Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cherokee Fables: The Bird Tribes, Part 2

The ancient Cherokee’s connection to the “Bird Tribes” is fascinating and we are so fortunate that the elders and medicine men shared their stories with James Mooney in the 1870’s.  Here is the continuing account from his book, Myths of the Cherokee.
 
Raven on tree stumpThe raven (kâ’länû) is occasionally seen in the mountains, but is not prominent in folk belief, excepting in connection with the grewsome tales of the Raven Mocker (q. v.). In former times its name was sometimes assumed as a war title. The crow, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, does not seem to appear in that of the Cherokee. Three varieties of owls are recognized, each under a different name, viz: tskïlï’ [also tsigili], the dusky horned owl (Bubo virginianus saturatus); u’guku’, the barred or hooting owl (Syrnium nebulosum), and wa`huhu’, the screech owl (Megascops asio). The first of these names signifies a witch, the others being onomatopes. Owls and other night-crying birds are believed to be embodied ghosts or disguised witches, and their cry is dreaded as a sound of evil omen. If the eyes of a child be bathed with water in which one of the long wing or tail feathers of an owl has been soaked, the child will be able to keep awake all night. The feather must be found by chance, and not procured intentionally for the purpose. On the other hand, an application of water in which the feather of a blue jay, procured in the same way, has been soaked will make the child an early riser.
 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cherokee Fables: Bird Tribes, Part 1


The sky is the flyway of the bird, whose freedom is to light and go at will … .  When evening shadows fall upon the earth and a lone jet cuts the puffy clouds with straight lines, it does not bother the birds.  They chirp and murmur night sounds and settle down to sleep.  We forget and think we are all there is. –Joyce Sequichie Hifler (A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume 2)
 
This morning (Monday, May 11, 2015) while I brushed the snow off our solar panels, my best friend Näkwïsï’ (Meadowlark) serenaded loudly, proudly, and eloquently from the flocked lawn.  He was not serenading for me but for a beautiful, quiet lady wearing a golden blouse adorned with a black necklace.  She pretended to ignore him knowing it would inspire him to sing bolder and more melodious; to be more inventive and creative; to be more alluring and beguiling.  She has the heart of a woman and he the heart of a man in courtship and it is beautiful. [listen to a pretty nakwisi
 
And so I am inspired to share the beautiful concept of the Cherokee bird tribes as told by a Cherokee Medicine man to James Mooney in 1887-90.
 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cherokee Fables: The Rabbit and the Possum after a Wife

Spring is here and with the month of May comes the season for weddings!  The ancient Cherokee told a funny story about the devious rabbit and the lazy possum who decide to team up to find wives.
 
In most of the stories involving the rabbit, the Cherokee portrayed them as clever, devious, and the penultimate trickster.  The Cherokee rabbit fables are so similar to the “Uncle Remus” and “Brer Rabbit” fables, that I think they must be connected.  [refer to my article: Tar Baby vs Tar Wolf]

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Native American Firsts

 
640px-A_Quechua_girl_and_her_Llama
The January issue of National Geographic magazine is called “The Firsts Issue”.  I think that Native Americans might “take issue” with some of the “firsts”.   Chocolate is one of the very few firsts attributed to ancient Americans.  So, maybe we should revisit this topic from a Native American bias.
 
Since the earliest date for American occupation only goes back to 16,000 B.C., I guess we’ll have start there to see how Native Americans compete with mankind’s firsts.  Well, on the National Geographic Firsts Chart only the control of fire is listed as a first before 16,000 B.C.   So, everything else is fair game.
 
 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Star Brothers on Parade

Tonight, April 23, 2015, is an interesting night for sky watchers.  At 8 pm Mountain Time, right after the sun goes down, you may be able to see a parade of prominent star brothers.  Just after Grandmother Sun sets, she is followed by Mars and Mercury, then the Ani Tsutsa (Pleiades Constellation), then the Evening Star (Venus),  and then the crescent Moon.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Native American Skies: Eclipse Legends



A couple of weeks ago, we observed a “Lunar Eclipse”.  Because this year is when the moon is in its minor “Lunar Standstill” (refer to article on Lunar Standstill at Chimney Rock), it was the shortest Lunar Eclipse for many years.  Because of the nature of the Moon’s and the Earth’s planes of orbit, an eclipse is an irregular event, that is, it appears to happen randomly.


 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Chaco Phenomenon (Yupkoyvi): A Hopi Story

The civilization that inhabited the canyon in central New Mexico known as “Chaco Canyon” was indeed a “phenomenon”.  Despite extensive archaeological study, there is little known of the society or the people that lived there.  It seems to defy fitting into a known political and/or ritual society.  As Lynne Sebastian, director of historic preservation programs at the SRI Foundation, puts it, “The extraordinary archaeological record of this society indicates both a strong political structure and an intense emphasis on ritual.”
 
So, why not look at the descendants of the people that lived in Chaco Canyon one thousand years ago?  Again from Sebastian, “these descendants have not only tenaciously survived, but have, to a remarkable extent, been able to preserve knowledge of their traditional lifeways.”  But, she sees their preserved knowledge as both a blessing and a curse, “. . . a blessing because it provides us with the potential for detailed, clearly applicable analogies for a wide variety of past behaviors.  It is a curse because the richness of the living cultures makes it too easy to grow myopic and not consider other cultural patterns from beyond this region.”
 
This is a preview of Chaco Phenomenon (Yupkoyvi): A Hopi Story. Read the full post (1117 words, 15 images, estimated 4:28 mins reading time)