In our last Moon Mail, we began to take a look at some Lakota myths and found a number of interesting similarities. In our work When the Dragon Wore the Crown, we spend a considerable amount of time observing the Center and Circle in myths around the world. The Center, of course, was guarded by the constellation Draco, the flying King Snake of antiquity. Mythically, this celestial creature was said to have power over floods, storms, hurricanes, thunder and lightning.
In the work, Lakota Star Knowledge, the constellation Draco is identified as ‘The Thunder Bird‘.
Having established our Center, we now look to the Circle, identified by the Vernal Equinox.
From 1000 to 100 BC, the Vernal Equinox was moving through the constellation of the Ram. The Lakota thought of the bright stars of Triangulum and Aries as a stellar grouping called “Dried Willow”.
“… Cansasa Ipusye “Dried Willow” is the constellation that denotes the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The constellation formed with stars in Triangulum and Aries, look like a branch with the bark stripped off. When the sun enters it, their conjunction announces that the People (the Lakota) are ready to follow the teachings of the Sacred Pipe for another year.”
“What is the significance of this? Why was the celestial Pipe ceremony being performed?
“It was a cosmic ritual to rekindle the sacred fire of life on the earth. The higher powers (sic), using stars and the sun, performed a celestial Pipe ceremony to regenerate the earth. This cosmic ritual was mirrored by the People still in their winter camps, performing the same ceremony at the same crucial time, participating thereby the renewal of temporality, in the regeneration of a new and living earth.
“The annual ceremonial journey can be stated succinctly as follows:
During the three month period from spring equinox to summer solstice the sun travels through four Lakota constellations. Three of these stellar groups are connected by oral tradition to specific places in the Black Hills. By synchronizing their arrival at each of the three sites to the entrance of the sun into the corresponding constellations, the People (the Lakota) were following the sun’s path on earth.”
“Furthermore, being at the right places at the right times and doing the appropriate ceremonies, the People hoped to receive spiritual power from the Wakan Waste, the cosmic powers of good.”
We are hearing themes reflected in other mythologies around the world. The Dogon of east Africa would use the distant skyline to monitor the motions of the Sun. We know that the Hopi marked stations of the Sun as it worked its way up and down a mountain range, but each of these are from a single known reference point.
In their journey around the Sacred Hoop, the Lakota would see the same annual celestial sightings, but from new locations at different times of the year. Unlike the Dogon and Hopi, their horizons kept changing. This would require long periods of study and a broader base of knowledge of celestial motion.