Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper(北斗七星)

Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper

Headword

북두칠성 ( 北斗七星 , Bukduchilseong )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ParkJongsung(朴鍾聲)

The legend of Bukduchilseong narrates the origin of the constellation Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper (Ursa Major).

A widow was leading a difficult life raising seven sons, returning home in the dewy hours of early morning. Her seven sons learned that their mother returned each morning after visiting a widower and decided that they would go to the stream that their mother had to cross to come home each morning and be her bridge by crouching in the stream. As their mother crossed the stream, she prayed that the person responsible for building this bridge would become the Seven Stars (Chilseong). The mother and the widower began living together and the widower, in an attempt to get rid of the seven sons, feigns a fatal illness. A fortuneteller claimed that he would be healed only by eating the livers of the seven sons, who decided that they would sacrifice themselves and headed for the mountain. But in the mountain, a beast gave them livers, which saved the lives of the seven sons, and the later became the Seven Stars.

The first half of this legend is borrowed from the narrative of “Bridge of Filial Piety/Impiety, ” and the second half is a variation of the shamanic myth “Chilseongpuri (Myth of Seven Stars), ” the character of the scheming second wife changed into that of the stepfather. The narrative dramatizes the process of those providing help to deprived humans transforming into a constellation, which, by retaining the virtues from its human life, is confirmed as a constellation that is needed in the human world. It can also be interpreted that exisiting oral narratives about Eunhasu (Silver River; Milky Way) and Bukduchilseong merged with the story about the seven bridges in the stream to make up this tradition; or that the rain rites associated with Chilseong (Seven Stars) worship was transmitted to the Buddhist Chilseok rites or rainmaking folk rituals, with only traces left in the shamanic and oral tradition. The fate of the stepfather is left unmentioned, the narrative highlighting the seven devoted sons’ transformation into Seven Stars, which leads to the interpretation that building a bridge for the widow mother is an act of filial piety, while the same act can be impious to their late father, which gave the bridge the name, Bridge of Filial Piety/Impiety.

In Korean folklore, Chilseong (Seven Stars) still serves as the object of worship and rainmaking rituals on the Buddhist holiday Chilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month), which is related less with the legend but more with its surrounding constellations: In the summer sky, Gyeonuseong (Cowherd Star; Altair) and Jiknyeoseong (Weaver Girl Star; Vega) are located in diagonally opposite positions, with Eunhasu (Silver River; Milky Way) between them, in the center, and also between them is Namduyukseong (Six Stars of the Southern Dipper; Sagittarius), with Bukduchilseong (Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper; Ursa Major) to the north of the Weaver Girl Star. Pilsu, the stars that make up the horns of the constellation Taurus, is located opposite Bukduchilseong on the other side of the Silver River. Korean legends say that the Six Stars of the Southern Dipper and the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper were used by Gyeonu and children to scoop up the water from the Silver River, which is associated with rain rites. It is possible to speculate that separately developed narratives about the Seven Stars were combined with the Gyeonu (Cowherd) and Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) legend to form the concept behind the folkloric rain rite, which was further developed with the spread of the Buddhist Chilseok rituals.

Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper

Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper
Headword

북두칠성 ( 北斗七星 , Bukduchilseong )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer ParkJongsung(朴鍾聲)

The legend of Bukduchilseong narrates the origin of the constellation Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper (Ursa Major).

A widow was leading a difficult life raising seven sons, returning home in the dewy hours of early morning. Her seven sons learned that their mother returned each morning after visiting a widower and decided that they would go to the stream that their mother had to cross to come home each morning and be her bridge by crouching in the stream. As their mother crossed the stream, she prayed that the person responsible for building this bridge would become the Seven Stars (Chilseong). The mother and the widower began living together and the widower, in an attempt to get rid of the seven sons, feigns a fatal illness. A fortuneteller claimed that he would be healed only by eating the livers of the seven sons, who decided that they would sacrifice themselves and headed for the mountain. But in the mountain, a beast gave them livers, which saved the lives of the seven sons, and the later became the Seven Stars.

The first half of this legend is borrowed from the narrative of “Bridge of Filial Piety/Impiety, ” and the second half is a variation of the shamanic myth “Chilseongpuri (Myth of Seven Stars), ” the character of the scheming second wife changed into that of the stepfather. The narrative dramatizes the process of those providing help to deprived humans transforming into a constellation, which, by retaining the virtues from its human life, is confirmed as a constellation that is needed in the human world. It can also be interpreted that exisiting oral narratives about Eunhasu (Silver River; Milky Way) and Bukduchilseong merged with the story about the seven bridges in the stream to make up this tradition; or that the rain rites associated with Chilseong (Seven Stars) worship was transmitted to the Buddhist Chilseok rites or rainmaking folk rituals, with only traces left in the shamanic and oral tradition. The fate of the stepfather is left unmentioned, the narrative highlighting the seven devoted sons’ transformation into Seven Stars, which leads to the interpretation that building a bridge for the widow mother is an act of filial piety, while the same act can be impious to their late father, which gave the bridge the name, Bridge of Filial Piety/Impiety.

In Korean folklore, Chilseong (Seven Stars) still serves as the object of worship and rainmaking rituals on the Buddhist holiday Chilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month), which is related less with the legend but more with its surrounding constellations: In the summer sky, Gyeonuseong (Cowherd Star; Altair) and Jiknyeoseong (Weaver Girl Star; Vega) are located in diagonally opposite positions, with Eunhasu (Silver River; Milky Way) between them, in the center, and also between them is Namduyukseong (Six Stars of the Southern Dipper; Sagittarius), with Bukduchilseong (Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper; Ursa Major) to the north of the Weaver Girl Star. Pilsu, the stars that make up the horns of the constellation Taurus, is located opposite Bukduchilseong on the other side of the Silver River. Korean legends say that the Six Stars of the Southern Dipper and the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper were used by Gyeonu and children to scoop up the water from the Silver River, which is associated with rain rites. It is possible to speculate that separately developed narratives about the Seven Stars were combined with the Gyeonu (Cowherd) and Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) legend to form the concept behind the folkloric rain rite, which was further developed with the spread of the Buddhist Chilseok rituals.