Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Blessing of the Beehive Cluster

Now is an excellent time of year to observe the beautiful (and mythologically important) cluster of stars known as the Beehive Cluster during the "prime-time" star-gazing hours after sundown and up through (or even after) midnight.

The majestic form of Leo the Lion is rising up in the east during the hours after sunset -- and his proud muzzle points directly towards the Beehive Cluster. 

The best way to find the Beehive is to direct your gaze (with the naked eye) to a point about half-way between the head of Leo and the two bright stars that mark the heads of the Twins of Gemini (Castor and Pollux). If you look in about the right direction, I find that you can almost "sense" the presence of the Beehive, even if viewing conditions are not ideal.

However, to truly appreciate this tiny, dazzling cluster of stars it is certainly best to try to get to a dark place, away from city lights (if at all possible).

The Beehive is slightly closer to Leo than it is to Gemini -- it is not exactly half-way in between them. Also, as you can see from the diagram above, the Beehive is more aligned to the "level" of the muzzle of Leo than it is to the direction in which the outline of the Twins is pointing. Therefore, if you are able to locate both Leo and Gemini, look about half-way between them, but more towards Leo than Gemini, and more "on the level" of Leo than of Gemini.

In order to locate Leo, it is helpful to remember that Leo and the Big Dipper are kind of "geared" together in the sky, like two puzzle pieces which fit together but are set out on a table a few inches apart from one another, aligned to fit together but not actually connected. To see what I mean, take a look at this previous post describing the relative locations of the Dipper and the constellation Leo.

In order to locate Gemini, it is probably best to begin with the glorious constellation of Orion, who dominates the night sky during this time of year. This previous post discussing some of the mythological connections from this constellation in the myths of ancient Greece may be helpful in locating Gemini from the constellation of Orion.

Below is a diagram taken from the excellent, free, and open-source planetarium app called Stellarium (available at, which shows the night sky from the point of view of an observer in the northern hemisphere at about 35.6 north latitude, looking towards the south, at approximately 9pm or 2100 hours (the position of the circling sky will be slightly different for you depending on the details of your particular "time zone" and where within the band of that "time zone" you happen to be located when your watch says 9pm).

In the above diagram, east is to the left and west is to the right (because we are facing towards the south), and Orion is just crossing his highest point as he arcs across the sky above the line of "due south."

Note that he will actually appear much larger in the night sky than he does in the screen-shot above, because the planetarium feature on the Stellarium app will distort the size and shape of the constellations in order to create a "wrap-around" effect on the flat screen, such that constellations appear larger when they are on the left or right edges of the rectangular screen, and smaller in the center (to create the illusion of moving from the left to the right of the "dome" of the sky).

In any case, you can see that Leo is rising up out of the eastern horizon on the left edge of the screen -- this will actually be almost 90-degrees to your left if you are standing outside looking due south towards Orion. 

In front of the muzzle of the Lion is the Beehive Cluster, about half-way between Leo and Gemini. 

The Beehive is actually located within the constellation Cancer the Crab -- but this constellation is so dim (and has so few stars) that it is very difficult to see in the sky (it's easier to find the Beehive than it is to see the constellation of Cancer), and it would actually be more distracting to draw in the outline of Cancer the Crab on the image above than it would be to omit it for the sake of directing your attention to the location of the Beehive.

However, if you are able to look at the Beehive using binoculars or using a telescope (locate it with your naked eye first, of course) then you will see that this beautiful cluster of stars is in fact situated between two stars in the Cancer constellation -- and you can see these two stars in the image at the top of this post, if you look just above and below the left edge of the little "cloud" of stars that make up the Beehive, which is situated at the tip of the green arrow that I have drawn-in to the star chart. These two stars of the constellation Cancer will be very noticeable to you, if you use binoculars or a telescope to increase your appreciation of the Beehive.

If you are using binoculars to find the Beehive, I recommend that you lie down on your back and look up at the sky while doing so -- and it is probably best to rest the back of your head against the ground or lawn chair or car hood on which you are lying down, so that you can scan the area between Leo and Gemini in comfort until you locate the Beehive. Either that, or else you can hold the back of your head with your left arm while you hold the binoculars in front of your eyes with your right.

If you use a telescope to observe the Beehive, you will see that it is positively filled with stars, like a cluster of frog's eggs in the grass at the edge of a pond. If you wait until close to midnight, the Beehive will be very high in the sky, almost straight up, and so you will have to position your telescope to point almost vertical in order to find the cluster.

The Beehive has tremendous importance in the world's ancient myths. I have discussed some of these in previous videos, such as "Star Myths: 1,000 times more precious . . . " or "The Samson myth is all about YOU" (those two videos discuss the Beehive Cluster in conjunction with the Star Myths contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, but this same cluster also plays an important role in many other Star Myths from around the world).

Because the Beehive is located in the constellation Cancer the Crab, and because the sun is moving through Cancer the Crab at the very "top of the year" (in the zodiac wheel as positioned during the ancient Age of Aries -- see discussion here for example), entering the sign of Cancer at summer solstice for the northern hemisphere, I believe that Cancer the Crab -- and the Beehive that is located in the "forehead" of the Crab -- have ancient mythical associations with the highest elevation of the spirit-nature.

The outline of Cancer the Crab has "outstretched" or "upraised" arms (as does the sacred Scarab symbol of ancient Egypt) -- and this is a traditional symbol of blessing in cultures around the world. I believe that blessing has to do with raising up the spiritual nature, in ourselves and in others -- reconnecting with the divine nature, reminding ourselves and others that we are more than just physical and material beings in a materialistic universe (the opposite action, cursing, is associated with trying to deny or obscure the divine nature in ourselves or in others, acting as though we or they are defined by the physical and animal nature and nothing more -- which is a lie).

Because the sign of Cancer the Crab is associated with the very pinnacle of the year and the "top of the zodiac wheel" (the point of maximum elevation of the spiritual nature, metaphorically speaking), I also believe that the Beehive Cluster, located in the "forehead" area of the Crab constellation, is a celestial analogue for the pineal gland in the human body, and for the elevation of the spirit nature associated with the highest chakras in the energy body.

Thus, the Beehive Cluster is important indeed -- and well worth gazing upon at this time of year, if at all possible for you. It is perhaps beneficial to bathe our upper chakras and "third eye" with the light from those distant stars, as often as we can do so!

I hope that finding and gazing upon the Beehive Cluster will be a blessing to you.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note: Several previous posts have also endeavored to help readers to locate the Beehive Cluster. If you still need additional help to find it in the sky, try this one, this one, or this one.