Fixed star:  ALKAID  Benetnash
Constellation:  Eta (η) Ursa Major
Longitude 1900:  25VIR31 Longitude 2000:  26VIR56
Declination 1900:  +49.49′ Declination 2000:  +49.19′
Right ascension:  13h 47m Latitude:  +54.23′
Spectral class:  B3 Magnitude:  1.9

The history of the star: Alkaid

from p.441 of Star Names, Richard Hinckley Allen, 1889.

AlkaidEta (η) Ursa Major, Alkaid, is a brilliant white star on the tail of the Great Bear.

Alcaid, Alkaid, and Benatnasch are our present titles, from Ka’id Banat al Na’ash, the Governor of the Daughters of the Bier, i.e. The Chief of the Mourners. Some of the Arabic poets wrote that these Daughters — the stars epsilon (ε Alioth), zeta (ζ Mizar), and this star eta (η Alkaid) — were

“Good for nothing people whose rising and setting do not bring rain.”

The 17th century German astronomer Bayer included Elkeid in his list of names for the stars as well as for the constellation (Ursa Major), and had authority for it from the 13th century Persian astronomical writer Al Kazwini; but he added for eta (η Alkaid) “Benenaim, BennenatzcorrectiusBenetnasch,” and in his text of Bootes alluded to it as Benenacx. The Alfonsine Tables of 1521 say Bennenazc; the Italian astronomer Riccioli (1598-1671), Benat Elnanschi, Beninax, Benenath, Benenatz; while Al Ka’id often has been turned into Alchayr, Arago’s Ackair, and others’ Ackiar. In this Al Ka’id we see the derivation, through the Moors, of the modern Spanish word Alcaide; and, with the same idea, the German astronomer Ideler (1766-1846) translated the original as the “Stadtholder.”

Assemani transcribed from the Borgian globe “Alcatel,” Destroying. The Persian astronomer Al Biruni (973-1048 A.D.) gave it as Marici (Marichi), one of the Seven Rishis or Sages of India [identifying Kratu with the star α Dubhe; Pulaha with β Merak; Pulastya with γ Phecda; Atri with δ Megrez; Angiras with ε Alioth; Vasishtha with ζ Mizar; Bhrigu with this star η Alkaid. [] (Bhrigu is given for Alkaid on one list. Marici or Marichi is on a different list. There are many contradictory lists of the names of the Saptarshis.)]

In China it was known as Yaon Kwang, a Revolving Light.

Boteler has an amusing reference to it in Hudibras: {p.442}

“Cardan believ’d great states depend

Upon the tip o’ th’ Bear’s tail’s end;

That, as she whisk’d it t’wards the Sun,

Strew’d mighty empires up and down;

Which others say must needs be false,

Because your true bears have no tails.”

Eta (η Alkaid) is 7° from zeta (ζ Mizar), and 26° from alpha (α Dubhe); and with zeta (ζ  Mizar) forms another pair of Pointers—towards Arcturus. It is noted as marking the radiant of one of the richest minor meteor streams, the Ursids of the 10th of November (The Ursids meteor activity begins annually around December 17th and runs for a week plus, until the 25th or 26th. ).

Sir John Herschel thought it, in 1847, the lucida (brightest star in a constellation) of the seven stars.

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

Ursa Major has been called “the Bear with her train,” the “train” refers to these stars epsilon (Alioth), zeta (Mizar), and eta (this star, Alkaid) which mark the tail. These three stars were also portrayed by the Arabs as “Mourners” around a Bier or coffin. The bier was marked by the Plough or Big Dipper stars; Merak (beta), Dubhe (alpha), Phecda (gamma) and Megrez (delta) on the body of the Bear. The coffin was followed by “Mourners” (Alioth, Mizar, and this star, Alkaid), as in the Arabic Banat Na’ash al Kubra, “the Daughters of the Great Bier”, and this constellation was seen as a funeral procession, attributing this title to the nightly slow and solemn motion of the figure around the pole. These mourners, the children of Al Na’ash, who was murdered by Al Jadi, the pole-star (Polaris), are still nightly surrounding him in their thirst for vengeance.

DipperIt is one of the “The Plough”, also called “the Big Dipper” stars, an asterism in the back of the Bear, outlined by the stars; Merak (beta) Dubhe (alpha), Phecda (gamma) and Megrez (delta) on the body of the Bear, along with the three star of the tail; epsilon (Alioth), zeta (Mizar), and this star, Alkaid. The asterism was also seen as a Dipper or Ladle with the three stars in the tail forming the handle. The Big Dipper has been seen by various cultures as a plough, an ox cart, a wagon, it was known as Charlie’s Wain in northern Europe. To the Hindus the four stars of the plough and the three stars in the tail was Sapta Rishi “The seven Wise Men.” These seven stars (septentriones, from the phrase septem triones, meaning “seven plough oxen”) are the origin of the Latin word septentriones meaning “north”.

This star is located on the Bear’s tail which occurred when Jupiter lay hold of the tails of the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and lifted them up into the heavens by their tails. On the long journey, the tails stretched which explains why these bears have long tails unlike earthly bears.

The astrological influences of the constellation Ursa Major

Legend: Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, of whom Jupiter was enamored, became a follower of Diana on account of her love of hunting. Jupiter sought Callisto by assuming the form of Diana, and Juno (Jupiter’s wife) who discovered the intrigue turned Callisto into a bear. Angry that the bear was placed in heaven, Juno requested her brother Neptune never to let those stars set within his kingdom, and for this reason they are always above the horizon in Europe [never disappear below the horizon, it is always visible in the night sky, all night, every night, throughout the year]. To account for the length of the bear’s tail [because in reality bears don’t have tails], it is said that Jupiter, fearing her teeth, lifted her by the tail, which became stretched because of her weight and the distance from earth to heaven. [Robson, p.65.]

Influences: According to Ptolemy, Ursa Major is like Mars. It is said to give a quiet, prudent, suspicious, mistrustful, self-controlled, patient nature, but an uneasy spirit and great anger and revengefulness when roused. By the Kabalists it is associated with the Hebrew letter Zain and the 7th Tarot Trump “The Chariot.” [Robson, p.65.]

The astrological influences of the constellation Ursa Major given by Manilius:

“Now when, after completing a revolution round the pole, the Bear (Ursa Major) with muzzle foremost replaces her unceasing steps in her former tracks, never immersed in Ocean but ever turning in a circle, to those born at such a time wild creatures will show no hostile face, and in their dealings with animals these men will find them submissive to their rule. Such a one will be able to control huge lions with a gesture, to fondle wolves, and to play with captive panthers; so far from shunning the powerful bears that are the kin of the constellation, he will train them to human accomplishments and feats foreign to their nature; he will seat himself on the elephant’s back and with a goad will direct the movements of a beast which disgraces its massive weight by yielding to tiny jabs; he will dispel the fury of the tiger, training it to become a peaceful animal, whilst all the other beasts which molest the earth with their savageness he will join in friendship to himself; keen-scented whelps he will train…” [here the translator notes that eight pages have been lost] [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 5, p.357, 359]

“Now where heaven reaches its culmination in the shining Bears, which from the summit of the sky look down on all the stars and know no setting and, shifting their opposed stations about the same high point, set sky and stars in rotation, from there an insubstantial axis runs down through the wintry air and controls the universe, keeping it pivoted at opposite poles: it forms the middle about which the starry sphere revolves and wheels its heavenly flight, but is itself without motion and, drawn straight through the empty spaces of the great sky to the two Bears and through the very globe of the Earth, stands fixed, since the entire atmosphere ever revolves in a circle, and every part of the whole rotates to the place from which it once began, that which is in the middle, about which all moves, so insubstantial that it cannot turn round upon itself or even submit to motion or spin in circular fashion, this men have called the axis, since, motionless itself, it yet sees everything spinning about it. The top of the axis is occupied by constellations well known to hapless mariners, guiding them over the measureless deep in their search for gain. Helice (Ursa Major), the greater, describes the greater arc; it is marked by seven stars which vie with each other under its guidance the ships of Greece set sail to cross the seas. Cynosura [Ursa Minor] is small and wheels round in a narrow circle, less in brightness as it is in size, but in the judgment of the Tyrians it excels the larger bear. Carthaginians count it the surer-guide when at sea they make for unseen shores. They are not set face to face: each with its muzzle points at the other’s tail and follows one that follows it. Sprawling between them and embracing each the Dragon separates and surrounds them with its glowing stars lest they ever meet or leave their stations.” [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 1, p.27, 29].

The astrological influences of the star Alkaid

The last star in the Great Bear. Benetnash (Alkaid) means ‘hired mourners’. If the influence of this star is exercised, an influence of a Mars-Uranus-Saturn nature is present. Experience has shown that many human lives are to be mourned. Reinhold Ebertin made a survey of this fixed star covering centuries when associated with transits of the major planets over this degree. The results have been recorded in the 40th yearbook for Cosmobiological Research 1969. In accordance with adopted belief of ancient times, this fixed star is supposed to be bound up with the realm of the dead and is therefore associated with death and mourning. In an important position in a mundane map, Benetnash will claim human lives in calamities such as mine accidents, collapse of houses and bridges, mountain slides, earth tremors and catastrophes caused by weather. Uranus was in exact conjunction with Benetnash at the end of July 1969. This time was marked with extreme tension between Prague and Moscow, followed later in August by the Russian takeover of the USSR. The Czech reformers in Schwarzau on the Theiss fought for the freedom of their nation on the 30th July with the Russian political bigwigs. The Soviets widened their ‘maneuvers’ in Poland. [Fixed Stars and Their Interpretation, Elsbeth Ebertin, 1928, no.46, p.57, under the name Benetnash]

Alkaid was known as “the destroyer of nations” by Islamic astrologers. [Fixed Stars and Judicial Astrology, George Noonan, 1990, p.5.]


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