Published on May 14, 2013 by Casey
Many Native American tribes of the Great Plains, notably the Pawnee, Shoshone, Arikara, and Wichita, had complex beliefs which included the use of a Star Chart & Astrology. Tribes such as the Cherokee believed that everything in the world is an earth reflection of the stars. The Pawnee believed that stars were deities who once lived on Earth and then were transformed into stars at death. Comets, meteorite showers and novas were viewed as omens of great disasters. The pictures depict a Pawnee Star Chart with clearly recognizable constellation patterns, as shown in the picture below. Instead of measuring the location of stars in order to calculate a location the Native Americans used the location of stars and constellations in the Star Chart & Astrology maps to signal seasons and events of the year.
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The Star Chart & Astrology maps were used by the Shaman in preparation for an important ceremony or ritual, the position of stars indicated the proper timing of sacred ceremonies and spiritual rituals. These Star Charts, or Star Maps were used by a Medicine Man, or Shaman, and were included with many other sacred objects that they kept in their Medicine Bag. In their tribal beliefs the Milky Way was seen as a pathway to the afterlife. The stories, myths and legends relating to the heavens were recalled by the Shaman whose role included that of an educator and historian, the keeper of myths, legends, traditions and tribal wisdom.
A dark night sky afforded the opportunity for star gazing when it was possible to behold various constellations and planets with the naked eye. These were studied by the star gazing Shaman as a form of communion with the night sky. The brightness of the stars and their prominent placements of the constellations seen in the night skies were important to increasing the sacred knowledge of the Shaman which he transferred to a Star Chart & Astrology map. The stars signalled times to plant crops and the position of the stars played an important mystic role in the everyday life of Native American Indians.
The Star Chart & Astrology maps not only served as a measurement of time but was perceived of such importance that many tribes reflected of the position of the stars in the way their camps and villages were laid out. This was a form of an earthly connection to the world of the heavens. The use of a Star Chart and astrology map played a significant role in the lives of the Skidi group of Pawnee Indians. The layout of the Pawnee villages adhered to the position of the most important stars in the sky: