in Wacky Word Wednesday

Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, can be multiplied sevenfold…and is none other than ‘pleiad’. That’s a lot of wacky!

From, the definition of today’s wacky word:

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a group of eminent or brilliant individuals or things, usually seven in number

quo botPleiad

Those of you out there who are familiar with Greek mythology might recognize this word. Today’s word is derived from Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas.

Like most myths, there are many versions of this story. Identified as Maia, Electra, Celaeno, Taygete, Merope, Alcyone, and Sterope, in one version of their story the seven sisters are grief-stricken after one of their half sisters, Hyades, dies. So overwhelmed with grief and unable to bear the loss, the seven sisters kill themselves. After hearing about this, Zeus immortalizes them by transforming the sisters into a group of stars, now observed as the star cluster Pleiades. Another account of the tale describes the  seven sisters fleeing to hide from the hunter Orion amidst the stars; he too, though, was transformed into a star in relentless pursuit.Regardless of the version you choose to follow, among the stars, only six of the seven shine brightly. The seventh is said to be Merope, turned away in shame because she had fallen in love with a mortal. And yet another adaptation of the myth states that the seventh invisible star is actually Electra, hiding from view because she is mourning the death of her son, Dardanus. The six other stars can be seen with the naked eye as part of the Taurus constellation.

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Aside from Greek mythology, countries and cultures from all over the word have taken notice of the Pleiades. The name of the Japanese motor vehicles manufacturer, Subaru, means “unite”; it is also used to identify the Pleaides star cluster—hence the Subaru logo design of six stars.

According to the Cherokee legend, the Pleiades are actually seven boys. As legend has it, these boys would spend hours playing outside with sticks and stones. Their mothers admonished them for playing too much, but the boys paid no attention. One day, as punishment for not heeding their words, the mothers collected some stones in a pot, added some corn and made stone soup for their boys to eat for dinner. Angrily, the boys gathered and in rebellion began to dance, praying to the spirits. Soon enough, they were lifted from the ground, floating higher and closer to the sky. The mothers saw this and tried to pull their sons back to Earth again. Only one succeeded; the other six sons rose until they reached the stars, and there they remained, known as the Pleiades; the Cherokees identify this star cluster as Ani’tsutsä, understood to mean “the boys.”

The modern definition of pleiad is derived from the 3rd century BC Alexandrian Pleiad, a group of seven Alexandrian poets and tragedians. More recently, a group of French Renaissance poets got together to form the 16th century literary group, La Pléiade, though within the group, they only identified themselves as the “Brigade.”

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