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Vanuatu Sky - native astronomy of Vanuatu


The "Vanuatu Sky" is a project in the field of ethnoastronomy. As an amateur astronomer, through my work on missions in Vanuatu and through learning local languages, I also grew interested in how local people see the starry sky above them. In many places of Vanuatu this ancestral knowledge is now almost forgotten. From a long-term cooperation with the local elders from different areas and from trips to remote villages in the jungle, where people still remember the ancient knowledge of the sky of their ancestors, I succeeded to build this overview (certainly far from being complete). It records celestial objects of people from different islands of Vanuatu and the names they gave them. To my best knowledge it is the first ever published sky chart for Vanuatu languages, and as every such work, it may suffer of childhood illnesses.

If you want to use this data in any way, or found a mistake, please, contact me first.

Sky charts for Vanuatu languages

Vanuatu Sky Star Chart 1 by Dominik M. Ramík
Vanuatu Sky Star Chart 2 by Dominik M. Ramík
Vanuatu Sky Star Chart 3 by Dominik M. Ramík

Celestial bodies table

Presented languages
appMelsisi, Pentecost (Ethnologue: app)
bkiBaki (Ethnologue: bki)
bpaSesivi (Daakaka), Ambrym (Ethnologue: bpa)
lrvLarevat, Malakula (Ethnologue: lrv)
mmgOlal, North Ambrym (Ethnologue: mmg)
nwiNahwal, Tanna (Ethnologue: nwi)
ombLolopuépué, Ambae (Ethnologue: omb)
tnlNetwar (Lenakel), Tanna (Ethnologue: tnl)
tnnNorth Tanna (Ethnologue: tnn)
upvWala-Rano, Malakula (Ethnologue: upv)

Sun
appAl11
appMetakal15
bkiMwereinyo17
bpaIaa9
lrvNeiel14
ombAho12
tnlMet3
tnnMitgar16
upvNial13
Moon
appWul11, 15
bkiSimbério17
bpaÉmbaté9
lrvNal14
ombVulé12
tnlMawuk3
tnnMaugh16
upvNavil13
Waxing crescent
appWul te out15
tnlMawuk wi7, 8 ('new Moon')
First quarter
appGere wul15
tnlNail ratuatu8 ('it stays straight', meaning that in the sky the Moon appears straight in the zenith in the evening)
Full Moon
appMweram15
tnlMawuk ramépép malwia7 ('Moon knocks on butterflyfish' (unknown meaning))
tnlNati tawar8 (means that when the sun is setting, the Moon just appears above the mountains)
Last quarter
appWul monok15
tnlNumanmel8
Waning crescent
tnlNumanmel8
New Moon
appWul bulmet15
Lunar eclipse
tnlMawuk ramemes3 ('dead Moon')
Venus
bpaNgaga9 ('grandfather of the Moon', always found close to the new Moon)
Morning star
appWamso roworen11, 15 ('star of morning)
bkiLéngian17
lrvM'si na metevarn14
nwiFétukai5
tnlFétukai3
Evening star
appWamso nan ut reverep11 ('star of evening)
appWamso temram15
bkiVioméljo17
nwiKéwita5
tnlKéwita3
Shooting star
appWamso mwaiah11
appWamso ah mworop15
bpaMeseli bisiu9 (foretells a sunny and hot day)
lrvM'si tetv14
tnlMahau ramiwuk8 ('jumping star', bad omen foretelling a death)
Star
appWamso11
bkiMarvitan17
bpaBisiu9
lrvM'si14
ombVisiu12
tnlMahau3
tnnMoho16
upvVivor13
Large Magellanic Cloud Fig. 10
tnlNowanuman4 ('earth oven')
Small Magellanic Cloud Fig. 11
tnlNowanuman4 ('earth oven')
Milky Way Fig. 8
bpaIémarmatewés9 ('widow speeping the road')
nwiNémlauk5 ('ash')
tnlNemrau5 ('ash')
tnlNuafuganan6 (less common term of unknown meaning)
Orion's Belt Fig. 5
HIP: 26727, 26311, 25930
bpaÉvévéo an man9 ('man with yoke carrying crops')
nwiKasulia apam5 ('long yoke')
tnlKasulia apam4 ('long yoke')
Orion's Sword Fig. 6
HIP: 26237, 26235, 26241
bpaÉteto an véavin9 ('old woman, returning from the garden with crop in her bag')
nwiKasulia kuakua5 ('short yoke')
tnlKasulia rerparep4 ('short yoke')
Taurus' Head Fig. 2
HIP: 21421, 20894, 20205, 20455, 20889
nwiKuhwa5 ('pincers used for taking hot stones out of the fire')
tnlKou4 ('pincers used for taking hot stones out of the fire')
Scorpion's Dart Fig. 12
HIP: 85927, 85696, 87073, 86670
nwiIahuk5 ('rat')
tnlKahau1, 2, 5 ('rat')
Orion's Body Fig. 4
HIP: 27989, 25336, 25930, 24436, 27366, 26727
nwiKelel5 ('fan')
tnlKilil4 ('traditional fan' made from palm leaves)
Southern Cross Fig. 7
HIP: 61084, 60718, 62434, 59747
appWamso nan kawolwol11
bpaLébuowuo9
nwiSuatu kuas5 ('four customary ways')
tnlSuatu kywer5 ('four customary ways' connecting four villages with a nakamal)
Pleiades Fig. 1
HIP: 17847, 17702, 17608, 17499, 17573
bpaVéviép mbwéiagiag9 (their appearance on the sky marks the time of planting yams)
mmgUaiu10
nwiNepian Lapnuman5 ('brothers of Lapnuman')
tnlNowaswas Lapnuman4 ('young boys of Lapnuman')
tnlNeperawen Lapnuman4, 5 ('young girls of Lapnuman')
Alpha Centauri Fig. 9
HIP: 71683
tnlKaratéi1, 2
Aldebaran Fig. 3
HIP: 21421
nwiKwota tepas5
tnlKapaumeta3, 4
?
tnlMowaimawuk6 (name of an unidentified star, said to be close to the Moon or to rise close to it)
?
nwiKolaiwopom5 (name of an unidentified star or planet, that rises in the morning before Venus)
tnlIaiapom4, 6 (name of an unidentified star or planet, that rises in the morning before Venus)
?
tnlKwankaio1, 2 (name of an unidentified star or planet)

Constellation illustrations: Honza Čermák

Sources
1) Jimmy Napip (Ikumhala (Tanna))
2) Lomai Tain (Ielkes (Tanna))
3) Sylvano Kapalu (Ipai (Tanna))
4) Iawilu Naumusapen (Lowkweria (Tanna))
5) Kasékasé (Imapul (Tanna))
6) Nausien (Lamlu (Tanna))
7) Pierrot Nako Yaru (Lowanatom (Tanna))
8) Joe Natuman (Lowkweria (Tanna))
9) Donatien Cainas (Sesivi (Ambrym))
10) Viktori Batick (Olal (Ambrym))
11) Marie Reine Salwai (Melsisi (Pentecost))
12) Erina Vutiala (Lolopuépué (Ambae))
13) Sylvio Labouckly (Bethel (Malakula))
14) Astride Amos (Unmet (Malakula))
15) Flora Molvidoh (Melsisi (Pentecost))
16) Rosa Tepi (Lownapaiu (Tanna))
17) Graham Firiam (Epi)

Vanuatu