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]