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Looking out last night, missing the huge constellation of Scorpius. Missing any constellations really...
But that's London for you.

Botswana gave me my first real sight of Scorpius scuttling along below the moon, huge and distinct, with Antares at its heart. It is said that in order to curb Orion's boasting, and to ensure he did not kill every beast on earth as he promised, Mother Earth sent a scorpion to destroy him; judging from Scorpius, the beast was easily the size of a pick-up truck. Small wonder Roman astronomers divided Scorpio into Libra. There's only so much of the sky you can comfortably imagine as a deadly killer arachnid. Scorpius' huge hanging claws became the scales, and perhaps star-watchers had fewer troubling dreams. Anyway, the plan worked,and Orion bought the big one.  Orion and Scorpius were both set in the sky by the gods, but never where they could see each other. One early  morning I recall fumbling around looking for the loos, only to find Orion looming to the North-East. Maybe I was confused, but he seemed upside down... in any case, his adversary was nowhere to be seen.

Antares, also called Alpha Scorpii or Cor Scorpii  is a red supergiant. It was the very first time I had ever seen this star. Most think the name Antares comes from the Greek 'Rival to Ares,' but some have posited that this star was named after the pre-Islamic warrior poet Antar,a man of brilliance and battles . There were two King Scorpions of Egypt. The first (Scorpion I) grew mighty in battles against the Nubians and may have united Egypt for the first time. Cursory googling reveals that the Scorpion in his name might have referred to poison, or his tremendous might in battle, or even bad breath. But would a royal sculptor really dedicate his art to the immortality of halitosis? I'm not saying it couldn't happen...

Scorpion II interests me because he seems to have defeated an enemy king  known as the Bull's Head, and in the zodiac belt, Aldebaran, called also the Bull's Eye within the head of Taurus, is directly opposite Antares.  In the search for story, therefore, I'd plump for Scorpion II being the origin of The Scorpion King, but I'd chuck in elements of Antar because I like him. If Roman astronomers can chop up the sky, I can chop up my heroes and merge them into one ubercool monster dude. Fair's fair.

We did find one of Scorpius' smaller relatives on a battered sign close to the Tsodilo hills. He seemed to be asleep. Some of our number tried to photo him, I gave up and watched while eating a hard boiled egg. After a while he scuttled off into the sands with an air of exoskeletal embarrassment; guarding the portals to the otherworld may not be as exciting as it sounds. Even Scorpius needs a nap from time to time.




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