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Astronomie et cultures autochtones


CHIN, Ottawa, Ontario

The Evening Star and the Morning Star - The Planet Venus

The planet Venus is often thought of as a star - the first one to appear at night (so it is often called the Evening Star) and the last one to fade in the morning sunlight (so it is also called the Morning Star). Because of this, the planet has been part of the legends of many different cultures. It was also an important sign to the Aboriginal people of Australia, who arose at dawn to begin their hunting or fishing. They usually thought of it as a girl.

This story features the Morning Star who lives on the Island of the Dead.

In a story from Arnhem Land (in the far north of Australia) the Morning Star is named Barnumbir and she lives on an island called Bralgu, the Island of the Dead. Because she was so bright, her people often asked her to come out in their boats when they went fishing in the early morning, so that they could see better. But Barnumbir was so afraid of drowning that she always refused to go with them on the sea. Finally two old women of the tribe solved the problem. They tied a long string around her waist so that they could pull her back to Bralgu and keep her safe in a woven basket during the day. Because she is tied to the string she cannot rise very high in the sky and always keeps near the horizon - as Venus does. In the bark painting Barnumbir is pictured as a shining light tied by a string to the woven basket on the Island of the Dead.

In Arnhem Land, because of this connection with the Island of the Dead, the morning star is an important part of the ceremony for the dead. It is represented by a totem stick to the top of which is tied a cluster of white feathers or down, denoting the shining star, and long strings ending in smaller bunches of feathers to suggest the rays. The spirit of the dead person is believed to be conducted by the star to its last resting place on Bralgu.
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Learning Object: Indigenous Astronomy: The Australians
Institution: RCIP-CHIN