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Reachable Stars, Reachable Stars, 0817315683, 0-8173-1568-3, 978-0-8173-1568-9, 9780817315689, , , Reachable Stars, 081735428X, 0-8173-5428-X, 978-0-8173-5428-2, 9780817354282, , , Reachable Stars, 0817380930, 0-8173-8093-0, 978-0-8173-8093-9, 9780817380939,

Reachable Stars
Patterns in the Ethnoastronomy of Eastern North America

Quality Paper
2007. 320 pp.
Price:  $39.95 s
E Book
2007. 368 pp.
Price:  $39.95 d

Modern Westerners say the lights in the sky are stars, but culturally they are whatever we humans say they are. Some say they are Forces that determine human lives, some declare they are burning gaseous masses, and some see them as reminders of a gloried past by which elders can teach and guide the young—mnemonics for narratives. Lankford’s volume focuses on the ancient North Americans and the ways they identified, patterned, ordered, and used the stars to light their culture and illuminate their traditions. They knew them as regions that could be visited by human spirits, and so the lights for them were not distant points of light, but “reachable stars.” Guided by the night sky and its constellations, they created oral traditions, or myths, that contained their wisdom and which they used to pass on to succeeding generations their particular world view.
However, they did not all tell the same stories. This study uses that fact—patterns of agreement and disagreement—to discover prehistoric relationships between Indian groups. Which groups saw a constellation in the same way and told the same story? How did that happen? Although these preliterate societies left no written records, the mythic patterns across generations and cultures enable contemporary researchers to examine the differences in how they understood the universe—not as early scientists, but as creators of cosmic order. In the process of doing that, the myth-tellers left the footprints of their international cultural relationships behind them. Reachable Stars is the story of their stories.

George E. Lankford is Professor Emeritus at Lyon College where he served as endowed professor and chair of Social Sciences. He has authored numerous books and articles, including Looking for Lost Lore: Studies in Folklore, Ethnology, and Iconography.

"The significance of emeritus folklore professor Lankford's book lies with the clear way in which he models the analysis of myth and summarizes the goals of ethnoastronomy. His list of sky phenomena available to 'naked eye' Native American observers is an essential starting point for any reading of explanatory myths and for recognizing the stars or constellations to which they refer. Lankford's well-developed discussion of the history of methodologies in folklore research includes a fine summary of the pitfalls of historic-geographic comparative studies. These pluses are all compelling reasons for reading Lankford's text. However, although the book has much to recommend it, probably only dedicated ethnoastronomers and folklorists will have the patience or ability to appreciate Lankford's analyses of motif codes, plot structures, and identification of stars in the tales. He himself notes that the reader may become 'bewildered.' However, Lankford's research is meticulous, and his goal, to demonstrate deep and ancient cultural relationships through the elucidation of shared notions of cosmic order, is commendable. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above."

“This book is an absolutely amazing work. The content and organization are wonderful. It shows extensive research, synthesis, impeccable analysis of themes, and thought-provoking discussion throughout.”
—Carol Diaz-Granados, Research Associate and Lecturer, Washington University, St. Louis

"Lankford's ambitious and masterful study is marked by breadth, impressive research, and a purposeful, conversational writing style. A valuable contribution to folklore studies, as significant for its approach as for its content, this volume should also appeal to anthropologists, Native American scholars, historians of science, geomythologists, ethnologists, and scholars of archaeoastronomy. Lankford succeeds in writing for 'any reader with an enthusiasm for the night sky and human ways of thinking about it'."—Journal of Folklore Research

"The folklorist-anthropologist, George Lankford, demonstrates what can be learned from oral constellation myths transcribed into written texts collected since the seventeenth century among the native tribes of eastern North America. Like ceramic designs, myths exhibit historical aspects that can be discerned, as they change through time to suit the needs of the societies through which they have been transmitted. . . . To the question, Are there different astronomical traditions as defined via use of constellations?, Lankford responds with a convincing 'yes.' The tabulation of mythic elements shows a clear division between Eastern Woodland and Plains Indians, though not without specific diffusion trends. In Reachable Stars we find an astronomically based study that reflects patterns of cultural diffusion motivated by trade, linguistic variation, and diverse styles of living. Even if historians of astronomy rarely consider these items, they are nonetheless worthy of consideration buy those of us who seek to explore all open doorways to past knowledge."--Journal for the History of Astronomy