Podcaster: Avivah Yamani

Title: Astro Folklore – Corona Borealis: The Pot Star from Bali

Organization: Planetary Science Institute; langitselatan

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Description:  This is a folklore from Bali, Indonesia about Corona Borealis. The story is part of the Stars of Asia Project during the International Year of Astronomy and compiled by Mitsuru Aoki from Japan.

Bio: Avivah Yamani is a an astronomy communicator from Indonesia.

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Hi, I’m Avivah, your host today and this is 365 Days of Astronomy. Today I will share a story from Bali, Indonesia about Corona Borealis. The story is part of the Stars of Asia Project during the International Year of Astronomy and compiled by Mitsuru Aoki from Japan. 

Corona Borealis is a small constellation in the Northern Celestial Hemisphere. The constellation has only four stars brighter than magnitude 3.00 and Its brightest stars form a semicircular arc . It was first cataloged by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the 2nd century and remains one of the 88 modern constellations. Its Latin name is  “the northern crown” inspired by its shape,

In classical mythology Corona Borealis generally represented the crown given by the god Dionysus to the Cretan princess Ariadne and set by her in the heavens. 

Corona Borealis, the crown constellation, looks very different depending on where it is observed. When seen from Japan, it shines around the zenith in a “u” shape, when observed from Indonesia/Bali, the constellation appears in the North in a “n” shape, and for people in Bali, Indonesia, this constellation know as a dented, upside-down cooking pot. It is said the Indonesian description originates from the actions of a careless and greedy couple.

Here’s the story

The legend goes that a husband, Nanang Paleg, found a gigantic eel on his way to a paddy field one morning. Delighted, the farmer took it home and told his wife, Memen Paleg, to cook it into delicious soup before he returned for lunch. 

At first the sight of this huge eel astounded and bewildered his wife. Because of the eel’s size, she asked around the village for a long cooking pot but could not find one before lunchtime. Unprepared and not wanting to be reproached, she quickly pretended to be ill by smearing spices and turmeric on her skin. She managed to slip into bed before her husband, Nanang, returned. 

Concerned about his wife’s terrible condition, Nanang decided to cook the eel himself. Instead of cooking the whole eel as his wife had planned, he simply cut the eel into small pieces. The eel fit in the pot perfectly, and he began boiling the soup. 

In the meantime, Memen became hungry as the smell of food reached her bedside. Once the soup was prepared, her kind son, Paleg, who was also worried about her condition, brought her a small amount of soup topped with some rice. Memen was famished, so she repeatedly sent her son back to the kitchen. She said there was not enough soup for the rice or rice for the soup, until the bowl was absolutely full. 

The food was so delicious that Memen devoured it instantly. However, it was not enough for her. So when her husband and son left the house after lunch, she crept into the kitchen and drank up all the soup in the pot. She could not stop herself, and she even stuck her head into the pot to lick off the rest.

Finally satisfied, Memen realized her head was trapped inside. Panicking, she screamed for help, “Help me! The pot ate my head!” When he heard the screams, Nanang ran back home and found Memen attacked by this pot, which he pulled with all his might to save her.“Plucked!”. The pot came off of her head but left a circular red mark around Memen’s neck. Consumed with hatred for the innocent pot Nanang attacked it, battering and pounding it until it was almost flat.

At this point, their clever son, Paleg, returned home. He quickly figured out what had happened and explained to his father that the pot could not have attacked Memen. Having realized his mistake, Nanang placed the pot on an altar along with many gifts and prayed for forgiveness from the pot’s spirit. Balinese people believe that even objects have spirits. Suddenly the pot rose into the night sky and began to glow brightly.

 As the astonished family watched, the guardian spirit of the blacksmiths, Ratu Pande Sunantara, appeared before them. The guardian reprimanded the parents for their foolish ways but praised their son and trained him to become a professional blacksmith.

Everyone has a tendency to treat objects badly. To prevent such behavior, the guardian placed the disfigured pot in the sky to symbolize an admonition for mankind. This is why the constellation is named the pot star ( Bintang Panci ), which is also called the crown.

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