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Constellations of Different Cultures

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 4 months ago


Constellations of Different Cultures


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In ancient times, there was no TV to watch, the internet didn’t exist, and if you wanted music you had to play it yourself. In those times, the peoples of the world did not need to worry about any of that though, because every single person had access to the widest screen the world has ever seen. The sky. The night sky is intensely beautiful and all ancient peoples observed it; it is no surprise that they all invented constellations to go along with the patterns in the stars.

The constellations we recognize today are mostly from the ancient Greek culture. You are no doubt familiar with Orion the Hunter, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, and all twelve zodiacal constellations. But did you know that the Lakota Indians saw Orion as a hand? Or that there are more interperatations of the big dipper than anyone cares to count? Read on to discover the different myths backing the patterns in the sky.

The Story of Orion is that of the legendary Greek hunter of that name. His ambition was to kill all the wild animals on Earth. But the Mother Earth, Gaia, didn’t like that, so she sent a giant scorpion after him. It eventually kill him and they were both placed in the stars so that Orion will be chased by the Scorpion forever.

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The Lakota Indians on the other hand, saw a huge Hand in the heavens which was a symbol for peace between the gods and the humans. The Lakota Hand and Orion share many of the same stars but because of the differing legends in the Greek and Lakota cultures they connected the dots in entirely different ways. To the ancient Egyptians, Orion was hailed as the god of the sun, Hindus saw an arrowed stag in these stars, and the Chinese see the White Tiger.

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Sometimes though, hugely different peoples saw similar things. Ursa Major was seen as a bear in both ancient Greece and the Navajo Nation, and the stories surrounding it are surprisingly similar; both involve women transforming into bears and being killed by their unrecognizing families.

Speaking of Ursa Major, because of its bright stars it has attracted much attention from stargazers of our modern times as well as from the ancients. In India, legend has it that that the seven brightest stars in Ursa Major, better known as the Big Dipper, are seven wise sages who’s wives were slandered by the love sick fire god and went off to a different part of the sky to become the stars of the Pleiades (another Greek constellation). In most of Europe, the Big Dipper was thought of as a Chariot for their most loved Kings; the ancient Chinese had a similar theory, the ancient Egyptians saw Ursa Major as a giant bull.

But it wasn't just the ancients who created all the constellations; there are 38 "modern" constellations that could only be seen after the invention of the telescope. Using this new technology astronomers were able to see dimmer stars than anyone before them; therefore enabling them to connect different dots and create new constellations like The Telescope, which would have been impossible to see (or name) before the invention of the telescope.

Each culture’s legends and myths started on Earth to explain why certain seeming uncanny events happened from day to day, but these stories nearly always migrate from Earth to the heavens in the form of constellations.


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For more links with information about different cultures and their constellations visit my del.icio.us website here.

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