Over this past weekend, Lisa and I journeyed out to Tempe, Arizona to attend the conference for the Society for Cultural Astronomy in the American Southwest, held on the campus of Arizona State University. It was a three day event, and offered a selection of various papers on different topics, most of them on the relationship between many of these tribes in the Southwest, and the stars overhead. Like other indigenous cultures around the world, the Ancestral Pueblo established an awareness of the Sun, Moon and the stars, and used them to time their ceremonies and rituals, many of them seeking a nurturing rain that would help them grow their crops and sustain their civilization in a desert environment.
One of the real gems (in my humble opinion) of the conference was a self-published work by Mark Thomas Raney entitled ‘Secrets of the Pueblo Universe, Star Lore of the American Southwest.’ Mark has been working for years to establish a sense of understanding of which stars of the Ancestral Pueblo’s and other tribes of the Southwest, compared with the stars we know of from the Greek constellations.
From the opening pages of the book:
“My initial method for locating these entities was simply to match rock art from the American southwest to the constellations. Appreciating the difficulties one would have etching rocks overhead or on a cliff, I started looking at ancient pottery and kiva murals as it allowed the artist to produce finer details.”
“After matching ancient artwork to a number of constellations, I looked for clues that could tie my finding to current Pueblo culture. Several patterns emerged, showing a relationship between ceremonial dates and stellar positions at sunrise or sunset. The time of day/location in space patterns were made more compelling by cross-tribal repetition. The most prevalent pattern shows that most daytime ceremonies, both current and historical, are held when the representative constellation is at a cardinal point (defined as upper meridian passage, lower meridian passage, rising or setting) at sunrise. Other ceremonial events such as the Pueblo Revolt, Greater Flute, Greater Snake, Picuris Pole Climb and closing of Taos Pueblo are more specific and can be tied to an upper meridian location at dawn. The Flute and Snake ceremonies of the Hopi are of particular interest as they have two ceremonies a year; a greater ceremony when the constellation is in upper meridian passage at dawn, and a lesser or underworld ceremony when the same constellation is in lower meridian passage at dawn. A small subset of sunset ceremonies again predominantly corresponds to upper or lower meridian passage, however, instead of sunrise locations they pertain to sunset locations.”
The sentiments expressed here are Mark’s, but they reflect celestial mechanics as practised by those in the astrological field today. Sunrise and sunset are the two times of day that the positions of the stars are noted. Of course, this is a generalization, as the Sun has to be considerably below the horizon before it is dark enough for the stars to be seen. The upper and lower meridian passages as Mark calls them, correspond to astrology’s MC (Medium Coeli, middle of the heavens) and IC. If you scroll back up to the chart wheel above, note that the horizon and vertical lines which splits the circle are darker than the others. There is a reason for this. They are more important positions than the others.
Besides having similar links to the more obvious constellations, Ursa Major was know to these tribes as the long-tailed bear. (to be continued)
Blessings to all and Happy Trails, too.