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Ancient Filipino Astronomy

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McDreamyMD
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We know our ancestors knew of the stars because they used star navigation (which they shared eventually passed on and used by our distant cousins in the Pacific). I've wondered myself years ago about how ancient Filipinos used heavenly bodies in their daily lives because despite reading about it through Spanish accounts (how they venerated and even swear by heavenly bodies) and accounts of sun, moon worship and the TONS of motif's and depiction (jewelry, tattoos, artifacts, art) there's really nothing I could find about it. I found several articles on it recently and I hope to share it so we can have discussions.

First one is from The Inquirer on the Filipino's (ancient and modern/legacy of ancestral beliefs) view/importance of the stars Balatik (Orion/Orion's Belt) and Moroporo (Pleaides).

Note author Dr. Ambrosio is a history professor, and specialized on Philippine 'ethno-astronomy' (anthropological study of how people used and affected by astronomy in culture and lifestyle). He taught at UP Diliman and author of Balatik Etnoastronomiya: Kalangitan sa Kabihasanang Filipino (roughly translated, Balatik/'The Snare' Ethnoastronomy: The Heavens in Filipino Culture). He passed away in 2011 (RiP).

Balatik book (link)
http://journals.upd.edu.ph/index.php...File/1287/1833

Balátik and Moropóro Stars of Philippine skies
Dante L. Ambrosio

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquirer...ilippine_skies

Excerpts:

"AMONG THE STAR groups that are often mentioned in studies of stars in Philippine skies, two appear to be more prominent. These are Orion and the Pleiades, which are called by various names, among which are Balátik and Moropóro.

How to explain the prominence? There is a combination of reasons.

One, Orion is composed of several bright stars. The combination of the stars of Orion's Belt and Orion's Sword remind many Philippine cultures of the spring trap used in hunting wild pigs. They call the trap balátik. Christian Filipinos, on the other hand, see in the stars of Orion's Belt the Tres Marias or Tatlong Maria (Three Marias) which are of Spanish-Christian origin.

Prominent positions

The Pleiades' distinguishing mark is the bunching together of its stars, a rarity among naked-eye stars. It is called Moropóro, Molopólo or Mapúlon by various ethnic groups throughout the archipelago. Christian Filipinos know it as either Supot ni Hudas (Judas' pouch) or Rosaryo (rosary).

Two, Orion and the Pleaides occupy very prominent positions in Philippine skies. They both rise in the east, traverse the sky almost through the zenith and set in the west. Orion's brightness and the large area it occupies horizontally in the middle of the sky make it the most visible among constellations during its seasonal appearance, with Pleiades leading it off not far ahead."

Pictures:

Orion Constellation seen from northern hemisphere during fall

Pleiades Constellation (also seen from northern hemisphere

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McDreamyMD
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^Did you read the article?

 

Yes and no. And depends on which tribe.

Nena uploaded in Scribd parts of Scott's book (although he definitely got it from de Plasencia's Customs of the Tagalogs) where he listed all the Tagalog's old gods/goddesses.

I'd link you to it (there's full text of "Customs of the Tagalog" on Project Gutenberg) but I can't access here in my office (it's blocked). Jocano also have a book on Filipino mythology.

There's a quote by De Morga that he said that Tagalogs 'swear by' stars and heavenly bodies, I think he didn't understand that it was because they worshipped them as gods. The pantheon of old gods differed but they're essentially like Greek and Roman gods; they were equivalent of each other with different names and slightly different stories/personalities.

Main gods: Apo Laki (sun/war god), Mayari (one eyed moon goddess), Tala (literally 'star' in Tagalog, star goddess---I think it's very specifically morning and evening stars...which we now know aren't stars at all but planets Mercury and Venus).

Here's another of Ambrosio's Inquirer articles, it's about the use of star navigation and astronomy by probably the last and one of the greatest seafaring people in the Philippines: the Badjao.

‘Mamahi:’ Stars of Tawi-tawi
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquirer...s-of-Tawi-tawi

"Among these asterisms are Batik (Orion?s belt), Mupu (Pleiades), Bubu (Big Dipper), Paliyama (parts of Aquila), Mamahi Uttara (North Star), Saloka (Scorpius), Anakdatu and Sahapang (Alpha and Beta Centauri), Bunta (Southern Cross), Lakag or Maga (morning star), Mamahi Kagang and Mamahi Pagi. There are many more...

Mamahi Uttara is a prominent navigational star. This is the north star which remains 'steady' unlike other stars which changes position as they cross the sky from east to west, according to Imam Yasin. Using this as a guide, one may reach Cotabato and Zamboanga by sailing northeast, Sabah northwest, Celebes or Sulawesi and Balikpapan in Kalimantan southeast with some necessary adjustments along the way.

Bunta is used in crossing the Sulu Sea from Mapun near Palawan to the capital town of Bongao on the Tawi-tawi mainland. To reach Bongao, the pilot with an outstretched arm must keep Bunta one dangkal -- from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the middle finger -- to the left of the boat's prow. If the prow veers to the left by a dangkal, it will reach Languyan instead which is at the northern end of Tawi-tawi. But if it veers to the right, the boat will land at Sibutu which is at the southern end of the archipelago."

Cardinal directions

One of the more experienced seafarers of Panglima Sugala, another Tawi-tawi municipality, is Aspalman Jalman. He uses five stars to mark the four cardinal directions?Maga for the east, Tunggal Bahangi and Mamahi Magrib for the west, Mamahi Uttara for the north, and Mamahi Satan for the south.

As long as one knows the position of Mamahi Uttara and Mamahi Satan and the relative position of one?s destination, one could readily lay down the path to be taken by the boat, according to Aspalman. This is easily said than done because one must expect the unexpected during a trip. Like when he drifted down to the Celebes Sea after his engine broke down between Sibutu and the Tawi-tawi mainland. On occasions like this, no star would be of help."

Pictures:

North Star aka Polaris (+ Little and Big Dipper)

South Star/Southern Pole Star aka Sigma Octantis + Ocantis constellation (here shown relative to the more popular southern hemisphere navigational constellation, the Crux aka Southern Cross---which is in flags of many Pacific island nations) photography shot from Southern hemisphere (Australia) mid winter.

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McDreamyMD
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^Like I said de Plasencia and there's a few. Chirino wrote about bits and pieces of Filipino religion (mostly biased and kind of offensive, Chirino obviously was writing how they pretty much eradicated the mainstream practices while they converted them to Catholicism, so majority of what you'll find are really scraps but it's interesting to hear how they practiced it from primary sources, being that Jesuits like Chrino actually went to the boonies). Jocano's Mythology I'm sure has more, I've only seen parts online, but Jocano covers a wider range since he did a lot of ethnologist-related jobs (like record songs etc.) more than just your typical historian. He's also modern and like Scott, they are more critical of 'ealier' historians like Beyer so a lot of information they espouse I feel have a bit of correction and double thinking (in order not to repeat and mend inconsistencies)

One that covers a lot about practices (but not sure about pantheon since I've only read them as sources in other articles) I'm sure you would find interesting is the Bolinao Manuscript. I can't find it online but maybe if you search in your universities library you may get something. It deals a lot with the practices of the people of Pangasinan, although written by the sound of it relating to Kapampangan terms (so either they lump them together, or they were talking about the culture that existed in the area in general, that NW Central Luzonians shared) about practices of shamans and animistic priestesses.

On topic, last article Dr. Ambrosio wrote on the Inquirer about Filipino folk astronomy. It's about the eclipse and the native (and borrowed) culture relating to it in the Philippines.

ECLIPSE AND THE SNAKE IN THE SKY
Bakunawa and Laho
http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquirer...unawa_and_Laho

"The same attribution could be traced back through the past centuries. Fr. Francisco de San Antonio in his Tagalog vocabulary of 1620 said, "Linamon pala ng laho ang bouan kaya nangamarilim." (My trans not the article's: "Laho swallowed the moon that's why it there is only darkness.")

Fr. Tomas Ortiz, who died in 1742, reported that the Tagalogs would say, 'Linamon laho bouan' when there was a lunar eclipse. It was also written in the Tagalog vocabulary compiled by Fr. Juan de Noceda and Pedro de Sanlucar and republished in 1860 that they said, 'Quinain nang laho ang buan: linamon mandin nang laho.'

Hindu-Buddhist elements

One of the Hindu-Buddhist elements that entered the Malay world long, long ago is laho. Aside from the Tagalogs, the Tausugs of Sulu and the Samas of Tawi-tawi call an eclipse lahu and the Pampangos, lauo. The Bataks of Sumatra see läu as the cause of an eclipse though they have quite a different story for this. The solar eclipses that occurred in Asia in 1988 and 1995 were said to have been caused by rahu eating the sun

But what is laho or rahu? In one version of an Indian myth, Rahu is a demon who chases after the sun and the moon intent on swallowing them. It was the sun and the moon which frustrated Rahu's attempt at immortality. Vishnu cut off its head and two arms after learning from the sun and the moon that it drank the potion that makes one immortal. Since the drinking was not completed, only the body died while the head and the tail became immortal. Since then, it has chased the sun and the moon to take revenge. When Rahu catches either one, an eclipse occurs.

But there is another snake that swallows the sun or the moon during an eclipse. To the ancient Bisayas, according to Fr. Alonso de Mentrida in 1637, the large animal that swallowed the sun and the moon was Bacunaua. This was the 'serpent that swallows the moon', binacunauahan ang bulan.'

As with laho, so it was with bakunawa: the attribution continued through time. To Fr. Ignacio Alcina who wrote in 1668, the Bisayas called the eclipse of the sun and the moon bacunawa because a big snake by this name swallowed the moon. In Fr. Juan Felix de Encarnacion's Cebuano dictionary of 1885, the eclipse of the sun and moon was called bakunawa. In his 1935 Bisaya dictionary, John Kaufmann defined bakunawa as a serpent or dragon that eats the moon and is exactly the term for the eclipse of the sun and the moon."

If you read the rest of the article, he talked in great details the rituals, superstitions and the folk beliefs that many Filipino still practice when there is an eclipse.

 

The Christian Science Monitor wrote about it (link is an article published in 1988) and it's quiet interesting how many of these beliefs prevail.

"Told by outsiders of the coming event, they stored extra food and water. During the eclipse, they hid babies indoors, locked up chickens, and struck brass gongs. People feared most that snakes might enter their bamboo huts.

All through the night before the eclipse, an elderly storyteller, Siboy Jenana, sang parts of a long and sacred T'boli epic about mythical hero, Todbulol, as many listened with tearful eyes.

Mr. Siboy told in a commanding voice how Todbulol prevented his sister from using an eclipse to destroy the earth after she saw the people living in misery.

``The eclipse is a test by the creator,'' Siboy said after the event, ``to show us that all this land, everything we see here, is not ours. This belongs to him,'' Siboy added. ``If he wants to turn everything upside down, we'll leave it to him.''

Another legend, says Manudal Maguwan, a T'boli shaman, says an eclipse occurs when a serpent swallows the sun. It ends, however, if the people play musical instruments to attract a monkey, who kills the serpent and releases the sun from its belly. That drama was acted out by the T'bolis just after the March 18 eclipse.

While such T'boli legends are being kept alive today, they are also being overshadowed by creeping Westernization: modern music, radio, and television. These have been introduced by the larger nontribal population of lowland Filipinos who have migrated into T'boli lands on the big southern island of Mindanao.

This trend, certain as the moon blotting out the sun, could signal twilight for T'boli culture.

``We believe our myths, but we have gone to school and learned modern science,'' says Peter Carado, a T'boli educator who has elected to work with his own people, designing curricula that includes tribal culture. ``We learned that the moon blocks the sun. But the old people still do not know this. We are in a transition period.''

The T'bolis, known for their distinctive abaca, or hemp, weaving and the heavy brass ``girdles'' laden with bells that the women wear, are one of 20 or so tribal groups in the Philippines."

http://www.csmonitor.com/1988/0321/olips.html

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Prau123
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@mcdreamymd , it's interesting that Bacunaua (or Bakunawa) is depicted as a snake eating the moon.  I suppose early Filipinos (Visayans in particular) viewed the moon as a white egg, and the shadow formed on the moon resembles the mouth of a snake swallowing the white egg (moon), and when the moon is in total eclipse, the snake has swallowed the white egg in full.  Could the myth of Bacunaua simply be explained as a resemblance of a snake eating an egg, or is there something else to this myth?  

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McDreamyMD
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From de Plasencia's "Customs of the Tagalogs"

"Among their many idols there was one called. Badhala, whom they especially worshiped. The title seems to signify “all powerful,” or “maker of all things.” They also worshiped the sun, which, on account of its beauty, is almost universally respected and honored by heathens. They worshiped, too, the moon, especially when it was new, at which time they held great rejoicings, adoring it and bidding it welcome. Some of them also adored the stars, although they did not know them by their names, as the Spaniards and other nations know the planets—with the one exception of the morning star, which they called Tala. They knew, too, the “seven little goats” [the Pleiades]—as we call them—and, consequently, the change of seasons, which they call Mapolon; and Balatic, which is our Greater Bear...These natives had no established division of years, months, and days; these are determined by the cultivation of the soil, counted by moons, and the different effect produced upon the trees when yielding flowers, fruits, and leaves: all this helps them in making up the year. The winter and summer are distinguished as sun-time and water-time—the latter term designating winter in those regions, where there is no cold, snow, or ice."

Ursa Major (Big Dipper + 7 other stars) as seen early mid summer in the northern hemisphere

 

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McDreamyMD
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De Loarca's "Relacion..." (speaking about Visayan customs)

"Years and months. They divide the year into twelve months, although only seven [sc. eight] of these have names; they are lunar months, because they are reckoned by moons. The first month is that in which the Pleiades appear, which they call Ulalen. The second is called Dagancahuy, the time when the trees are felled in order to sow the land. Another month they call Daganenan bulan; it comes when the wood of those trees is collected from the fields. Another is called Elquilin, and is the time when they burn over the fields. Another month they call Ynabuyan, which comes when the bonanças blow. Another they call Cavay; it is when they weed their fields. Another they call [Cabuy: crossed out in MS.] Yrarapun; it is the time when they begin to harvest the rice. Another they call Manalulsul, in which the harvesting is completed. As for the remaining months, they pay little attention to them, because in those months there is no work in the fields."

De Riquel (Conquest of the Islands of Luzon)
"They swear by the sun and by the moon, and all the islands have this oath in common—a fact that I have noticed since our coming to this land. It does not seem to me that they are accustomed to worship animals, stars, clouds, or other things which many idolatrous pagans are wont to adore."

De Morga ("Sucesos de Islas Filipinas")
"Others worshiped the sun and the moon, and made feasts and drunken revels at the conjunction of those bodies. Some worshiped a yellow-colored bird that dwells in their woods, called batala. They generally worship and adore the crocodiles when they see them, by kneeling down and clasping their hands, because of the harm that they receive from those reptiles; they believe that by so doing the crocodiles will become appeased and leave them. Their oaths, execrations, and promises are all as above mentioned, namely, "May buhayan eat thee, if thou dost not speak truth, or fulfil what thou hast promised," and similar things."

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