This page attempts to explain the significance and meaning behind the Seven Stars Inn Sign. Research is augmented with photographs of pub signs.



 

Inn Signs
Inn Signs
Seven Stars

Background Information
In pub terms, The Seven Stars is an old religious sign and a favourite in the Middle Ages. It traditionally represented the seven-starred celestial crown which the Virgin Mary was usually shown wearing.

However, as with many inn signs, there are different interpretations - such as the first example in the above gallery at Oldswinford. In this illustration the artist has made piquant use of the seven stars of The Plough constellation and an agricultural plough on the ground.

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The Plough is the nickname of Ursa Major but is also known as The Great Bear or Big Dipper. The handle of the Dipper is the Great Bear's tail and the Dipper's cup is the Bear's flank. Technically however, The Big Dipper is not a constellation but an asterism, a term for a distinctive group of stars. The names of the seven stars which make up The Plough are Alkaid, Mizar, Alioth, Megrez, Dubhe, Phad and Merak. If you have been a scout or served in the armed forces you've probably been taught how to locate The Plough because, for those living in the Northern Hemisphere, you can use it to find other important stars. For example, it is a great navigational tool when you draw an imaginary line from Merak [bottom right] through Dubhe [top right] out of the cup of the dipper you will arrive at Polaris, the North Star.

Native American legend professes that the bowl of the Big Dipper is a giant bear and the stars of the handle are those of three warriors chasing it. The constellation appears low in the autumn sky, so it was said that the hunters had injured the bear and its blood caused the trees to change colour to red. In other cultures it was identified as a waggon or cart, a plow, and even a bull's thigh.

Naturally, The Great Bear is a key ingredient of Greek Mythology - so here's a bit of revision for you pub quizzers. According to Greek legend, The Great Bear is the tree nymph Adrasteia and associated with the birth of Zeus. However, another story suggests that The Great Bear represents one of the many loves of Zeus, Callisto, the daughter of King Lacaon of Arcadia.

Callisto was fond of hunting and joined the retinue of the Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt. Callisto became a favourite of Artemis, to whom she swore a vow of chastity. However, on one of Zeus's visits to earth, he happened upon Callisto sleeping in a forest grove and, wearing the guise of Artemis, he seduced her. Callisto became pregnant and the enraged Artemis banished her. Following the birth of a son, Arcas, Callisto became the target of the wrath of the jealous Hera, the spouse of Zeus. Hera changed the poor girl into a bear and for fifteen years she was forced to wander the woods in this form and, subsequently, became the prey of the hunters. She eventually encountered her son who, by now, had grown to be a hunter himself. Arcas was about to spear the bear when Zeus intervened. He sent down a whirlwind that cast Arcas and the bear into the heavens. Callisto became the constellation of Ursa Major and Arcas the constellation of Boötes. Hera however had the last of her revenge by arranging the bear so that it could never bathe in the cool northern waters. As a result, the bear never sets, at least when seen from the latitudes at which the Greek story tellers lived.

The second and third signs in the top gallery were photographed at the Staffordshire village of Seisdon. The earlier sign was erected to make the pub look a bit funky but they reverted to a more traditional sign board.
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Inn Sign
Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Great Bridge [1989]

Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Warwick [1991]

Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Kidderminster [1991]

Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Seisdon [2010]

Links to other Websites
Inn Sign Society

Featured Inn Signs
Click here for a list of inn signs featured on the website, along with an overview of British pub signs.

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Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Ledbury [1990]

Inn sign of the Seven Stars at Rugby [2003]

Quotation
Gilbert K. Chesterton
"One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.”
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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