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Star Lore

Gemini is a large constellation of the Zodiac. It is one of the 48 original Ptolemaic Constellations.

Ancient Babylon

In the MUL.APIN Tables, the stars later known as Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins. The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Lugal-irra and Meslamta-ea, meaning respectively "The Mighty King" and "The One who has arisen from the Underworld."

They were regarded as guardians of doorways and may have originally been envisioned as a set of twins guarding the gates of the Underworld, who chopped the dead into pieces as they passed through the gates. During the Neo-Assyrian period, small depictions of them would be buried at entrances, with Lugal-irra always on the left and Meslamta-ea always on the right. They are identical and are shown wearing horned caps and each holding an axe and a mace.

Also in the MUL.APIN Tables, the stars Zeta and Lambda Geminorum were listed as the "Little Twins", named Alammush and Ninezengud.

Sources: Wikipedia and J.H. Rogers: Origins of the ancient constellations

Reconstruction of the Great Twins
Gavin White: Babylonian Star-lore

Ancient Greece

In Greek mythology, the constellation represents the twins Gemini represents the mythical twins Kastor (Κάστωρ) and Polydeukes (Πολυδεύκης). Their names were later latinized to Castor and Pollux.

Ian Ridpath provides a detailed story; here is a shortened version:

The twins' mother Leda, Queen of Sparta, was one day visited by Zeus in the form of a swan (now represented by the constellation Cygnus). That same night she also slept with her husband, King Tyndareus. Both unions were fruitful, for Leda subsequently gave birth to four children. In the most commonly accepted version, Pollux and Helen (later to become famous as Helen of Troy) were children of Zeus, and hence immortal, while Castor and Clytemnestra were fathered by Tyndareus, and hence were mortal.

Castor & Pollux, Museo del Prado

Castor and Pollux grew up the closest of friends, never quarreling or acting without consulting each other. Later, the twins joined Jason and the Argonauts and more than once saved the entire endeavor.

After the return of the Argonautes, Castor and Pullux got into a feud with Idas and Lynceus, two brothers who also had been Argonautes. In a quarrel over two women, Castor was killed by Lynceus who was then killed by Pollux. When Idas then attacked Pollux, Zeus intervened to save his son and struck Idas with a lightning bolt.
Castor and Pollux in "Urania's Mirror", 1824
Source: Wikipedia
Pollux was immortal but Castor was destined for Tartarus after his death. Pollux asked Zeus to not to outlive his brother. Zeus granted the wish not to outlive his brother and allowed them to split their time in the heavens and under the Earth. To honor their brotherly love, he put an image of twins in the sky.

An alternative view, reported by Hyginus, says that the constellation represents Apollo and Heracles (i.e. Hercules), both sons of Zeus but not twins.

Several star charts personify the twins as Apollo and Heracles showing them a lyre and arrow (attributes of Apollo) and club (attribute of Heracles).

Sources: Wikipedia, Ian Ridpath, Chandra Observatory Constellations site

Castor and Pollux, LeidenArathea", 816
Source: Wikimedia

Ian Ridpath and Wil Tirion add that - as protectors of mariners - the twins were believed to appear in ship's rigging as the electrical phenomenon known as St. Elmo's Fire.

Source: Ridpath and Tirion: Stars and Planets

St. Elmo's Fire on the mast tops of a sailing vessel. Source:

Norse Mythology

The formation Auguthjaza (Eyes of Þjazi), consisting of Castor, and Pollux (α and β Gem), is the only formation of stars mentioned in the Edda. Þjazi, anglicized as Thiazi, Thjazi, Tjasse or Thiassi was a Frost Giant and a shapeshifter. Wikipedia quotes the Skáldskaparmál, the second part of the Poetic Edda, explaining how Þjazi's eyes made it into the skies.

One day, while on a journey, Odin, Loki and Hœnir set up an earth oven to cook an oxen they just hunted. After a while they found that it would not cook. They found out that Þjazi in the form of a great eagle, stopped the oven from heating and demanded a part of the oxen. When the oxen was cooked, Þjazi ate so much of it that Loki became angry, grabbed his long staff and attempted to strike him, but the weapon stuck fast to Þjazi's body and he took flight, carrying Loki up with him.

As they flew across the land Loki shouted and begged to be let down as his legs banged against trees and stones, but Þjazi would only do so on the condition that Loki must lure Iðunn, the goddess of youth out of Asgard with her apples of youth, which he solemnly promised to do.

Later, Þjazi, again in the form of an eagle, carried Iðunn and her apples away and the gods, deprived of Iðunn's apples, began growing old and grey.

Loki was going to bring back Iðunn. He borrowed a magical coat from Freyja, transformed into a falcon, flew to the hall of Þjazi, transformed Iðunn into a nut and carried her back to Asgard. When the other gods saw Þjazi in close pursuit of Loki, they lit a fire which burned Þjazi's feathers, causing him to fall to the ground where he was killed.

When Þjazi's daughter Skadi came to avenge her father, the gods offered her atonement and compensation. She was given the hand of Njord in marriage and Odin took Þjazi's eyes and placed them in the night sky as stars.

Sources: Wikipedia, Richard Denning: What did the Vikings and Saxons call the Stars?

Þjazi, Odin, Loki and Hœnir
Source: Wikipedia

Loki poking Þjazi
Source: Rakuten Kobo

The Hárbarðsljóð is one of the poems in the Poetic Edda, describing a verbal contest between Thor and Odin who appeared as the ferryman Hárbarðr (Greybeard).

According to this poem, it was not Odin but Thor who claimed to have made Þjazi's eyes into stars:

In the poem, Thor said:
I killed Þjazi, the powerful minded giant.
I threw up the eyes of Olvaldi's son
into the bright heavens.

Source: Wikipedia
Thor by W. G. Collingwood Hárbarðr by W. G. Collingwood

Grimms' Fairy Tales

The German fairy tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs reaches its dramatic high point when Snow White chokes on a poisoned apple and is laid to rest in a glass coffin.

German folklore interprets the Pleiades as the Seven Dwarfs and puts Snow White's Coffin in the night sky as a rectangle within the constellation Gemini, consisting of α (Castor), β (Pollux), γ and μ Geminorum.


Snow White's Coffin; Source:

Hungarian Mythology

The Hungarian word for "twins" is Ikrek. The word is used for the constellation Gemini, but the Hungarians have their own twins tied to the legend.

According to Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum (Deeds of the Huns and Hungarians), a medieval chronicle written around 1282–1285, Hunor and Magor were the ancestors of the Huns and the Magyars. Their father was believed to be the giant>Nimród, represented by the constellation Orion.

The twins were praised for using their weapons to fight not against but for each other with the stronger brother rising the weaker one above himself.

Sources: Wikipedia,

Hunor and Magyar

Medieval Islamic Astronomy

R.H. Allen gives two Arabic names for the constellation, both meaning "Twins." The older one was برج الجوزاء - Al Burj al Jauzā, the other one, used by Arab astronomers was التوأمان - Al Tau᾽amān.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Wikipedia

The stars of Gemini are also part of the ancient Arabic mega-constellation
Al-Asad - the Lion which centered in modern day Leo and Gemini and of the al-jawza’ constellation, which centered in modern day Orion.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Arab Star Calendar.

Colored 15th century copy of
al-Sufi's illustration
Source: New York Times

In the al-asad constellation, Gemini's brightest stars, now known as Castor (α Gem) and Pollux (β Gem), formed the paw of Adh-dhira’a al-Mabsuta, The Extended Forearm. In that constellation, they were called Al Awwal al Dhirāʽ (α Gem) and Al Thānī al Dhirāʽ (β Gem), the First and the Second in the Forearm.

adh-dhira’ was also the name of the the Seventh Arabic Lunar Mansion, consisting of α and β Geminorum.

Al-Azfar, The Claws were formed by ρ, τ, ι, υ, κ, δ, λ, ζ and ε Geminorum.

In the ancient Arabic al-jawza’ constellation, γ and ξ Geminorum, together with η, μ and ν Geminorum were part of The Bow of Jawza.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Arab Star Calendar.

Many of today's common names of Gemini's main stars are of Arabic origin:

Extended Forearm and Claws
Source: Arab Star Calendar

The Bow of Jawza
Source: Arab Star Calendar

α Castor الراس التام المقدم Al-Ras al-Taum al-Muqadim The Head of the foremost Twin
β Pollux الراس التام المطهر Al-Rās al Taum al Mu᾽aḣḣār The Head of the hindmost Twin
γ Alhena الهنعة Al-Han'ah The Brand
δ Wasat وسط Wasat Middle
ε Mesbuta المبسوطات Al-Mabsuṭāt The Outstretched
ζ Mekbuda المحبة Al-Maḳbūḍah The Contracted
ξ Alzirr الزِرّ Al-Zirr The Button
Official names derived from Arabic origins are shown in bold.

Around 964 AD, Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi published his Book of Fixed Stars, in which he assigned Arabic names to the stars and constellations identified 800 years earlier in Ptolemy's Almagest.

Al-Ras al-Taum al-Muqadim (α Gem) - The Head of the foremost Twin - was the name given by Arabic astronomers to the star known as Castor in Greek astronomy.

In the ancient Arabic mega-constellation Al-Asad, the star was named Al Awwal al Dhirāʽ - the First in the Forearm. In 1650, Egyptian astronomer al-Muwaqqit returned to that constellation, using the name Aoul al Dzira, the First in the Paw.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Wikipedia.

Colored Egyptian copy of
al-Sufi's illustration

Al-Rās al Taum al Mu᾽aḣḣār (β Gem) - The Head of the hindmost Twin - was the name given by Arabic astronomers to the star known as Pollux in Greek astronomy.

In the ancient Arabic mega-constellation Al-Asad, the star was named Al Thānī al Dhirāʽ - the Second in the Forearm. al-Muwaqqit used the name Muekher al Dzira, the End of the Paw.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Wikipedia.

Alhena (γ Gem) comes from the Arabic Al Hanʽah, meaning "the Brand" (on the neck of the camel).

Al Hanʽah was also the name of the Sixth Arabic Lunar Mansion, which was formed by γ and ξ Geminorum.

Sources: Ihsan Hafez: Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi and his book of the fixed stars: a journey of re-discovery, Arab Star Calendar.

Together with μ, ν, η and ξ Geminorum Alhena formed an asterism called Al Nuḥātai, the Camel's Hump.

Al-Muwaqqit used the name Nir al Henat, meaning "The brightest of Al Henat," rferring to al-han’a, the Sixth Arabic Lunar Mansion.

Originally, the star was called Al Maisan, "The shining one." Through the transition of Arabic star tables to the Alfonsine Tables (which were written in Castilian) to the Latin tables of Renaissance Europe, the name was mistakenly transferred to λ Orionis.

Sources: R.H. Allen, Wikipedia.

Wasat (δ Gem) is the Arabic word for "Middle" which can be seen as the middle of the constellation but according to R.H. Allen can also relate to to the position of the star very near to the ecliptic, the central circle.

Source: R.H. Allen

The names of Mebsuta (ε Gem) and Mekbuda (ζ Gem) date back to the ancient Lion constellation Al-Asad. Together with ρ, τ, ι, υ, κ, δ and λ Geminorum, they formed the Claws of the lion.

Al-Mabsuṭāt (Mesbuta) means "The Outstretched (Claw)"; Al-Maḳbūḍah (Mekbuda) means "The Contracted (Claw)"

Sources: R.H. Allen, Arab Star Calendar.

Alzirr (ξ Gem) comes from the Arabic al-zirr, meaning "Button". No explanation for the origin of the name is given.

Source: Wikipedia.

Arabic Names of the stars of Gemini
Chart done by the author based on a map by

Ancient India

In Hindu Astronomy, Castor, and Pollux (α and β Gem) are the center of the seventh Nakshatra, called Punarvasu. The word Punarvasu is derived from Puna+ Vasu, which means return, renewal, restoration or repetition.

Source: Wikipedia

Ancient China

In Chinese, Gemini is written 雙子座.

In Chinese astronomy, with the exception of two stars, the entire constellation forms seven asterisms, all located in the 22nd Lunar Mansion, which is within the quadrant of the Vermilion Bird of the South.

The stars around Castor and Pollux form the asterism Běihé, the North River. (Nánhé, the South River lies in Canis Minor, around Procyon). Běihé and Nánhé lay north and south of the ecliptic respectively, so the pair were also interpreted as gates or sentries.

At either end of Beihe were Jishui and Jīxīn, each marked by a single star. Jīxīn (κ Gem) is a pile of firewood for cooking; Jishui (ο Gem) represents a supply of water for wine making or brewing.

Wikipedia does not list Jishui as a separate asterism, but as part of Běihé.

Chinese asterisms in Gemini
Map based on

In 2017, the IAU Working Group on Star Names approved the name Jishui for Omicron Geminorum and it is now so included in the List of IAU-approved Star Names.

A number of faint stars around η Gem form Yuè, a battle axe, used for decapitating the corrupt and immoral.

A number of stars from θ Gem to φ Gem form Wuzhūhóu, five feudal lords or princes who acted as the Emperor’s advisors and teachers.

The stars around δ Gem and ω Gem formed a triangle called Tiānzūn, the Celestial Wine Cup.

The largest part of present-day Gemini was taken up by Jǐng, the Well, which also gave its name to the entire Lunar Mansion, which, according to Ian Ridpath is the widest of the 28 mansions, extending for 33°.

This large asterism in the "legs of the Twins" resembles the Chinese character for ‘well’. Among others, it consists of γ, ε, ζ, λ, ξ, μ and ν Geminorum.
Chinese Well; Source:

Finally, also in the 22 Lunar Mansion is Shuǐwèi, the "Water Level". Ian Ridpath describes it as "...a curved line of four stars, that was usually seen as extending from Canis Minor into Cancer, but some older versions show it as the stars 68 to 85 Geminorum, in an example of how Chinese constellations have literally changed their spots with time."

Wikipedia lists two Gemini stars outside the 22nd Lunar Mansion:

1 Gem is part of an asterism called Sīguài (Deity in Charge of Monsters), which lies in the 20th Lunar Mansion which is mainly locate in modern day Orion.

χ Gem is part of Guàn, a "Beacon of Fire", which is part of the 23rd Lunar Mansion, which extends into modern day Cancer.


To the /Xam in southern Africa, the bright stars Castor (α Gem) and Pollux (β Gem) were two female eland antelopes with Procyon (α CMi), the bright star in Canis Minor being their male companion.

Source: ASSA - African Ethnoastronomy

Eland Bull
Source: Wikipedia


The Boorong Aboriginal people in Victoria, Australia see two unlikely brothers in the constellation known in the West as Gemini.

Yurree (Castor, α Gem), the fan-tailed cockatoo and Wanjel (Pollux, β Gem), the long-necked tortoise are two hunters who pursue Purra the kangaroo, which is represented by Capella ( α Aurigae).

The stars appear in the sky in late spring, mating and egg-laying season of the cockatoo. They are most prominent in the sky in late summer, when the long-necked tortoise lays its eggs.

Sources: Museum of Victoria,

Yurree and Wanjel


In eastern Tasmania, Castor (α Geminorum) and Pollux (β Geminorum) are seen as two ancestor men who created fire, walking on the road of the Milky Way.



The Dakota name for the butte known as Devils Tower in North America's Black Hills is Mațo Tipila, the Bear's Lodge.

In Dakota astronomy, the Bear's Lodge is represented by the stars of Gemini.

In addition, Castor (α Gem) and Pollux (β Gem) are part of the Sacred Hoop.

Sources: Dakota Constellation Guide, Astro by Mark.

Devils Tower
Source: National Park Services

Modern Day Technology

The Gemini spacecraft was the center part of NASA's second human spaceflight program.

It was named after the "Twin" constellation as it carried a two-astronaut crew. Between 1965 and 1966, Gemini spacecraft carried sixteen individual astronauts on ten missions to low Earth orbit.


Rendezvous of Gemini 6A and 7, December 1965
Source: Wikipedia

Modern Day Fiction

In Who Mourns for Adonais?, an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, the crew visits the (fictional) planet Pollux IV.

Sources :Wikipedia,

Pollux IV

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