The Big Dipper


Star map of constellation Ursa Major. User:SAE...

Image via Wikipedia

I look at the Big Dipper nearly every evening. it’s comforting somehow. But I’d forgotten that it has been a symbol for people for nearly ever. In the 1800s, according to Wikimedia, runaway slaves used the Big Dipper (which they referred to as the “drinking gourd”) to find their way to the north.

In American Indian lore, the Big Dipper with the North Star represented three cubs following their mother. This configuration appears on some tribal flags and on the Alaskan state flag.

The Bible refers to the Big Dipper as “the seven stars,” although there sometimes are said to be nine stars (the extra two might be Messier objects).

In Ireland and Great Britain, the Big Dipper is known as The Plough.

No matter the origin, these seven stars (septentriones) mean “north” in many languages.

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