Thursday, December 10, 2015

Folklore Thursday: The limping star

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.


Following my new theme of nature and star stories, today I will tell you about one of my favorite stars on the Hungarian sky: Sánta Kata, or, as you probably know her, Sirius.
Here is what you need to know about her:

1. Sánta Kata literally translates into "Limping Kate" or "Lame Kate" - seen from Hungary, this star is usually close to the horizon enough for the atmospheric disturbance to make it look like she is blinking (a phenomenon scientifically known as "twinkle, twinkle, little star"). This gave people in the old days the impression that she was limping along.

2. The most commonly known story about her is that she was supposed to bring lunch to the three harvesters (Orion's belt) out on the field (Orion's rectangle), but as she was in a hurry, she stepped on one of the scythes lying around, and ever since then she has been lame.

3. Another, less popular tale is a lot more interesting. According to this one, Kata was an angel who loved dancing so much she never stopped, until she danced one of her feet off. But even with one foot, she kept dancing, and God sent her to Hell for it.
(Well, this took a dark turn fast...)

4. Some beliefs say she is trying to reach the Big Dipper (which we see as a cart) to get a ride, but the harvesters don't allow her close enough.

5. There are legends that claim that the Milky Way exists because Sánta Kata was taking a jug of milk out to the fields. She got distracted by admiring all the stars, tripped, and spilled the milk all over the sky.
(I always wondered which one of our ancestors looked at the brightest, prettiest star on the night sky and thought "Wow, that one sure looks like a klutz." Then again, we also named the rainbow "the sucker.")

6. A Hungarian folktale refers to someone this way: "She was an old woman, older than the roads - so old, that when she was born, the Limping Girl still had two good feet."

7. In a Hungarian version of the Seven Ravens folktale, the girl looking for her (twelve) brothers stops for a night in the house of the Mother of the Stars. The lady lists all her children and what time they leave home in the evening - Sánta Kata is the last in line, leaving at two in the morning to bring food for the others. She is also the last one to come home after dawn. The Mother of Stars notes that it is unlikely she would have noticed anything, because she keeps tripping and stumbling over ditches and hedges. Kata repeats the same claim, and the girl moves on ask help from other celestial objects.

Which star or constellation is your favorite on the night sky?

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