International Teen Blogger-The Big Dipper: Cultural Ties

Originally, I aimed to write a post about various constellations, going through the stories and details each culture has given them. Since stars have existed for millions and billions of years, there is bound to be a connection between them that ties the stories of years of civilizations together. After researching the topic further, I’ve found that, especially with major points in the sky, there’s a lot to be said. Instead of describing various constellations that would result in a fifty page essay, I am going to go through the aspects of what we know as the big dipper.

The Big Dipper that we know in America is known as “The Plough” in England, which is part of Ursa Major, the Greater Bear. In France it’s known as the Saucepan or Grande Ourse and in Germany as Grosse Bar.  Because of it’s proximity to the North Star and it’s limited movement across the sky, the name greater bear might have come from sailors from which they maintained their “bearings”. Etymology is cool.

The details of Greek mythology are varied from many websites, but here is the story in essence. Callisto, goddess of the crescent moon, bore Zeus a son, Arcas. Zeus’s wife grew furiously jealous and turned Callisto into a bear to roam the forest. One day as Arcas was walking through the woods, he faced Callisto. Thinking she was going to attack him, he poised to shoot an arrow at her. Zeus saw this and, to save them both, pulled them by their tails, perhaps why the tail of Ursa major and minor have abnormally long tails for bears, and made them to roam the sky together. Still, it’s said that Hera assured that they were placed high up in the sky to be deprived of water from the ocean.

Hindu mythology identifies the seven stars of the big dipper to be seven rishis, or sages. These seven rishis were said to be the first Brahmans who made the sun rise and kept peace for the universe. Chinese associate the seven stars, Tseih Sing, with the seven palaces of the God of Longevity.

newbearursa-major

The first image is the view of Ursa major with the bowl of the dipper as the saddle on the bear, and the second image is how it’s most commonly known with the longer tail.

Ale, 16 years

Sources (quite a bit):

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/education/skytellers/constellations/about.shtml

http://nfo.edu/astro/constel.htm

http://www.souledout.org/nightsky/ursamandm/ursamajorandminor.html

http://www.mallorcaweb.net/masm/descon1.htm

http://www.constellationsofwords.com/Constellations/UrsaMajor.html

http://exploretheworld.hubpages.com/hub/saptarishis

http://home.comcast.net/~lsmch/starmyths.htm

 

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