Lesson 1. Ukrainian native astronomy

The sky seemed to Ukrainians in ancient times to be like a field or the sea or a maple leaf on which were painted the Sun, Moon and stars. Clouds looked for them like woods or rocks either flocks of sheep; stars - like haycocks in the fields or leaves on water, the Sun - like a falcon and lightening like thorny fire.

As usual, the Sun, Moon and stars were the first observed objects and were given names.

The Sun [Sontse] - the power that revives all nature - appeared as a wise grey-haired grandfather or stately warrior or a handsome youth. Often they imagined it to be a wheel going up a hill. The Sun was the Almighty with names like Dazhbog, Yarylo, Kupalo.

The Moon [Misyats'] was one of the main astronomical symbols of our ancestors. The people talked about the Moon thus: "It is forefather Diduh and stars are his relatives" .

Ukrainians allocated their own names to constellations in the sky. Only some of these names still exist to-day. The Big Dipper is one of the most well-known. Its name in the Ukrainian language means the Big Cart [Velykyi Viz] - four wheels and three horses. The appearance of the celestial Cart in the sky was not accidental, because the cart was a very important detail in everyday life - for the old nomadic life and for grain grower; the cart was an indispensable implement. Our ancestors determined time with the help of the Big Cart. The philosophical meaning of the time frame was: "Between the leading horse (star "Eta", Greek letter) and second horse (star "Dzeta") there is a little star - the bridle bit - and when it will disappear it will be the end of the world".

Little Bear was known as the Apiary [Pasika]. Sometimes it was called the Small Cart [Malyi Viz] because it is like a miniature of the Big Cart.

The Orion constellation was named a Plough [Plug] or Rake [Grabli] or Shelf [Polycya] or Handles (grips) of a plough [Chepigy]. The three stars of the Orion belt were named Mowers [Kosari]. One legend tells us that at the time of tsar Targitai golden objects fell on the land of Skythia: a plough, a yoke, an axe and a bowl. The cult of the Gold Plough has been in existence in Ukraine since olden times because it was the most important tool for the grain grower. Therefore the Plough was installed in the sky and one of the most impressive star patterns was chosen for it. Mowers [Kosari] received their names in connection with that fact that these stars rise in the morning during the haymaking season.

The Eagle constellation in Ukraine had the name 'Girl with pails' [Divka z vidramy].

The neighbouring feint Dolphin constellation to the 'Girl' was depicted by early Ukrainians as a celestial Well [Krynytsya].

It would be very strange if there were no place for a herdsman in the sky. One of the known constellations of our sky is the Bootes constellation and it is the Shepherd [Pastuh] or Shepherd's crook [Pastuh z gyrlygoyu]. It is possible that the celestial Herdsman tends to the celestial Bull - Taurus [Volos]. The official name Taurus has a Greek root.

Another bright group of stars, which may be observed throughout the year in our region is Cassiopeia. In Ukraine it is called the Harrow [Borona]. This is grain grower’s tool and the five bright stars really look like an elementary harrow. For most urban citizens this is not a familiar object. In the Latin alphabet, it resembles the letter W.

The final constellation from the remote past has the ancient Ukrainian name of the Swan. Its brightest part resembles a conventional cross (Fig. 7) and thus it was also named the Cross [Khrest].

In the sky the Cross constellation is located in the middle of the Way to Kyiv. This Way is a prominent detail of Earth's starry sky, better known as the Milky Way, which comes from ancient Greece. Its Ukrainian equivalent, as was mentioned before, is the Way to Kyiv or the Tchoomak Way [Thoomatskyi Shlyah] (Fig. 8). The root of this name can be found easily. The Tchoomak era was a very notable part of Ukrainian history and in the appearance of the celestial Tchoomak Way is shown how important this trade for people was.

Our nation talked about the heavens in the following manner:

Bright Sun is the mistress,

Bright Moon is the master,

Bright stars are their children.

The Ukrainian name for only one star fixed in to-days memory belongs to the Auriga constellation and its ancient Greek name is Capella. Our ancestors called it [Koza] (Goat). It is amazing that the translation of the word Capella from the Greek language is also goat. It is an enigma if this named was borrowed by someone or if this was named independently.

Our ancestors were attentive observers of the sky. As confirmation of that there is the fact that a bright group of stars in the Bull (Taurus) constellation was selected and named the Broody Hen [Kvochka] (Pleiades cluster). They spoke about these stars thus: "The Broody Hen is big and around it there are seven or eight small ones. Broody Hen goes first and behind it is a knot of stars". Some more names for Pleiades were as follows: Threads [Volosyny], Pleiades [Volosozhar], Hen [Kurka], and Women [Baby]. They said "When Pleiades appears in the sky it means the sky will be opened for the Spring rains". In its time Pleiades divided the year into two parts. When it rose in the morning it meant the start of the warm period of Summer. When it set in the morning, it meant the start of the cold period of the year (Winter). Probably the root of the name Babyne lito - Woman's Summer (Indian summer) is linked up with this cluster. The most famous Ukrainian name of the Pleiades cluster is [Stozhary]. It has been kept up till now and is used often in poetry and songs.

There is no evidence of ancient names for the planets. Only one of them (the brightest in the sky) Venus had the name of the Star [Zorya] or the Herald [Vistunka]. In folklore the Star (Zorya) unlocks the celestial gates early in the morning and lets the Sun into the sky.

Practically all the brightest celestial bodies and expressive groups of stars were divinized by our ancestors.

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