soul might then be read in such a way that no priority is given one kind of soul-making movement over another. Persephone, after having become sexually ensouled soul, announces her deathless death just as the call to Artemis to re-turn remains of suppressed sides will have their limits and, when reached, announce Orion’s deathless death.

Since these are timeless shapes which neither live nor die, they are representations of indestructible, psychological matters. Like in fermentation, these images of psyche die and rot and become, according to Kerenyi a practical formula devised by the honey-man, Aristaios in a sacrifice at that moment of greatest fermentation. This sacrifice is to Zeus Ikmaios, the god of moisture and bringer of dew maidens. Dew is honey-mead, a poetry writ with the strewing seed of gods.  

The shafts of Artemis which slay Orion are gentler ones than those which strike Persephone’s son by Zeus Katachthonious, Zagreus. A great hunter, too, the thunder bolt of Zeus announces the moment when gods, once more, eat gods and return our reflections to the nonhuman realm of non-experience where we are to realize the many makings that go into the reflections which constellate our words.

Write With Strewing Seed”

God’s bounty lights up and overfills the Book of Nature with a secret phrase. How tell again to a new generation of souls the story of pure places? How share again the mystery scene of the events not enacted in the dimensions of space but from within the realm of living images fulfilling themselves in a temporized sphere of their own?

There is a lot of talk these days over the publication of Jung’s Red Book. I caught an on line article in the New York Times regarding its publication this past September. I’d like to quote a passage from this article to address why one ought take up the pen and write from within the image forms themselves. One ought write from the perspective of exteriorized psychological forms, in other words. These images of psyche are often frightening ones. Working with them, such as did I in this essay, helps turn the image trope of the myth, ‘drinking to excess’ back toward psyche’s notion of necessity within its drinking notion: drinking the excess. Thusly, the felt-sense indicates there might just be an integration of disparate sides of psychological life now belonging-together in a pure place. Jung calls the pure place a silent place of renewal and like a temple and the temple, a book

“I should advise you to put it all down as beautifully as you can — in some beautifully bound book,” Jung instructed. “It will seem as if you were making the visions banal — but then you need to do that — then you are freed from the power of them. . . . Then when these things are in some precious book you can go to the book & turn over the pages & for you it will be your church — your cathedral — the silent places of your spirit where you will find renewal. If anyone tells you that it is morbid or neurotic and you listen to them — then you will lose your soul — for in that book is your soul.”24

1JH writes “pathologized events must necessarily be central to soul…we begin in the odd, ununderstandable, and alien symbol…perhaps our psychopathology has an intimate connection with our individuality, so that our fear of being what we really are is partly because we fear the psychopathological aspect of individuality. See Re-visioning Psychology, New York: Harper Collins, 1975, p.55.

2For the notion that good fortune or bad during the day determines how saving a balm of night can be(e) think of how Night interrupts the dual between Ajax and Hector… "… night is now upon us, and it is well to yield obedience to night's behest." See Homer Iliad 7.282.

3The sentence is attributed to Jungian analyst, Murray Stein in an on line article, “The Holy Grail of the Unconscious” published September 16, 2009 to the New York Times on line. The article is written by Sara Corbett. The interviewer meets up with Stein and shares a big dream with the horrific image of preparing to eat an elephant’s head. Stein assures her eating is a symbol for integration by saying, ‘Don’t worry.  It’s horrifying on a naturalistic level, but symbolically it’s good.’ I’ve extended the analogy to drinking. See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html?pagewanted=9

4Consider two images with regards body health, regeneration and restoration; night restores what day undoes and night destroys what day does. First, Prometheus chained to a rock; an eagle pecks at his liver by day; by night his liver is restored. Prometheus lives to suffer another day the same suffering because the eagle does not eat all the liver in a single day. More to the point however, one must emphasize the restorative powers which reside in the domain of Nyx. See Hesiod’s Theogony, lines 507-616, M.L. West translation. Second, consider the knowledge that what is done by Hemera can be undone by Nyx is already known to Penelope who uses this insight to weave her father-in-laws shroud by day and undo it during the night thusly individualizing her fate and distinguishing it from the collective and fashionable pathologies of her cultural times. See The Odyssey, lines 90-140, Fagels trans.

5Karl Kerényi, Dionysos: Archetypal Images of Indestructible Life, New Jersey: Princeton U P, p. 34.

6Ibid, xxxvi.

7Ibid, p35.

8Plotinus, Enneades III 711, 43.

9Iliad XXII 161.

10Karl Kerényi, Dionysos, p xxxvii.

11Ibid p.44-51.

12Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. Mass: Harvard U P, 1985, p.172.

13Elaine P. Miller. The Vegetative Soul: From Philosophy of Nature To Subjectivity In The Feminine. New York: New York P, 2002 , pp. 181-200.

14Blum, Andrew J.. Hybrid Place: Experiences of the Local and the Remote. “Ch 1. Thoughts On The Local And The Remote: (5) Imaginative Coherence and (6) Unselfconscious Intentionality”  Graduate Research U Toronto, September, 2002, pp. 10-11.

15Blum quotes Relph as follows “The basic meaning of place, its essence, does not, therefore, come from locations, nor from the trivial functions that places serve, nor from the community that occupies it, nor from superficial and mundane experiences—though these are all common and perhaps necessary aspects of places. The essence of place lies in the largely unselfconscious intentionality that defines places as profound centers of human existence. Edward Relph, Place and Placelessness, London: Pion, 1976, p. 43.

16Dionysos, p. 41.

17Ovid. Fasti. New York: Penguin, May 11: 523-530.

18Watkins, Calvert. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 2nd E., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, p.100.

19Dionysos, p. 42.

20Hesiod, Works and Days lines 597- 630

21Ibid, lines 66-699.

22p. 10.

23Miller, pp. 183-184

24Sara Corbett, “The Holy Grail of the Unconscious: Jung’s Red Book”, New York Times September 16, 2009, accessed 10-21-09, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html?pagewanted=9.

******************************Mythopoetry Scholar volume one January, 2010****************************

Stephanie Pope
Author Bio

Cultural mythologer, Stephanie Pope continues her exploration in mythopoetics throughout literature and life as essayist, publisher and teacher. She teaches DreamWork & Musing Life on line through mythopoetry.com. Published in numerous poetry journals which include the premier issues of Literary House and A Hudson View International, Stephanie received Pushcart Prize nominations for poetry in 2007, 2008 and 2009.


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Note: This edition of the collected poems of Stephanie Pope will no longer be available for purchase March 1, 2010

This Issue
Poetry: Attendant Poems

Frog Prince Revisited
by Stephanie Pope
-1st published in Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry, © August, 2008 Poet's Printery, South Africa

The Dew Maiden

by Stephanie Pope
-1st published in Tonight: An Anthology of World Love Poetry, © August, 2008 Poet's Printery, South Africa

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