Halcyone

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Halcyone

Two separate Greek myths mention a figure named Halcyone (or Alcyone). In the first of these tales, Halcyone is one of seven sisters called the Pleiades. This story has different versions. In one, the death of two of the sisters drives all of the Pleiades to commit suicide. In the more familiar version, a giant named Orion chases the Pleiades for seven years. To allow them to escape, Zeus* changes the sisters into a constellation, or group of stars. Orion also becomes a constellation, and he still chases the sisters in the night sky.

In the second tale, Halcyone is the daughter of Aeolus, god of the winds. There are two versions of this legend as well. In one myth, Halcyone and her husband, Ceyx, king of Thessaly, compare themselves to the gods by taking the names Zeus and Hera*. As punishment, the gods turn them into birds. In another story, Ceyx decides to sail across the sea to consult an oracle to find out if the gods are angry with him. Halcyone, fearing the dangers of such a voyage, begs him not to go. However, Ceyx sets out and, as Halcyone fears, drowns in a storm. Morpheus, the god of sleep and dreams, comes to Halcyone in a dream and tells her of her husband's death. Later when she sees his body washed up on shore, the gods transform both of them into kingfisher seabirds. Every winter Aeolus sends calm winds for a short time so that Halcyone can hatch her eggs in peace. From this story comes the expression "halcyon days," meaning a time of peace and joy.

oracle priest or priestess or other creature through whom a god is believed to speak; also the location (such as a shrine) where such words are spoken

See also Aeolus; Animals in Mythology; Birds in Mythology; Orion; Pleiades.

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hal·cy·on / ˈhalsēən/ • adj. denoting a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. • n. 1. a tropical Asian and African kingfisher (genus Halcyon) with brightly colored plumage. 2. a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm. ORIGIN: late Middle English: via Latin from Greek alkuōn ‘kingfisher.’

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Halcyon Greek mythological figure. The daughter of Aeolus, best known as the wife of Ceyx, King of Thessaly. When Ceyx drowned in a shipwreck, Halcyon ran to the seashore to find his body and drowned herself. The gods, feeling sorry for the couple, changed them into kingfishers.

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halcyon bird fabled to breed on the sea. XIV (alceon). — L. (h)alcyon — Gr. alkuṓn kingfisher (halkuṓn by assoc. with háls sea and kúōn conceiving), rel. to L. alcēdō. Halcyon days 14 days during which the kingfisher broods and the sea is calm. XVI.

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Halcyon (kingfishers) See ALCEDINIDAE.