Wednesday, April 19, 2006

(6) The Pedlar, map of Orion

The map of Orion in The Pedlar only shows a few stars in a precise way, including the three stars of Orion's belt and the bright star Sirius, which is part of Canis Major. (Ursa Major will be shown in the next post. ) An easy way to find Sirius is to find Orion, and imagine a line drawn through the three belt stars to the brightest star in the area. The rest of the constellation is only an approximation, unlike The Beekeepers which matches a modern star map closely. But in The Pedlar, unlike The Beekeepers, it is easy to identify some surrounding constellations. Canis Major is not shown, but Canis Minor is represented by a small dog. Two people in the doorway of the inn represent Gemini (the Twins), and a bull or cow represents Taurus. The road the peddler is following stands for the Milky Way. The purpose of the picture might be to help remember the names of some of the constellations, including some of their Arabic names (see Gilchrist, Susan Fargo, "The Good Thief imagined as a peddler," in Source 17:2, 1998, pp. 4-14).
The interesting thing about the way the painting represents the imaginary line from Orion's belt to Sirius as a wooden staff is that the idea might come from the Dresden Codex. In the Dresden Codex a person or supernatural is carrying a staff with three openings or dots, and also (like the peddler) has a round object in the other hand and a spotted cat on his back. It appears as though the artist who painted The Pedlar, if he or she was copying the Dresden Codex, thought the staff with three marks represented the three stars in Orion's belt.


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