Reconstellation #2: The Chimera

Also known as: Ursa Major, The Great Bear, The Larger Bear. Part of it (the tail and back of the bear) are also popularly known as The Big Dipper, The Ladle, The Wain (Wagon), The Plow. In Roman times it was known as Septentrio (seven plow oxen); in Chinese astrology it is known as Tseih Sing (the government) and Pih Tow (the Northern Measure); in Hindu astrology it is The Seven Sages.

Ursa Major becomes the Chimera

Ursa Major/The Big Dipper is a sky neighbor of Ursa Minor/The Little Dipper, and they’re frequently paired with one another in stories. Even though I’m not pairing their names in an obvious way, I want this constellation and The Pinecones to maintain that thematic connection in my reconstellation of them. They operate as two ends of a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum we have The Pinecones which are sans connect-the-dots and represent a bit of the pre-constellation potential that exists in the night sky. The Chimera, on the other end of the spectrum, represents the act of combining pieces into a new whole. If the Pinecones are Yin, then the Chimera is Yang. The Pinecones are receptive, bottoms-up energy; The Chimera is structured, top-down energy.

Mythology. The chimera from mythology has the head of a lion, the body (and another head) of a goat, and the tail of a snake. It reminds me of Frankenstein’s monster, and the act of combining things to make something new. The Pinecones open up when struck by lightning or burned by fire. The Chimera channels the bolt of lightning and uses the heat to fuse these disparate parts together into a new whole. Constellations are chimeras in this way, as are all made things. The Chimera, being sort of an awkward combination of animals, is both striking and bizarre. It feels a bit intimidating, and sort of unstable. Like it could fall apart. Nature is being forced into a somewhat unnatural configuration, and it requires a constant flow of energy to keep it together. At the same time, it feels a bit monstrous. How did it get this way? What kind of dark magic was involved?

New meaning. This constellation is a symbol for the act of constellating, converging, and holding things together by sheer force of energy and will. This act of constellating also fuses meaning, and story, and emotion into the thing being made, and in order to stay together it must be fed energy and attention frequently, it needs to keep moving, and it needs to have its story told. The Chimera here represents that unsettling feeling of working with parts that both make a whole and also seem to want to come apart. Between the Pinecones and the Chimera exist the spectrum and life cycle of pieces coming together to become greater than their parts, and complicated things falling back apart into their constituent pieces.

Stages of reconstellation

In the spirit of moving from the Pinecones to the Chimera, here’s how I’m thinking about taking constellations apart and putting them back together.

Stage 1: Learn about the existing constellations and other interesting context. For example, you can find the North Star from the two stars on the end of the Big Dipper.
Stage 2: Find the star skeleton bones behind the constellation. Step 3: Learn about the stars that connect the bones of the constellation, and the territory mapped by astronomers as belonging to the constellation.
Step 4: Look at the stars in the actual sky without aid of lines and names. Step 5: Begin to re-constellate the stars from all of these pieces: constellations, star skeletons, astronomy, and personal context.
Step 6: Bring it all back together and hold it in place until it dries.

Ask new questions

When you see this in the sky.

  • Our identity is a chimera — a hodge-podge collection of associations, memories, stories we tell ourselves, quirks we’re born with, and beliefs we’ve acquired. How well is the chimera of your identity faring at the moment? Are all three heads healthy and happy? Or is one part of you struggling, or perhaps even at odds with another part of you?
  • What are the lightning strikes that have hit you during life, that fused you together and made you whole?
  • Just as we are chimeric individuals, we also exist as parts of larger chimeras. Which teams or groups do you feel most a part of? Which teams or groups seem to be weakening at the seams that hold parts together? Who or what is holding them together? Who is doing this work? What might help them or help you operate more seamlessly together?

Past associations, etymology, notes

Related to:
- The Pinecones (reverse polarity)
Historical:
- Big Dipper
- Great Bear
- The Plow, Wain (Wagon)
- It never sets in the North hemisphere. According to Greek mythology this was because Hera didn’t want the bears (who she was jealous of) to get water to drink.
- The dipper does get low in the sky during autumn months, and is said the bear’s wounds bleed onto the autumnal leaves, turning them bright red.
Personal:
- The act of reconstellation
- Yang to The Pinecones’s Yin
- Intention, will, convergence, responsive, active, loud
- Frankenstein’s monster
- The Chariot card from tarot (progress, advancement, success)
- The 1st hexagram of the I Ching: heaven over heaven (creative power)
- Rickshaws (people-powered people moving)
- Multiplicities organized into coherent structures

Author of Why Are We Yelling? — a book about the art of productive disagreement. I run 750words.com. Previously product at Patreon, Slack, Twitter, and Amazon.