When looking at the sky, some constellations are easier than others to identify. Among these are the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. And, like others, they have a myth behind them that explains how they came about. This myth comes from Greek mythology and tells the story of Callisto, the nymph.
The goddess Artemis, known for her hunting skills and associated with the moon and magic, had several nymphs under her protection who followed her to learn the goddess. One of these nymphs was called Callisto.
Callisto was Artemis’s most adored nymph for her beauty and skills, which even made others jealous. And her beauty drew not only the attention of her protective goddess but also of other gods. Zeus, the great Greek god, became increasingly obsessed with the nymph and decided to try something.
To be the follower of Artemis, the nymph must remain a virgin, which made things very difficult for Zeus. As much as he tried, Callisto maintained his commitment to Artemis and did not yield even to the charms of the most respected god in all of ancient Greece. It was then that Zeus had an idea.
He was a god and had powers that only a god had. He decided to disguise himself and assume the image of the goddess Artemis so he could get close to Callisto and talk to her. When Artemis was away, Zeus did this, and Callisto did not notice his disguise. Impersonating the goddess Artemis, Zeus convinced Callisto that she could lose her virginity, and then Zeus got what he wanted.
But Zeus’s adventure was not lost on him because Callisto became pregnant. As much as she tried to hide the pregnancy, there was no way. The other nymphs took advantage of the situation to tell Artemis that their favorite nymph had lost her virginity. And then Callisto was expelled from Artemis’ domain and had to go on his own. And to make matters worse, Zeus’ wife Hera discovered that her husband had betrayed her with Callisto.
With the powers of a goddess, Hera transformed Callisto into a giant bear shortly after the birth of her son. Revenge was done. Fortunately, the god Hermes saw what happened and asked his mother to take care of the baby. Callisto’s son grew up under the name of Arcas and became a good hunter. And Callisto, even as a bear, stayed close to see how his son grew. Until one day, they met.
Arcas saw the big bear during a hunt and then pulled out his bow to kill what he thought was his predator. The bear was in his sights, and a single arrow would be able to kill it. From his privileged position as a god, Zeus, observing everything from above, acted quickly to avoid the tragedy of a son killing his mother. And then he turned them both into star constellations, which today are known as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.