Richard Hinckley Allen, Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning
Orion, the Giant, Hunter, and Warrior admired in all historic ages as the most strikingly brilliant of the stellar groups, lies partly within the Milky Way, extending on both sides of the celestial equator entirely south of the ecliptic, and so is visible from every part of the globe.
With Theban Greeks of Corinna’s time, about the year 490 before our era, it was Ὠαρίων, the initial letter having taken the place of the ancient digamma, ϝ, which, pronounced somewhat like the letter W, rendered the early word akin to our Warrior. Corinna’s pupil Pindar followed in Ὠαριώνειος, but by the time of Euripides the present Ὠρίων prevailed, and we see it thus in Polymestor’s words in the Ἐκάβη of 425 B.C.:
through the ether to the lofty ceiling,
where Orion and Seirios dart from their eyes
The flaming rays of fire.
Catullus transcribed Oarion from Pindar, shortened to Arion, and sometimes changed to Aorion; but the much later Argion, attributed to Firmicus, was for Procyon, probably from Ἀργος, the faithful dog of Ulixes.
At one time it was Ἀλετροπόδιον, found in the Uranologia of Petavius of the 16th century, which Ideler said should be Ἀλεκτροπόδιον, Cock’s Foot, likening the constellation to a Strutting Cock; but Brown goes back to Ἀλη, Roaming, and so reads it Ἀλητροπόδιον, the Foot-Turning Wanderer, mythologically recorded as roaming in his blindness till miraculously restored to side by viewing the rising sun.
Ovid said that the constellation was Comesque Boötae; and some authors asserted that Orion never set, an idea possibly coming from the confusion in name with Boötes already alluded to; although even as to that constellation the assertion would not have been strictly correct. Matthew Arnold similarly wrote in his Sohrab and Rustum:
the northern Bear,
who from her frozen height with jealous eye
confronts the Dog and Hunter in the South.
In the Norsemen’s astronomy Rigel marked one of the great toes of Orwandil, the other toe having been broken off by the god Thor when frost-bitten, and thrown to the northern sky, where it became the little Alcor of the Greater Bear.
Riccioli cited Baculus Jacobi, which became in popular English speech Jacob’s Rod or Staff, — the German Jakob Stab, — from the tradition given by Eusebius that Israel was an astrologer, as, indeed, he doubtless was; and some had it Peter’s Staff. Similarly, it with the Norse Fiskikallar, or Staff; the Scandinavian Frigge Rok, Frigg’s, or Freya’s Distaff, — in West Gothland Frigge Rakken, — and Maria Rok, Mary’s Distaff; in Schleswig, Peri-pik. In Lapland it was altered to Kalevan Miekka, Kaleva’s Sword, or still more changed to Niallar, a Tavern.