The Plough and the Stars


The Plough can be seen around the top of the ariel in this picture – taken behind my parents house in mid-March this year.

One of the most distinctive pattern of stars in the sky is the asterism The Plough, part of the constellation of Ursa Major. The Plough [and Ursa Major] has a place in many cultures – in Ireland, it was called Camceachta [crooked plough] though it was also known as King David’s chariot.

The seven stars also formed the logo on the flag of the Irish Citizens Army [ICA], a socialist association that participated in the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916. It was lead by James Connolly [who was executed after the Rising was crushed by the British Army] who said that a freeIreland would control its destiny from the plough to the stars. Another member of the Citizens Army was the playwright Sean O Casey who wrote The Plough and the Stars [about the rising and featuring an ICA volunteer ] in 1926.

The seven stars have hung over Irish skies since there were Irish people below to look up at them, but it will not always be so. Two of the stars are moving away from the others [relative to the view from Earth] so in a mere 50,000 years, the Plough will be reshaped and facing the other way (and probably won’t really look like a plough either). Let’s hope there are still Irish people below to stare up at it, and let’s hope they have some control over their destiny, even if it doesn’t reach all the way to the nearest star. 

The Easter Rising began 93 years ago tomorrow, on April 24th 1916.

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