[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
mail:
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]
Italiano

[Link to a series of help pages]
Help
[Link to the next level up]
Up
[Link to my homepage]
Home
[image ALT: a blank space]

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

by
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!

[image ALT: a blank space]
p447

The other, less in size but valued more by sailors,

Circles with all her stars in smaller orbit.

Poste's Aratos. [Phaen. 25]

Ursa Minor, the Lesser Bear,

the Orsa Minore of Italy, Petite Ourse of France, and Kleine Bär of Germany, shared with its major companion the latter's Septentrio, Ἄρκτος, Ἅμαξα, Ἄγαννα, and Ἑλίκη.

Similarly it was Κυνόσουρις, but solely Κυνόσουρα; this early and universal title, usually translated the "Dog's Tail," continuing as Cynosura down to the time of the Rudolphine Tables; although with us "Cynosure" is applied only to Polaris. The origin of this word is uncertain, for the star group does not answer to its name unless the dog himself be attached; still some, recalling a variant legend of Kallisto and her Dog instead of Arcas, have thought that here lay the explanation. Others have drawn this title from that of the Attican promontory east of Marathon, because sailors, on their approach to it from the sea, saw these stars shining above it and beyond; but if there be any connection at all here, the reversed derivation is more p448probable; while Bournouf asserted that it is in no way associated with the Greek word for "dog."

Cox identified the word with Λυκόσουρα, which he renders Tail, or Train, of Light. Yet this does not seem appropriate to a comparatively faint constellation, and would rather recall the city of that title in Arcadia, the country so intimately connected with the Bears. But the stellar name probably long antedated the geographical, old as this was; Pausanias [8.38, 8.2] considering Lycosura the most ancient city in the world, having been founded by Lycaon some time before the Deluge of Deucalion. Indeed the Arcadians asserted that they and their country antedated the creation of the moon, an assertion which gave occasion to Aristotle's term for them, — Προσέληνοι and the Latins' Proselenes.

Singularly coincident with the foregoing Λυκόσουρα was the title that the distant Gaels gave to these stars, — Drag-blod, the Fire Tail.

Very recently, however, Brown has suggested that the word is not Hellenic in origin, but Euphratean; and, in confirmation of this, mentions a constellation title from that valley, transcribed by Sayce as An‑ta-sur‑ra, the Upper Sphere. Brown reads this An‑nas-sur‑ra, High in Rising, certainly very appropriate to Ursa Minor; and he compares it with Κ‑υν‑όσ‑ου‑ρα, or, the initial consonant being omitted, Unosoura. This, singularly like the Euphratean original,

might easily become Kunosoura under the influence of a popular etymology, aided by the appearance of the tail stars of the constellation. And in exact accordance with the foregoing view is the following somewhat curiousa passage in the Phainomena, 308‑9:

Then, too, the head of Kynosure runs very high,

When night begins.

Ursa Minor was not mentioned by Homer or Hesiod, for, according to Strabo [I.1.6, C3], it was not admitted among the constellations of the Greeks until about 600 B.C., when Thales, inspired by its use in Phoenicia, his probable birthplace, suggested it to the Greek mariners in place of its greater neighbor, which till then had been their sailing guide. Aratos, comparing the two, wrote, as in our motto, of the Minor, its Guards, β and γ, then being much nearer the pole than was α, our present pole-star. Thales is reported to have formed it by utilizing the ancient wings of Draco, perceiving that the seven chief components somewhat resembled the well-known Wain, but reversed with respect to each other. From all this come its titles Φοινίκη, Phoenice, and Ursa Phoenicia.

The later classical story that made sister nymphs out of the stars of our two Bears, and nurses on Mount Ida of the infant Jove, is alluded to by Manilius in his line:

p449 The Little Bear that rock'd the mighty Jove.

Although occasionally, but wrongly, figured and described as equal in size, — Euripides wrote:

Twin Bears, with the swift-wandering rushings of their tails, guard the Atlantean pole, —

they have always occupied their present respective positions, and, as Manilius said:

stand not front to front but each doth view

The others Tayl, pursu'd as they pursue;

the scientific poet Erasmus Darwin of the last century, grandfather of Charles Robert Darwin of this, imitating this in his Economy of Vegetation:

Onward the kindred Bears, with footsteps rude,

Dance round the pole, pursuing and pursued.

This "dancing" of the stars generally, as well as of the planets, was a favorite simile, and in classical days specially gave name to δ and ε of this constellation, as well as in Hindu astronomy; while Dante thus applied it to all those that were circumpolar:

Like unto stars neighboring the steadfast poles,

Ladies they seemed, not from the dance released.

The Arabians knew Ursa Minor as Al Dubb al Aṣghar, the Lesser Bear, — Bayer's Dhub Elezguar, and Chilmead's Dub Alasgar, — although earlier it was even more familiar to them as another Bier; and they called the three stars in the tail of our figure Banāt al Naʽash al Ṣughrā, the Daughters of the Lesser Bier.

Here, and in Ursa Major, some early commentators located the Fold, an ancient stellar figure of the Arabs, and an appropriate title, as Firuzabadi called β and the gammas in Ursa Minor Al Farḳadain, usually rendered the Two Calves, but, better, the Two Young Ibexes; Polaris, too, was well known as a Young He Goat, and adjacent stars bore names of desert animals more or less associated with a fold. Perhaps Lowell had this in mind when he wrote, in Prometheus, of

The Bear that prowled all night about the fold

Of the North-star.

But Manilius anticipated him in writing of the Bears:

Secure from meeting they're distinctly roll'd,

Nor leave their Seats, and pass the dreadfull fold.

p450 The Arabs also likened the constellation to a Fish, while with all that nation, heathen or Muḥammadan, it was Al Faṣṣ, the Hole in which the earth's axle found its bearing.

Others of them, as well as the Persians, figured here the Ihlilagji, the Myrobalanum, or Date-palm Seed or Fruit, which the grouped stars were thought to resemble; but Hyde, writing the word Myrobalanaris, said that it signified one of their geometrical figures, — described by Ideler as bounded by our α, δ, ε, ζ, η, γ, β, a, b, and the stars in the head of Camelopardalis. In Persia, where this foregoing figure was popular, Ursa Minor also was Heft Rengh, Heft Averengh, or Hafturengh Kihin, the last word designating its inferiority in size to Ursa Major.

Jensen sees here the Leopard of Babylonia, an emblem of darkness which this shared, there and in Egypt, with all other circumpolar constellations; while on the Nile it was the well-known Jackal of Set even as late as the Denderah zodiac. This Jackal also appears in the carvings on the walls of the Ramesseum, but is there shown with pendent tail strikingly coinciding with the outlines of the constellation.

Plutarch said that with the Phoenicians it was Doube or Dōbher (?), similar to the Arabian title, but defined by Flammarion as the "Speaking Constellation," — better, I think, the "Guiding One," indicating to their sailors the course to steer at sea. Jacob Bryant assigned it to Egypt, or Phoenicia, as Cahen ourah, — whatever that may be.

The early Danes and Icelanders knew it as the Smaller Chariot, or Throne, of Thor; and their descendants still call it Litli Vagn, the Little Wagon; as also, but very differently, Fiosakonur ā lopti, the Milkmaids of the Sky. But the Finns, apparently alone among the northern nations of Europe in this conception, have Vähä Otawa, the Little Bear.

Dante called the seven stars Cornu, doubtless then a common name, for it appeared in Vespucci's 3a Lettera as Elcorno, his editor erroneously explaining this as a typographical error for carro, the wain; Eden and others of his time translating this as the Horne. And it has been the Spanish shepherds' similarly shaped Bocina, a Bugle; and the Italian sailors' Bogina, a Boa.

Caesius mentioned Catuli, and Canes Laconicae, the Lapdogs or Puppies, and the Spartan Dogs, as titles for both of the Bears.

With the Chinese it was Peih Sing.

Alrucaba, or Alruccaba, which probably should be Al Rukkabah, is first found in the Alfonsine Tables, although the edition of 1521 applied it only to the lucida. While this generally is supposed to be from the Arabic Al Rakabah, the Riders, Grotius asserted that it is from the Chaldee Rukub, p451a Vehicle, the Hebrew Rɛkhūbh; and, if so, would seem to be equivalent to the Wain and from the Hebrew editor of Alfonso. Others have thought it from Rukbah, the Knee, as β always has marked the forearm of the Bear, and Alrucaba, in a varied orthography, was current for that star some centuries ago, as it is now for Polaris. Riccioli gave a queerly combined name for the constellation, Dubherukabah; and Bayer had Eruccabah, ending his list of titles with Ezra, a blunder in some connection with the commentator Aben Ezra, whom he often cited as an authority; still Riccioli followed him in this.

The Geneva Bible, rendering the Hebrew ʽĀsh, etc., by "Arcturus with his Sonnes," incorrectly added the marginal note, "the North Star with those that are about him."

Caesius typified the constellation as the Chariot sent by Joseph to bring his father down into Egypt, or that in which Elijah was carried to heaven; or as the Bear that David slew.

Young astronomers now know it as the Little Dipper.

In the old German manuscript already alluded to mention is made of

Ursa Minor under the North Pole, which is called by another name Tramontane (i.e. because on one side of the Mons Coelius, whereon sits the Pole Star);

thus indicating another origin for this name than that found under Polaris as from the Mediterranean nations. I have seen no explanation of this, yet frequent references are met with in early records to some mountain located in the North as the seat of the gods and the habitation of life, the South being, "the abode of the prince of death and of demons." Sayce writes:

In early Sumerian days the heaven was believed to rest on the peak of "the mountain of the world" in the far northeast, where the gods had their habitations (cf. Isai. xiv, 13) [the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north], while an ocean or "deep" encircled the earth which rested upon its surface.

Von Herder referred to it as

Albordy, the dazzling mountain, on which was held the assembly of the gods;

and identified it with "the holy mountain of God" alluded to in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, xxviii.14; and Professor Whitney quoted from the 62d verse of the 1st chapter of the Sūrya Siddhānta:

the mountain which is the seat of the gods;

and from the 34th verse of the 12th chapter:

p452 A collection of manifold jewels, a mountain of gold, is Mēru,1 passing through the middle of the earth-globe, and protruding on either side.

Commenting upon which, he says:

"the 'seat of the gods' is Mount Mēru, situated at the north pole."

The Norsemen had the same idea in their Himinbiorg, the Hill of Heaven, and the abode of Heimdallr, the guardian of the bridge Bifröst, the Rainbow, which united the earth to Āsaheimr, or Āsgard, the Yard, City, or Stronghold of the Āss, their gods, and the Olympus of Northern mythology. While far back of them the Egyptians supported their heavenly vault by four mountains, one at each of the cardinal points. Towards our day, in the report by "Christophorus Colonus, the Admyrall," recorded by Peter Martyr, we read that the great discoverer thought

"that the earth is not perfectlye rounde; But that when it was created, there was a certeyne heape reysed thereon, much hygher than the other partes of the same."

Columbus called this Paria, asserting that it contained Paradise; but it would seem from his narrative that he located it somewhere in the neighborhood of his discoveries between North and South America. Even in Chilmead's Treatise, more than a century after Columbus, we find serious reference to this mythical mountain as

the mountaine Slotus, which lies under the Pole, and is the highest in the world.

May we not see in these the origin of Mons Coelius, the Heavenly Mountain, and of the name Tramontana from our constellation's location above that celestial elevation? And I would here call attention to the old story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus,2 who, under the persecution of Decius in our 3d century, slumbered for nearly 200 years in the grotto under the similarly named Mount Coelian; these worthy successors of Epimenides the Cnosian and predecessors of our Rip Van Winkle being early associated with the seven stars of Ursa Major, and so perhaps with this, the Minor.

The latter's genethliacal influence was similar to that of its companion; the Prince, in Tennyson's Princess, thus accounting for his temperament:

For on my cradle shone the Northern star;

and likeness in their motions is alluded to in the same author's In Memoriam where

p453 the lesser wain

Is twisting round the polar star, —

one of the Greater Bear's titles being the Twister; and in the Lazy Team, a designation that it still more deserves than does Ursa Major.

In Proctor's attempt to reform constellation names he calls this simply Minor, the Greater Bear being Ursa.

Ursa Minor, as now drawn, is enclosed on three sides by the coils of Draco; formerly it was almost entirely so. Argelander here enumerates 27 stars down to the 5½ magnitude, and Heis 54.

one unchangeable upon a throne

Broods o'er the frozen heart of earth alone,

Content to reign the bright particular star

Of some who wander and of some who groan.

Christina G. Rossetti's Later Life.

α, Double, 2.2 and 9.5, topaz yellow and pale white.

Phoenice was the early Greek name, borrowed from its constellation, for this "lovely northern light" and the "most practically useful star in the heavens"; but for many centuries it has been Stella Polaris, the Pole-star, or simply Polaris, — Riccioli's Pollaris; this position seeming to be first recognized in literature by Dante when he wrote in the Paradiso:

the mouth imagine of the horn

That in the point beginneth of the axis

Round about which the primal wheel revolves.

Euclid said in his Phainomena:

A star is visible between the Bears, not changing its place, but always revolving upon itself;

Hipparchos, that the pole was "in a vacant spot forming a quadrangle with three other stars," both of these calling this Πόλος, the Polus of Lucan, Ovid, and other classical Latins; and Euphratean observers had called their pole-star Pūl, or Bīl. But, although other astronomical writers used these words for some individual star, there is no certainty as to which was intended, for it should be remembered that during many millenniums the polar point has gradually been approaching our pleasant-star, which 2000 years ago was far removed from it, — in Hipparchos' time 12°24′ away according to his own statement quoted by Marinus of Tyre and cited by Ptolemy. Miss Clerke writes as to this:

p454 The entire millennium before the Christian era may count for an interregnum as regards Pole-stars. Alpha Draconis had ceased to exercise that office; Alruccaba had not yet assumed it.

Kochab (the β of Ursa Minor), and κ of Draco, at different times in that epoch, may have been considered as this pole-star, the last a 4th‑magnitude about 10° distant from the true pole; although the 5th‑magnitude b, 4° away in Eratosthenes' day, perhaps was intended. And this is not unlikely, as this inconspicuous object, for some reason, was sufficiently noteworthy among the Chinese to bear the title How Kung, the Empress. The ἀεὶº φανής, "ever visible," of the 5th‑century Stobaeus may have referred to our Polaris, then about 7° distant from the pole.

The fact that the Polaris of his day did not exactly mark the pole was noted by Pytheas, the Greek astronomer and navigator of Massilia, the modern Marseilles, about 320 B.C.; and till this discovery the belief was prevalent that the heavenly pole was absolutely fixed.

In none of the foregoing cases does a single star seem to be mentioned as a guide in navigation; but as knowledge in this art increased, our α took the place of its constellation as Stella Maris, a title that Saint Jerome, in his Onomasticon, applied to the Virgin Mary; there, however, with no marine, or stellar, connection. But a star, being always a symbol of sanctity, was peculiarly so of the holiest of women, so that this title of the chief star of heaven was adopted as one interpretation of her Jewish name Miriam.

Bayer's la Tramontana was well known before his day, for Eden translated from the First Decade, printed in 1511, "cauled by the Italians Tramontana"; and Jehan de Mandeville ("syr Iohn Maundauile") more than a century before the discovery of our continent, in his statement of his belief in the sphericity of the earth, wrote of it as

the Sterre Transmontane, that is clept the Sterre of the See, that is unmevable,º and that is toward the Northe, that we clepen the Lode Sterre.

One derivation of this transmontane is from the fact that the nations along the Mediterranean saw the star beyond their northern mountain boundary; and the word appears in the popular saying, current among the Latin races, of a man's "losing his Tramontane" when one had lost his bearings. Another earlier and much more probable origin, however, is from a title for the constellation already alluded to. Similarly the Finns know Polaris as Taehti, the Star at the Top of the Heavenly Mountain.

Anglo-Saxons of the 10th century said that it was the Scip-steorra, the Ship-star; Eden, "cauled of the Spanyardes Nortes"; Bayer, Angel Stern, the p455Pivot Star, and the Latin Navigatoria; while it was the Steering Star to early English navigators, who

knew no North, but when the Pole Star shone.

Andrew Marvell, strangely the common friend of John Milton and King Charles II, said:

By night the northern star their way directs;

and Thomas Moore wrote, in his Light of the Haram:

that star, on starry nights

The seaman singles from the sky

To steer his bark for ever by.

Thus, as our leading star, it became the Loadstar, or Lodestar, of early English authors; Spenser saying:

The pilot can no loadstar see,

and Shakespeare's Helena, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, tells Hermia

Your eyes are lodestars.

Bryant beautifully alludes to its office in these verses from his Hymn to the North Star:

Constellations come, and climb the heavens, and go.

Star of the Pole! and thou dost see them set.

Alone in thy cold skies,

Thou keep'st thy old unmoving station yet,

Nor join'st the dances of that glittering train,

Nor dipp'st thy virgin orb in the blue western main.

 
On thy unaltering blaze

The half wrecked mariner, his compass lost,

Fixes his steady gaze,

And steers, undoubting, to the friendly coast;

And they who stray in perilous wastes by night,

Are glad when thou dost shine to guide their footsteps right.

A beauteous type of that unchanging good,

That bright eternal beacon, by whose ray

The voyager of time should shape his heedful way.

And Wordsworth, in the Excursion, thus goes back to the earliest times:

Chaldaean shepherds, ranging trackless fields,

Beneath the concave of unclouded skies

Spread like a sea, in boundless solitude,

p456 Looked on the polar star, as on a guide

And guardian of their course, that never closed

His steadfast eye.

Milton's Comus had the much quoted

Our Star of Arcady,

Or Tyrian Cynosure;

and L'Allegro:

The Cynosure of neighb'ring eyes, —

a designation of Polaris which has everywhere become common; while Cinosura and Cynosura regularly appeared in scientific works of the 17th and 18th centuries; but this was one of the ancients' titles for the whole of Ursa Minor, and never, by them, limited to the lucida. The Star of Arcady either referred to Arcadia, the earthly home of Kallisto, or to Arcas, her son, transferred to the skies by his father Jove, when ignorantly about to slay his mother after her transformation. The poet, however, followed a common error in locating Arcas here, for he properly was identified with Boötes.

The Chinese had several names for it, — Pih Keih; Ta Shin; Tien Hwang Ta ti, the Great Imperial Ruler of Heaven, the circumpolar stars circling around it in homage, the whole forming the Purple Subtle Enclosure; and Ti or Ti Tso, the Emperor's Seat, this last also being borne by α Herculis. And it was Tow Kwei, as with Ursa Major, from its square of stars, β, γ, ζ, and η. Its first use in navigation is ascribed to their emperor Hong Ti, or Hwang Ti, a grandson of Noah! However this may be, it seems certain that some polar star, or constellation, has been used in China from remote antiquity.

In earliest Northern India the star nearest the pole was known as Grahadhāra, the Pivot of the Planets, representing the great god Dhruva, and Al Bīrūnī said that among the Hindus of his time it was Dhruva himself. It was an object of their worship, as our Polaris is to‑day among the Mandaeans3 along the Tigris and lower Euphrates.

The Arabs knew Polaris as Al Ḳiblah, "because it is the star least distant from the pole," although then 5° away, and helped them, in any strange location distant from an established place of worship, to know the points p457of the compass and thus the direction of Mecca and its Kaʽbah,4 towards which every good Muslim must turn his head in prayer. They also called it Al Jadī, the Young He Goat, which subsequently degenerated to Juddah, as Niebuhr heard it a century ago, and known in Desert story as Giedi, the slayer of the dead man on the Bier of Ursa Major.

Wetzstein says that in Damascus it is called Mismār, a Needle or Nail.

As marking the north pole it bore the latter's title, Al Ḳuṭb al Shamāliyy, the Northern Axle, or Spindle, from Al Ḳuṭb, the Pin fixed in the under stone of a mill around which the upper stone turns; and this same thought later appeared in English poetry, as in Marlowe's History of Doctor Faustus, where he says of the stars that

All jointly move upon one axletree

Whose terminineº is term'd the world's wide pole.

The Arabian astronomers knew it as Al Kaukab5 al Shamāliyy, the Star of the North, an appellation perhaps given by their nomad ancestors to β as nearer the pole in their time.

Kazwini mentioned the belief of the common people that a fixed contemplation of Al Kaukab would cure itching of the eyelids, — ophthalmia, then, as now, being the prevalent disease of the Desert.

The Alfonsine Tables of 1521 have Alrucaba et est Stella polaris sive Polus; and Bayer, Alruccabah seu Ruccabah Ismaelitis; but this was shared with the next star, as also with the constellation.

The Turks know it as Yilduz, the Star par excellence; and have a story that its light was concealed for a time after their capture of Constantinople.

Polaris is 1°14′ distant from the exact pole, which lies on the straight line drawn from Polaris to ζ Ursae Majoris, and will continue in gradual approach to the pole till about the year 2095, when it will be only 26′30ʺ p458away. It will then recede in favor successively of γ, π, ζ, ν, and α of Cepheus, α and δ of the Swan, and Wega of the Lyre, when, marked by this last brilliant star, 11,500 years hence the pole will be about 50° distant from its present position and within 5° of Wega, which for 3000 years will serve as the pole-star of the then existing races of mankind. The polar point will thence circle past ι and τ Herculis, θι, and α Draconis, β Ursae Minoris, and κ Draconis back to our α again; the entire period being from 25,695 to 25,868 years, according to different calculations.6 Shakespeare did not know all this when he wrote in Julius Caesar:

constant as the Northern Star,

Of whose true fixed and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament.

Its distance from us has been variously estimated from 36 to 63 light years, and it is receding from our system at the rate of about 16 miles a second. The spectrum is Sirian.

The 9½‑magnitude companion, 18ʺ.6 distant, is a good test for a 2¼‑inch glass with a power of 80. this was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1779, and may be in revolution around its principal. Its present position angle is 215°. Other minute stars can be seen with a field-glass in the vicinity; and the Messrs. Henry of Paris have charted by photography 1270 stars, within 1° of the pole, where previously only about 80 were known by telescopic observation. α itself is slightly fainter than β.

While Polaris is the nearest naked-eye visible to the true pole, Smyth mentioned a nebula, now known as NGC 3172, much nearer in 1843, and from its proximity called Polarissima; while nearer still was a 10th‑magnitude star bearing the warlike title Blücher, then within 2′ of the exact point. Poole's Celestial Handbook says of some unidentified star:

Anonyma — Double: magnitudes 7.5 and 9; distance 2′; it is the nearest to the pole.

β, 2, reddish.

Kochab is from the Arabic title that it shared with α and it perhaps was this star that the Greek astronomers called Πόλος, for it was near the pole 1000 years before our era. Burritt has Kochah.

Alrucaba, variously written, is also common to it and Polaris, as well as to its constellation, Smyth saying that this was the Alfonsine Reicchabba.

p459 Nā᾽ir al Farḳadāin and Anwār al Farḳadāin, the Bright One, and the Lights, of the Two Calves, were titles in the Desert for this star, from an early figure here, in the Fold, of these timid creatures keeping close to their mother. β was often designated by pre-Islamitic poets as the faithful and, from its ever visible position, the constant companion of the night traveler. Indeed the Badāwiyy claimed that they had a perpetual treaty with Al Farḳad to this effect, and their poets made the Two Pherkads, β and γ, symbols of constancy. Chilmead cited Alferkathan.

α, β, γ1, γ2, δ, and ε constituted the group Circitores, Saltatores, Ludentes, or Ludiones, the Circlers, Leapers, or Dancers around the early pole, well known from classical times to late astronomy.

In China β was another Ti, the Emperor.

Its spectrum is Solar, and the star is receding from us at the rate of 8¾ miles a second.

γ1, 3.3, and γ2, 5.8.

these were known by the Arabs as one star, Alifāʽ al Farḳadain, the Dim One of the Two Calves, but by us as Pherkad Major and Pherkad Minor, 57 minutes of arc apart.

With β and others they were the Dancers, and with β alone the Guards, or Wardens, of the Pole, that old Thomas Hood said were

of the Spanish word guardare, which is to beholde, because they are diligently to be looked unto, in regard of the singular use which they have in navigation;

and Recorde,

many do call the Shafte, and others do name the Guardas after the Spanish tonge.

While Eden, in the Arte of Navigation which he "Englished out of the Spanyshe," in 1561, from Martin Cortes' communication to King Charles V, mentioned "two starres called the Guardians, or the Mouth of the Horne"; and still earlier, in his translation of Peter Martyr, "the Guardians of the north pole." Shakespeare, in Othello, wrote:

The wind-shak'd surge, with high and monstrous mane

Seems to cast water on the burning Bear,

and quench the guards of th' ever fixed pole.

Riccioli's title for them is Vigiles, to which he added

Italicē le guardiole, overso guardiane.

These Guards, like the stars in Charles' Wain, were a timepiece to the p460common people, and even thought worthy of special treatises by navigators, as to their use in indicating the hours of the night.

In China γ1 was Ta Tsze, the Crown Prince.

δ, 4.3, greenish.

Yildun is generally given to this, probably from the Turkish Yilduz that is better applied to α; but it has degenerated to Vildiur, and the Century Dictionary has Gildun, perhaps by a typographical error.

Bayer's Χορευτής πρώτη for δ, and Χορευτής δευτέρα for the adjoining ε, the First and the Second Dancer, were also general designations in which αβ, and the two stars γ were included.

ζ, 4.3, flushed white,

marking the junction of the handle with the bowl of the Little Dipper, is Alifāʽ al Farḳadain of some lists, η being Anwār al Farḳadain; but these titles certainly, and much better, belong to β and γ.

In China it was Kow Chin.

b, a 5th‑magnitude, has been mentioned as How Kung, the Empress.


The Author's Notes:

1 Whatever geographical foundation there may be for this Mēru probably lies in the Pamir, the Roof of the World, that has lately become of strategical importance in Asia.

2 These canonized Sleepers are still commemorated in the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church for the 27th of June.

3 This strange people, fast dwindling to extinction, are also known as Nasoraeans, or Saint John Christians. In their representation

the sky is an ocean of water, pure and clear, but of more than adamantine solidity, upon which the stars and planets sail. Its transparency allows us to see even to the pole-star, who is the central sun around whom all the heavenly bodies move. Wearing a jewelled crown, he stands before Abāthūr's door at the gate of the world of light; the Mandaeans accordingly invariably pray with their faces turned northward.

4 This ancient Square House, probably an early Sabaean temple, was built, tradition says, first in heaven; then for Adam on earth as a tabernacle of radiant clouds let down by the angels directly under its celestial site. This, disappearing at his death, was replaced by one of stone and clay by the patriarch Seth, that in its turn was swept away by the Deluge. Lastly it was erected by Abraham and Ishmael to contain the Black Stone, Al Ḥajar al Aswad, a ruby, or jacinth, brought from heaven by Gabriel and now blackened by the pilgrims' tears, or because so often kissed by sinners; but it is generally regarded by unbelievers as a meteorite. The Century Cyclopedia, however, describes it as an irregular oval about seven inches in diameter, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of various shapes and sizes. The Stone is set into the northeast corner of the wall, at a convenient height for kissing.

The Kaaba: a satellite view.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

5 Kaukab is the same as the Assyrian and Chaldaean word Kakkab, the Hebrew Kōḥābh; this last also the fighting name of Bar Cochab, the Son of a Star, who was the leader of the second revolt of the Jews in 132‑135, during the reign of Hadrian, his shekels bearing a star over a tetrastyle temple. The name was variously written, but correctly as Bar Coziba, from his birthplace.

6 This uncertainty in the period of the cycle of precession mainly arises from the fact that the circle is not a strictly closed one, owing to the slight motion of the pole of the ecliptic due to the action of the planets upon the orbit of the earth.


Thayer's Note:

a The passage is "curious" because the expression head of Cynosura would literally mean "the head of the tail of the bear"; and is thus an indication that Cynosura originally meant something else.


[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 4 Mar 14