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This webpage reproduces a section of
Star Names
Their Lore and Meaning

Richard Hinckley Allen

as reprinted
in the Dover edition, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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'Twas noon of night, when round the pole

The sullen Bear is seen to roll.

Thomas Moore's translation of the Odes of Anacreon.

. . . round and round the frozen Pole

Glideth the lean white bear.

Robert Williams Buchanan's Ballad of Judas Iscariot.

Ursa Major, the Greater Bear,

the Grande Ourse of the French, the Orsa Maggiore of the Italians, and the Grosse Bär of the Germans, always has been the best known of the stellar groups, appearing in every extended reference to the heavens in the legends, parchments, tablets, and stones of remotest times. And Sir George Cornewall Lewis, quoting allusions to it by Aristotle, Strabo, and many other classical writers, thinks, from Homer's line,

Arctos, sole star that never bathes in th' ocean wave

(by reason of precession it then was much nearer the pole than it now is), that this was the only portion of the arctic sky that in the poet's time had been reduced to constellation form. This statement, however, refers solely to the Greeks; for even before Homer's day we know that earlier nations had here their own stellar groups; yet we must remember that the Ἄρκτος and Ἅμαξα of the Iliad and Odyssey consisted of but the seven stars, and that these alone bore those names till Thales formed our Ursa Minor. Later on the figure was enlarged "for the purpose of uranographic completeness," so that Heis now catalogues 227 components visible to his naked eye, although only 140 appeared to Argelander, down to the 6th magnitude.

It is almost the first object to which the attention of beginners in astronomy is called, — a fact owing partly to its circumpolar position for all points above the 41st parallel rendering it always and entirely visible above that latitude, but very largely to its great extent and to the striking conformation of its prominent stars. It is noticeable, too, that all early catalogues commenced with the two Ursine constellations.

Although the group has many titles and mythical associations, it has almost everywhere been known as a Bear, usually in the feminine, from its legendary origin. All classic writers, from Homer to those in the decline of Roman literature, thus mentioned it, — a universality of consent as to its form which, it has fancifully been said, may have arisen from Aristotle's idea that its prototype was the only creature that dared invade the frozen North. p420Yet it is remarkable that the Teutonic nations did not know this stellar group under this shape, although the animal was of course familiar to them and made much of in story and worship. With them these stars were the Wagen, our familiar Wain. Aratos wrote in the Phainomena:

Two Bears

Called Wains move round it, either in her place;

Ovid, in the Tristia, Magna minorque ferae; and Propertius included both in his Geminae Ursae; while Horace, Vergil, and Ovid, again, called them Gelidae Arcti. We also meet with Arctoi and Arctoe. The Anglo-Saxon Manual of Astronomy of the 10th century adopted the Greek Arctos, although it adds "which untaught men call Carles-waen"; rare old Ben Jonson, in 1609, in his Epicoene, or the Silent Woman, called Kallisto

a star Mistress Ursula in the heavens;

and La Lande cited Fera major, Filia Ursae, and Ursa cum puerulo, referring to Arcas.

The well-known, although varied, story of Καλλιστώ, — as old as Hesiod's time, — who was changed to a bear because of Juno's jealousy and transferred to the skies by the regard of Jove, has given rise to much poetical allusion from Hesiod's day till ours, especially among the Latins. In Addison's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses, where this myth is related, we read that Jove

snatched them through the air

In whirlwinds up to heaven and fix'd them there;

Where the new constellations nightly rise,

And add a lustre to the northern skies;

although the dissatisfied Juno still complained that in this location they

proudly roll

In their new orbs and brighten all the pole.

This version of the legend turned Kallisto's son Arcas into Ursa Minor, although he was Boötes; Matthew Arnold correctly writing of the mother and son in his Merope:

The Gods had pity, made them Stars.

Stars now they sparkle

In the northern Heaven —

The guard Arcturus,

The guard-watch'd Bear.

p421 Another version substituted her divine mistress Ἄρτεμις — also known to the Greeks as Καλλίστη, the Roman Diana — for the nymph of the celestial transformation; the last Greek word well describing the extreme beauty of this constellation. La Lande, however, referred the title to the Phoenician Kalitsah, or Chalitsa, Safety, as its observation helped to a safe voyage.

Among its names from the old story are Kallisto herself; Lycaonia, Lycaonia Puella, Lycaonia Arctos, from her father, or grandfather, king of the aboriginal race that was known as late as Saint Paul's day, with the distinct dialect alluded to in the Acts of the Apostles, xiv.11; Dianae Comes and Phoebes Miles are from her companionship in arms with that goddess; and it was one of the

arctos oceani metuentes aequore tingi,

because Tethys, at Juno's instigation, had forbidden Kallisto to enter her watery dominions. Yet Camões, from a lower latitude, wrote of As Ursas:

We saw the Bears, despite of Juno, lave

Their tardy bodies in the boreal wave.

Ovid's arctos aequoris expertes; immunemque aequoris Arcton; liquidique immunia ponti, and utraque sicca, were from the fact that, being circumpolar, neither of the Bears sets below the ocean horizon. This was a favorite conceit of the poets, and astronomically correct during millenniums before and centuries after Homer's day, although not so in recent times as to the Greater, except in high latitudes. Chaucer reproduced this in his rendering of the De Consolatione Philosophiae by Boëtius, whom he styles Boece:

Ne the sterre y‑cleped "the Bere," that enclyneth his ravisshinge courses abouten the soverein heighte of the worlde, ne the same sterre Ursa nis never‑mo wasshen in the depe westrene see, ne coveiteth nat to deyen his flaumbe in the see of the occian, al‑thogh he see other sterres y‑plounged in the see;

our Bryant rendering this idea:

The Bear that sees star setting after star

In the blue brine, descends not to the deep.

Poetical titles induced by the legend of Arcas were Virgo Nonacrina and Tegeaea Virgo, from the Arcadian towns Nonacris and Tegea; Erymanthis, perhaps the Erymanthian Boar that Hercules slew, but more probably the Erymanthian Bear; Maenalia Arctos, Maenalis, and Maenalis Ursa, from those mountains; Parrhasis, Parrhasia Virgo, and Parrhasides Stellae, from p422the tribe, although Pluche went farther back for this to the Phoenician pilots' Parrasis, the Guiding Star, — the Hebrews' Pharashah. Sophocles wrote of it in the Oedipus as Arcadium Sidus,a referring to the whole country of Arcadia, the Switzerland of Greece, famous in the classical world for its wild mountain scenery; and very early silver coins of Mantinea showed the Bear as mother of the patron god.

Such has been the myth of this constellation current for at least three millenniums; but Mueller discards it all, and says:

The legend of Kallisto, the beloved of Zeus and mother of Arkas, has nothing to do with the original meaning of the stars. On the contrary, Kallisto was supposed to have been changed into the Arktos or Greater Bear because she was the mother of Arkas, that is to say, of the Arcadian1 or bear race, and her name, or that of her son, reminded the Greeks of their long established name of the northern constellation.

Aratos' version of the legend, from very ancient Naxian tradition, made the two Bears the Cretan nurses of the infant Jupiter, afterwards raised to heaven for their devotion to their charge [Diodorus, IV.80]. From this came the Cretaeae sive Arctoe of Germanicus; but Lewis said:

This fable is inconsistent with the natural history of the island; for the ancients testify that Crete never contained any bears or other noxious animals.

Subsequent story changed the nurses into the Cretan nymphs Helice and Melissa. Hyginus and Germanicus also used the masculine form Ursus as well as Arctus.

The Hebrew word ʽĀsh or ʽAyish in the Book of Job, ix.9, and xxxviii.32, supposed to refer to the Square in this constellation as a Bier, not a Bear, was translated Arcturus by Saint Jerome in the Vulgate: and this was adopted in the version of 1611 authorized by King James. Hence the popular belief that the Bible mentions our star α Boötis; but Umbreit had already corrected this to "the Bear and her young," and in the Revision of 1885 the patriarch talks to us of "the Bear with her train," these latter being represented by the three tail stars. Von Herder strangely rendered the first of these passages "Libra and the Pole Star, the Seven Stars"; but the second, more correctly, as "the Bear with her young" feeding around the pole; or, by another tradition, the nightly wanderer, a mother of the stars seeking her lost children, — those that no longer are visible. The p423Breeches Bible has this marginal note to its word Arcturus: "The North Star, with those that are about him."

Hebrew observers called the constellation Dōbh; Phoenician, Dub; and Arabian, Al Dubb al Akbar, the Greater Bear, — Dubhelacbar with Bayer and Dub Alacber with Chilmead, — all of these perhaps adopted from Greece. Caesius cited the "Mohammedans' " Dubbe, Dubhe, and Dubon; and Robert Browning, in his Jochanan Hakkadosh, repeated these as Dob.

But whence came the same idea into the minds of our North American Indians? Was it by accident? or is it evidence of a common origin in the far antiquity of Asia? The conformation of the seven stars in no way resembles the animal, — indeed the contrary; yet they called them Okuari and Paukunawa, words for a "bear," before they were visited by the white men, as is attested by Le Clercq in 1691, by the Reverend Cotton Mather in 1712, by the Jesuit missionary La Fitau in 1724, and by the French traveler Charlevoix in 1744. And Bancroft wrote in his history of our country:

The red men . . . did not divide the heavens, nor even a belt in the heavens, into constellations. It is a curious coincidence, that among the Algonquins of the Atlantic and of the Mississippi, alike among the Narragansetts and the Illinois, the North Star was called the Bear.

In justice, however, to their familiarity with a bear's anatomy, it should be said that the impossible tail of our Ursa was to them either Three Hunters, or a Hunter with his two Dogs, in pursuit of the creature; the star Alcor being the pot in which they would cook her. They thus avoided the incongruousness of the present astronomical ideas of Bruin's make-up, although their cooking-utensil was inadequate. The Housatonic Indians, who roamed over that valley from Pittsfield through Lenox and Stockbridge to Great Barrington, said that this chase of the stellar Bear lasted from the spring till the autumn, when the animal was wounded and its blood plainly seen in the foliage of the forest.

The long tail of the Bear, a queer appendage to a comparatively tailless animal, is thus accounted for by old Thomas Hood in his didactic style:


I marvel why (seeing she hath the forme of a beare) her tail should be so long.


Imagine that Jupiter, fearing to come too nigh unto her teeth, layde holde on her tayle, and thereby drewe her up into the heaven; so that shee of herself being very weightie, and the distance from the earth to the heavens very great, there was great likelihood that her taile must stretch. Other reason know I none.

p424 My friend the Reverend Doctor Robert M. Luther of Newark, New Jersey, tells me that a similar story was current with the Pennsylvania Germans of forty years ago. The same "weightie" reason will apply equally well to the Smaller Bear; indeed the latter's tail is even proportionately longer, although the kink in it takes a different turn. It is probably this association of these Seven Stars with our aborigines that has given them the occasional title of the Seven Little Indians.

Trevisa derived the title thus: "alwey thoo sterres wyndeth and turneth rounde aboute that lyne, that is calde Axis, as a bere aboute the stake. And therefore that cercle is clepid the more bere." Boteler borrowed this for his Hudibras:

And round about the pole does make

A circle like a bear at stake.

The great epic of the Finns, the Kalewala, makes much of this constellation, styling it Otawa and Otawainen, in which Miss Clerke sees likeness to the names used by our aborigines for "the great Teutonic King of beasts." But that people also said that the Bear stars, and especially the pole-star, were young and beautiful maidens highly skilled in spinning and weaving, — a story originating from a fancied resemblance of their rays of light to a weaver's web.

The Century Dictionary has a theory as to the origin of the idea of a Bear for these seven stars, doubtless from its editor, Professor Whitney, that seems plausible, — at all events, scholarly. It is that their Sanskrit designation, Riksha, signifies, in two different genders, "a Bear," and "a Star," "Bright," or "to shine," — hence a title, the Seven Shiners, — so that it would appear to have come, by some confusion of sound, of the two words among a people not familiar with the animal. Later on Riksha was confounded with the word Rishi, and so connected with the Seven Sages, or Poets, of India; afterwards with the Seven Wise Men of Greece, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, the Seven Champions of Christendom, etc.; while the Seven Stars of early authors, as often used for Ursa Major as for the Pleiades, certainly is much more appropriate to the Ursine figure than to the Taurine. Minsheu had "the Seven Starres called Charles Waine in the North," and three centuries earlier Chaucer wrote of "the sterres seven" with manifest reference to this constellation. The Kalewala had the equivalent Seitsen tahtinen; the Portuguese Camões, Sete Flammas; and the Turks, Yidigher Yilduz.

Hewitt says that these seven stars at first were known in India as Seven Bears, although also as Seven Antelopes, and again as Seven Bulls, the latter merged into one, the Great Spotted Bull, as the Seven Bears also p425were into Ursa Major, with our Arcturus for their keeper; and he gives their individual titles as Kratu for α, Pulaha for β, Pulastya for γ, Atri for δ, Añgiras for ε, and Marīci for η, the six sons of Brahma, who himself was Vashishṭha, the star ζ. The Vishnu-Dharma, however, claimed Atri as their ruler; indeed, there seems to be much variance in Sanskrit works as to the identity of these stars and titles.

When the figure of the Bear was extended to its present dimensions, four times as great as Homer's Arktos, we do not know, and, to quote again from Miss Clerke,

we can only conjecture; but there is evidence that it was fairly well established when Aratos wrote his description of the constellations. [He stretched it over Gemini, Cancer, and Leo.]b Aratos, however, copied Eudoxus, and Eudoxus used observations made — doubtless by Accad or Chaldaean astrologers — above 2000 B.C. We infer, then, that the Babylonian Bear was no other than the modern Ursa Major. . . . Thus, circling the globe from the valley of the Ganges to the great lakes of the New World, we find ourselves confronted with the same sign in the northern skies, the relic of some primeval association of ideas, long since extinct. Extinct even in Homer's time.

And Achilles Tatios distinctly asserted that it was from Chaldaea. But Brown thinks, in regard to the identity of the archaic and modern constellations of this name in that country,

that at present there is no real evidence to connect the Kakkabu Dabi (or Dabu, the Babylonian Bear) with the Plough or Wain, still less with Ursa Major;

and identifies the latter with the Euphratean Bel‑me-Khi‑ra, the Confronter of Bel, — Bertin, with Bel himself. A group of seven stars is often shown on the cylinders from Babylonia, Layard'sº Culte de Mithra giving many instances of this, although the reference may have been to the Pleiades; while it is Sayce's suggestion that perhaps "the god seven," so frequently mentioned in the inscriptions, is connected with Ursa Major.

Theon's attribution of the invention of the constellation to the mythical Nauplius, son of Poseidon, and a famous navigator, hardly seems worthy of mention.

Among the adjacent Syrians it was a Wild Boar, and in the stars of the feet of our Bear (now Leo Minor) the early nomads saw the tracks of their Ghazal. Similarly, in the far North, it has been the Sarw of the Lapps, their familiar Reindeer, the Los of the Ostiaks, and the Tukto of the Greenlanders.

Smyth wrote in his Speculum Hartwellianum:

King Arthur, the renowned hero of the Mabinogion, typified the Great Bear; as his name, — Arth, bear, and Uthyr, wonderful, — implies in the Welsh language; and the constellation, visibly describing a circle in the North Polar regions of the sky, may possibly have been the true origin of the Son of Pendragon's famous Round Table, the earliest institution of a military order of knighthood.

p426 Whatever may be the fact in this speculation, we know that the early English placed King Arthur's home here, and that the people of Great Britain long called it Arthur's Chariot or Wain, which appears in the Lay of the Last Minstrel:

Arthur's slow wain his course doth roll,

In utter darkness, round the pole.

In Ireland it has been King David's Chariot, from one of that island's early kings; in France, the Great Chariot, and it was seen on Gaulish coins. The Anglo-Norman poet De Thaun of the 12th century had it Charere; and La Lande cited the more modern la Roue, the Wheel. Occasionally it has been called the Car of Boötes.

And this carries us back to another of the earliest titles for our constellation, the Ἅμαξα, Wain or Wagon, — Riccioli's Amaxa, — of the Iliad and Odyssey, that Homer used equally with Ἄρκτος, although with the same limitation to the seven stars. Describing the shield made by Hephaistos for Achilles, the poet said, in Sir John Herschel's rendering:

There the revolving Bear, which the Wain they call, was ensculptured,

Circling on high, and in all its course regarding Orion;

Sole of the starry train which refuses to bathe in the Ocean;

which I have quoted, in preference to others more rhythmical, from the interest that we all feel in the translator as an astronomer, although but little known as a poet. Homer repeated this in the 5th book of the Odyssey, where Ulixes, in Bryant's translation, is

Gazing with fixed eye on the Pleiades,

Boötes setting late and the Great Bear,

By others called the Wain, which wheeling round,

Looks ever toward Orion and alone

Dips not into the waters of the deep.

For so Calypso, glorious goddess, bade

That, on his ocean journey, he should keep

That constellation ever on his left;

Ithaca, whither he was bound, lying due east from Calypso's isle, Ogygia.º Pope rendered the original the Northern Team, and the lines on Orion:

To which, around the axle of the sky,

The Bear, revolving, points his golden eye.

These passages clearly show the early use of the Wain stars in Greek navigation before Cynosura was known to them; as Aratos wrote:

p427 By it on the deep

Achaians gather where to sail their ships;

Ovid imitating this in the Fasti and Tristia. Orion seems to have been often joined in this use, for Apollonius wrote:

The watchful sailor, to Orion's star

And Helice, turned heedful.

Aratos called the constellation the "Wain-like Bear"; and, alluding to the title Ἅμαξα, asserted that the word was from ἅμα, "together," the Ἅμαξαι thus circling together around the pole; but no philologist accepts this, and it might as well have come from ἄξων, "axle," referring to the axis of the heavens. In fact, Hewitt goes far back of Aratos in his statement that the Sanskrit god Akshivan, the Driver of the Axle (Aksha), was adopted in Greece as Ixion, whose well-known wheel was merely the circling course of this constellation. Anacreon mentioned it as a Chariot as well as a Bear; and Hesychios had it Ἄγαννα, an archaic word from ἄγειν, "to carry," singularly like, in orthography at least, the Akkadian title for the Wain stars, Aganna, or Akanna, the Lord of Heaven; and Aben Ezra called it Ajala, the Hebrew word for "wagon."

The Romans expressed the same idea in their Currus; Plaustrum,2 or Plostrum, magnum; with the diminutive Plaustricula, which Capellac turned into Plaustriluca, imitating the "Noctiluca" used by Horace for the moon. Apollinaris Sidonius, the Christian writer of the 6th century, called the constellation Plaustra Parrhasis; and Rycharde Eden wrote it Plastrum, —

al the sterres cauled Plastrum or Charles Wayne, are hydde under the Northe pole to the canibals.

In all these, of course, reference was made to the seven stars only, Bartschius plainly showing this on his chart, where he outlines them, with the title Plaustrum, included within the limits of the much larger Ursa Major.

The Italians have Cataletto, a Bier, and Carro; and the Portuguese Camões wrote it Carreta.

The Danes, Swedes, and Icelanders knew it as Stori Vagn, the Great Wagon, and as Karls Vagn; Karl being Thor, their greatest god, of whom the old Swedish Rhyme Chronicle, describing the statues in the church3 at Upsala, says:

p428 The God Thor was the highest of them;

He sat naked as a child,

Seven stars in his hand and Charles's Wain.

The Goths similarly called the seven stars Karl Wagen, which has descended to modern Germans as Wagen and Himmel Wagen, the last with the story that it represents the Chariot in which Elijah journeyed to heaven. But in the heathen times of the northern nations it was the Wagon of Odin, Woden, or Wuotan, the father of Thor, and the Irmines Wagen of the Saxons. Grimm cites Herwagen, probably the Horwagen of Bayer and the Hurwagen of Caesius; while a common English name now is the Waggon. The Poles call it Woz Niebeski, the Heavenly Wain. In all these similes the three tail stars of our Bear were the three draught-horses in line.

The royal poet King James wrote:

Heir shynes the charlewain, there the Harp gives light,

And heir the Seamans Starres, and there Twinnis bright.

This old and still universally popular title, Charles's Wain, demands more than mere mention. It has often been derived from the Saxon ceorl, the carle of mediaeval times, our churl, and thus the "peasant's cart"; but this is incorrect, and the New English Dictionary has an exhaustive article on the words, well worthy of repetition here:

Charles's Wain. Forms: carles-wæn, Cherlemaynes-wayne, Charlmons wayn, carle wen-sterre, carwaynesterre, Charel-wayn, Charlewayn, Charle wane, Charles wayne or waine, Charles or Carol's wain(e), Charlemagne or Charles his wane, wain(e), Charle-waine, Charl-maigne Wain, Charles's Wain. [OE. Carles wægn, the wain (ἅμαξα, plaustrum) of Carl (Charles the Great, Charlemagne). The name appears to arise out of the verbal association of the star-name Arcturus with Arturus or Arthur, and the legendary association of Arthur and Charlemagne; so that what was originally the wain of Arcturus or Boötes ('Boötes' golden wain,' Pope) became at length the wain of Carl or Charlemagne. (The guess churl's or carle's wain has been made in ignorance of the history.)]

As the name Arcturus was formerly sometimes applied loosely to the constellation Boötes, and incorrectly to the Great Bear, the name Carlewayne-sterre occurs applied to the star Arcturus.

The editor cites from various authors since the year 1000, when he finds Carleswæn (I can make a still earlier citation of this word from one of the Anglo-Saxon Cottonian Manuscripts of some years previously), and quotes from Sir John Davies, the philosophical poet of the Elizabethan age:

Those bright starres

Which English Shepheards, Charles his waine, do name;

But more this Ile is Charles, his waine,

Since Charles her royal wagoner became;

and from John Taylor, "the King's water-poet," of 1630:

p429 Charles his Cart (which we by custome call Charles his wane) is most gloriously stellifide.

The list ends with a quotation from J. F. Blake, of 1876, who even at this late day had King Charles' Wain.

This connection of these Seven Stars with England's kings was due to the courtiers of Charles I and II, who claimed it as in their masters' honor, and elsewhere occurs; William Bas, or Basse, about 1650, having, in Old Tom of Bedlam:

Bid Charles make ready his waine;

James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, in the Queen's Wake of 1813:

Charles re-yoked his golden wain;

and Tom Hood, of fifty years ago:

looking at that Wain of Charles, the Martyr's.

This is from the Comet, the humorous Astronomical Anecdote of the great Sir William Herschel, whom the poet called the "be-knighted," and further described as

like a Tom of Coventry, sly peeping,

At Dian sleeping;

Or ogling thro' his glass

Some heavenly lass

Tripping with pails along the Milky Way.

Coverdale's Bible alludes to it and its companion as the Waynes of Heaven, which Edmund Becke, in his edition of 1549, transforms into Vaynes, and Cadmarden, in his Rouen edition of 1515, into the Waves of Heaven. Dutch and German versions have Wagen am Himmel; the Saxon versions, Wænes Thīsl, or Wagon-pole; and this idea of a wagon, or its parts and its driver, is seen in all the Northern tongues where the Bear is not recognized. Grimm's Teutonic Mythology is very full as to this branch of the stellar Wain's nomenclature.

Πλειάδα, the Septuagint's rendering of the Hebrew ʽĀsh, is manifestly incorrect, but may have misled the later Rabbis who applied this last word to the group in Taurus. The Peshitta-Syriac Version translates the Mazzārōth of the Book of Job by ʽgaltā, meaning our Wain.

The 15th‑century German manuscript so often alluded to mentions it as the Southern Tramontane, a title more fully treated under Ursa Minor; and Vespucci, in his 3a Lettera, wrote of the two Bears:

p430 La stella tramontana o l' orsa maggiore & minore.

Both of these have been — perhaps still are — night clocks to the English rustic, and measures of time generally, as in Poe's Ulalume, "star-dials that pointed to morn."

Shakespeare's Carrier at the Rochester inn-yard said:

An't be not four by the day, I'll be hang'd; Charles Wain is over the new chimney, and yet our horse not pack'd;

Tennyson, in his touching New Year's Eve:

We danced about the May-pole and in the hazel copse,

Till Charles's Wain came out above the tall white chimney tops;

and again, in the Princess:

I paced the terrace, till the Bear had wheel'd

Thro' a great arc his seven slow suns.

Spenser, in the Faerie Queen, thus refers to the Wain as a timepiece, and to Polaris as a guide:

By this the northern wagoner had set

His sevenfold teme behind the steadfast starre

That was in ocean waves never yet wet,

But firme is fixt, and sendith light from farre

To all that in the wide deep wandering arre.

Its well-known use by the early Greeks in navigation was paralleled in the deserts of Arabia, "through which," according to Diodorus the Sicilian, "travellers direct their course by the Bears, in the same manner as is done at sea." They serve this same purpose to the Badāwiyy of to-day, as Mrs. Sigourney describes in The Stars, writing of Polaris:

The weary caravan, with chiming bells,

Making strange music 'mid the desert sands,

Guides by thy pillar'd fires its nightly march.

Sophocles made a similar statement of the Bear as directing travelers generally; Falstaff, in King Henry IV, said:

We that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars;

and the modern Keats, in his Robin Hood:

the seven stars to light you,

Or the polar ray to right you.

p431 But the astrologers of Shakespeare's time ascribed to it evil influences, which Edmund, in King Lear, commented upon with ridicule:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, (often the surfeit of our own behaviour), we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, —

claiming that his own

nativity was under Ursa Major, so that it follows I am rough and lecherous.

Both of the Bears have been frequently found on the old sign-boards of English inns, and, in a more important way, are emblazoned on the shields of the cities of Antwerp and Groningenº in the Netherlands.

The Plough has been a common title with the English down to the present time, even with so competent a scientist as Miss Clerke, one of the few astronomical writers who still continue the use of the good old names of stars and constellations. She, however, takes the three line stars as the Handle, not the Team. Minsheu mentioned it in the same way, but added ut placet astrologis dicitur Temo, i.e. the Beam, a term originating with Quintus Ennius, the Father of Roman Song, adopted by Cicero, Ovid, Statius, and Varro, and common with the astrologers. Fale, in 1593, described it as called "of countrymen the plough," the first instance in print that I have found. Thus it was, perhaps still is, the Irish Camcheacta. Hewitt sees this Heavenly Plough even in prehistoric India, and quotes from Sayce the title Sugi, the Wain, which later became Libra's name as the Yoke.

With the Wain and Plough naturally came the Plough Oxen, the Triones of Varro, Aulus Gellius, and the Romans generally, turned by the grammarians into Teriones, the Threshing-oxen, walking around the threshing-floor of the pole. Martial qualified these by hyperborei Odrysii and Parrhasii, but also called the constellation Parrhasium Jugum; and Claudian [Carm. Min. LII.11], inoccidui, "never setting." Cicero, with contemporary and later Latin writers, said Septem- or Septentriones, as did the long-haired Iopas in his Aeneid song of the two Northern Cars; and Propertius wrote of them:

Flectant Icarii sidera tarda boves;

while Claudian [III Cons. Hon. 205] designated them as pigri; all of which remind us of similar epithets for their driver Boötes.

Septentrio seems to have been applied to either constellation; and Dante used it for the Minor, with a beautiful simile, in his Purgatorio. Eventually it became a term for the north pole and the north wind; then for the North p432generally, as the word Arctic has from the stellar ἄρκτος. Dante had settentrionāle sito; Chaucer spoke of the "Septentrioun" as a compass point; Shakespeare, in King Henry VI:

as the South to the Septentrion;

Michael Drayton, the friend of Shakespeare and poet laureate in 1626, wrote in the Poly-Olbion of "septentrion cold"; Milton, in Paradise Regained, of "cold Septentrion blasts"; and, in our day, Owen Meredith in the Wanderer has "beyond the blue Septentrions"; while the word seems current as an adjective in nearly all modern languages. Still there is nothing new in all this, for in the Avesta the Seven Stars marked the North in the four quarters of the heavens.

The Persian title was Hafturengh, Heft Averengh, or Heft Rengh, qualified by Mihin, Greater, to distinguish it from Kihin, Lesser; Hewitt giving this as originally Hapto-iringas, the Seven Bulls, that possibly may be the origin of the Triones. Cox, however, goes far back of this classic title and says:

They who spoke of the seven triones had long forgotten that their fathers spoke of the taras (staras) or strewers of light;

and Al Bīrūnī derived the word from taraṇa, "passage," as of the stars through the heavens. Thus from the results of modern philological research it is possible that our long received opinions as to the derivations of many star-names should be abandoned, and that we should search for them far back of Greece or Rome.

Heraclitos, the Ionic philosopher of Ephesus of about 500 B.C., asserted that this constellation marked the boundary between the East and the West, which it may be regarded as doing when on the horizon.

A coin of 74 B.C., struck by the consul Lucretius Trio, bears the Seven Stars disposed in an irregular curve around the new moon, while the word Trio within the crescent is an evident allusion to the consul's name, albeit one hardly known in Roman history.

The Hebrew ʽĀsh, or ʽAyish, is reproduced by, or was derived from, the Arabic Banāt Naʽash al Ḳubrā, the Daughters of the Great Bier, i.e. the Mourners, — the Benenas, Benethasch, and Beneth As of Chilmead and Christmannus, — applied to the three stars in the extreme end of the group, η being Al Ḳā᾽id, the Chief One; from this came Bayer's El Keid for the whole constellation. Riccioli, quoting Kircher, said that the Arabian Christians with more definiteness termed it Naʽash Laazar, the Bier of Lazarus, with Mary, Martha, and Ellamath, — this last being given in p433Mrs. Jameson's Sacred and Legendary Art as Marcella or Martilla, but by Smyth as Magdalen; Riccioli's word should be Al Amah, the Maid, the position that Marcella occupied toward the two women during their journey to Marseilles, where she was canonized. Karsten Niebuhr said that the constellation was known, even in his day, as Naʽash by the Arabs along the Persian Gulf; and Wetzstein tells the modern story, from that people, in which these mourners, the children of Al Naʽash, who was murdered by Al Jadī, the pole-star, are still nightly surrounding him in their thirst for vengeance, the wālidān among the daughters — the star Mizar — holding in her arms her new-born infant, the little Alcor, while Suhail is slowly struggling up to their help from the South. Delitzsch says that even to-day the group is known as a Bier in Syria; Flammarion attributing this title to the slow and solemn motion of the figure around the pole. This seems to have originated in Arabia; and from it come the titles even now occasionally heard for the quadrangle stars — the Bier and the Great Coffin. With the early Arab poets the Banāt stars were an emblem of inactivity and laziness.

It had other names also. Cynosuris appeared with Ovid and Germanicus for this, although it generally is applied to the Lesser Bear; Πλίνθιον, used for it or for its quarter of the sky, was from the Greek, as we see in Plutarch's αἱ τῶν πλίνθιων ὑπογραφαί,º the "fields," or "spaces," into which the augurs divided the heavens, the templa, or regiones, coeli of the Latins; while Ἕλιξ, the Curved, or Spiral, One, and Ἑλίκη, apparently first used for the constellation by Aratos and Apollonius Rhodius, became common as descriptive of its twisting around the pole, — whence one of its titles now, the Twister; Sophocles having the same thought in Ἄρκτου στροφάδες κέλευθοι, the "circling paths of the Bear." Some, however, derived the name from the curved or twisted position of the chief stars; and others, still more probably, from the city Helice, Kallisto's birthplace in Arcadia. Ovid used this title in the Fasti, where he wrote of both the Bears, in navigation:

Esse duas Arctos, quarum, Cynosura petatur

Sidoniis, Helicen Graia carina notet;

but later on Helice was considered a nymph, one of the two Cretan sister nurses who nourished the infant Jupiter

In odorous Diktē, near the Idaian hill,

whence she was transferred to the skies. Dante, in the Paradiso, alludes to barbarians

coming from some region

That every day by Helice is covered

Revolving with her son whom she delights in.

p434 Homer's Ἑλίκωτες has been rendered "observing Helice," and so applied to the early Grecian sailors; but there seems to be no foundation for this, as the word merely signifies "black-," "glancing-," or "rolling-eyed," and frequently was applied to various characters in the Iliad, with no limitation as to sex or profession.

Ancient, however, as are Ἄρκτος and Ursa, ʽĀsh and the Bier, Ἅμαξα, Plaustrum, and Triones, this splendid constellation ran still further back — three or four or even more millenniums before even these titles were current — as the Bull's Thigh, or the Fore Shank, in Egypt. There it was represented on the Denderah planisphere and in the temple of Edfū by a single thigh or hind quarter of the animal, alluded to in the Book of the Dead as

The constellation of the Thigh in the northern sky;

and thus mentioned in inscriptions on the kings' tombs and the walls of the Ramesseum at Thebes. Sometimes the figure of the Thigh was changed to that of a cow's body with disc and horns; but, however called or represented, these stars always were prominent in the early astronomy and mythology of Egypt. Mesχet seems to have been their designation, and specially for some one of them, as representative of the malignant red Set,4 Sit, or Sith, Sut or Sutech, who, with his wife Taurt or Thoueris, shown by the adjoining Hippopotamus (now a part of our Draco), represented darkness and the divinities of evil. Set also was a generic term applied to all circumpolar constellations, because, as always visible, they somewhat paradoxically were thought to typify darkness.

Hewitt writes of Set in his earliest form as Kapi, the Ape-God, stars of our Cepheus marking his head; while at one time on the Nile the Wain stars seem to have been the Dog of Set or of Typhon. This may have given rise to the title Canis Venatica that La Lande cited, if this be not more correctly considered as the classic Kallisto's hound; and the same idea appears in the Catuli, Lap-dogs, and Canes Laconicae, the Spartan Dogs, that Caesius cited for both of the Wains.

The myth of Horus, one of the most ancient even in ancient Egypt, deciphered from the temple walls of Edfū, 5000 B.C., as connected with the stellar Hippopotamus, was, about 3000 years afterwards, transferred to the Thigh, which then occupied the same circumpolar position that the Hippopotamus did when the original inscription was made. In view of this, Champollion alluded to the Thigh as Horus Apollo.

p435 Towards our era, when Egypt began to be influenced by Greece, her former pupil, our Wain was regarded as the Car of Osiris, shown on some of that country's planispheres by an Ark, or Boat, near to the polar point, although it also seems to have been known as a Bear.

Al Bīrūnī devoted a chapter of his work on India to these seven stars, saying that they were there known as Saptar Shayar, the Seven Anchorites, with the pious woman Al Suhā (the star Alcor), all raised by Dharma to the sky, to a much higher elevation than the rest of the fixed stars, and all located "near Vas, the chaste woman Vumdhati"; but who was this last is not explained. And he quoted from Varāha Mihira:

The northern region is adorned with these stars, as a beautiful woman is adorned with a collar of pearls strung together, and a necklace of white lotus flowers, a handsomely arranged one. Thus adorned, they are like maidens who dance and revolve round the pole as the pole orders them.

Professor Whitney tells us that

to these stars the ancient astronomers of India, and many of the modern upon their authority, have attributed an independent motion about the pole of the heavens, at the rate of eight minutes yearly, or of a complete revolution in 2700 years;

and that this strange dogma well illustrates the character of Hindu astronomy. The matter-of‑fact Al Bīrūnī, commenting on this same thing, and on the absurdly immense numbers in Hindu chronology, wrote:

The author of the theory was a man entirely devoid of scientific education, and one of the foremost in the series of fools who simply invented those years for the benefit of people who worship the Great Bear and the pole. He had to invent a vast number of years, for the more outrageous it was, the more impression it would make.

In China, the Tseih Sing, or Seven Stars, prominent in this constellation, were known as the Government, although also called Pih Tow, the Northern Measure, which Flammarion translates the Bushel; while the centre of the Square was Kwei, an object of worship and a favorite stellar title in that country, as it occurs twice in their list of sieu, although there rendered the Spectre, or Striding Legs. Reeves said that the four stars of the Square were Tien Li, the Heavenly Reason, and Edkins, in his Religion in China, assigns to this spot the home of the Taouist female divinity Tow Moo. Colas gives Ti Tche, the Emperor's Chariot; but this was doubtless a later designation from Jesuit teaching.

Weigel of Jena figured it as the heraldic Danish Elephant; but Julius Schiller, as the archangel Michael; while Caesius said that it might represent one of the Bears sent by Elisha to punish his juvenile persecutors, or the Chariot that Pharaoh gave to Joseph.

p436 Popular names for it have been the Butcher's Cleaver, somewhat similar to the Hindu figure for the other Seven Stars, the Pleiades; the Brood Hen, also reminding us of that cluster, as do the Gaelic Grigirean, Crann, and Crannarain; Peter's Skiff, from, or the original of, Julius Schiller's Ship of Saint Peter; the Ladle; and, what is known to every one, star-lover or not, the Big Dipper, the universally common title in our country. In southern France this has been changed to Casserole, the Saucepan.

Before the observations of the navigators of the 15th and 16th centuries the singular belief prevailed that the southern heavens contained a constellation near the pole similar to our Bear or Wain; indeed, it is said to have been represented on an early map or globe. Manilius wrote:

The lower Pole resemblance bears

To this Above, and shines with equal stars;

With Bears averse, round which the Draco twines;

and Al Bīrūnī repeated the Sanskrit legend that at one time in the history of the Creation an attempt was made by Visvāmitra to form a southern heavenly home for the body of the dead king, the pious Somadatta; and this work was not abandoned till a southern pole and another Bear had been located in positions corresponding to the northern, this pole passing through the island Lunka, or Vadavāmukha (Ceylon). The Anglo-Saxon Manual made distinct mention of this duplicate constellation "which we can never see." Towards our day Eden, describing the "pole antartike," said:

Aloysius Cadamustus5 wryteth in this effecte: We saw also syxe cleare bryght and great starres very lowe above the sea. And consyderynge theyr stations with our coompasse, we found them to stande ryght south, fygured in this maner, 
[image ALT: Five stars.!]
	. We judged them to bee the chariotte or wayne of the south: But we saw not the principall starre, as we coulde not by good reason, except we shuld first lose the syght of the north pole.

And, quoting from Francisco Lopes of 1552:

Abowt the poynt of the Southe or pole Antartike, they sawe a lyttle whyte cloude and foure starres lyke unto a crosse with three other joynynge thereunto, which resemble oure Septentrion, and are judged to bee the signes or tokens of the south exeltree of heaven.

What is referred to here is not known, for, although the figure represented is that of the Southern Cross, this constellation always is upright when on the meridian, and, as the observation was made in latitude 14° or 15°, p437its base star was plainly visible. Still it would seem that some early knowledge of the Cross was the foundation of this idea of a southern Wain.

Pliny strangely blundered in some of his allusions to Ursa Major, asserting in one its invisibility in Egypt, and, again, describing the visit to Rome of ambassadors from Ceylon, — Milton's "utmost Indian isle Taprobane," — wrote of them [N. H. VI.87]:

Septentriones Vergiliasque apud nos veluti novo coelo mirabantur.

α, β, γ, δ, ε, ζ, and η, in this order, as one follows the line of seven stars from the north, form the familiar Dipper, of which Mr. B. F. Taylor writes in his World on Wheels:

From that celestial Dipper, — or so I thought, — the dews were poured out gently upon the summer world.

All these stars, unless possibly δ, which is too faint for the Potsdam observers, are approaching our system at various rates of speed. Flammarion has a page, on this so‑called star-drift, in his l'Astronomie Populaire, concluding that from their proper motions they will form an exaggerated Steamer Chair 50,000 years hence, as they did a magnificent Cross 50,000 years ago.

α, Binary, 2 and 11, yellow,

Dubb, more generally Dubhe, the Bear, is the abbreviation of the Arabians' Ṭhahr al Dubb al Akbar, the "Back of the Greater Bear", Dubb being first found in the Alfonsine Tables.

Al Bīrūnī said that it was the Hindu Kratu, the Rishi or Sage.

Lockyer asserts that it was Āk, the Eye, i.e. the prominent one of the constellation, utilized in the alignment of the walls of the temple of Hathor at Denderah, and the orientation point of that structure perhaps before 5000 B.C.; at all events, before the Thigh became circumpolar, about 4000 B.C. This was in the times of the Hor-she-shu, the worshipers of Horus, before the reign of Mena,6 when the star had a declination of over 64°, — now about 62°24′. And he finds two other temples also so oriented.

As typifying a goddess of Egypt, it was Bast Isis and Taurt Isis.

The Chinese know it as Tien Choo, Heaven's Pivot, and as Kow Ching.

α is 5° from β and 10° from δ, and, being always visible, these stars afford a ready means of accurate eye measurement of others adjacent. p438The Keepers was Arago's name for them; while, as the Pointers, they indicate to beginners in astronomy the pole-star, 28¾° distant from α, and Regulus, 45° away towards the south; and they have been called the Two Stars.

They are circumpolar north of about 32°45′; and, with Polaris, received much attention in the first almanac7 that was printed in London, in 1473.

Klein surmised, in 1867, that Dubhe shows remarkable, although irregular, variations in color, — not in light, — from red to yellow, in a period of 54½ days; but this is still in doubt. Its spectrum is Solar, and it is approaching our system at the rate of twelve miles a second.

The 11th‑magnitude companion, .97 of a second away, was discovered by Burnham in 1889, and is thought to be in rapid revolution around it.

β, 2.5, greenish white.

Merak, or Mirak, is from Al Marāḳḳ, the Loin (of the Bear); but Chilmead said Miraë, and Scaliger, Mizar. It may have been known by the Greeks as Helike, one of their names for the whole.

The Chinese called it Tien Seuen, an Armillary Sphere, and the Hindus, Pulaha, one of the Rishis.

Its spectrum is Sirian, and it is moving toward us about 18½ miles a second.

Close of it, on the west, lies the Owl Nebula, NGC 3587, 97 M., discovered by Mechain in 1781, and so called from the two interior circular spaces, each with a central star representing the eye; although one of these stars seems to have disappeared since 1850. the angular diameter of this nebula — 2′40ʺ — indicates a magnitude sufficient to contain thousands of solar systems.

γ, 2.5, topaz yellow.

Phacd and Phachd, Phad, Phaed, Phecda, Phekda, and Phegda, are all from Al Faḣdh, the Thigh, where this star is located in the figure.

Al Bīrūnī said that it was Pulastya, one of the Hindu Seven Sages.

The Chinese knew it as Ke Seuen Ke, and as Tien Ke, another Armillary Sphere.

Its spectrum is similar to that of β, and the star is approaching us at the rate of 16.6 miles a second. It is 8° distant from β, and 4½° from δ.

p439 δ, 3.6, pale yellow.

Megrez is from Al Meghrez, the Root of the Tail.

In China it was Kwan, and Tien Kuen, Heavenly Authority.

With the Hindus it may have been Atri, one of their Seven Rishis, and the Vishṇu-Dharma said that it ruled the other stars of the Bear.

It is 10° distant from α; 4½° from γ; 5½° from ε; and 32° from the pole, directly opposite β Cassiopeiae, and almost on the equinoctial colure. α, β, γ, and δ form the bowl of the Dipper, the body of the Bear, and the frames of the Bier, Plough, and Wain, but occupy a space of less than ¼ of the whole constellation. Within this square Heis shows eight stars.

Megrez is thought to be slightly variable, and to have decreased in lustre during the present century, on the very doubtful ground that it is much fainter than the succeeding ε. As to this Miss Clerke writes:

The immemorially observed constituents of the Plough preserve no fixed order of relative brilliancy, now one, now another of the septett having at sundry epochs assume the primacy.

But this is uncertain, although we know that Ptolemy rated it at the 3d magnitude and Tycho at the 2d.

ε, 2.1.

Alioth, sometimes Allioth, seems to have originated in the first edition of the Alfonsine Tables, and appeared with Chaucer in the Hous of Fame as Aliot; with Bayer, as Aliath, from Scaliger, and as Risalioth; with Riccioli, as Alabieth, Alaioth, Alhiath, and Alhaiath, all somewhat improbably derived, Scaliger said, from Alyat,8 the Fat Tail of the Eastern sheep. But the later Alfonsine editions adopted Aliare and Aliore — Riccioli's Alcore — from the Latin Almagest of 1515, on Al Tizini's statement that the word was Al Ḥawar, the White of the Eye, or the White Poplar Tree, i.e. Intensely Bright; Hyde transcribing the original as Al Haur. Ulug Beg had Al Haun, but Ideler rejecting this as not being an Arabic word, substituted Al Jaun, the Black Courser, as if belonging to the governor, Al Ḳā᾽id, the star η, and its comparative faintness gives some probability to this conjecture. Assemani, however, said that on the Cufic globe it is "Alhut," the Fish, — one of the many instances of blundering that Ideler attributed to him.

Bayer also assigned to it the Micar, Mirach, and Mizar that we give to p440η, and designated it as Λαγών, the Flank, and Ὑπόζωμα, the Diaphragm, as marking those parts of the Bear's figure.

Al Bīrūnī said that it was Añgiras among the Hindu Seven Sages.

In China it was Yuh Kang, the Gemmeous Transverse, a portion of an early astronomical instrument; while other stars between it and δ were Seang, the Minister of State.

ε has a Sirian spectrum, and is in approach toward us at the rate of 19 miles a second. It is 5½° from δ, and 4½° from ζ.

In 1838 Sir John Herschel thought it the lucida of the seven stars, but in 1847 that η had taken its place. Franks, in 1878, considered ε the lucida, and that the sequence was ε, η, ζ, α, β, γ, and δ.

ζ, Double, possibly binary, 2.1 and 4.2, brilliant white and pale emerald.

Mirak was an early name for this, a repetition of that for β; but Scaliger incorrectly changed it to the present Mizar, from the Arabic Mi᾽zar, a Girdle or Waist-cloth, which, although inappropriate, has maintained its place in modern lists; Mizat and Mizra being other forms. There is evident confusion in the early use of this word as a stellar title, for it has also been applied to the stars β and ε of this constellation. The "hill Mizar" of the 42d Psalm sometimes is wrongly associated with this, the original Hebrew word miṣʽar being better rendered in the Psalter, from Coverdale's version, as "the little hill," i.e. of Hermon, of which it was a minor peak.

ζ also was the Arabic ʽAnāḳ al Banāt, the Necks of the Maidens, referring to the Mourners at the Bier; or perhaps this should be rendered "the Goat of the Mourners," for in some editions of Ulug Beg's Tables it was written Al Inak, — correctly Al ʽInz. Assemani said that it was "Alhiac," the Ostrich, probably another of his errors, as all these stellar birds were much farther south, in or near our River Eridanus.

With Alcor it has various combined titles noted at that star; and Wetzstein repeats an Arabic story in which Mizar is the wālidān of the Banāt, with Alcor as her new-born infant.

In India it may have been Vashishṭha, one of the Seven Sages.

ζ was the first star to be noticed as telescopically double, — by Riccioli at Bologna in 1650, and fifty years later much observed and very fully described by Gottfried Kirch and his scientific wife, Maria Margaretha Winckelmann: an association like that of the great observer Herschel and his sister, of the last century, and of Sir William and Lady Huggins in their spectroscopic work of to‑day. As early as 1857 it was successfully daguerreotyped, with others surrounding, by the younger Bond of the Harvard p441Observatory, although Wega had been pictured by the same process at the same observatory seven years previously by the elder Bond.

The components are within 14ʺ of arc of each other, with a position angle of 149°.5, and may be a binary system with a long period of revolution; while Pickering has shown, by study of its spectrum photographed in 1889, that the brightest component is itself double, the two bodies, of nearly each brightness, revolving around their common centre of gravity at a speed of 100 miles a second in 104 days, 140 millions of miles apart, and with a united mass forty times that of our sun. This spectrum is Sirian, and the star is in approach to us at the rate of 19.5 miles a second.

ζ is 4½° from ε, and 7° from η; and a straight line from it to Polaris passes through the exact pole 1°14′ before reaching Polaris.

Mizar and Alcor are 11′48ʺ apart, and, since they have nearly identical proper motion, some think that they may also be in mutual revolution, although so distant from each other. With their attendant stars they form one of the finest objects in the sky for a small telescope, being readily resolved by a terrestrial eyepiece of 40 diameters with a 2¼‑inch objective.

η, 1.9, brilliant white.

Alcaid, Alkaid, and Benatnasch are our present titles, from Ḳā᾽id Banāt al Naʽash, the Governor of the Daughters of the Bier, i.e. the Chief of the Mourners. Some of the Arabic poets wrote that these Daughters — the stars εζ, and η — were

Good for nothing people whose rising and setting do not bring rain.

Bayer included Elkeid in his list of names for the stars as well as for the constellation, and had authority for it from Kazwini; but he added for η "Benenaim, Bennenatz correctius Benetenasch," and in his text of Boötes alluded to it as Benenacx. The Alfonsine Tables of 1521 say Bennenazc; Riccioli, Benat Elnanschi, Beninax, Benenath, Benenatz; while Al Ḳā᾽id often has been turned into Alchayr, Arago's Ackaïr, and others' Ackiar. In this Al Ḳā᾽id we see the derivation, through the Moors, of the modern Spanish word Alcaide; and, with the same idea, Ideler translated the original as the "Stadtholder."

Assemani transcribed from the Borgian globe "Alcatel," Destroying. Al Bīrūnī gave it as Marīci, one of the Seven Rishis of India.

In China it was known as Yaou Kwang, a Revolving Light.

Boteler has an amusing reference to it in Hudibras:

p442 Cardan believ'd great states depend

Upon the tip o' th' Bear's tail's end;

That, as she whisk'd it t'wards the Sun,

Strew'd mighty empires up and down;

Which others say must needs be false,

Because your true bears have no tails.

η is 7° from ζ, and 26° from α; and with ζ forms another pair of pointers — towards Arcturus. It is noted as marking the radiant of one of the richest minor meteor streams, the Ursids of the 10th of November.

Bradley's earliest observations for parallax were made on this star and γ Draconis, but unsuccessfully, as his instruments were inadequate; yet even in our own day Pritchard's work on η for the same purpose showed a negative result, — 0ʺ.046, and equally unsatisfactory.

Alkaid's spectrum is Sirian, and the star is approaching us at the rate of 16.1 miles a second.

Sir John Herschel thought it, in 1847, the lucida of the seven stars.

θ, Double, 3.4 combined, brilliant white.

This, with τ, h, v, φ, e, and f in the Bear's throat, breast, and fore knees, which describe somewhat of a semicircle, was the Arab star-gazers' Sarīr Banāt al Naʽash, the Throne of the Mourners.

This space also has been Al Ḥauḍ, the Pond into which the Gazelles sprang for safety at the lashing of the Lion's tail; although Hyde applied this title to the stars now our Coma Berenices, and Ṭhufr al Ghizlān, the Gazelles' Tracks, to the small outlying stars near the Bear's feet. But the engraver of the Borgian globe placed them at stars in the neck.

In China θ, υ, and φ were Wan Chang, the Literary Illumination.

ι, Binary, 3.2 and 13, topaz yellow and purple, and κ, 3.5.

Smyth wrote that

this star has obtained the name of Talita, the third vertebra, the meaning of which is not quite clear. Ulug Beigh has it Al Phikra al Thalitha, perhaps for All Ḳafzah al‑thālithaḥ, the third spring, or leap, of the ghazal;

but he was not sufficiently comprehensive, for this last title was applied by the Arabs to ι and κ together; al Ūla, the First (leap), being shown by ν and ξ, and al Thānīyah, the Second (leap), by λ and μ, — not δ and μ as that p443generally accurate author asserted. In popular lists ι frequently is given as Talitha. Hyde strangely rendered the original words of Ulug Beg as the Vertebrae of the Greater Bear, — whence probably Smyth's statement, — or the Cavity of the Heel, which, from the star's position in the figure, is a much more likely translation.

In China these two stars were Shang Tae, the High Dignitary.

Holden says of ι that its "companion is suspected to be a planet." It is 12ʺ distant from the larger, and the orbital revolution is very slow.

λ, 3.7, and μ, 3.2, red.

These are our Tania borealis and Tania australis; and thing were the Arabs' Al Ḳafzah al thānīyah, the Second Spring (of the Gazelle), marking the Bear's left hind foot. Baily has them in his edition of Ulug Beg's Tables, from Hyde's Latin translation, as Al Phikra al thānia, — in the original Al Fiḳrah, the Vertebra; but this, more probably, is entirely wrong, as these three pairs of stars have always marked three of the Bear's feet.

In China they were Chung Tae, the Middle Dignitary.

ν, Double, 3.5 and 12, orange and cerulean blue,
ξ, Binary, 3.9 and 5.5, subdued white and grayish white,

mark the right hind foot, and are the southern of the three noted pairs.

they were the Chinese Hea Tae, the Lower Dignitary.

The components of ξ are but 1ʺ apart, with a position angle of 300°.

ν, the northern one of the two stars, is Alula borealis, from Al Ḳafzah al Ūla, the First Spring.

ξ is Alula australis, the southern one in the combination, — Ulug Beg's Al Fiḳrah al Ūla. Ideler's Awla, and Burritt's Acola, are erroneous.

This, with ζ Herculis and γ Virginis, was the most prominent of the double stars discovered to be binary systems by Sir William Herschel in his investigations for stellar parallax, when (I quote from Professor Young),

to use his own expression, he "went out like Saul to seek his father's asses, and found a kingdom," — the dominion of gravitation extended to the stars, unlimited by the bounds of the solar system.

ξ was the first binary of which the orbit was computed, — by Savary in 1828, — having a period of sixty-one years, and has already made more than a complete revolution since its discovery. The components are about 2ʺ apart, with a position angle in 1898 of 162°.7.

p444 The foregoing three pairs, about 20° apart and the members of each pair 1½° or 2° apart, are beautifully grouped with others invisible to the naked eye. They were interesting to the Arabs, as they now are to us, and were collectively designated Ḳafzah al Ṭhibā᾽, the Springs of the Gazelle, each pair making one spring; the Gazelle being imagined from the unformed stars since gathered up as Leo Minor, and the springing of the animal being due to its fear of the greater Lion's tail. Ideler adopted this from Al Tizini and the Cufic globe at Dresden; while the Borgian globe shows a Gazelle and her Young in the same location. Kazwini, however, described this group as extending over the eyes, eyebrows, ears, and muzzle of the figure of our Ursa Major.

According to Williams the Chinese knew these six stars as San Tae, or Shang Tae; but Reeves limited this title to ι and κ. Their records mention a comet seen near by in 110 B.C.

ο, Double, 3.5 and 15.2.

Bayer said that "the Barbarians" called this Muscida, a word apparently coined in the Middle Ages for the muzzle of an animal, the feature of the Bear that the star marks.

The components are 7ʺ apart, at a position angle of 191°.4.

π1, 5.6, and π2, 4.8.

Muscida has also been applied to these, although Heis locates them nearer the eyes.

σ1, 5.2, and σ2, Binary, 4.8 and 9.5, flushed white and sapphire,

with ο, π, ρ, A, d, and some others in the eyes, ears, and muzzle of the Bear, were the asterism that Kazwini knew as Al Ṭhibā᾽, the Gazelle.

With φ and others they were the Chinese San Tsze, the Three Instructors.

The components of σ2 are 3ʺ apart, with a position angle of 250°.

τ, a 5th‑magnitude double, with other small stars near by, was the Chinese Nuy Keae, the Inner Steps.

χ, 4, red,

placed on the right foot by Burritt as Al Kaphrah, is wrong, for Heis puts the letter at a star on the rear of the right hind quarter, and has no letter at p445Burritt's star; if entitled to a name at all, it should be Al Kafzah, as at ι and κ. Still the Standard Dictionary follows Burritt in its El Kophrah.

It was the Chinese Tae Yang Show, the Sun Governor, and Shaou We, of somewhat similar signification.

ψ, a 3½‑magnitude yellow star, is Tien Tsan, according to Williams, but Reeves says Ta Tsun, Extremely Honorable.

ω, a 5th‑magnitude, with near-by stars, was Tien Laou, Heavenly Prison.

Between ψ and ω, somewhat nearer to the former, is the 7th‑magnitude Ll. 21185, one of the two or three stars that follow α Centauri in proximity to our system, and, so far as our present determinations can be trusted, 6½ light years away.

g, or 80 Fl., 4.8.

Alcor is the naked-eye companion of Mizar, and, inconspicuous though it be, has been famous in astronomical folk-lore.

This title, and that of the star ε, Alioth, may be from the same source, for Smyth wrote of it:

They are wrong who pronounce the name to be an Arabian word importing a sharp-sightedness: it is a supposed corruption of al‑jaún, a courser, incorrectly written al‑jat, whence probably the Alioth of the Alfonsine Tables came in, and was assigned to ε Ursae Majoris, the "thill-horse" of Charles's Wain. This little fellow was also familiarly termed Suhā [the Forgotten, Lost, or Neglected One, because noticeable only by a sharp eye], and implored to guard its viewers against scorpions and snakes, and was the theme of a world of wit in the shape of saws:

but Miss Clerke says:

The Arabs in the desert regarded it as a test of penetrating vision; and they were accustomed to oppose "Suhel" to "Suha" (Canopus to Alcor) as occupying respectively the highest and lowest posts in the celestial hierarchy. So that Vidit Alcor, at non lunam plenam, came to be a proverbial description of one keenly alive to trifles, but dull of apprehension for broad facts.

Al Sahja was the rhythmical form of the usual Suhā; and it appears as Al "Khawwar," the Faint One, in an interesting list of Arabic star-names, published in Popular Astronomy for January, 1895, by Professor Robert H. West, of the Syrian Protestant College at Beirut.

Firuzabadi called it Our Riddle, and Al Ṣadāk, the Test, — correctly Ṣaidak, True; while Kazwini said that "people tested their eyesight by this star." Humboldt wrote of it as being seen with difficulty, and Arago similarly alluded to it; but some now consider it brighter than formerly p446and no longer the difficult object that it was, even in the clear sky of the Desert; or as having increased in angular distance from Mizar.

Although the statement has been made that Alcor was not known to the Greeks, there is an old story that it was the Lost Pleiad Electra, which had wandered here from her companions and became Ἄλώπηξ, the Fox; a Latin title was Eques Stellula, the Little Starry Horseman; Eques, the Cavalier, is from Bayer; while the Horse and his Rider, and, popularly, in England, Jack on the Middle Horse, are well known, Mizar being the horse.

Al Bīrūnī mentioned its importance in the family life of the Arabs on the 18th day of the Syrian month Adar, the March equinox; and a modern story of that same people makes it the infant of the wālidān of the three Banāt.

In North Germany Alkor, as there written, has been der Hinde, the Hind, or Farm Hand; in Lower Germany, Dumke; and in Holstein, Hans Dümken, Hans the Thumbkin, — the legend being that Hans, a wagoner, having given the Saviour a lift when weary, was offered the kingdom of heaven for a reward; but as he said that he would rather drive from east to west through all eternity, his wish was granted, and here he sits on the highest of the horses of his heavenly team. A variant version placed Hans here for neglect in the service of his master Christ; and the Hungarians call the star Göntzol, with a somewhat similar tale. Another Teutonic story was that their giant Orwandil, our Orion, having frozen one of his big toes, the god Thor broke it off and threw it at the middle horse of the Wagon, where it still remains.

In China it was Foo Sing, a Supporting Star.

At the obtuse angle formed with Alcor and Mizar lies the Sidus Ludovicianum, an 8th‑magnitude bluish star, just visible in a field-glass. This was first noted in 1691 by Einmart of Nuremberg, and in 1723 by another German, who, thinking that in it he had discovered a new planet, named it after his sovereign, Ludwig V, landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt.

1830 Groombridge, or 4010 B. A. C., 6.5,

is the well-known Flying Star, or Runaway Star, that, until Kapteyn's recent discovery of a swifter one in Pictor, had shown the greatest velocity of any in the heavens, although the 7½‑magnitude La Caille 9352 in Piscis Australis, and an 8½‑magnitude in Sculptor, are not far behind it in this respect. According to Miss Clerke,

Argelander discovered in 1842 its pace to be such as would carry it around the entire sphere in 185,000 years, or in 265 over as much of it as the sun's diameter covers.

p447 Another calculator states that in 6000 years it will reach Coma Berenices. This is equivalent to a proper motion of 7ʺ.03 of arc annually, at the rate of over 200 miles a second, and its velocity may be still greater, — a speed uncontrollable, Professor Newcomb says, by the combined attractive power of the entire sidereal universe.

The observations for its parallax do not accord in their results, but Professor Young assigns to the star a distance of 37½ light years.

It is about 16° south from γ, half-way between Coma and stars ν and ξ on the right paw of the Bear; its exact location being 11°46′ of right ascension and 38°35′ of north declination, about 15° from Ll. 21258, an 8½‑magnitude also much observed for its great proper motion; but 50,000 years hence the Flying Star will have separated from this by at least 100°.

From the foregoing list it will be seen that we have in the entire constellation twenty stars individually named, many of them inconspicuous, two even telescopic, — evidence enough in itself of the antiquity of, as well as the continued popular and scientific interest in, Ursa Major.

The Author's Notes:

1 Lucian, in De Astrologia, wrote that "the Arcadians were an ignorant people and despised astronomy"; and Ovid graphically described their great antiquity and primitive mode of life, well justifying their title of the Bear Race, his lines being quaintly translated by Gower:

Therefore they naked run in sign and honour

Of hardiness and that old bare-skinned manner.

2 The Latin plaustrum, originally a two-wheeled ox-cart, appears in the De Re Rustica of Cato Censorius [10.2] as plaustrum maius for one with four wheels.

Thayer's Note: See the article Plaustrum in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities; but despite Smith — a popular handbook that was surely Allen's source — there is no firm reason, other than plausibility, to think that plaustrum maius (literally: a larger cart) had four wheels.

3 It is in this church, or cathedral, that the great Linnaeus lies buried, and over its south porch is sculptured the Hebrew story of the Creation.

4 Set, also Anubis, Apap, Apepi, Bes, Tebha, Temha, and Typhoeus according to Plutarch, was one of Egypt's greatest gods, who subsequently became the Greek giant Typhon, father of the fierce winds, but slain by Zeus with a thunderbolt and buried under Mount Aetna.

5 This Alois, or Luigi, di Cada Mosto was a noted Venetian navigator in the service of Portugal, for whom is often claimed the discovery of the Cape Verd Islands in 1456; but these had been seen, at least in part, fifteen years previously, by Antonio and Bartolomeo di Nolli.

6 Mena, Menes, or Min was the first historic king of Egypt, his date being variously given from 5867 B.C. to 3892 B.C., Flinders Petrie making it, from astronomical data, 4777 B.C.

7 This is said to have been the second of such works; the first being variously given as published in Vienna by Purbach, or in Buda, or in Poland a few years previously.

8 The syllable Al, in this word Alyat, is not the Arabic definite article.

Thayer's Notes:

a Something is wrong here; Sophocles was a Greek author, and could not have called our Bear by a Latin name.

b And right in the middle of them all, O'Ryan, of course.

c This is an author of course — the 5c Latin writer Martianus Capella — not the brilliant star (for which, if you're lost and landed here thru the vagaries of a websearch, see α Aurigae).

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Page updated: 4 Mar 14