The Great Bear

The Great Bear

This morning I was meditating and looked out of the window, and there in the darkness was the Great Bear, hovering over the garden, squarely, as if it belonged there.
I had been meditating in the same spot for ten years, and never noticed it before! It must have been there all the time, because the window faces North. There it must have been, circling round and round, and I hadn’t ever seen it.
Of course, sometimes there would have been clouds, and sometimes the dawn would have come sooner and obliterated it, but still and all, it must have been there many times before.
And it made me think – how many things are there that have been there all the time, and I have never noticed? How often have I ignored something big that was staring me in the face? Because the Great Bear is huge, it covers a big chunk of the sky.
Not only that – the Great Bear is highly significant. It points to the North, and you can always locate the North Star by following the two stars at the square end. It is one of the most useful constellations in the sky, because it never fails – it is always there, no matter where you go in this country.
It is one of the 28 constellations listed by Ptolemy in the second century. It is mentioned in the Bible and in Homer’s Iliad. It is also called the Plough, the Wagon, the Big Dipper and Charles’ Wain. The Charles in question is actually Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. In Ireland it is called King David’s Chariot, and in France the Great Chariot. In Germany it is the Wagon of Odin. In Hindu mythology the stars of the Great Bear are known as the seven Rishis, or Sages. The Romans called these stars the Septentriones – the Guardians of the North. In Greek mythology, the nymph Callisto lost her virginity to Zeus and was changed into a bear by his jealous wife Hera. But she was then placed in the heavens by Zeus together with her child the Little Bear.
I knew none of this. How strange it is that we can ignore something so big and so important. How many other big things am I ignoring? How many big things are you ignoring? We talk sometimes of the elephant in the room – how about the great bear just outside the window

Books by John Rowan

Blog Posts


To get in touch with Dr John Rowan, please email

Dr John Rowan
70 Kings Head Hill
North Chingford
London E4 7LY

Tel: 020 8524 7381