Canes Venatici


Continuing the theme, in addition to Odysseus’ loyal companion, there are the Heavenly Hunting Hounds or Canes Venatici.

These are the dogs of Boötes, who is both the Hunter and Guardian of the Great Bear. The Canes Venatici pursue Ursa Major as it circles the Pole, and would catch it if it weren’t for Boötes’ leash. Their name Venatici has some interesting associations, according to Anne Wright:

The word Venatici is from Latin vinaticus, from Latin venari, ‘to hunt, pursue’, and comes from Indo-European root *wen ‘To desire, strive for’. Derivatives:  win (‘to seek to gain’), wynn (an Old English rune having the sound  W or uu; rune for granting wishes), winsome, won (achieved victory), wontwean (to accustom, train a young mammal gradually to get less milk from its mother), ween (to think; suppose), wishVanir (an early race of Norse gods who dwelt with the Aesir in Asgard), vanadium (from Old Norse Vanadis, name of the goddess Freya), veneratevenerealvenery (indulgence in or pursuit of sexual activity), Venus, venom (from Latin venenum, love potion or poison), Wend (to wend one’s way, from Germanic *Weneda-, a Slavic people), venial (easily excused or forgiven; a venial offense, from Latin venia, favor, forgiveness), venery (hunting or game), venison (used to mean any meat that was hunted, but is now restricted to the flesh of deer), venatic (relating to hunting, from Latin venari, to hunt), Venus is said to have derived from the eponymous mother of Venetian tribes of the Adriatic, after whom the city of Venice was also named.

The names of these two dogs themselves are rather interesting. The Southern is named Chara meaning “graceful, cheerful, joyous, favored, etc” – while the Northern dog is named … Asterion. Yes, as in the Minotaur and marijuana.


4 thoughts on “Canes Venatici

  1. Wow! I didn’t know about these, which is rather crazy…

    And, I didn’t know that the Latin for “hunt” shares roots with other words, like Venus. There are several venatic festivals, as you know, in Antinoan practice, and several of them have very much to do with love…which, thus, makes that much more sense, then! ;)


    1. I knew the etymological stuff (including the link between Venus, hunting and the Vanir) but the constellations themselves were a recent discovery. For me, at least – Johannes Hevelius created them back in the 17th century, so I guess they’ve been around a while. And Asterion showing up again – wow.

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