Maia was the oldest member of the Pleiades. The Pleiades were seven nymphs that made up the constellation of Pleiades. The name “Maia” translates to “nursing mother.”
Maia was a shy goddess, dwelling alone in a cave situated close to the peak of Mount Kyllene. When she was living in the cave, she gave birth to the god Hermes in secret. Hermes was the son she had following an affair with Zeus. Hermes wasn’t the only child that Maia raised. She also took care of the child Arkas after his mother, Kallisto, was transformed from a woman into a bear.
The playwright Aeschylus drew comparisons between Maia as the nursing mother, and Gaia as the mother of the earth. In several instances, he used the names Gaia and Maia interchangeably. He also refers to the goddess of the earth as “Gaia Maia,” which means “nursing mother of the earth.”
Maia was the daughter of Pleione and Atlas, though she referred to them as Pleias and Atlantas. Beyond the fact that she lived in a cave and raised both Hermes and Kallisto’s son, not much is known about the life of this reclusive goddess. She does appear in a multitude of classic Greek literature.
The Pleiades is most commonly known as a cluster of stars, also referred to as the Seven Sisters. In the Northern Hemisphere, these stars are most prominently seen during the winter. Though they’re part of the constellation Taurus in modern astronomy, there were certain Greek astronomers who believed the stars to be a constellation unto themselves, which is where the cluster got its name.
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