Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rhiannon


Rhiannon is an old Welsh Goddess of the earth and fertility, of horses and birds, who has links to the Underworld and who is much featured in the Mabinogion.

Rhiannon's first husband was Pwyll, who had once done a stint as King of the Underworld.

Their son Pryderi vanished the night of his birth while the new mother and the women sent to guard them slept. When they woke to find the cradle empty, they were fearful they would be punished severely for their carelessness. They devised a plan to cast the blame on the goddess Rhiannon, who was, after all, an outsider, not really one of their own people. Killing a puppy, they smeared its blood on the sleeping Rhiannon and scattered its bones around her bed. Sounding the alarm, they accused the goddess of eating her own child.

Later, after Pwyll's death, Rhiannon married Manawydan, brother of Bran and Branwen and son of Llyr, a great magician. One day, all of Dyfed turned into a wasteland, and only Rhiannon, Manawydan, Pryderi, and his wife Cigfa, were spared. Manawydan and Pryderi out hunting followed an enormous white boar into a caer, where Pryderi saw a golden bowl; when he touched it, he was enspelled. Rhiannon went after him and fell under the same spell the caer then vanished, taking them with it. She was rescued when Manawydan captured the wife of their enemy, Llwyd, who was taking revenge for the illtreatment of Gwawl.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Origin of the Lakota Peace Pipe


Long, long ago, two young and handsome Lakota were chosen by their band to find out where the buffalo were. While the men were riding in the buffalo country, they saw someone in the distance walking toward them.

As always they were on the watch for any enemy. So they hid in some bushes and waited. At last the figure came up the slope. To their surprise, the figure walking toward them was a woman.

When she came closer, she stopped and looked at them. They knew that she could see them, even in their hiding place. On her left arm she carried what looked like a stick in a bundle of sagebrush. Her face was beautiful.

One of the men said, "She is more beautiful than anyone I have ever seen. I want her for my wife."

But the other man replied, "How dare you have such a thought? She is wondrously beautiful and holy--far above ordinary people."

Though still at a distance, the woman heard them talking. She laid down her bundle and spoke to them. "Come. What is it you wish?"

The man who had spoken first went up to her and laid his hands on her as if to claim her. At once, from somewhere above, there came a whirlwind. Then there came a mist, which hid the man and the woman. When the mist cleared, the other man saw the woman with the bundle again on her arm. But his friend was a pile of bones at her feet.

The man stood silent in wonder and awe. Then the beautiful woman spoke to him. "I am on a journey to your people. Among them is a good man whose name is Bull Walking Upright. I am coming to see him especially.

"Go on ahead of me and tell your people that I am on my way. Ask them to move camp and to pitch their tents in a circle. Ask them to leave an opening in the circle, facing the north. In the centre of the circle, make a large tepee, also facing the north. There I will meet Bull Walking Upright and his people."

The man saw to it that all her directions were followed. When she reached the camp, she removed the sagebrush from the gift she was carrying. The gift was a small pipe made of red stone. On it was carved the tiny outline of a buffalo calf.

The pipe she gave to Bull Walking Upright, and then she taught him the prayers he should pray to the Strong One Above. "When you pray to the Strong One Above, you must use this pipe in the ceremony. When you are hungry, unwrap the pipe and lay it bare in the air. Then the buffalo will come where the men can easily hunt and kill them. So the children, the men, and the women will have food and be happy."

The beautiful woman also told him how the people should behave in order to live peacefully together. She taught them the prayers they should say when praying to their Mother Earth. She told him how they should decorate themselves for ceremonies.

"The earth," she said, "is your mother. So, for special ceremonies, you will decorate yourselves as your mother does--in black and red, in brown and white. These are the colours of the buffalo also.

"Above all else, remember that this is a peace pipe that I have given you. You will smoke it before all ceremonies. You will smoke it before making treaties. It will bring peaceful thoughts into your minds. If you will use it when you pray to the Strong One above and to Mother Earth you will be sure to receive the blessings that you ask."

When the woman had completed her message, she turned and slowly walked away. All the people watched her in awe. Outside the opening of the circle, she stopped for an instant and then lay down on the ground. She rose again in the form of a black buffalo cow. Again she lay down and then arose in the form of a red buffalo cow. A third time she lay down, and arose as a brown buffalo cow. The fourth and last time she had the form of a spotlessly white buffalo cow. Then she walked toward the north into the distance and finally disappeared over a far-off hill.

Bull Walking Upright kept the peace pipe carefully wrapped most of the time. Every little while he called all his people together, untied the bundle, and repeated the lessons he had been taught by the beautiful woman. And he used it in prayers and other ceremonies until he was more than one hundred years old.

When he became feeble, he held a great feast. There he gave the pipe and the lessons to Sunrise, a worthy man. In a similar way the pipe was passed down from generation to generation. "As long as the pipe is used," the beautiful woman had said, "Your people will live and will be happy. As soon as it is forgotten, the people will perish."

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Zeus


Zeus was the supreme god, the master of all gods and men. Zeus was the god of light, of the sky and of atmospheric phenomena: winds, clouds, rain, thunder. But Zeus not only presided over celestial manifestations causing rain, thunder and lightning. Above all he maintained order and justice in the world. To mortals he dispensed good and evil from the jars that were placed at the gate of his palace. Zeus was the youngest son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea (Cybele). When he was born, his father Cronus intended to swallow him as he had all of Zeus's siblings: Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, Demeter and Hera. But Rhea hid the newborn in a cave on Mount Dicte in Crete. When he had grown up, Zeus caused Cronus to vomit up his sisters and brothers, and these gods joined him in fighting to wrest control of the universe from the Titans and Cronus, their king. Having vanquished his father and the other Titans, Zeus imprisoned most of them in the underworld of Tartarus. Then he and his brothers Poseidon and Hades divided up creation. Poseidon received the sea as his domain, Hades got the Underworld and Zeus took the sky. Zeus also was accorded supreme authority on earth and on Mount Olympus.


The Legend of King Onjo of Paekche


The father of King Onjo, founder of Paekche, was Chumong. He fled from North Puyô to escape troubles and went to Cholbon Puyô, whose king had no son but had three daughters. Knowing that Chumong was extraordinary, the king presented his second daughter to him in marriage. Shortly thereafter, the king died and was succeeded by Chumong. Chumong had two sons, Piryu and Onjo. When Yuri, a son of Chumong, born in North Puyô, came to Cholbon Puyô and became heir to the throne, Piryu and Onjo were afraid of being rejected by their half brother and travelled south with ten counselors, including Ogan and Maryô. Many followed them. Upon reaching Hansan, they climbed Pua Peak (Mount Samgak) to find a place to settle. When Piryu wished to settle by the sea, the counselors advised him: "The land south of the Han borders the Han River to the north, takes to a high mountain to the east, views a fertile marsh to the south, and is separated by a great sea to the west. Its natural fastness is unparalleled, a place fit for your capital." But Piryu did not listen. He divided the people and went to Mich'uhol to settle. Onjo set up his capital at Hanam Wiryesông, made ten counselors his assistants, and named his country Sipche. This was in the third year of Hung-chia of Emperor Cheng of the Former Han [18 BC]. Because the land of Mich'uhol was wet and its water salty, Piryu could not live in comfort; when he returned and saw Wirye firmly established and its people happy, he died of shame and remorse. His followers pledged allegiance to Wirye and joyfully came to submit, hence the country was named Paekche. Like Koguryô, the ruling family of Paekche stems from Puyô, which they adopted as their clan name.

Chicomecoatl



Aztec goddess of sustenance and, hence, of maize a goddess of plenty and the female aspect of corn. Chicomecoatl means Seven-Serpent, an esoteric name for maize; she was also called Chicomolotzin (Seven Ears of Maize). A very ancient goddess of Nahua-speaking peoples, she was one of several maize deities, of whom Centeotl (the god of the maize plant) and Xilonen (goddess of the young corn) were especially important.
Every September a young girl representing Chicomecoatl was sacrificed. The priests decapitated the girl, collected her blood and poured it over a figurine of the goddess. The corpse was then flayed and the skin was worn by a priest.
She comes in various appearances: a girl with waterflowers, a woman whose embrace means certain death, and as mother who carries the sun with her as a shield. She is regarded as the female counterpart of the maize god Cinteotl, their symbol being an ear of corn. She is occasionally called Xilonen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Durga


Symbol of Cosmic Harmony. Durga is depicted as a warrior woman riding a lion or a tiger with multiple hands carrying weapons and assuming mudras, or symbolic hand gestures. This form of the Goddess is the embodiment of feminine and creative energy (Shakti).
The warrior goddess, riding upon a lion and wielding a weapon in each of her 10 arms, corresponds with Inanna .
Also known as Parvati or Lalitha is the wife (consort) of Lord Shiva and exists in various divine (both friendly and fearful) forms. She is depicted calm-faced and smiling as she defeats the buffalo demon. The latter symbolizes that egoistic force of maya (the everyday world) which deludes individuals and keeps them from knowing their innate nature as god. Durga, the fierce and creative shakti aspect of Godhead.

Cybele - Rhea


Mother Earth. Cybele personifies the earth in its primitive and savage state. From Pre-classic Greece to early Christian times she represented Gaia, the deified earth, and inherited many attributes of the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna . As Rhea (Earth), Cybele was wife to her brother Chronos (Sky), and from him gave birth to Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus, hence her Roman title of Magna Mater or "Great Mother". In this depiction Cybele's queenship as Magna Mater of Rome is symbolized by her throne and lions. She holds the frame drum; her bowl of prophecy and staring gaze proclaim her power. The blazing torch symbolizes her bull-consort Attis in resurrection. Saint Peter's Cathedral stands upon the site of Cybele's temple in Rome. The Sybils at Cumae were her priestess-oracles.


Prayer to Cybele

Great Goddess of women, protectress from one's enemies, healer of grave illness, guardian of the dead, and mistress of prophecy and the future.
Aid me in my quest of spiritual fulfillment,
and like Attis (who was your son and was resurrected as your daughter),
transform me as adopted daughter and gallae to fulfill myself
as I know myself to be -- whole and woman.
Grant me safe passage in my physical transition,
as directed from within or without.


Grant me leave to discern and discover the future,
for myself and for others in constructive ways.


Legend of Olive Tree


The Greek legend tells how Pailas Atenea, goddess of wisdom, caused the olive tree to appear in the Acropolis with a blow of her lance. The Hellenes told the fable of the minor dispute that had broken out on Olympus between Neptune and Minerva, in order to decide who would reign in Attica. Jupiter proposed that the kingdom should be granted to whoever presented the most useful gift for Humanity. Neptune presented a horse as swift as the wind, while Minerva brought a small olive branch, affirming that in the future it would become a strong tree, capable of living for centuries and whose fruits would be good to eat and from them an extraordinary liquid would be able to be extracted for the nourishment of man, soothe his wounds, give strength to his body and light for his nights, since he would know how to keep a small flame lit for hours. Fired with enthusiasm, Jupiter decided that Attica would be for Minerva and that its capital would be known as Athens.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Huitzilopochtli



God of war, son of Coatlicue. Principal god of the Aztecs. When Coatlicue became pregnant with Huitzilopochtli, her daughter Coyolxauhqui incited her brothers, the Centzon Huitznahua (the Four Hundred Stars) to destroy Coatlicue, because her pregnancy brought disgrace on the family. Still in the womb, Huitzilopochtli swore to defend his mother and immediately on being born put on battle armor and war paint. After defeating the Four Hundred Stars, Huitzilopochtli slew his sister and cast her down the hill at Templo Mayor where her body broke to pieces on striking the bottom. Priests at Templo Mayor killed prisoners in the same way, these sacrifices being replicas of mythical events designed to keep the daily battle between day and night and the birth of the God of War ever in the minds of the people. Often considered synonymous with Quetzalcoatl.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mawu


Mawu is the supreme and creator god according to the Ewe/Fon people of Abomey/ Dahomey (Republic of Benin). Mawu represents the moon that brings the night and cooler temperature in the African world. She is depicted as an old mother who dwells in the West. Coolness is an expression of wisdom and age for the Fon people. Mawu has a partner called Liza that is associated with the sun. Liza is regarded by African people as fierce and harsh. Mawu and Liza are described as an unseparable unity at the basis of the universe. They are also regarded as twins. Their unity representes the order of the universe. Liza is said to dwell in the East, and Mawu in the West. When there is an eclipse of the sun or the moon, the Fon people think that Mawu and Liza are making love. Mawu and Liza are the parents of seven pairs of twins. These twins are gods with different domains. Mawu and Liza were born from Nana Buluku, who created the world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Anningan & Malina



Anningan is the name of the Moon god of some of the Inuit people that live in Greenland. The word "Inuit" means "people."

Anningan continually chases his sister, Malina, the Sun goddess, across the sky. During this chase, he forgets to eat, and he gets much thinner. This is symbolic of the phases of the moon, particularly the crescent.

To satisfy his hunger, he disappears for three days each month (new moon) and then returns full (gibbous) to chase his sister all over again. Malina wants to stay far away from her bad brother. That is why they rise and set at different times.

The Ten Chinese Suns


Chinese people believed that there existed ten suns that appeared in turn in the sky during the Chinese ten-day week. Each day the ten suns would travel with their mother, the goddess Xi He, to the Valley of the Light in the East. There, Xi He would wash her children in the lake and put them in the branches of an enormous mulberry tree called fu-sang.
From the tree, only one sun would move off into the sky for a journey of one day, to reach the mount Yen-Tzu in the Far West. Tired of this routine, the ten suns decided to appear all together. The combined heat made the life on the Earth unbearable.
To prevent the destruction of the Earth, the emperor Yao asked Di Jun, the father of the ten suns, to persuade his children to appear one at a time. They would not listen to him, so Di Jun sent the archer, Yi, armed with a magic bow and ten arrows to frighten the disobedient suns. However, Yi shot nine suns, only the Sun that we see today remained in the sky. Di Jun was so angry for the death of nine of his children that he condemned Yi to live as an ordinary mortal in the earth.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cerberus



Cerberus is one of the offspring of Typhoeus and Echidna. It is a three headed dog with a snake tail and snake heads proturding from his back. He guards the entrance to the underworld, allowing the dead to enter but, never to leave. One of the few living mortals to get past Cerberus was Orpheus who charmed it to sleep with his song during his attempt to rescue Eurydice from death. Fetching Cerberus from the underworld and displaying him to King Eurystheus was the last labor of Herakles .

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brigid


One of the most complex and contradictory Goddesses of the Celtic pantheon, Brigid can be seen as the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. She has succeeded in travelling intact through generations, fulfilling different roles in divergent times. She was, and continues to be, known by many names. Referred to as Bride, Bridey, Brighid, Brigit, Briggidda, Brigantia and she is the Celtic Goddessof Fire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries.

Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great 'father-god' of Ireland.
In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth.
It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.



Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the hearth flame,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Brigid of the augury,
Brigid of the white feet,
Brigid of calmness,
Brigid of the white milk,
Brigid of the crossroads.
I am under the keeping of my Mother Mary.

My companion beloved is Brigid.
I shall not be slain,
I shall not be sworded,
I shall not be put in a cell,
I shall not be hewn,
I shall not be anguished,
I shall not be wounded,
I shall not be blinded,
I shall not be left bare,
Nor will Mary leave me forgotten.
I am under the shielding of good Brigid each day.

I am under the shielding of good Brigid each night.
I am under the keeping of the Midwife of Mary
Each early and late, every dark, every light.
Brigid is my protector, Brigid is my maker of song.
Brigid is my sword and shield, Brigid is my guide.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Herakles


Herakles is best known as the strongest of all mortals. Stronger then many gods. So strong he was the deciding factor in allowing the Olympian Gods to win their battle with the giants. He was the last mortal son of Zeus. He is the only man born of mortal woman to become a god upon his death.

Offsetting his strength was a noticeable lack of intelligence or wisdom. Once when he became too hot he pulled his bow out and threaten to shoot the sun. This coupled with strong emotions in one so powerful frequently got Herakles in trouble. While his friend and cousin Theseus ruled Athens, Heracles had trouble ruling himself. His pride was easily offended. He took up grudges easily and never forgot them. His appetites for food, wine, and women were as massive as his strength. Many of Herakles great deeds occurred while doing penance for stupid acts done in anger or carelessness.

It would be easy to view Herakles as a muscle bound buffoon. Indeed, many of the comic Greek playwrights used him this way. Even among serious critics he was often seen as a primitive, brutal, and violent. There is much to support this view. His chosen weapon was a massive club. His customary garment a lion skin, head still attached. He impiously wounded some of the gods. He threatened Apollo priestess at Delphi when a answer to his questions was not forthcoming. He created most of his own problems.

However, Herakles as simply a macho buffoon is unfair. If he held grudges, he would also do anything to help a friend. Once his anger passed he was the most critical judge of his own actions. He was too strong for anyone to force a punishment on him. That he willing did severe penance shows a fundamental sense of justice. During his punishments he shows patience, fortitude and endurance that are as heroic as his strength. Terrible things happen to him because of Hera's hatred, a hatred that he is not responsible for. That he perseveres through it all is a moral victory beyond simple strength.

The view of Herakles shifted considerable over time. The early view focused on how badly he managed despite his obvious gifts. As time passed the focus shifted to his virtues. The Romans valued him highly as he best fit their idea of a hero. He eventually had a fair sized cult that worshiped him as a god.

Events in Herakles' Life
  • Conception and Birth
  • Early Feats
  • The Argo
  • Marriage to Megra
  • The Labors
  • Contest for Iole
  • As Queen Omphale's Slave
  • Revenge against Laomedon
  • Battle with the Giants
  • Revenge against Augeias
  • Revenge against Neleus
  • Marriage to Deianeira
  • Death of Nessus
  • Dual with Cycnus and Ares
  • Revenge against Eurytus
  • Death
  • Life in Olympus

Monday, September 10, 2007

La Voladora


La Voladora is a witch too, but she doesn't participate in most of the witch activities and is kept on the edge of the cult and used solely for her special powers of being able to transform herself into a bird. In order to fly she has to undergo a secret and magic process in order to lighten her body. This process consists of vomiting her intestines onto a lapa (a wooden plate or a mollusc) that she later hides in the forest. Once this small inconvenience is taken care of she is now free to fly across oceans and deliver important messages for the inner circle of the clan. Unlike other witches, she doesn't need the famous macuñ (a jacket made from the skin of a virgin's chest) to fly. Her flight, however, is accompanied by loud unpleasant noises that scare the locals away. La Voladora must finish her mission before dawn and must swallow her intestines to recuperate her human shape. Should someone hide the lapa then this poor unfortunate wench would be forced to wander the earth in bird form for a year and a day.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coyote and the Mice (A Native American story)


Not many animals liked Coyote. Some thought he was foolish and others thought he was boastful. The mice didn’t like him because he was mean to them. One day when he was out walking, Coyote saw the Mice making lots of noise and rushing around under a tree. "Quick! Quick! Throw that rope over the branch!" cried one. "I need a bag! I need a bag now!" cried another. They scurried around, tripping and falling over each other as they tied small bags onto the ends of several ropes, then threw the other ends over the branches. "What are you stupid mice up to now?" asked Coyote. "We haven’t got time to stop and talk Mr Coyote," squeaked one mouse, throwing a rope over another branch. "Haven’t you heard? North Wind is on his way. He's going to throw hailstones as big as a bear's paw at all the animals! We're going to climb into these bags and pull ourselves up under the branches, so the hailstones can’t hit us." Fearing the hailstones, Coyote said "I'll join you." All the mice stopped dead in their tracks. "Ohhh! I don’t know about that," they squeaked. "If you don’t let me, I'll be mean to you again," shouted Coyote. "Alright. You can join us," squeaked the mice. "But you'll have to get your own bag and rope because we don’t have anything big enough or strong enough to hold you." "No problem," said Coyote. "I've got everything I need at home". "Then hurry Mr Coyote, because North Wind will be here any minute." Coyote rushed off home. The mice waited until he was out of sight, then fell over squeaking with laughter. When they saw him coming back they picked themselves up and pretended to tie more bags. "You must wait until last and pull yourself up, Mr Coyote, because you are too heavy," said the mice. "No. I'll go first," said Coyote. "North Wind is fast and could get here before I’m protected. If all of you hold the end of the rope you can pull me up." The mice shook their heads doubtfully. Coyote yelled "do it, or I'll be mean to you!" "Alright," said the mice. Coyote got into the bag and the mice tied the rope around the top of it. A mouse picked up a small stone and threw it at the bag. "Ouch," said Coyote "I felt a hailstone already. Quick, get me up under the tree!" The mice pulled on the rope until Coyote swung off the ground. Then they tied the end of the rope around the tree trunk. The mice picked up stones and threw them at the bag. "Ooowww! Ooowww!" howled Coyote. "The hailstones hurt." "Be brave Mr Coyote. The storm will pass soon," said the mice. And they picked up bigger stones to throw at the bag. "Ooowww, my head! Oooww, my back!" howled Coyote. Finally they stopped throwing stones and one of the mice said, "North Wind has gone now, we can come down." When Coyote’s bag was on the ground and the rope untied, Coyote slowly crawled out onto the ground, all battered and bruised. "I thought I was going to die," he said. "They must have been the biggest hailstones ever!" Coyote felt the ground. It was dry. He looked up at the blue sky and there wasn’t a cloud to be see. "How could this be? We've just had a hailstorm," he said. "We tricked you, you dumb old Coyote," yelled the mice as they scurried off into their holes, laughing. "I’ll get you for this," howled Coyote, feeling his sore head. "But not today". "Ooow, my sore head. Ooow, my sore back. Ooow, my sore nose" he cried as he slowly hobbled home to bed.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Ama-no-Iwato, the Heavenly Rock Cave


After heaven and earth had been separated, two married kami, Izanagi-no-kami and Izanami-no-kami, gave birth to the land of Japan and to various kami of the seas, the rivers, the mountains and the fields. Finally the two gave birth to three specially revered kami: Amaterasu Omikami, Tsukiyomi-no-kami and Susanoo-no-kami. They gave necklace of jewel beads to Amaterasu Omikami and ordered her to govern Takama-no-Hara (the Plain of Heaven), they further ordered Tsukiyomi-no-kami to govern the night and Susanoo-no-kami to govern the sea. Susanoo-no-kami, however, went against the will of the married deities and gave up governing the sea. Instead he ascended to Takama-no-Hara, and committed outrageous deeds such as destroying the paddy fields and the weaving house on the Heavenly Plain. Amaterasu Omikami angered by his behavior and hid herself in the Heavenly Rock Cave called Ama-no-Iwato. As a result, the world of both heaven and earth became dark, throwing everything into confusion. The eight million kami got together beside the river in the Plain of Heaven, debating how to induce Amaterasu Omikami to come out of the Heavenly Rock Cave. They decided first to make the divine mirror Yata-no-Kagami and hang it in front of the cave, second, to hold a joyous festival, and third, to perform the sacred dance and music called kagura. As a result of this, Amaterasu Omikami emerged from the Heavenly Rock Cave, illuminating everything with her gentle light. She made heaven and earth bright again and brought back harmony and order. Susanoo-no-kami was expelled from the Heavenly Plain to the land of Izumo. There Susanoo-no-kami, killed a giant snake, the Yamata-no-Orochi, which had been tormenting the people of Izumo. He extracted a divine sword out of the snake's tail and presented it to Amaterasu Omikami. This sword is one of the three imperial regalia.

Friday, September 7, 2007

White Plume


There once lived a young couple who were very happy. The young man was noted throughout the whole nation for his accuracy with the bow and arrow, and was given the title of "Dead Shot," or "He who never misses his mark," and the young woman, noted for her beauty, was named Beautiful Dove.

One day a stork paid this happy couple a visit and left them a fine big boy. The boy cried "Ina, ina" (mother, mother). "Listen to our son," said the mother, "he can speak, and hasn't he a sweet voice?" "Yes," said the father, "it will not be long before he will be able to walk." He set to work making some arrows, and a fine hickory bow for his son. One of the arrows he painted red, one blue, and another yellow. The rest he left the natural color of the wood. When he had completed them, the mother placed them in a fine quiver, all worked in porcupine quills, and hung them up over where the boy slept in his fine hammock of painted moose hide.

At times when the mother would be nursing her son, she would look up at the bow and arrows and talk to her baby, saying: "My son, hurry up and grow fast so you can use your bow and arrows. You will grow up to be as fine a marksman as your father." The baby would coo and stretch his little arms up towards the bright colored quiver as though he understood every word his mother had uttered. Time passed and the boy grew up to a good size, when one day his father said: "Wife, give our son the bow and arrows so that he may learn how to use them." The father taught his son how to string and unstring the bow, and also how to attach the arrow to the string. The red, blue and yellow arrows, he told the boy, were to be used only whenever there was any extra good shooting to be done, so the boy never used these three until he became a master of the art. Then he would practice on eagles and hawks, and never an eagle or hawk continued his flight when the boy shot one of the arrows after him.

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One day the boy came running into the tent, exclaiming: "Mother, mother, I have shot and killed the most beautiful bird I ever saw." "Bring it in, my son, and let me look at it." He brought the bird and upon examining it she pronounced it a different type of bird from any she had ever seen. Its feathers were of variegated colors and on its head was a topknot of pure white feathers. The father, returning, asked the boy with which arrow he had killed the bird. "With the red one," answered the boy. "I was so anxious to secure the pretty bird that, although I know I could have killed it with one of my common arrows, I wanted to be certain, so I used the red one." "That is right, my son," said the father. "When you have the least doubt of your aim, always use one of the painted arrows, and you will never miss your mark."

The parents decided to give a big feast in honor of their son killing the strange, beautiful bird. So
a great many elderly women were called to the tent of Pretty Dove to assist her in making ready for the big feast. For ten days these women cooked and pounded beef and cherries, and got ready the choicest dishes known to the Indians. Of buffalo, beaver, deer, antelope, moose, bear, quail, grouse, duck of all kinds, geese and plover meats there was an abundance. Fish of all kinds, and every kind of wild fruit were cooked, and when all was in readiness, the heralds went through the different villages, crying out: "Ho-po, ho-po" (now all, now all), Dead Shot and his wife, Beautiful Dove, invite all of you, young and old, to their tepee to partake of a great feast, given by them in honor of a great bird which their son has killed, and also to select for their son some good name which he will bear through life. So all bring your cups and wooden dishes along with your horn spoons, as there will be plenty to eat. Come, all you council men and chiefs, as they have also a great tent erected for you in which you hold your council."

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Thus crying, the heralds made the circle of the village. The guests soon arrived. In front of the tent was a pole stuck in the ground and painted red, and at the top of the pole was fastened the bird of variegated colors; its wings stretched out to their full length and the beautiful white waving so beautifully from its topknot, it was the center of attraction. Half way up the pole was tied the bow and arrow of the young marksman. Long streamers of fine bead and porcupine work waved from the pole and presented a very striking appearance. The bird was faced towards the setting sun. The great chief and medicine men pronounced the bird "Wakan" (something holy).

When the people had finished eating they all fell in line and marched in single file beneath the bird, in order to get a close view of it. By the time this vast crowd had fully viewed the wonderful bird, the sun was just setting clear in the west, when directly over the rays of the sun appeared a cloud in the shape of a bird of variegated colors. The councilmen were called out to look at the cloud, and the head medicine man said that it was a sign that the boy would grow up to be a great chief and hunter, and would have a great many friends and followers.

This ended the feast, but before dispersing, the chief and councilmen bestowed upon the boy the title of White Plume.

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One day a stranger came to the village, who was very thin and nearly starved. So weak was he that he could not speak, but made signs for something to eat. Luckily the stranger came to Dead Shot's tent, and as there was always a plentiful supply in his lodge, the stranger soon had a good meal served him. After he had eaten and rested he told his story.

"I came from a very great distance," said he. "The nations where I came from are in a starving condition. No place can they find any buffalo, deer nor antelope. A witch or evil spirit in the shape of a white buffalo has driven all the large game out of the country. Every day this white buffalo comes circling the village, and any one caught outside of their tent is carried away on its horns. In vain have the best marksmen of the tribe tried to shoot it. Their arrows fly wide off the mark, and they have given up trying to kill it as it bears a charmed life. Another evil spirit in the form of a red eagle has driven all the birds of the air out of our country. Every day this eagle circles above the village, and so powerful is it that anyone being caught outside of his tent is descended upon and his skull split open to the brain by the sharp breastbone of the Eagle. Many a marksman has tried his skill on this bird, all to no purpose.

"Another evil spirit in the form of a white rabbit has driven out all the animals which inhabit the ground, and destroyed the fields of corn and turnips, so the nation is starving, as the arrows of the marksmen have also failed to touch the white rabbit. Any one who can kill these three witches will receive as his reward, the choice of two of the most beautiful maidens of our nation. The younger one is the handsomer of the two and has also the sweetest disposition. Many young, and even old men, hearing of this (our chief's) offer, have traveled many miles to try their arrows on the witches, but all to no purpose. Our chief, hearing of your great marksmanship, sent me to try and secure your services to have you come and rid us of these three witches."

Thus spoke the stranger to the hunter. The hunter gazed long and thoughtfully into the dying embers of the camp fire. Then slowly his eyes raised and looked lovingly on his wife who sat opposite to him. Gazing on her beautiful features for a full minute he slowly dropped his gaze back to the dying embers and thus answered his visitor:

"My friend, I feel very much honored by your chief having sent such a great distance for me, and also for the kind offer of his lovely daughter in marriage, if I should succeed, but I must reject the great offer, as I can spare none of my affections to any other woman than to my queen whom you see sitting there."

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White Plume had been listening to the conversation and when his father had finished speaking, said: "Father, I am a child no more. I have arrived at manhood. I am not so good a marksman as you, but I will go to this suffering tribe and try to rid them of their three enemies. If this man will rest for a few days and return to his village and inform them of my coming, I will travel along slowly on his trail and arrive at the village a day or two after he reaches there."

"Very well, my son," said the father, "I am sure you will succeed, as you fear nothing, and as to your marksmanship, it is far superior to mine, as your sight is much clearer and aim quicker than mine."

The man rested a few days and one morning started off, after having instructed White Plume as to the trail. White Plume got together what he would need on the trip and was ready for an early start the next morning. That night Dead Shot and his wife sat up away into the night instructing their son how to travel and warning him as to the different kinds of people he must avoid in order to keep out of trouble. "Above all," said the father, "keep a good look out for Unktomi (spider); he is the most tricky of all, and will get you into trouble if you associate with him."

White Plume left early, his father accompanying him for several miles. On parting, the father's last words were: "Look out for Unktomi, my son, he is deceitful and treacherous." "I'll look out for him, father;" so saying he disappeared over a hill. On the way he tried his skill on several hawks and eagles and he did not need to use his painted arrows to kill them, but so skillful was he with the bow and arrows that he could bring down anything that flew with his common arrows. He was drawing near to the end of his destination when he had a large tract of timber to pass through. When he had nearly gotten through the timber he saw an old man sitting on a log, looking wistfully up into a big tree, where sat a number of prairie chickens.

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"Hello, grandfather, why are you sitting there looking so downhearted?" asked White Plume. "I am nearly starved, and was just wishing some one would shoot one of those chickens for me, so I could make a good meal on it," said the old man. "I will shoot one for you," said the young man. He strung his bow, placed an arrow on the string, simply seemed to raise the arrow in the direction of the chicken (taking no aim). Twang went out the bow, zip went the arrow and a chicken fell off the limb, only to get caught on another in its descent. "There is your chicken, grandfather." "Oh, my grandson, I am too weak to climb up and get it. Can't you climb up and get it for me?" The young man, pitying the old fellow, proceeded to climb the tree, when the old man stopped him, saying: "Grandson, you have on such fine clothes, it is a pity to spoil them; you had better take them off so as not to spoil the fine porcupine work on them." The young man took off his fine clothes and climbed up into the tree, and securing the chicken, threw it down to the old man. As the young man was scaling down the tree, the old man said: "Iyashkapa, iyashkapa," (stick fast, stick fast). Hearing him say something, he asked, "What did you say, old man?" He answered, "I was only talking to myself." The young man proceeded to descend, but he could not move. His body was stuck fast to the bark of the tree. In vain did he beg the old man to release him. The old Unktomi, for he it was, only laughed and said: "I will go now and kill the evil spirits, I have your wonderful bow and arrows and I cannot miss them. I will marry the chief's daughter, and you can stay up in that tree and die there."

So saying, he put on White Plume's fine clothes, took his bow and arrows and went to the village. As White Plume was expected at any minute, the whole village was watching for him, and when Unktomi came into sight the young men ran to him with a painted robe, sat him down on it and slowly raising him up they carried him to the tent of the chief. So certain were they that he would kill the evil spirits that the chief told him to choose one of the daughters at once for his wife. (Before the arrival of White Plume, hearing of him being so handsome, the two girls had quarreled over which should marry him, but upon seeing him the younger was not anxious to become his wife.) So Unktomi chose the older one of the sisters, and was given a large tent in which to live. The younger sister went to her mother's tent to live, and the older was very proud, as she was married to the man who would save the nation from starvation. The next morning there was a great commotion in camp, and there came the cry that the white buffalo was coming. "Get ready, son-in-law, and kill the buffalo," said the chief.

Unktomi took the bow and arrows and shot as the buffalo passed, but the arrow went wide off its mark. Next came the eagle, and again he shot and missed. Then came the rabbit, and again he missed.

"Wait until tomorrow, I will kill them all. My blanket caught in my bow and spoiled my aim." The people were very much disappointed, and the chief, suspecting that all was not right, sent for the young man who had visited Dead Shot's tepee. When the young man arrived, the chief asked: "Did you see White Plume when you went to Dead Shot's camp?"

"Yes, I did, and ate with him many times. I stayed at his father's tepee all the time I was there," said the young man. "Would you recognize him if you saw him again?" asked the chief. "Any one who had but one glimpse of White Plume would surely recognize him when he saw him again, as he is the most handsome man I ever saw," said the young man.

"Come with me to the tent of my son-in-law and take a good look at him, but don't say what you think until we come away." The two went to the tent of Unktomi, and when the young man saw him he knew it was not White Plume, although it was White Plume's bow and arrows that hung at the head of the bed, and he also recognized the clothes as belonging to White Plume. When they had returned to the chief's tent, the young man told what he knew and what he thought. "I think this is some Unktomi who has played some trick on White Plume and has taken his bow and arrows and also his clothes, and hearing of your offer, is here impersonating White Plume. Had White Plume drawn the bow on the buffalo, eagle and rabbit today, we would have been rid of them, so I think we had better scare this Unktomi into telling us where White Plume is," said the young man.

"Wait until he tries to kill the witches again tomorrow," said the chief.

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In the meantime the younger daughter had taken an axe and gone into the woods in search of dry wood. She went quite a little distance into the wood and was chopping a dry log. Stopping to rest a little she heard some one saying: "Whoever you are, come over here and chop this tree down so that I may get loose." Going to where the big tree stood, she saw a man stuck onto the side of the tree. "If I chop it down the fall will kill you," said the girl. "No, chop it on the opposite side from me, and the tree will fall that way. If the fall kills me, it will be better than hanging up here and starving to death," said White Plume, for it was he.

The girl chopped the tree down and when she saw that it had not killed the man, she said: "What shall I do now?" "Loosen the bark from the tree and then get some stones and heat them. Get some water and sage and put your blanket over me." She did as told and when the steam arose from the water being poured upon the heated rocks, the bark loosened from his body and he arose. When he stood up, she saw how handsome he was. "You have saved my life," said he. "Will you be my wife?" "I will," said she. He then told her how the old man had fooled him into this trap and took his bow and arrows, also his fine porcupine worked clothes, and had gone off, leaving him to die. She, in turn, told him all that had happened in camp since a man, calling himself White Plume, came there and married her sister before he shot at the witches, and when he came to shoot at them, missed every shot. "Let us make haste, as the bad Unktomi may ruin my arrows."

They approached the camp and whilst White Plume waited outside, his promised wife entered Unktomi's tent and said: "Unktomi, White Plume is standing outside and he wants his clothes and bow and arrows." "Oh, yes, I borrowed them and forgot to return them; make haste and give them to him."

Upon receiving his clothes, he was very much provoked to find his fine clothes wrinkled and his bow twisted, while the arrows were twisted out of shape. He laid the clothes down, also the bows and arrows, and passing his hand over them, they assumed their right shapes again. The daughter took White Plume to her father's tent and upon hearing the story he at once sent for his warriors and had them form a circle around Unktomi's tent, and if he attempted to escape to catch him and tie him to a tree, as he (the chief) had determined to settle accounts with him for his treatment of White Plume, and the deception employed in winning the chief's eldest daughter. About midnight the guard noticed something crawling along close to the ground, and seizing him found it was Unktomi trying to make his escape before daylight, whereupon they tied him to a tree. "Why do you treat me thus," cried Unktomi, "I was just going out in search of medicine to rub on my arrows, so I can kill the witches." "You will need medicine to rub on yourself when the chief gets through with you," said the young man who had discovered that Unktomi was impersonating White Plume.

In the morning the herald announced that the real White Plume had arrived, and the chief desired the whole nation to witness his marksmanship. Then came the cry: "The White Buffalo comes." Taking his red arrow, White Plume stood ready. When the buffalo got about opposite him, he let his arrow fly. The buffalo bounded high in the air and came down with all four feet drawn together under its body, the red arrow having passed clear through the animal, piercing the buffalo's heart. A loud cheer went up from the village.

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"You shall use the hide for your bed," said the chief to White Plume. Next came a cry, "the eagle, the eagle." From the north came an enormous red eagle. So strong was he, that as he soared through the air his wings made a humming sound as the rumble of distant thunder. On he came, and just as he circled the tent of the chief, White Plume bent his bow, with all his strength drew the arrow back to the flint point, and sent the blue arrow on its mission of death. So swiftly had the arrow passed through the eagle's body that, thinking White Plume had missed, a great wail went up from the crowd, but when they saw the eagle stop in his flight, give a few flaps of his wings, and then fall with a heavy thud into the center of the village, there was a greater cheer than before. "The red eagle shall be used to decorate the seat of honor in your tepee," said the chief to White Plume. Last came the white rabbit. "Aim good, aim good, son-in-law," said the
chief. "If you kill him you will have his skin for a rug." Along came the white rabbit, and White Plume sent his arrow in search of rabbit's heart, which it found, and stopped Mr. Rabbit's tricks forever.

The chief then called all of the people together and before them all took a hundred willows and broke them one at a time over Unktomi's back. Then he turned him loose. Unktomi, being so ashamed, ran off into the woods and hid in the deepest and darkest corner he could find. This is why Unktomis (spiders) are always found in dark corners, and anyone who is deceitful or untruthful is called a descendant of the Unktomi tribe.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Gift To The Hummingbird


Tzunuum, the hummingbird, was created by the Great Spirit as a tiny, delicate bird with extraordinary flying ability. She was the only bird in the kingdom who could fly backwards and who could hover in one spot for several seconds. The hummingbird was very plain. Her feathers had no bright colors, yet she didn't mind. Tzunuum took pride in her flying skill and was happy with her life despite her looks.

When it came time to be married, Tzunuum found that she had neither a wedding gown nor a necklace. She was so disappointed and sad that some of her best friends decided to create a wedding dress and jewelry as a surprise.

Ya, the vermilion-crowned flycatcher wore a gay crimson ring of feathers around his throat in those days. He decided to use it as his gift. So he tucked a few red plumes in his crown and gave the rest to the hummingbird for her necklace. Uchilchil, the bluebird, generously donated several blue feathers for her gown. The vain motmot, not to be outdone, offered more turquoise blue and emerald green. The cardinal, likewise, gave some red ones.

Then, Yuyum, the oriole, who was an excellent tailor as well as an engineer, sewed up all the plumage into an exquisite wedding gown for the little hummingbird. Ah-leum, the spider, crept up with a fragile web woven of shiny gossamer threads for her veil. She helped Mrs. Yuyum weave intricate designs into the dress. Canac, the honeybee, heard about the wedding and told all his friends who knew and liked the hummingbird. They brought much honey and nectar for the reception and hundreds of blossoms that were Tzunuum's favorites.

Then the Azar tree dropped a carpet of petals over the ground where the ceremony would take place. She offered to let Tzunuum and her groom spend their honeymoon in her branches. Pakal, the orange tree, put out sweet-smelling blossoms, as did Nicte, the plumeria vine. Haaz (the banana bush), Op the custard apple tree) and Pichi and Put (the guava and papaya bushes) made certain that their fruits were ripe so the wedding guests would find delicious refreshments. And, finally, a large band of butterflies in all colors arrived to dance and flutter gaily around the hummingbird's wedding site.

When the wedding day arrived, Tzunuum was so surprised, happy and grateful that she could barely twitter her vows. The Great Spirit so admired her humble, honest soul that he sent word down with his messenger, Cozumel, the swallow, that the hummingbird could wear her wedding gown for the rest of her life. And, to this day, she has. How did the humility of one long-ago hummingbird cause its descendants to sport brilliant colors?

Leprechauns


Leprechauns are the famed fairy creatures who own a crock of gold which they usually bury beneath the end of a rainbow, or some equally ephemeral and difficult to find spot. They are shoe-makers by trade and are usually found out of doors in rural areas. They are described as being no more than two feet tall. It is said that if you can keep your gaze fixed on them long enough that they are compelled to lead you to their crock of gold. Although they always manage to wrangle out of such compromising positions. Even if you do succeed in gaining the crock of gold it usually turns to nothing more than dried up old leaves the following day. They are noted for their fondness for alcohol which is usually made from heather or gorse or other unusual herbs or cereals, the making of which is a lost art, to ordinary mortals. They also have a great capacity to consume large amounts of ale and other intoxicating beverages.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The 4 Dragons: A Chinese Tale


Once upon a time, there were no rivers and lakes on earth, but only the Eastern Sea, in which lived four dragons: the Long Dragon, the Yellow Dragon, the Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon. One day the four dragons flew from the sea into the sky. They soared and dived, playing at hide-and-seek in the clouds. "Come over here quickly!" the Pearl Dragon cried out suddenly. "What's up?" asked the other three, looking down in the direction where the Pearl Dragon pointed. On the earth they saw many people putting out fruits and cakes, and burning incense sticks. They were praying! A white-haired woman, kneeling on the ground with a thin boy on her back, murmured: "Please send rain quickly, God of Heaven, to give our children rice to eat.." For there had been no rain for a long time. The crops withered, the grass turned yellow and fields cracked under the scorching sun. "How poor the people are!" said the Yellow Dragon. "And they will die if it doesn't rain soon." The Long Dragon nodded. Then he suggested, "Let's go and beg the Jade Emperor for rain." So saying, he leapt into the clouds. The others followed closely and flew towards the Heavenly Palace. Being in charge of all the affairs in heaven, on earth and in the sea, the Jade Emperor was very powerful. He was not pleased to see the dragons rushing in. "Why do you come here instead of staying in the sea and behaving yourselves?" The Long Dragon stepped forward and said, "The crops on earth are withering and dying, Your Majesty. I beg you to send rain down quickly!" "All right. You go back first, I'll send some rain down tomorrow." The Jade Emperor pretended to agree while listening to the songs of the fairies. "Thanks, Your Majesty!" The four dragons went happily back. But ten days passed, and not a drop of rain came down. The people suffered more, some eating bark, some grass roots, some forced to eat white clay when they ran out of bark and grass roots. Seeing all this, the four dragons felt very sorry, for they knew the Jade Emperor only cared about pleasure, and never took the people to heart. They could only rely on themselves to relieve the people of their miseries. But how to do it? Seeing the vast sea, the Long Dragon said that he had an idea. "What is it? Out with it, quickly!" the other three demanded. "Look, is there not plenty of water in the sea where we live? We should scoop it up and spray it towards the sky. The water will be like rain drops and come down to save the people and their crops." "Good idea!" The others clapped their hands. "But," said the Long Dragon after thinking a bit, "We will be blamed if the Jade Emperor learns of this. "I will do anything to save the people," the Yellow Dragon said resolutely. "Let's begin. We will never regret it." The Black Dragon and the Pearl Dragon were not to be outdone. They flew to the sea, scooped up water in their mouths, and then flew back into the sky, where they sprayed the water out over the earth. The four dragons flew back and forth, making the sky dark all around. Before long the seawater became rain pouring down from the sky. "It's raining! It's raining!" "The crops will be saved!" The people cried and leaped with joy. On the ground the wheat stalks raised their heads and the sorghum stalks straightened up. The god of the sea discovered these events and reported to the Jade Emperor. "How dare the four dragons bring rain without my permission!" The Jade Emperor was enraged, and ordered the heavenly generals and their troops to arrest the four dragons. Being far outnumbered, the four dragons could not defend themselves, and they were soon arrested and brought back to the heavenly palace. "Go and get four mountains to lay upon them so that they can never escape!" The Jade Emperor ordered the Mountain God. The Mountain God used his magic power to make four mountains fly there, whistling in the wind from afar, and pressed them down upon the four dragons. Imprisoned as they were, they never regretted their actions. Determined to do good for the people forever, they turned themselves into four rivers, which flowed past high mountains and deep valleys, crossing the land from the west to the east and finally emptying into the sea. And so China's four great rivers were formed -- the Heilongjian (Black Dragon) in the far north, the Huanghe (Yellow River) in central China, the Changjiang (Yangtze, or Long River) farther south, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) in the very far south.

Banshees


Banshee or 'Bean-sidhe' is Irish for fairy woman. Her sharp, cries and wails are also called 'keening'. The English word 'Keen' is from the Irish 'Caoineadh' meaning lament. There is no harm or evil in her mere presence, unless she is seen in the act of crying; but this is a fatal sign. The wail of a banshee pierces the night, it's notes rising and falling like the waves of the sea, it always announces a mortal's death. She is solitary woman fairy, mourning and forewarning those only of the best families in Ireland, those with most ancient Celtic lineages. Those whose names begin with 'Mac/Mc' or 'O', whose origin dates from the time of the Irish heroes. The banshee loves the old mortal families with a fierce and unearthly caring. When a member of the beloved race is dying, she paces the dark hills about his house. She sharply contrasts against the night's blackness, her white figure emerges with silver-grey hair streaming to the ground and a grey-white cloak of a cobweb texture clinging to her tall thin body. Her face is pale, her eyes red with centuries of crying. But this is not the only way that the banshee appears, at other times she is seen as a beautiful young girl, with long, red-golden hair, and wearing a green kirtle and scarlet mantle, broached with gold, after the Irish fashion. Or she will appear shrouded and muffled in a dark, mist-like cloak. White Lady of Sorrow some people name her, and Lady of Death. She is the Woman of Peace and the Spirit of the Air. For despite her wailing, she is somehow graced with a manner of peace. Unseen, banshees attend the funerals of the beloved dead. Although, sometimes she can be heard wailing, her voice blending in with the mournful cries of others. Each banshee has her own mortal family. Out of love she follows the old race across the ocean to distant lands. Her wails or keen can be heard in America and England, wherever the true Irish have settled. But they never forget their blood ties; and neither does she.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Sings of Corn


When corn is to be planted by the Indians, it is the work of the women folk to see to the sorting and cleaning of the best seed. It is also the women's work to see to the planting. (This was in olden times.) After the best seed has been selected, the planter measures the corn, lays down a layer of hay, then a layer of corn. Over this corn they sprinkle warm water and cover it with another layer of hay, then bind hay about the bundle and hang it up in a spot where the warm rays of the sun can strike it. While the corn is hanging in the sun, the ground is being prepared to receive it. Having finished the task of preparing the ground, the woman takes down her seed corn which has by this time sprouted. Then she proceeds to plant the corn. Before she plants the first hill, she extends her hoe heavenwards and asks the Great Spirit to bless her work, that she may have a good yield. After her prayer she takes four kernels and plants one at the north, one at the south, one at the east and one at the west sides of the first hill. This is asking the Great Spirit to give summer rain and sunshine to bring forth a good crop. For different growths of the corn, the women have an interpretation as to the character of the one who planted it. 1st. Where the corn grows in straight rows and the cob is full of kernels to the end, this signifies that the planter of this corn is of an exemplary character, and is very truthful and thoughtful. 2nd. If the rows on the ears of corn are irregular and broken, the planter is considered careless and unthoughtful. Also disorderly and slovenly about her house and person. 3rd. When an ear of corn bears a few scattering kernels with spaces producing no corn, it is said that is a good sign that the planter will live to a ripe old age. So old will they be that like the corn, their teeth will be few and far between. 4th. When a stalk bears a great many nubbins, or small ears growing around the large one, it is a sign that the planter is from a large and respectable family. After the corn is gathered, it is boiled into sweet corn and made into hominy; parched and mixed with buffalo tallow and rolled into round balls, and used at feasts, or carried by the warriors on the warpath as food. When there has been a good crop of corn, an ear is always tied at the top of the medicine pole, of the sun dance, in thanks to the Great Spirit for his goodness to them in sending a bountiful crop.

The Legend of the Flute


Well, you know our flutes, you've heard their sounds and seen how beautifully they are made. That flute of ours, the siyotanka, is for only one kind of music, love music. In the old days the men would sit by themselves, maybe lean hidden, unseen, against a tree in the dark of night.

They would make up their own special tunes, their courting songs.

We Indians are shy. Even if he was a warrior who had already counted coup on a enemy, a young man might hardly screw up courage enough to talk to a nice-looking winchinchala -- a girl he was in love with. Also, there was no place where a young man and a girl could be alone inside the village. The family tipi was always crowded with people. And naturally, you couldn't just walk out of the village hand in hand with your girl, even if hand holding had been one of our customs, which it wasn't. Out there in the tall grass and sagebrush you could be gored by a buffalo, clawed by a grizzly, or tomahawked by a Pawnee, or you could run into the Mila Hanska, the Long Knives, namely the U.S. Cavalry.

The only chance you had to met your winchinchala was to wait for her at daybreak when the women went to the river or brook with their skin bags to get water. When that girl you had your eye on finally came down to the water trail, you popped up from behind some bush and stood so she could see you.

And that was about all you could do to show her that you were interested, Standing there grinning, looking at your moccasins, scratching your ear, maybe

The winchinchala didn't do much either, except get red in the face, giggle, maybe throw a wild turnip at you. If she liked you, the only way she would let you know was to take her time filling her water bag and peek at you a few times over her shoulder.

So the flutes did all the talking. At night, lying on her buffalo robe in her parents tipi, the girl would hear that moaning, crying sound of the siyotanka. By the way it was played, she would know that it was her lover who was out there someplace. And if the Elk Medicine was very strong in him and her, maybe she would sneak out to follow that sound and meet him without anybody noticing it.

The flute is always made of cedarwood. In the shape it describes the long neck and head of a bird with a open beak. The sound comes out of the beak, and that's where the legend comes in, the legend of how the Lakota people acquired the flute.

Once many generations ago, the people had drums, gourd rattles, and bull-roarers, but no flutes. At that long-ago time a young man went out to hunt. Meat was scarce, and the people in his camp were hungry. He found the tracks of an Elk and followed them for a long time. The Elk, wise and swift, is the one who owns the love charm. If a man possesses Elk Medicine, the girl he likes can't help sleeping with him. He will also be a lucky hunter. This young man I'm talking about had no Elk Medicine. After many hours he finally sighted his game. He was skilled with bow and arrows, and had a fine new bow and a quiver full of straight, well-feathered, flint-tipped arrows. Yet the Elk always managed to stay just out of range, leading him on and on. The young man was so intent on following his prey that he hardly noticed where he went.

When night came, he found himself deep inside a thick forest. The tracks had disappeared and so had the Elk, and there was no moon. He realized that he was lost and that it was too dark to find his way out. Luckily he came upon a stream with cool, clear water. And he had been careful enough to bring a hide bag of wasna, dried meat pounded with berries and kidney fat, strong food that will keep a man going for a few days. After he had drunk and eaten, he rolled himself into his fur robe, propped his back against a tree, and tried to rest. But he couldn't sleep, the forest was full of strange noises, and the cries of night animals, the hooting owls, the groaning of trees in the wind. It was as if he heard these sounds for the first time.

Suddenly there was a entirely new sound, of a kind neither he nor anyone else had ever heard before. It was mournful and ghost like. It made him afraid, so that he drew his robe tightly about himself and reached for his bow to make sure that it was properly strung. On the other hand, the sound was like a song, sad but beautiful, full of love, hope, and yearning. Then before he knew it, he was asleep. He dreamed that the bird called wagnuka, the redheaded woodpecker, appeared singing the strangely beautiful song and telling him, "Follow me and I will teach you."

When the hunter awoke, the sun was already high. On a branch of the tree against which he was leaning, he saw a redheaded woodpecker. The bird flew away to another tree, and another, but never very far, looking back all the time at the young man as if to say, "Come on!" Then once more he heard that wonderful song, and his heart yearned to find the singer. Flying toward the sound, leading the hunter, the bird flitted through the leaves, while its bright red top made easy to follow. At last it lighted on a cedar tree and began hammering on a branch, making a noise like the fast beating of a small drum. Suddenly there was a gust of wind, and again the hunter heard that beautiful sound right above him.

Then he discovered that the song came from the dead branch that the woodpecker was tapping his beak. He realized also that it was the wind which made the sound as it whistled through the hole the bird had drilled.

"Kola, friend," said the hunter, "let me take this branch home. You can make yourself another."

He took the branch, a hollow piece of wood full of woodpecker holes that was about the length of his forearm. He walked back to his village bringing no meat, but happy all the same.

In his tipi the young man tried to make the branch sing for him. He blew on it, he waves it around, no sound came. It made him sad, he wanted so much to hear that wonderful new sound. He purified himself in the sweat lodge and climbed to the top of a lonely hill. There, resting with his back against a large rock, he fasted, going without food or water for four days and nights, crying for a vision which would tell him how to make the branch sing. In the middle of the fourth night, wagnuka, the bird with the bright red top, appeared, saying, "Watch me," turning himself into a man, showing the hunter how to make the branch sing, saying again and again, "Watch this, now." And in his dream the young man watched and observed very carefully.

When he awoke, he found a cedar tree. He broke off a branch and, working many hours, hollowed it out with a bowstring drill, just as he had seen the woodpecker do in his dream. He whittled the branch into the shape of the birds with a long neck and a open beak. He painted the top of the birds head with washasha, the sacred red color. He prayed. He smoked the branch up with incense of burning sage, cedar, and sweet grass. He fingered the holes as he had seen the man-bird do in his vision, meanwhile blowing softly into the mouthpiece. All at once there was the song, ghost like and beautiful beyond words drifting all the way to the village, where the people were astounded and joyful to hear it. With the help of the wind and the woodpecker, the young man had brought them the first flute.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Myth of Daedalus and Icarus


Daedalus was the architect who created the Labyrinth for the Minotaur in Crete , and who showed Ariadne how Theseus could escape from it. When King Minos learned that the Atehnians had found their way out he was convinced that they could have done so only if Daedalus had helped them. Accordingly he imprisoned him and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth, certainly a proof that it was excellently devised since not even the make of it could discover the exit without a clue. He told his son, escape may be checked by water and land, but the air and the sky are free, and he made two pairs of wings for them. They put them on and just before they took flight Daedalus warned Icarus to keep a middle course over the sea. If he flew too high the sun might melt the glue and the wings would fall apart. If he flew too low, the wings would not sustain the properties required for flight. As the two flew lightly and without effort away from Crete the delight of this new and wonderful power went to the boy’s head. He soared exultingly up and up, paying no heed to his father’s commands. He then fell into the sea and the waters closed over him. Daedalus flew safely to Sicily , where he was received kindly by the King.

Origin of the gods and the world


Originally, Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl lived in the World of Darkness, where there was no light, stars or white flowers. They used to go for long walks in the darkness, where only ocasionally the glitter of a monster's eyes could be seen. On one ocassion, Omecihuatl touched one of these monsters, and instantly it became a perfect point of bright light. Marveled by this, they both started touching every monster they found until the sky was full of stars. Soon they wanted more; they wanted to create the world, so they would't be alone anymore.
They went back home and created the four Tezcatlipocas: The White Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl; The Red Tezactlipoca, Xipetotec; The Blue Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli and The Black Tezcatlipoca.

Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca chose a monster all covered with eyes and mouths and split it in two to create the sea and the land, to become the Lady of the Earth. Huitzilopochtli created from Her hair the woods, jungles and prairies. The fourth brother filled it with creatures for land, water and air.
As the world became more complex, many other entities appeared to take care of the created place, Camaxtli as God of the beasts and the hunt; Tlaloc, 'The one that brings growth' as God of rain and water; Opochtli in charge of the sea and all of its creatures. Anything and everything had its caretaker: roads, art, creatures, places, things. But the rulers of the four cardinal points were the four brothers that created it all: Xipetotec ruled the East, Quetzalcoatl ruled the West, Huitzilopochtli ruled the south and Tezcatlipoca the North. Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl were very pleased with the creation, and started sending little drops of light to be the souls of children, and they still send their drops to the pregnant mothers.

But the creation wasn't that easy. Mictlantecuhtli, in charge of the Underworld and death realized that the sun was too weak, just another little star, and said that a bigger, better sun was needed. This is how the story of the five suns, or ages, starts.

First, Tezcatlipoca offered himself to be the sun, but he was the god of dreams and of magic and he had the ability to become a tiger; this was his alter-shape, his Nagual. Soon the world was full of wild beasts that ate the people.
Then Quetzalcoatl offered to be the sun. When he took his place the winds and hurricanes were unleashed, for he was the god of winds. Horrorized, the other gods turned the people into monkeys, so they could run to the woods and take refuge in the trees.
Then Tlaloc offered himself as the sun, but then the rain of fire started and the whole world was set afire. Now the people were turned into birds so they could fly away. The gods were very disappointed, for they had already created humans three times. The people wasn't perfect on each try, either. First they were too small, very good artisans and goldsmiths but too small to work the land. Then they were too big; when they greeted each other they said 'don't fall down' because they were too big and weak to stand up if they fell.
Then Quetzalcoatl proposed Chalchiuihtlicue, goddess of water, to be the sun. The rain started, the people was washed away and the gods turned them into fishes and all the creatures that live in the water.
Then the gods decided to choose somebody, a man, to be the sun so it wouldn't be too powerful. They chose Tecuciztecatl, though another called Nanahuatzin had offered himself. The gods prepared a big ceremony with a bonfire, and when they were ready they told Tecuciztecatl to jump in. He aproached the fire, but when he felt the heat the backed away. He tried again and again but he just couldn't walk into the fire. When Nanahuatzin saw his hesitation, he ran and threw himself into the fire. Tecuciztecatl, seeing his place and duty being taken like this, he felt ashamed and finally jumped in, but it was too late. The gods watched as two suns raised from the east. Quickly Quetzalcoatl took the first thing he could grab, a rabbit, and threw it to the face of the second sun, shading it with its shape and thus creating the moon. The gods were finally happy with the sun they had made, because this time the people they created were perfect: not too big nor small, not too strong nor weak. The sun is now known as Tonatiuh, The Rising Eagle.
This was the fifth sun, the current one, called Ollin (movement). It is said that the destruction of the current age will come through earthquakes, to make room for the sixth sun if mankind proves not to be worthy of this world.