Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for Ursa Major

We're at U in our journey through the night sky in search of heavenly bodies as we complete April’s A-Z challenge.  Today it's Ursa Major, best known as the Big Dipper or the Plough.  It's one of the more familiar constellations for those readers who live in the northern hemisphere, where it can be seen most of the year as it circles the pole.  This will also, I promise, be the last time I tell of Jupiter (or Zeus’) sexual infidelities during this challenge.  We have heard so much of his seducing that I’m sure many of you have become tired of it. 

The seven stars that make up the Dipper are all bright and easily spotted, unlike the Little Dipper which have only dim stars with the exception of Polaris. But the constellation is much larger than just the dipper and represents a large mother bear in the sky.  The constellation is the third largest.

Ursa Major means Large She-Bear, while Ursa Minor is Small She-Bear.  To see the constellation, look north and for the familiar dipper pattern.  This constellation is also old and is referred to not only be Greek writers but also in the Bible.  In the 9th chapter, Job challenges his friends pointing out that God is the maker of the “Bear and Orion and the Pleiades.”  And then, at the end of the book, God responds to Job, “Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs?”  (Job 9:9 and 38:32).  Like other constellations, some cultures have seen different images with the dipper, such as the Babylonians seeing it as a wagon, northern European visualizing it as a plough, and the Azetc seeing one of their gods in the skies.  However, it's amazing how man cultures from Europe to Asia to Native Americans saw it as a bear.

Now concerning Mr. Don Juan Jupiter…  Callisto was the beautiful daughter of King Lycaon of Arcadia.  Like the girl in the Hunger Games, she loved to hunt and was good with a bow and arrow.  She worshiped Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, and pledged herself tot he goddess, promising to remain celibate.  But along comes Jupiter, who sees the beautiful girl taking a nap in the woods while she hunted.  Seeing a good opportunity, he changed himself into the likeness of Artemis and was able to engage in conversation with Callisto.  But his passion got the best of him and soon he forced himself on her, kissing her roughly and letting Callisto know that he was not Artemis, but Jupiter. Callistro resisted but she couldn’t keep Jupiter for doing what he intended. 
Again, Jupiter planted the seed and it was fertilized and grew and after nine months, Callisto gave birth to a son, Arcas.  When Juno, Jupiter’s wife, found out, she was furious and blamed Callistro and turned her into a bear.  Callistro now had to avoid hunters in the woods.  Years later she spotted a hunter who was her son, Arcas.  Forgetting she was a bear and took off to be reunited with her son, but he drew an arrow and shot it at the bear’s heart.  At this point Jupiter intervenes, saves Callistro, turns Arcas also into a bear and grabs both by the tail and toss them into the sky, where they were able to be together forever. 

Of course, Juno wasn’t happy about the immortality of Callistro and her son, so she arranged it that they never get to rest or take a bath, for they are doomed to rotate around the globe by the pole so that they never set (for resting is done when the constellation is behind the earth, the washing comes form setting in the ocean for a bath).  

Do you think Juno was taking out her anger on the victim and not the cause of her pain?


  1. The Greek and Roman gods were a sorry bunch, usually brought low by their all-too human flaws.

  2. Wow, Jupiter needs to calm down with the infidelity.

    This constellation does actually look like a bear. Some of the others just look like blobs to me.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. This one I've heard of but I didn't know all that information.

  4. The part about never getting to rest or bathe is fascinating, but all makes sense in a mythology sort of way.

  5. Amazing - the detail that went into that myth! For some reason, I couldn't comment on your post yesterday, but I am reading along.

  6. The Big Dipper is one I can almost always find. Interesting story behind the bears. I had never heard the part about not being able to rest or bathe before.

  7. I will be looking for this this evening.

  8. Another great post.

    Thanks for visiting: Up the nose

  9. Do you think Juno was taking out her anger on the victim and not the cause of her pain?

    Greek/Roman gods were a bunch vindictive little twits, at least that is how we made them. So yeah, Juno couldn't go to the source of her pain.

  10. I look at the Big Dipper every night, friend Sage(weather permitting) and when going to work (rain or snow, weather permitting) ... smiles ... Love, cat

  11. That Jupiter is a real player.
    I installed Google Sky on my phone a while back, and have learned more since then, than at any time in my life. Not so much that the APP taught me that much, but it prompted me to make online inquiries.

  12. Juno certainly got her revenge. I'll never look at the big dipper the same again! Had no idea it had been referenced in the bible either. Interesting post!

    "Female Scientists Before Our Time"