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So Many Stars


Star. Karnak Temple Complex

Well how can we be separate if we’re all under the same stars?” Gulumbu Yunupingu


So many stars! I have always loved the night and the moon. Even as a child the dark was not fearful to me; something always assured me that there was Presence and Love. I did not need light to know it. According to my parents, “Moonie, Moonie, Moonie!” may have been my first word as I held up little hands as if to catch its silvery shine through my bedroom window.


But the stars were a gift from my mother. On summer evenings we lay in the grass as she guided me to find the fanciful shapes, I wondered aloud how someone could possibly see a bear in this one or an archer in this other. Leo and Draco, and Orion I see, but Cassiopeia? Please!


The Milky Way was clear and wonderous in our remote little town. I gasped as she would tell me that the light we were seeing was thousands of years old. It astonishes me still to know that many of the stars whose light sparkles above us don’t exist materially today. Their substance has long vanished even as their light continues to play out in the universe.


My current bedtime ritual includes a walk in my front yard to say goodnight to the Universe, to express gratitude to the Spirit of it All for the day just ended, and to delight in the canopy of distant star worlds. These past weeks the cold nights have unveiled the winter view of the Pleiades – one of my favorite constellations (though it is actually an asterism within the constellation Taurus). I loved the story mama told me of the seven daughters of Atlas grieving so at their father’s fate that the gods made them stars to be able to stay close to him. In another version, they became stars because the beautiful hunter Orion pursued them relentlessly. The gods placed them in the night sky to escape his advances. Then, of course, Orion was made a constellation and continues to chase them beyond time.


Whichever version, I look forward each year to the reappearance of the Pleiades. It calls to me in the chill night with a whisper of home. My father often remarked that he thought when he died he’d get to “flit from star to star.” Perhaps we always have done so together over the eons we call Time.


It came as no surprise to me when I recently learned that Aboriginal tribes of Australia have very similar legends of the Pleiades to the Greek myths I learned. In one version, seven sisters are fleeing across the heavens from the unwanted attentions of Nyiru – the constellation we know as Orion. In another the Djulpan (seven sisters) flee from three brothers represented by Orion’s three brightest stars. The book of Job in the Bible refers to the heavenly chase. Across the world this open star cluster is called the Seven Sisters, the Seven Maidens, or the Seven Princesses. They are occasionally given male identities, but much more often they are seen as female. Are these similar themes only chance? Are they an indication of a common heritage story that traveled cross-continents tens of thousands of years ago? Or perhaps it is simply another indication of our connected humanity that creates stories across time and space that are so similar.


While in Vancouver in 2019 for a conference with author Caroline Myss, I was synchronistically led to an exhibit at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology called In Her Words: contemporary women artists from Aboriginal Australia. The star paintings of Gulumbu Yunupingu captivated me as did her philosophy that we – all colors, all peoples, all beings – are all one. You can see her award-winning art and read more of her inspiring story through the link below.



The Djulpan and other star stories woven in Yunupingu’s art remind me that the stars’ eternal message of our connection in the Universe is real.


Tomb of Rameses III, KV 11

Later that same year I encountered more stars in Egypt. I had wanted to visit there since childhood as my father's National Geographic Magazines introduced me to its ancient wonders. While all of its art enchanted me – it is both more magnificent and more prolific than I even imagined – it was the stars on ceilings and walls that mesmerized me. They are endlessly represented on the temples and tombs. Carved into the stone. Painted in still-vivid colors. Stars! Everywhere stars.


But the people -- ah the people are the stars who truly charmed me.


Jaima, the housekeeper in the Cairo hotel. When our eyes first met, our souls connected. We may express faith differently, but we are One. On my last day, she left a small scarab beetle, a powerful and sacred Egyptian symbol of manifestation, immortality, and eternity.


There was the tiny girl who ran from her home on a dusty road to wave and blow kisses at our busses. I saw in her our shared humanity in the sheer joy of childhood she radiated.


Our cruise guest relations director. At 22 this young Egyptian woman has already had a world of experiences. She gave me insight into the women of Egypt and got me started on WhatsAp. (Oh these fabulous young people! I have true hope for this world because of them.)


Our three Egyptologists whose depth of knowledge came from their Master's and PhD's as well as decades of experience and a true love of sharing their country's history.

But the person who will live with me forever is a woman whose name I will never know. She was the attendant in the Cairo airport lady's room. Tips were expected and in some rural places you didn't get toilet paper unless you supplied a monetary gift. While this cultural expectation of foreigners was sometimes tiresome, it is a livelihood for many families, so I tried to have my dollar always ready. Looking the attendant in the eye with a smile, I usually was greeted with warmth. Those who didn't tip often received scowls. This woman was different. She radiated kindness to all – with or without a tip. Our hearts and eyes connected without words. She pulled her fingers together, kissed the tips of them, and gently transferred that kiss to a birthmark on my right check. I touched her arm as we smiled together for the last time. We will not forget.


Entangled in the stars are the stories of peoples. Our stories. Told by the ancestors they echo familiar themes framing our cultures with mutual values and shared dreams. Retold in our lives they can unite us as do these distant suns themselves. Subaru – the Japanese word for the Pleiadian cluster – means (I am told) unity or coming together. The sacred stories of the stars unite us, reminding us that we are more alike than different.


Oh! if we could only remember ~

So many stars

So many peoples

Yet…we are One.

Deir Al-Bahari Temple

All photo credits Dorothy Barkley Bryson, iPhone 8, Egypt, April 2019



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