In this post I want to invite our Witches from the Southern Hemisphere to look up to the sky and try to find the Southern Cross!
Living in the US I can’t see it anymore but growing up in Argentina there were two constellations that I always saw: Orion and the Crux!
What is the Southern Cross?
If you’ve ever seen the flag of Australia or New Zealand , you probably noticed that they feature four (or five) stars. That’s the Southern Cross and it was of great importance for sailors, since it can be used to find the southern tip of the Earth’s sky in a similar way the Northern Star (Polaris) helps sailors find the North.
In fact, five countries have the Crux or Southern Cross in their flags: Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
How to Find the Southern Cross in the Sky
- Face to the south in an area with a clear line of sight and an absence of light pollution.
- Search for a group of four bright stars and one faint star that form the shape of a kite.
- Take note of the fact that, depending on the time of the year, the shape they form will not always be an upright kite.
If you’ve never seen it before, I recommend using an app like SkyView Free to find constellations.
Can I see the Crux from the Northern Hemisphere?
This constellation can mostly be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. The only few places north of the equator where it can be seen are around Hawaii and parts of northern Africa. From the 48 contiguous United States, one must travel south to Key West, Florida, or Brownsville, Texas, to see Crux in its entirety.
Symbolism and Mythology of the Southern Cross
In Inca Mythology
In the Tahuantinsuyo (Inca empire), this constellation had great importance because it represented the chakana. This word means something like “ladder of ascent and descent” or “bridge up and down” and it symbolically connects the Kay Pacha (earthly world) with the Hanan Pacha (world of the gods) and the Uku Pacha (world of the dead). It is typically represented in the form of a stepped cross and also known as the Andean Cross.
It is also a representation of the god Viracocha, creator of the world. It inspired the Inca emperor Pachacutec to divide the nascent Inca Empire into four regions (Chinchaysuyo, Contisuyo, Collasuyo and Antisuyo).
The Crux in other Cultures
Several indigenous cultures in South America considered this constellation as a symbol associated with the rhea (flightless bird native to eastern South America).
The Mapuches called the Crux “Melipal” (four stars) and considered it a representation of the footprint of a “choyke”, the rhea or American ostrich, a sacred animal in their beliefs.
In Australian Aboriginal astronomy, Crux and the Coalsack mark the head of the ‘Emu in the Sky’ (which is seen in the dark spaces rather than in the patterns of stars) in several Aboriginal cultures.
The Māori name for the Southern Cross is Māhutonga and it is thought of as the anchor (Te Punga) of Tama-rereti’s waka (the Milky Way), while the Pointers are its rope.
Various peoples in the East Indies and Brazil viewed the four main stars as the body of a stingray.
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Did you know about the Southern Cross, or the Emu in the Sky? Have you ever seen it?