HAFTŌRANG, the circumpolar constellation Ursa Major (UMa) was already known in Young Avestan literature under the appellative of haptōiriṇga- (only pl. with star-, m., “star”), a Bahuvrīhi compound (Duchesne-Guillemin, p. 177, 215) probably signifying “having seven signs,” as assumed by Bartholomae (col. 1767; cf. Justi, p. 320; out of date Spiegel, p. 533) with reference to Skt. liṅga- (“mark, spot, sign” etc.). Although Filliozat (p. 326) contested this comparison because liṅga- is attested only in Classical Skt., the existence of an OIr. stem *ringa- can be assumed on account of Man. Sogd. pring [prʾynk] (damask; cf. Man. M-P. pring [pryng], Pahlavi and Mod. Persian parand), which derives from O.Ir. *upa-ringa- (marked, figured), as shown by Henning (“TPS,” 1945, pp. 150-57 = SP, 2, pp. 259-66; Gharib, p. 281).

The identification of Av. Haptōiriṇga with UMa is correct (Khareghat, p. 123), as the Pahlavi and Persian sources confirm, while that with the Pleiades, advanced by Hertel (1931, p. 77; 1936, p. 11) is untenable. The representation of UMa as a constellation of seven stars is attested (e.g. in Vedic literature: sapta-rṣáyahá “the Seven Wises Men”), but older and more common in RV is the name ṛ´kṣāhá (“[the Seven] Bears”; see Khot. haudariṃcha- “the Seven Bears,” Bailey, p. 498; Cane-vascini, p. 132, n. 66, 285; Qing, pp. 81, 131). For other names and identifications (“Wagon,” “Bear(s),” etc.) in antiquity, see Scherer, pp. 131-40, 178 and passim; Göss-mann, pp. 95-97, n. 258; Allen, pp. 419-47; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1986, p. 237; Reiner, pp. 56-58).

The Haptōiriṇga-stars are only mentioned in the Yašt-literature and in the two Sīh Rōzags (Bartholomae, col. 1767; Khareghat, pp. 122-23; Gray, p. 149), where they are called (Yt. 12, 28; S. 1, 13; 2, 13) bāešaziia- (healing), mazdaδāta- (created [or “given”] by Mazdā), xᵛarə-naŋᵛhaṇt-xᵛarənah-endowed” (see FARNAH), and are worshipped with Tištrya (Sirius) and other minor Av. stars or constellations “so as to oppose the Yātus and the Pairikās” (Yt. 8, 12; Panaino, 1990, I, pp. 38, 104-7; idem, 1989, pp. 22-23). Their relationship with the stargod Sirius is confirmed by the fact that these stars are worshipped in the Sīh Rōzag litany specifically on the day (n. 13) dedicated to Tištrya (Hartman, p. 45). According to Yt. 13, 60, they are watched over by 99,999 Frauuaṧis.

In Pahlavi literature Haftōring [hpˊtw(k)lng] is the General of the North (Ir. and Ind. Bundahišn, II, 7; Henning, 1942, p. 231) and opposes the planet Ohrmazd (Jupiter; Ir.Bd., V, 4; MacKenzie, p. 513) or the planet Wahrām (Mars; Škand-gumānīg Wizār, IV, 32-33; see de Menasce, pp. 52, 53; but a Pāzand variant in the ŠGW (IV, 31) opposes Kēwān (Saturn) to Haftōring, cf. de Menasce, pp. 52, 54 in note; Eilers, 1967, p. 133). According to the Mēnōg ī Xrad, XLIX, 15-21 (text: Sanjana, p. 70; trans.: West, 1885, pp. 91-92; Bausani, pp. 155-56) Ursa Major protects and takes control over the regular turning of the twelve zodiacal signs, and it moves around hell (located to the north like Haftōring) controlling its gate to hold back 99,999 demonic beings with the help of the same number of Frawahrs. The kidneys (Pahl. gurdag) are the animal sacrificial portion belonging to Haftōring, according to Šāyest na Šāyest, XI, 4 (cf. Kotwal, pp. 22-23). The name of Haftōring is given a paretymological explanation (haft rag “seven veins”) in Ir. Bundahišn, II, 7; this passage attributes to the stars of the Big Dip-per seven ties each one bound to one of the Kešvars (continents; Henning, 1942, p. 232, n. 6; Panaino, 1996, chps. 4.0., 4.5.). The reading ‘βt’r’nkty (Ursa Major) in a Man. Sogdian fragment remains uncertain (cf. Sims-Williams, p. 61; Sundermann, pp. 30, n. 69, 31, n. 71; Gharib, p. 21).

In New Persian literature Ursa Major is called haft-ōrang, h. varang[-e mehīn] (UMa; H.-e kehīn being UMi); h. owrang (the seven thrones [also h. taḵt]); h. setāra-ḡan (the seven stars); h. barādarān or h. dādarān (the seven brothers); doḵtarān-enaʿš, and the Arabic banāt al-naʿš, or banāt al-naʿš al-kobrā [or al-ṣoġrā] (“the daughters of the Bier” [four of the stars are the bier and the remaining three the daughters]) are also both used; ḵers-e bozorg or dobb-e akbar (the Great Bear; cf. Horn, p. 196; see Dehḵodā, s.v. haft owrang; Eilers, 1976, 13, n. 31; Steingass, pp. 201, 505, 1411, 1503-04; Taqizāda, p. 112).



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(Antonio Panaino)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: March 1, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 5, pp. 533-534