Vignette V: Hyades

Taurus by Johannes Hevelius (1690). Wikimedia Commons.

The poets say that our numbers are uncertain; perhaps three, perhaps five or seven, perhaps fifteen. Our names are equally uncertain, and so we are called after our brother, Hyas. The poets claim that we weep at his loss, dead by a spear meant for a lion, or a boar, or some other wild beast. And that the greater Gods, in their compassion or wisdom or gratitude, raised us up and set us among the stars.

Poets are idiots.

The truth of the tale is this: we weep not for our brother, but for ourselves. In our immortal youth, we cared for the newborn God Dionysus. We fed him ambrosia and honey and spring rain. We braided fresh flowers and sweet grass in his long hair and taught him to dance with the seasons.

Our brother Hyas — the arrogant fool — outgrew such arts and pleasures. He came to love only the hunt. The kill — for a time — satisfied him, until the need to hunt came upon him again. He even joined the Virgin and her maids as they chased stags and boar beneath the moon. But She soon grew tired of him and sent him away, leaving him only a silver spear in remembrance.

He wandered the world, silver spear in hand, stalking and hunting and slaying those animals which piqued his interest: lions and leopards, elephants and crocodiles, wildebeests and whales and pythons as thick around as a tree.

Bored, he eventually made his way back to us, his sisters, in our gowns of spring rain and first blossoms. And with us was Dionysus, his hair long and his laugh ecstatic. And as we danced in the field, the young God moved between forms: now a panther, now an elephant, now a lion, now a bull, and back again. And we laughed and sang in his honor, delighted.

Not so Hyas, our arrogant brother. He saw not a God, but the greatest hunt of his life. The penultimate slaughter, the last killing which would finally satisfy him.

And so he raised his silver spear and threw it at the God.

It never touched Dionysus. The God, his form that of a great purple-black bull, simply shook his head. The silver spear was a streak of brilliant light as it flew right around the world and struck our brother Hyas in the back, impaled him, shattered his heart.

He lay dead in the field and we gathered around him, we sisters, and wept.

Of course we wept. He was our brother.

Dionysus saw our grief and shook his head again. Was it out of anger? Or compassion? Or even contrition?

We do not know. We know only that we live among the stars now, bright in our gowns of spring rain and fresh blossoms. And here we remain, perched on the head of the heavenly bull, far from our field and our dance and the laughing God we so loved, and still do.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. Her poetry, short fiction, and essays have been published in a wide variety of venues, and a complete list can be found at EHS.]