Cape Breton's Magazine

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Page 10 - The Celestial Bear, A Micmac Legend

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1973/3/1 (4884 reads)
 

THE CELESTIAL BEAR, A Micmac Legend GLINT-WAH-GNOUR PES SAUSMOK N'loan pes-saus, mok glint ont-aven Glint ont-aven, nosh mor-gun N'loan sep-scess syne-duc Mach-ak wah le-de-born harlo kirk Pes-sauk-wa morgun pa-zazen. Dout-tu cowall, yu' eke ne-mess comall Dow-dar bowsee des ge-che-ne-wes skump, Na-havak dunko to-awk w'che-mon wh'oak No-saw yu-well Mooen nill Mask da-ah gawank la me la-tak-a-dea-on Di-wa godamr Kudunk-ah dea-on Glor-ba dea-on glom-de-nec Glint-wah-gnour pes sausmok. THE SONG OF THE STARS We are the stars which sing. We sing with our light; We are the birds of fire. We fly over the sky. Our light is a voice; We make a road for spirits. For the spirits to pass over. Among us are three hunters Who chase a bear; There never was a time When they were not hunting. We look down on the mountains. This is the Song of the Stars. to ' or <5' tu CAWeS V • NATlO,HUNt|MG- OOG-S All peoples in one way or another sky. They each saw different forms named those forms and told stories a- • forms are called constellations (gather and we call the whole sky picture of a zodiac. It is remarkable that sometimes peoples have come to read similar things have read the night in the stars and 'bout them. These ings of stars), people their many different the night skies. AacTURUs A good example is the stars of the Big Dipper.* In the Micmac sky the four stars of the bowl of the dipper are knowii as Mooin, the Bear, although they certainly don't look much like a bear. The stars of the handle are some of the seven htmters (Ntooksooinook) following the bear. In the white sky, the entire Big Dipper is part of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, a rodent-like creature with a long tail. In Greek mythology, the Great Bear is said to be the nymph Callisto, with whom Jupiter was in love. The goddess Juno, Jupiter's wife, jealous of Callisto's beauty, turned her into a bear. Then Jupitor placed her in the sky as one of the constellations, to guard her from hunters. The Great Bear is also being followed • first by Canes Vena- tici (a new constellation first introduced in the 17th Century), stars said to re? present two hunting dogs; and then by the constellation Bootes, the bear-driver, containing as his knee the fourth brightest star in the sky, Arcturus, which means "watcher of the bear." The following retelling of a Micmac story can be watched as it imfolds in the sky above Cape Breton through the year. This particular form of the story could only have originated between 40 and 50 degrees north latitude. North of 50 there would have been four hunters always visible, and south of 40 there would have been only two. The line on the star maps marked 40 degrees indicates the limit of stars which are circumpolar; that is, stars which are always visible in the sky at our latitude. The stars of the Big Dipper are circumpolar. A line drawn between Dubhe and Merak will always point to Polaris, the North Star • despite the entire Big Dipper swings completely over in the course of a year. It is this swing that throws Mooin over onto her back, and is an important part of the Micmac story. The Bear is always visible. But Bootes, Canes Venatici and Corona Borealis (the bear's Den to the Micmacs; the Northern Crown in the white sky) are visible during only a portion of the year. The dogs are out first, seen in the February sky, Arcturus appears near midnight in the February sky. But you probably won't really see Bootes until about 8 o'clock in the first week of March • which, of course, is exactly the time that Pigeon leads Blue Jay, Owl and Saw-whet over the eastern horizon tx) join with the hunters who are always visible and always in pursuit of Mooin, that constitute the handle of the Big Dipper. Cape Breton's Magazine/lO
Cape Breton's Magazine
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