Friday, June 29, 2012

July 4th, 1054!

On July 4, 1054, in ancient China, a Chinese astronomer noticed an amazing thing!  A Star bright enough to be seen in broad daylight!  He recorded the event calling the mysterious star a “Guest Star”.  He noted that it was four times brighter than Venus.  After about 23 days, the star moved to the night sky and was noted by astronomers in Arabia, Japan, and even here in America.

The native American astronomer, an Anasazi living in Chaco Canyon, noted his discovery by painting the star and its position related to the crescent moon on the underside of a cliff shelf.  He even signed his drawing with his hand print.  The petroglyph can still be seen below West Mesa in Chaco Canyon, just outside the great house called PeƱasco Blanco.

Out of curiousity, I ran my astronomy program “Starry Night” and set the date back to 1054.  I let the program sequence through the night sky starting July 4th.  What I found was that the star (we know it today as M1, the Crab Nebula) was indeed in the day sky at first.  Later it progressed to the night sky.  Below is a screen print from my Starry Night program showing the Crab Nebula approaching the moon.  Compare its position to the moon compared to the petroglyph!

Over time, the star dimmed until it was just a faint fuzzy spot in the constellation Tauras.
The object was rediscovered in 1731 by John Bevis who added it to his sky atlas, Uranographia Britannica.  In 1758, the astronomer, Charles Messier, independantly discovered it again.  Only, Messier was very disappointed with his discovery.  Messier was looking for the comet Haley that was predicted to return.  When he spotted the fuzzy object in the vicinity of where he expected to find the comet, he assumed he had found a comet!  When the fuzzy object did not move after observing for several days, he knew that it was not a comet but a nebula.  Frustrated, he declared that there should be a “catalog” of known objects so that astronomers would not have to continue to “rediscover” them.  The fuzzy nebula became “M1” in Messier’s now famous catalog.   Messier later learned of Bevis’ discovery and gave him credit in a letter.  Ironically, M1 was again confused with Haley’s second predicted return.
So what was the bright star of 1054?  It was the first recorded “Super Nova”!   “Super Nova” is the term given to the event of a star exploding!   When it first exploded, it was extremely bright.  But as the debris separated, it became dimmer and dimmer.   J.C. Duncan of Mt. Wilson Observatory compared photographic plates taken 11.5 years apart, and found that the Crab Nebula was expanding at an average of about 0.2" per year.   Backtracing of this motion showed that this expansion must have begun about 900 years ago.   Simultaneously,  Knut Lundmark, with the Astronomical Society, noted the proximity of the nebula to the 1054 supernova.
If the picture doesn’t remind you of a crab, you’re not the only one.   It was christened the “Crab Nebula” based on drawings made by Lord Rosse in 1844.  Want to see it for yourself?  You will need a good pair of binoculars (10X50 or better).  The nebula is located in the horn of the constellation of Tauras.  Go to for steps to help you find it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Clans of the Cherokee Part 3: The Anigilohi

 Ah-ni-gi-lo(la)-hi or Long Hair Clan represented the human people (breath), the second level of development.

This clan was also known as the Twister Clan, Hanging Down Clan or Wind Clan, (Stranger Clan).  The Cherokee used to have a form of government in which during peace times, the Peace Chief ruled, and there was a War Chief for times of war.  The Long Hair clan were the peacemakers and the Peace Chief usually came from this clan.  Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into the clan, thus the name “Strangers”. 

Gilahi is short for an ancient Titlvgvnahita, the warrior womens society, meaning something that grows from the back of the neck.  Those belonging to this Clan wore their hair in elaborate hairdos, walked in a proud and vain manner twisting their shoulders proudly.  The Clan color for the AniGilohi is white and the wood is beech.  .  Peach Chief’s wore a white feather robe. 

As with all clans, The Ani Gilohi were matrilineal, meaning the children belong to the mother's clan, and hereditary leadership and property were passed through the maternal line.  The children learned the ways of the clan from the uncles, not the father.  It was forbidden to marry within one's clan or to someone in the clan of one's father. Such marriage was considered incest and punishable by death at the hands of the offender's own clan and by no other. The clan was also responsible for justice when one of its members was responsible for the death of another even if the death was impulsive or accidental. The one to pay the penalty did not have to be the person responsible; it could be any member of his or her clan. Indeed, if the intentional or unintentional killer escaped or found sanctuary in one of the towns so designated, such as Chota, Kituwa, or Tugaloo, the fugitive's clan was expected to deliver up another of its members. The purpose of this was not retaliation but to restore balance.

Cherokee born outside of a clan or outsiders who were taken into the tribe in ancient times had to be adopted into a clan by a clan mother. If the person was a woman who had borne a Cherokee child and was married to a Cherokee man, she could be taken into a new clan. Her husband was required to leave his clan and live with her in her new clan. Men who were not Cherokee and married into a Cherokee household had to be adopted into a clan by a clan mother; he could not take his wife’s clan.

In The Cherokee Editor on February 18, 1829, Elias Boudinot wrote the following regarding Cherokee Clan marriage customs:[4]

"This simple division of the Cherokees formed the grand work by which marriages were regulated, and murder punished. A Cherokee could marry into any of the clans except two, that to which his father belongs, for all of that clan are his fathers and aunts and that to which his mother belongs, for all of that clan are his brothers and sisters, a child invariably inheriting the clan of his mother."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clans of the Cherokee, part 2: Wild Potato Clan

The ancient Cherokee believed there are seven levels of spiritual attainment or achievement and each clan represented one of those levels.  Ah-ni-ga-to-ge-wi (ah knee gah too gee wee), or Wild Potato Clan, represented the material plane of earth or physical matter (earth).  Membership in a particular clan did not mean that the members of the clan were in some way blocked or held at a particular level of spiritual development or attainment. The clans and their members were simply meant to represent a balance of the spiritual forces that made up the world of the Ah-ni-yv-wi-ya, “the Real People”, the Cherokee.  All members of the society could participate in the ceremonies and were all viewed as equals.
 As stated in Part I, the Cherokee society is historically a matrilineal society; meaning you are born into the clan of your mother.  Traditionally, the women were the head of the household and the home and children belonged to her and stayed with her should she separate from her husband. It was forbidden to marry within your clan since clan members were considered brothers and sisters.
Traditionally, members of this clan were known to be 'keepers of the land,' and gatherers – the farmers.   The wild potato was a main staple of the ancient Cherokee and this clan harvested the wild potato plants in swamps and along streams.  This explains the “gatogewi” name which means “swamp”.  They were also sometimes called Bear Clan (Since they reputedly provided food and shelter for the Bear), Raccoon Clan and Blind Savannah or Blind Swamp People depending upon the region.
They made flour or bread and were responsible for gathering, caring for, and preserving food in the village.   Their flag is yellow with green stars today and their color is green and wood is birch.
Famous Cherokee members of the Wild Potato Clan include: Bad Water, Clogoittah, Eagle, Golanv, Great Eagle, Grey Eagle, Kitegista, Kituah, Mankiller, Oconostota, Oukah, Ounaconoa, Raven of Hiawassee, Ridge, Skalilosgenv, Susie, Tuckahoe, Wickett, Wilenawa.
The following  is quoted from Papa JimBear, a designated representative to The Chief's Council of The Free Cherokee, one of five elders that were selected by the Clan to represent it's collective wishes before all the people (learn more at: :
“We chose the Sweet Potato as our Clan symbol because it reminds us that our humanity/humility is more important than ego. The sweet potato is rather course and rough looking on the outside, but is nutritious and sweet on the inside. Let us be judged for what is on the inside (in our hearts) and not by what one perceives on the outside. At the center of our Clan shield, I painted a wild potato blossom. It is born out of sweet potato tubers.......this is to symbolize the honor we have for all parts of our mixed heritages, because indeed they are all connected. As Cherokee lore suggests, the wild potato provided sustenance for The People when hunting was not good and crops failed; and the sweet potato, also a morning glory family relative, is a staple in our modern world.
“We feel it is our responsibility to nurture and provide healing to both family and The Mother. Most of us practice some method of healing, whether physical or spiritual and we wish to offer this as part of our service to the community as a whole. As with the traditional Wild Potato Clan, we have strong bear medicine within our group, and are guided by our four legged relation.”

Continue to Part 3

-- Courtney Miller

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Clans of the Cherokee Part 1

The most important and fundamental structure of the Cherokee society of antiquity was the clan.  The clan was “family” for the Cherokee and those of the same clan were not allowed to marry.  The Cherokee were a matrilineal society, therefore clanship came from the mother.  Your clan defined who you were and what you would become and how you behaved.

In this series, I will take each of the clans and discuss how the clan influenced the individual, the family, the village, and the Cherokee nation.

The following general definition was taken from the Official site of the Cherokee Nation ( )

There are seven clans in Cherokee Society: a ni gi lo hi (Long Hair), a ni sa ho ni (Blue), a ni wa ya (Wolf), a ni go te ge wi (Wild Potato), a ni a wi (Deer), a ni tsi s qua (Bird), and a ni wo di (Paint).

The knowledge of a person's clan is important for many reasons; historically, and still today among Cherokee traditionalists, it is forbidden to marry within your clan. Clan members are considered brother and sisters. In addition, when seeking spiritual guidance and Indian doctoring, it is necessary to name your clan. Seating at ceremonial stomp dances is by clan, as well.

a ni gi lo hi

The Long Hair Clan, whose subdivisions are Twister, Wind and Strangers, are known to be a very peaceful clan. In the times of the Peace Chief and War Chief government, the Peace Chief would come from this clan. Prisoners of war, orphans of other tribes, and others with no Cherokee tribe were often adopted into this clan, thus the name 'Strangers.' At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Long Hair arbor is on the East side, and also houses the Chiefs and other leaders of the ground.

a ni sa ho ni

The Blue Clan's subdivisions are Panther, or Wildcat and Bear (which is considered the oldest clan). Historically, this clan produced many people who were able to make special medicines for the children. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Blue arbor is to the left of the Long Hair arbor.

a ni wa ya

The Wolf has been known throughout time to be the largest clan. During the time of the Peace Chief and War Chief government setting, the War Chief would come from this clan. Wolves are known as protectors. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Wolf arbor is to the left of the Blue arbor.

a ni go te ge wi

The Wild Potato Clan's subdivision is Blind Savannah . Historically, members of this clan were known to be 'keepers of the land,' and gatherers The wild potato was a main staple of the older Cherokee life back east (Tsa-la-gi U-we-ti). At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Wild Potato arbor is to the left of the Wolf arbor.

a ni a wi

Members of the Deer Clan were historically known as fast runners and hunters. Even though they hunted game for subsistence, they respected and cared for the animals while they were living amongst them. They were also known as messengers on an earthly level, delivering messenges from village to village, or person to person. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Deer arbor is to the left of the Wild Potato arbor.

a ni tsi s qua

Members of the Bird Clan were historically known as messengers. The belief that birds are messengers between earth and heaven, or the People and Creator, gave the members of this clan the responsibility of caring for the birds. The subdivisions are Raven, Turtle Dove and Eagle. Our earned Eagle feathers were originally presented by the members of this clan, as they were the only ones able to collect them. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Bird arbor is to the left of the Deer arbor.

a ni wo di

Members of the Paint Clan were historically known as a prominent medicine people. Medicine is often 'painted' on a patient after harvesting, mixing and performing other aspects of the ceremony. At some Cherokee ceremonial grounds, the Paint arbor is to the left of the Bird arbor.

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center.

Continue to Part 2

-- Courtney Miller