Celestial Weaving Maiden and Vega asterism in Chinese cosmology

"By far the most famous piece of Chinese star lore is the story of the Weaving Maid, daughter of Heaven, and her lover, the Herdboy." [This is rather exaggerated given the great importance of the Dipper stars in Daoist and even, with Dou Mu, with Buddhist adaptations, but oh well.] The Seventh Night (Qixi) festival is recorded since the Han dynasty, also known as the Double Sevens festival which was connected to the Cosmic Weaver Xi Wangmu (seventh night of seventh month, with lamp-lighting ceremonies, a time of divine descents and visitations.

"The earliest mention of the celestial pair occurs in the Shijing ... in the ode Great East:

In Heaven there is a River

See how it gleams?

Three-cornered the Weaving Maid

[working] all the day long for seven hours.

Though [she works] for seven hours

No finished pattern is her reward

And see that draught-ox,

It pulls no cart!'

The Great River is what some call the Milky Way, others the Rainbow Serpent, or Birds Path, among many other names. Weaver Girl is Vega in the Lyra constellation, Altair is the Ox. "Significantly, there is nothing in the surviving ode to suggest a romance.... When exactly the romanticizing of the astral pair came about is hard to say."

Another "double seven" is mentioned in a footnote on the Qi Xiang, "literally 'seven displacements,' refer[ing] to the seven double-hours that elapse between dawn and dusk in midsummer; that is during daylight while the triangular Weaving Maid asterism is invisible. When she reappears each night, the skyscape is unchanged." The triangular configuraton of Vega and two other stars is shown in the illustration, a tile from Xiaotangshan Shrine, depicting the Celestial Weaver Maiden.

He comments in another footnote that male scribes and astronomers monopolized star calendars, but "it is possible that a progenitor goddess myth, uncongenial to lineage-based patriarchal authority if left unredacted, predates the present ode. [Indeed there is, the more ancient tradition of Xi Wangmu, who is already reflected in Shang oracle bone inscriptions as the "Western Grandmother" (Xi means East, and although Wangmu is usually translated as Queen Mother, it also meant Grandmother in ancient Chinese.)]

"Worldwide, there is ample evidence that spinning/weaving and spider goddesses were thought to have produced the cosmos out of their own substance, much as in the act of giving birth, which is why they are frequently also progenitors of the people and patronesses [sic] of child-bearing and fertility..."

"Weavin Metaphors and Cosmo-political Thought in Early China." David W. Pankenier (Brill) 2015

Reversing out the image makes it a little easier to see her face is covered by the beaded veil of a divinity or deified adept, similar to modern statues of Mazu.

Big Dipper as Top Cord of radiating knotted cords

People with silk skeins on head, or carrying them, from ancient bronzes. These are reflections of women's activity, with probable ceremonial associations, in ancient China.

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