Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/448

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i oo Journal of American Folk-Lore.

found in the works of Cotton Mather, 171 2, and Lafitau, 1724. In Yucatan, Polaris was called the North Star, Star of the Shield, Guide of the Merchants. 1 Under the last title it is possible that this star was associated with Ekchuah, the god of travellers and merchants. Ek may be translated either "black" or "star;" the meaning of chuah seems to be uncertain. 2 Describing the worship of Ekchuah, Landa says : " Travellers carried with them on their journeys a supply of incense and a little pan in which to burn it; thus provided, in whatever place they might happen to be when night overtook them, they set three little stones upright in the ground, depositing upon each a few grains of this incense ; before these they placed three other flat stones, upon which they poured more incense, and then [perhaps gazing at their ever faithful guide shining brightly in the northern sky] they addressed their prayers to the god whom they named Ekchuah, that he might grant them a happy return to their homes. This ceremony they repeated every evening until they were again seated on their own hearths ; meanwhile those at home were doing as much or more on their behalf." 3

In the classic mythology the same four stars formed the body of the bear as in the Micmac legend, but instead of the first three hunters a long tail was most inaccurately attached to the animal. According to Mr. Haliburton, an early English writer sought to explain this incongruity by supposing that Jupiter had stretched out the bear's short tail by holding that appendage while raising the animal to the sky. It is somewhat singular that the Oneidas believe that the bear originally had a long tail, which was frozen fast while he was fishing through the ice with it, and was alienated from its owner during his struggles to escape. 4 The bear in certain Greek versions of the myth is identified with Callisto (Kalliste, the most beautiful, usually taken to be a form of the goddess Artemis). In some versions the animal is pursued by hunters.

We come now to the question why the same stars have been chosen to represent the bear and the hunters in so many and widely separated regions, when those stars suggest the form of a bear no more than that of any other quadruped, while almost any other stars would serve as well for hunters. We may at once dismiss the idea of coincidence. Even if the nature of the analogies connected with this star group were not sufficient in themselves to disprove such an explanation, a further comparison of the stellar legends of the In-

1 Brinton, Primer of Mayan Hieroglyphs, p. 34.

2 Vide Brasseur de Bourbourg, Maya Dictionary.

3 Landa, Relacion des las cosas de Yucatan (Brasseur ed.), pp. 156-159. See, also, Cogolludo, Hist, de Yucatan, lib. vi. cap. 6.

4 Martin Wheelock, a Carlisle student, in the Red Man, February, 1900.

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