It’s the name of the legendary hunter who graces the night skies.
Our Baby Name of the Day is Orion.
Orion: The Hunter
In Greek myth, Orion was a heroic figure, both in life and beyond. Odysseus met him in the underworld. Written accounts of his feats are lost, but we know a few things about the legendary hunter: he could walk on the water, because his father was Poseidon, god of the oceans. He wasn’t always virtuous or even-tempered. In fact, he met his death at the hands of an oversized scorpion, dispatched by Gaia. Why, you ask? While hunting, Orion boasted that he could kill every animal on earth, and Gaia – the personification of the Earth – was displeased.
After his death, the gods took pity and allowed to spend the hereafter as a constellation.
There are references to the constellation dating back more than 30,000 years, and many cultures recognize the pattern and have their owns names and stories associated with the stars.
The Orion Nebula is also located within the constellation, bright enough to be visible to the naked eye in some places. It was first definitively described in the early 1600s.
Orion: A Long History of Sparing Use
The Royal Navy gave the name to ships. Ford sold an Orion sedan in Europe. Various space-going vessels have used the name, too. Jethro Tull and Metallica both wrote songs about the hunter. A 1977 novel titled Orion supposed what would happen if a rock star faked his own death, and then a real singer took the stage name Orion in 1980, fueling the stories that Elvis Presley was alive.
And yet despite all of those fantastic uses, there have been real men who answered to the name – a handful in the nineteenth century, and even more throughout the twentieth. Writer Mark Twain had an older brother, journalist and Nevada pioneer Orion Clemens.
One of the youngest ever Medal of Honor recipients was a drummer boy in the Union Army, a child with the grand name Orion Perseus Howe. Just twelve years old when we he set out to join the Illinois volunteers, Howe would distinguish himself on the battlefield two years later. He remained on the field until he’d sent his report regarding the need for additional ammunition. Howe was seriously injured in the line of duty, but after recovering, returned and continued his service. He lived to the ripe old age of 81.
Orion: By the Numbers
But Orion was mostly seen in the night sky instead of the playground, until recent decades.
What’s behind the rise of Orion?
- It’s similar to long-time favorite Ryan.
- Actor Chris Noth gave the name to a son in January 2008.
- Orion Pictures released dozens of successful movies in the 1970s, 80s, and early 90s, from Amadeus to Silence of the Lambs.
- Science fiction uses are plentiful, from a computer game series to a race of aliens in Star Trek, and a series of novels by Ben Bova. And, yes, there’s a minor Harry Potter character by the name, Sirius Black’s dad.
Overall, Orion’s sound, meaning, and association with perhaps the most familiar constellation make him an intriguing choice for a son. While the name isn’t traditionally common, it feels surprisingly mainstream in 2014.
What do you think of Orion? Have you met any boys with the name?