Fixed star:  PRAESAEPE
Constellation:  Epsilon (ε) or M44 Cancer
Longitude 1900:  05LEO57 Longitude 2000:  07LEO20
Declination 1900:  +20.03' Declination 2000:  +19.41'
Right ascension:  08h 40m Latitude:  +01.17'
Spectral class:  C Magnitude:  3.7

The history of the nebula Praesaepe

from p.112 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.
[A scanned copy can be viewed on this webpage]

PraesaepeCancer itself, is not a brilliant constellation, however, at its heart is a lovely star cluster, a mysterious glow M44 (NGC 2632) or epsilon (ε), a cluster of stars better known by the name the "Beehive Cluster", or the Latin equivalent, Praesepe, Praesaepe, which not only means a "hive" but also a "Manger", or "Crib".

The name Beehive derives from the appearance of a swarm of stars in a dance of activity. There are at least 40 stars in the cluster that are visible to the naked eye as a cloudy patch, its 1.5 degree size is equivalent to three full moons end-to-end. In ancient times this cluster often served to predict the weather; if not crystal clear inclement weather might be on the way. Pliny said, "If Praesaepe is not visible in a clear sky it is a presage of a violent storm".

With us it is the well-known Beehive, but its history as such I have not been able to learn, although it undoubtedly is a recent designation, for nowhere is it [named] Apiarium.

Scientifically it was the (Greek) Nephelion, or Little Cloud, of Hipparchos; the (Greek) Achlus (Achlus), or Little Mist, of  the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C.; the (Greek) Nepheloeides, Cloudy One, (Greek) Sustrophe ("a twisting together"), or Whirling Cloud, and (Latin) Nubilum, literally a Cloudy Sky, of the 17th century German astronomer Bayer; {p.113} but the Almagests and astronomers generally of the 16th and 17th centuries referred to it as the Nebula, and Nebulosa, in pectore Cancri, for before the invention of the telescope this was the only universally recognized nebula, its components not being separately distinguishable by ordinary vision. But it seems to have been strangely regarded as three nebulous objects. Galileo, of course, was the first to resolve it, and wrote in the Nuncius Sidereus:

"The nebula called Praesepe, which is not one star, only, but a mass of more than forty small stars. I have noticed thirty stars, besides the Aselli."

Popularly it also is the Manger, or Crib, the Phatne (a crib or manger from Greek pateomai "to eat") of  the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C., and Eratosthenes; the Phatnes of the second-century Greek astronomer Ptolemy; and with the Latins, Praesaepe, Praesaepes, Praesaepis, Praesaepia, Praesaepium, the Alfonsine Presepe and the 17th century German astronomer Bayer's Pesebre,— also the modern Spanish, — flanked by the Aselli, for whose accommodation it perhaps was invented. The 17th century German astronomer Bayer cited for it Melleff, which English writer on globes John Chilmead (circa 1639) followed with Mellef, and the Italian astronomer Riccioli (1598–1671) with Meeleph; these from the Arabians' Al Ma'laf, the Stall; and this, in turn, derived from the Greek astronomy, for their indigenous Ma'laf was in Crater. the 17th century German astronomer and ephemeris creator Schickard had this as Mallephon.

Brown includes epsilon (ε) with gamma (γ), delta (δ), eta (η), and theta (θ) in the Persian lunar station Avra-k, the Cloud, and the Coptic people of Egypt Ermelia, Nurturing.

Tyrtaeus Theophrastus, the first botanist-author, about 300 B.C., and  the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C., described its dimness and disappearance in the progressive condensation of the atmosphere as a sure token of approaching rain; Pliny (23-79 A.D.) said,

"If Praesaepe is not visible in a clear sky it is a presage of a violent storm;"

and  the Greek astronomer Aratus, circa 270 B.C., in the Diosemeia (the Prognostica):

A murky Manger with both stars

Shining unaltered is a sign of rain.

If while the northern Ass is dimmed

By vaporous shroud, he of the south gleam radiant,

Expect a south wind: the vaporous shroud and radiance

Exchanging stars harbinger Boreas.

Weigel used it in the 17th century, in his set of heraldic signs, as the Manger, a fancied coat of arms for the farmers.

In astrology, like all clusters, it threatened mischief and blindness.

In China it was known by the unsavory title Tseih She Ke, Exhalation of Piled-up Corpses; and within 1° of it Mercury was observed from that country, on the 9th of June, A.D. 118, one of the early records of that planet.

[Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889].


The word Praesaepe is derived from prae-, pre-, and saepe, saepes, from the Indo-European root *saip-, and is variously translated as; crib, stall, fence, enclosure. Related to the word septum.

The Lunar Mansions

The Arabic manzil Al Nathrah, the Gap in the hair under the muzzle of the supposed immense ancient Lion that the Arabs had here, was chiefly formed by this star Praesaepe; but later gamma (γ Asellus borealis) and delta (δ Asellus Australis); the Aselli; were sometimes included, when it was Al Himarain, the Two Asses, a title adopted from the Greeks. The Arabs also knew it as Al Fum al Asad and as Al Anf al Asad, the Mouth, and the Muzzle, of the Lion, both referring to the early figure. [Star Names, Allen, p.110.]

The influences of the 6th Arabic Moon Mansion Al Nathrah: The Gap or Crib. Causes love, friendship and society of fellow travelers, drives away mice, afflicts captives and causes their imprisonment. [Robson*, p.71]

With Moon transiting here: navigate. [Robson*, p.71]

In this constellation, with some slight variations as to boundaries at different times in Hindu astronomy, — gamma (γ Asellus borealis) and this star delta (δ Asellus Australis) – the Aselli - always being included and occasionally eta, theta, and this star Praesaepe, — was located the 6th nakshatra Pushya, "Flower", or Tishiya, "Auspicious", with Brihaspati, the priest and teacher of the gods, as presiding divinity. It was sometimes figured as a "Crescent", and again as the "head of an Arrow" it was also called Sidhaya, "Prosperous". [Star Names, Allen, p.110.]

The influences of the 6th Hindu Moon Mansion Pushya: Ruled by Saturn. A light asterism belonging to the Kshattriya caste (military and ruling order) and favorable for sales, art, sculpture, learning, marital love, wearing of ornaments, medicine and purchase of carriages when containing the moon. Those born on the lunar day will deal in barley, cereals, crops, will be ministers or rulers and will live by water. With Moon here at birth, native will be popular, self-controlled, learned, wealthy, and charitable. Rules houses and the face or upper lip. [Robson*, p.71]

The astrological influences of the constellation Cancer

Legend: This constellation represents the crab that bit the heel of Hercules during his fight with the Lernean Hydra, and was placed amongst the stars in gratitude by Juno, the enemy of Hercules. [Robson*, p.33.]

Influences: Ptolemy's observations are as follows: "The two stars in the eyes of Cancer are of the same influence as Mercury, and are also moderately like Mars. Those in the claws are like Saturn and Mercury." By the Kabalists Cancer is associated with the Hebrew letter Tzaddi and the 18th Tarot Trump "The Moon." [Robson*, p.33.]

The astrological influences of the constellation Cancer given by Manilius:

"Shining at the hinge of the year by the blazing turning-point which when recalled the Sun rounds in his course on high, the Crab occupies a joint of heaven and bends back the length of day. Of a grasping spirit and unwilling to give itself in service the Crab distributes many kinds of gain, and skill in making profits; he enables a man to carry his investment of foreign merchandise from city to city and, with an eye on steep rises in the price of corn, to risk his money upon sea-winds; to sell the world's produce to the world, to establish commercial ties between so many unknown lands, to search out under foreign skies fresh sources of gain, and from the high price of his goods to amass sudden wealth. With heaven's favour he also sells seasons of idleness at rates of interest to his liking, wishing the swift passage of time to add to the principal. His is a shrewd nature, and he is ready to fight for his profits." [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 4, p.235.]

The astrological influences of the star Praesaepe

Legend: Praesaepe represents the manger of the asses, the Aselli; gamma (γ Asellus borealis) and delta (δ Asellus Australis); ridden by Bacchus and Vulcan. A coarse extended cluster situated on the head of the Crab. Popularly termed the Beehive, Manger or Crib, and known by the Chinese under the name Tseih She Ke, Exhalation of Piled-up Corpses. With the Aselli it was the "cloudy spot of Cancer" mentioned by Ptolemy as causing blindness [Robson* p.187-188.]

According to Vehlow, the Chinese gave this group of stars (the manger, Praesaepe along with North and South Asellus) in Cancer the name "the spirit of the ancestors" and were of the opinion that if conjunct the Moon they would have peculiar experiences with the realms of the dead. [Fixed Stars and Their Interpretation, Elsbeth Ebertin, 1928, p.44.]

The two Asses outflank the "Manger" (Praesaepe). This might be the origin, as seen in nativity pictures of the birth of Christ, of the positioning of a donkey always behind the manger.* [Fixed Stars and Their Interpretation, Elsbeth Ebertin, 1928, p.47.]

*The baby born in a manger might relate to the idea of Cancer being the 'Gate of Men', according to Chaldaean and Platonist philosophy, through which souls descended from heaven into human bodies, or into creation. Its opposite sign Capricornus represents the 'Gate of the Gods' where souls of the departed ascended back to heaven.

It is of the nature of Mars and the Moon, and causes disease, disgrace, adventure, insolence, wantonness, brutality, blindness, industry, order and fecundity; and makes its natives fortunate though liable to loss through others, and the founders of large businesses. [Robson*, p.188.]

According to Robson above Praesaepe, the "Beehive Cluster", makes "founders of large businesses", that might reflect the buzzing, 'busy' bees of a beehive going about their business.

One can observe a craving for and abuse of stimulants, luxury foodstuffs, narcotic, drugs and heavy smoking. Susceptibility to infectious diseases. [Fixed Stars and Their Interpretation, Elsbeth Ebertin, 1928, p.44.]

If Rising: Blindness especially of the left eye, ophthalmia, injuries to the face, sickness, violent fevers, wounds in face and arms, stabs (can be operations nowadays), violent lust, imprisonment, exile. If at the same time the Sun opposes Mars or the Ascendant, violent death. [Robson*, p.188.]

If culminating: Disgrace ruin and violent death. [Robson*, p.188.]

With Sun: Evil disposition (used to be a term in astrology for homosexuality), murderer or murdered, blows, stabs (operations nowadays for blows, stabs, wounds), serious accidents, shooting, shipwreck, execution, banishment, imprisonment, sharp diseases, fevers, hemorrhage, lawsuits, danger of death from fire, iron or stones, injuries to the face, wounds, bad eyes, and if in an angle blindness. [Robson*, p.188.]

With Moon: Wounds, stabs (operations), imprisonment, injuries to the face, sickness, blindness or eye injuries especially if Saturn or Mars be with Regulus. [Robson*, p.188.]


*[Fixed Stars and Constellations in Astrology, Vivian E. Robson, 1923].