Thursday, April 7, 2011

Norse Constellations


nightsky

Throughout ancient Europe, the night sky was often as a "World Tree" that encompassed the entire skyline, where stars were the fruit of its extending branches, and the Milky Way was the gigantic roots extending down to the Earth and thus connecting the two "worlds". Here are some of the main constellations I stumbled across in scratching the surface; some of these constellations overlap or incorporate contemporarily known constellations since it is hard to know for sure which stars could be seen then or can't be seen now.

Friggerock (Frigg’s distaff) – this consists of three stars making up a distaff, which is equated with the belt of Orion.  (Assuming the Orion constellation was also viewed as a figure in the sky, in this case the goddess Frigg [2], the belt of Orion is still a belt but the sword has a vertical orientation as does the spindle as it would have been known in a society where women were the spinners.)  "Though Icelandic writings do not contain this name, it has remained in use among the Swedish country-folk (Ihre, sub v. Friggerock).  The constellation is however called MariƤrock, Dan. Marirock (Magnusen, gloss. 361. 376), the christians having passed the same old idea on to Mary the heavenly mother." (Grimm 2004: 270)  "The same three stars are to this day called by the common folk in Up. Germany the three mowers, because they stand in a row like mowers in a meadow" (Grimm 2004: 726).

Thiassi’s Eyes – this consists of two Gemini stars Castor and Pollux, that are side by side of equal brightness resembling two eyes, reaching their peak in the sky at midnight in January, which is why they were associated with Skadi (goddess of winter and presumed goddess of Skandza).

Dain (dormant) – one of the deer constellations in the branches of the World Tree, an elf name and here is associated with the smallest of the deer.  Consists of two stars along its back leg, two stars along its front leg, two for its trunk, one star on its neck, the bright star Vega is its eye, and the four Lyra stars form its antler.

Dvalin (sleeper) – one of the deer constellations, a dwarf name and here is associated with the second smallest of the deer.  Consists of some of the same stars as Cepheus, with one star for each of its front foot and the North Star makes its rear foot, two stars for its trunk, one bright star is its eye, one star on its snout, seven stars make up its antlers.

Duneyr (drooping-ears) – one of the deer constellations, the name associated with the second largest of the deer.  Consists largely of the stars of the Great Bear, with two stars for its front leg, five stars for its rear leg, seven stars make up its body, two for its neck, one for its eye, and three for its antlers.

Durathror (sluggish beast) – one of the deer constellations, the name associated with the largest of the deer.  Consists of the Perseus constellation as its head and antlers and Auriga as its body, with one star for each of its three visible legs, six stars for its body, one star for its eye, one star for its snout, five stars make up its longer antler, three its shorter antler.

Ratatosk (gnaw-tooth) – the squirrel constellation.  Consists of the main stars in Cassiopeia, with one star for its head, one for each foot, one for its body, and two for its tail.

"Geirrod" – the eagle constellation, unnamed among the Norse but whose name here is based upon the eagle Garuda of Hindu mythology.[3]  Consists of largely the same stars as Cygnus the swan, with one star for its body, tail and head, its left wing being four stars and its right wing being five stars.

Vedrfolnir (wind-parched) – constellation for the hawk upon the eagle's head.  Consists of one star for its body and one for its head, two stars for its left wing, and three stars for its right wing.

Nidhogg (poison biter) – constellation of a serpent at the foot of Yggdrasill’s root.  Consists of many of the same stars as Scorpius, four stars make up its head and 19 stars make up its body and tail.

Wagon – this constellation among the Germanic people is well-known, in England as charles wain, Denmark as karlsvogn, Sweden as  karlwagn, and herrenwagen, meaning the "lord's wagon" and ultimately related by Grimm back to Wotan's wagon (Odin's wagon) (Grimm 2004: 151) while in the Netherlands it is known as the hellewagen (Grimm 2004: 802).  The same stars that comprise the Big Dipper, with four stars making up the wagon and three stars making up the tongue.  "We know that in the very earliest ages the seven stars forming the Bear in the northern sky were thought of as a four-wheeled waggon, its pole being formed by the three stars that hang downwards" (Grimm 2004: 151).[4]


Hellewagen – constellation of the wagon of the dead, that travels upon hellweg or
Frauen Hilde Street
(the Milky Way) to the underworld.  There is good reason however to think that the constellation known as Pegasus was the original Hellewagen (perhaps also Odin's Wagon), consisting of four stars making up the wagon, with three stars making up its tongue.[5]


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