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This Week's Scuttlebutt

Legends of the Sky

From the North American Micmac:

The Great Bear

When the bear awakens from its long sleep, in late spring, it is chased across the heavens by seven hunters who are disguised as stars.

All summer long, the hunters chase the bear across the northern horizon. In the fall, with only three hunters left, the bear is struck by the hunters' arrows!

As the bear rears up, then falls on its back, its blood drips down to Earth. The drops of falling blood turn the leaves red.

During the long winter, the wounded bear lies on its back until its spirit enters another bear.

When the next spring arrives, the newly enchanted bear starts fleeing across the sky, the next seven hunters in pursuit.

Thanks go to visitor Ed Wilson for this bit of information:

"I have always thought that any writing about the Big Dipper should include a reference to the Native American Indian practice of using Ursa Major to check their children's eyesight [with a simple vision test.]

The second to the last star in the Big Dipper's handle has another faint star next to it. Can you see it? It helps if you do not look directly at the handle star; pick up the secondary star in your peripheral vision."

On a clear night, if you cannot see the secondary star in your peripheral vision, you might want to have your eyes tested!

Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear) are the names of two constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere.

Seven stars in Ursa Major form the Big Dipper. The cup of the Big Dipper marks the hindquarters of the bear. The two stars in the front of the cup point to the North Star, Polaris.

Polaris is found at the tip of the Little Dipper's handle. The Little Dipper forms almost the entire constellation, Ursa Minor.

In Greek mythology, Ursa Major is the nymph Callisto. Ursa Minor is her son, Arcas. Zeus loved Callisto but this angered his wife, Hera. Zeus turned Callisto into a bear after Hera tried to kill her. But Arcas did not know that the bear was his mother and tried to kill it.

Zeus then turned Arcas into a bear, also, and put both bears into the sky to keep them safe from harm. Writers in the 1600s said the bears' tails were stretched because Zeus pulled the bears into the sky.

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Saturday, April 19, 2003 19:15