Faerie tales, mythologies, nursery rhymes, legends, and folklore are collections of symbolized events and cultural records preserved by oral tradition, and shared from generation to generation, mostly from mother to child. These stories have become cherished childhood literature, and many have astronomical origins.
Today, when we look up in the sky, we find the Big Dipper, which points us to Polaris, the North Star. Thousands of years ago the star Deneb, in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, signified true north. Images of birds on top of poles such as the one in Lascaux Cave, represent the earth’s axis mundi pointing north toward Cygnus. Mother Goose, the Swan Princess, and other Swan-Mother symbols come from the distant time of Cygnus the Swan.
Mother Goose is associated with children’s rhymes, which are classic examples of oral tradition; Hey (or Hi) Diddle Diddle The Cat and The Fiddle carries knowledge of seasonal astronomy, made easy to remember with rhyme and familiar, humorous characters. According to Duncan Enzmann, this rhyme dates back to the bountiful Atlantic years, from c. 5400 BC. It speaks of constellations during harvest season: Canis Minor is played by the cat and fiddle - the cat represents rodent control in the fields, the fiddle is the plow. The dish symbolizes the constellation Eridanus, the spoon being Orion’s Arm. The cow represents Venus’ horns; the Moon is the growing season. The little dog as Sirius, in Canis Major, “laughs” bountiful: the dish and spoon are so full it is more than we can eat.
Jack and Jill is still recited by young children. Did you ever wonder why they went up the hill? Water flows downhill. C. 6500 BC it was discovered that the dew which collected on the top of the Briton’s chalk hills was clean and pure; the chalk filtered the water – just as our charcoal and sand filters do today. Of course, they did not take the water from the very top; that is where the birds perched and left bird-droppings. The little rivulets seeping from the side of the hill provided the best water, cleaned by the chalk hill.
Humpty Dumpty is a more recent poem which carries a story of historic events, most likely of a cannon bequeathed to a king during the English Civil War (1642-49). The King’s Men (the army) placed the great, round jade cannon in a church tower for greater range. The enemy destroyed the tower, and the cannon careened to the ground, breaking beyond repair.
Deep in the mists of time we find the origin of Rock-a-bye Baby. This ancient poem was first printed in Mother Goose’s Melody in 1765. Duncan-Enzmann has compelling evidence that its roots are in the Magdalenian culture, ca 10,000 BC. While tending herds of pigs, parents would hang their babies in cradles from the branches of trees, keeping the precious babies safe from predators while they were busy. The warning in the famous rhyme is for parents to secure their babies cradle well, assuring they would not fall in a strong breeze.
The trees later become Yggdrasil (the Tree of Life), the link between Above and Below; branches in Heaven, roots firmly in the Earth, and the trunk, the flow of nourishment between. The babies, suspended between roots and branches, are blessed.
Nursery Rhymes are passed on through generations, as mothers rock their babies to sleep. Although this rhyme is subject to debate as to its appropriateness in a nursery, when its history and meaning are understood a cultural practice is revealed. Like fables, legends, mythologies, and faerie tales, children's rhymes are important purveyors of knowledge, preserved over millennia by oral tradition.
Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids
Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon