October 22, 2011

Native meteor lore

Orionid Meteor Shower and the Great Leader TecumsehThe great Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s very name means Shooting Star, or literally, The Panther Passing Across, due to the brightness of a meteor that streaked across the sky as the newborn cried out.

Indigenous shooting-star legends abound, from the Hopi tale of a boy and his mother who hitched a ride on a meteor to the Sun’s house so that the boy could find out who his father was, to the Mi’kmaq tale of Feather Woman and her son, banished from the sky by the Morning Star and sent back to earth as a shooting star.

Meteor showers, or shooting stars, have many meanings in indigenous lore. Meteors have also brought bad omens, cured illness and fought off demons.

“Different Native American tribes had different explanations for what things like these were,” writes a blogger at the Ohio State University College of Engineering. “Some thought that meteors were omens of sickness and death, others believed that they were spirits on their way to the afterlife. One belief that I found particularly interesting was the Kiliwa belief that meteors were the urine of the constellations Xsmii.”
Comment:  For more on Native astronomy, see Navajo/Zuni Astronomer and Wolf Moon in Teen Wolf.

No comments: