“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman
― Philip Pullman
|Ursa Major by Yoh Kakuda|
Tell me a story. Now is the perfect moment to revisit old tales. We are all searching for a good book to read, a new show to watch, another story to pass the time. Stories, the ancient mythologies of cultures long gone, were the backbone of entertainment eons ago, and the scripts were written in the stars. Some say as far back as 50,000 years ago a Paleolithic bear cult existed, and gave the original name to the pattern in the night sky so familiar to us after all this time, The Great Bear. So many stories about this constellation exist from so many cultures. The Greeks and Romans mythologized Callisto, the beautiful forest nymph who won Zeus’s (Jupiter’s) heart. Hera (or Juno, or even Artemis), transformed the nymph into a bear in a fit of jealous rage. Callisto’s son Arcas (via Zeus, or Jupiter) grew to be a hunter, and as these melodramas go, almost killed his own mother while out hunting one day. Divine intervention saved them both for eternity, turning Arcas into a hunter (or a little bear) as well and flinging them both into the sky. Arcas is Minor to Callisto’s Major, with the Latin Ursa for “bear” explaining the rest.
|Whoa ... what just happened?!?|
The Native American tribes had a similar mythology to explain the bears in the sky. Their stories differ and vary, but most include a hunt. The Micmac and Iroquois tribes say that the three stars trailing the bear represent the hunters, chasing the bear in Autumn across the sky. The blood of the kill sprayed the forest leaves, turning them red. Karakuri artist Yoh Kakuda tells another Native American tale, of the bear who got lost in the woods. Hearing the voices of the forest, the bear ran about in surprise, attacking the trees. The forest King grabbed the bear up and flung him into the sky by his tail, which extends out in an arc now, forever. Kakuda loves stories, and has compassion for the characters, like the poor bear. He created Ursa Major with this story in mind, and included elements from the tale so the story plays out in the work. Even the bear’s eyes are a different size, to express the surprise and shock the bear felt. It’s like the surprise and shock we are all feeling in the world right now.
Bear with me as I pivot to a cocktail now, to drink while enjoying the beautiful tale that this puzzle box tells. The ripple effects of the world’s health are being seen in so many different ways, including the global economies. There are animals afoot here as well, dating back to the turn of the eighteenth century when a proverb warned it was unwise “to sell the bear’s skin before one has caught the bear”. The term “bearskin”, and later simply “bear”, became associated with an expected decline in stock prices, and a financial crisis in 1720 precipitated by the South Sea Company, known as the “South Sea Bubble” sealed the term’s fate. Alexander Pope wrote this poem in 1720: “Come fill the South Sea goblet full; The gods shall of our stock take care: Europa pleased accepts the Bull, and Jove with joy puts off the Bear.”
|I'm feeling bullish about this bear|
It’s important we keep our immune systems in top shape right now, so exercise, sleep, and healthy eating are essential. As far as cocktails go, it’s a great time for so called “low ABV” drinks – “low alcohol by volume” – because too much alcohol will lower the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Drinks that rely on lower proof spirits or contain a smaller proportion of high proof spirits fit the requirement. Here’s a delicious potion that will elevate the evening while going easy on your system. It features some homemade hibiscus tea, a sweet and vibrant drink favored by South American cultures that is full of antioxidants. A little honey never hurts either, and if you are in the mood, you can heat this drink up and enjoy it like a toddy as well. Here’s to the storytellers, and the stories they tell. Let me know your stories too – leave a little comment about something entertaining that happened to you recently. We could all use more stories right now. Cheers!
|A pair of bear necessities|
1 oz bourbon
½ oz honey syrup (1:1 honey : water)
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz lemon
3 oz hibiscus tea
Shake ingredients with ice if serving cold and strain into a favorite glass. For a Toddy, mix ingredients together in a cup and add a little hot water.
For more from Yoh Kakuda: