Raven’s Honor
By Clay Dancer
This is a story that I wrote myself, but the latter part about Raven was taken from the folklore of the Lenni Lenapi Tribe as retold by S.E. Schlosser, who maintains an American Folklore website. It is a story about separation, sacrifice and service. I hope you like it.
In ancient times, the People and all Creatures lived together as one. They talked, hunted, played and shared in the vast abundance of the land. But the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be, was want to test his creations’ devotion on occasion.
One time, the rains were sent for days on end and a great flood resulted. The People spoke to the Trees and asked that they lend their wood to make the floating crafts that would help all living things to safety and higher ground. The Trees agreed and it was done. The Creator was pleased and for a long time, was content to watch Mother Earth unfold in its’ own wonder.
No one knows how or when it began, but as in all things left untended, it started small. The people began to take the wood from the trees without asking, and killing the animals without thanking. The Creator warned that there was no honor in this. Instead, the People became deaf.
Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be, was displeased and decided to send another test.
The winds were sent to spread a coldness onto the land. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The Animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep.
Soon, all would perish if something were not done. The Animals appealed to the People, but the People had become deaf.
“We must send a messenger to the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be,” said Wise Owl. “We must ask Creator to think the world warm again so that Spirit Snow will leave us in peace.”
The animals were pleased with this plan. They began to debate among themselves, trying to decide who to send up to the Creator.
Wise Owl could not see well during the daylight, so he could not go. Coyote was easily distracted and liked playing tricks, so he could not be trusted. Turtle was steady and stable, but he crawled too slowly. Finally, Raven, the most beautiful of all the birds with shimmering feathers of rainbow hues and an enchanting singing voice, was chosen to go to the Creator.
It was an arduous journey, three days up and up into the heavens, passed the trees and clouds, beyond the sun and the moon, and even above all the stars. He was buffeted by winds and had no place to rest, but he carried on until he reached Heaven.
When Raven reached the Holy Place, he called out to the Creator, but received no answer. The Creator was too busy thinking up what would be to notice even the most beautiful of birds. So Raven began to sing his most beautiful song.
The Creator was drawn from his thoughts by the lovely sound, and came to see which bird was making it. He greeted Raven kindly and asked what gift he could give the noble bird in exchange for his song. Raven asked the Creator to un-think the snow, so that the animals of Earth would not be buried and freeze to death. But the Creator told Raven that the snow and the ice had spirits of their own and could not be destroyed.
“What shall we do then?” asked the Raven. “We will all freeze or smother under the snow.”
“You will not freeze,” the Creator reassured him, “For I will think of Fire, something that will warm all creatures during the cold times.”
The Creator stuck a stick into the blazing hot sun. The end blazed with a bright, glowing fire which burned brightly and gave off heat. “This is Fire,” he told Raven, handing him the stick. “You must hurry to Earth as fast as you can fly before the stick burns up.”
Raven nodded his thanks to the Creator and flew as fast as he could go. It was a three-day trip to Heaven, and he was worried that the Fire would burn out before he reached the Earth. The stick was large and heavy, but the fire kept Raven warm as he descended from Heaven down to the bright path of the stars. Then the Fire grew hot as it came closer to Raven’s feathers.
As he flew passed the Sun, his tail caught on fire, turning the shimmering beautiful feathers black. By the time he flew passed the Moon, his whole body was black with soot from the hot Fire. When he plunged into the Sky and flew through the clouds, the smoke got into his throat, strangling his beautiful singing voice.
By the time Raven landed among the freezing cold animals of Earth, he was black as tar and could only croak instead of sing. He delivered the Fire, and the snow melted. The Animals warmed themselves, rescuing the littlest ones from the snow drifts where they lay buried.
It was a time of rejoicing, for Fire had come to Earth. But Raven sat apart, saddened by his dull, ugly feathers and his rasping voice.
Then he felt the touch of wind on his face. He looked up and saw the Creator Who Creates By Thinking What Will Be walking toward him.
“Do not be sad, Raven,” the Creator said. “All Animals will honor you for the sacrifice you made for them. And the People Who Are Deaf will not hunt you, for I have made your flesh taste of smoke so that it is not good to eat and your black feathers and hoarse voice will prevent man from putting you into a cage to sing for him. You will be free.”
Then the Creator pointed to Raven’s black feathers. Before his eyes, Raven saw the dull feathers become shiny and inside each one, he could see all the colors of the rainbow.
“This will remind all creatures who see you of your service,” he said, “and of the sacrifice you made that saved them all.”
And so shall it be.
Here is an example of Clay Dancer’s work.  This is one of her newest pieces.
Little Bear Medicine Bowl
To see more of her wonderful work, go to: