The stars that make up the Big Dipper are actually part of a bigger constellation, the Great Bear (Ursa Major). Usually, only the Big Dipper part can be seen, unless you’re in a dark area with little light pollution. Some of the names of these stars and their corresponding meanings are listed below:
*Alkaid: “chief of the daughters of the bier” (bear?)
*Mizar: “wrapping (loincloth)”
*Megrez: “”insertion-point (of the bear’s tail)”
Additionally, the Big Dipper has also been known as the “Drinking Gourd”. During the times of the Underground Railroad, there were slave songs referencing this constellation that instructed to follow it to the North and a better life.
According to a Cheyenne legend, the brightest star is Quillwork girl, a woman who had a dream that she should make beaded shirts for seven brothers living on their own in a land far from her own. She made the shirts and found the brothers living together and became their sister. A jealous tribe wanted Quiiwork girl for their own, however. They tried to take her away, so the youngest of the seven brothers shot enchanted arrows into a tree they had climbed to escape to make it grow taller. The tree became so high, that the seven brothers and Quillwork girl jumped into the sky as the tree fell and became stars. The youngest brother is said to be at the very end of the big dipper.
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