Our story teller for last Wednesday night was Soulful Stuff. Several of our “leaders” were unable to attend. But our gusdi, Spirit Bear was on hand to cover us. Spirit Bear provided the opening prayer by submitting a prayer written by our Wise Man and Mentor, Kicking Bear.
We come before you in a humble manner.
We stand as many spirits but joined with one heart.
One no greater than the other. When one stumbles
There are many to help them to their feet.
We are not mere friends, we are brothers and sisters,
A family following the red road with love for one another.
I ask your blessings on all those that enter here and
Remind them, they are a guest only once ….
After that they are family
We are joined by spirit and one heart Amidst the beauty of this Great Creation
We give thanks for the gift of life that we have been given.
We give thanks to Mother Earth and to the Sacred Fire
which burns brightly in our hearts
We thank you for the precious gift of clarity,
openness, strength and wisdom. We walk the path of peace and give thanks to all
our relations and for the beauty of all things.
We ask your healing hands be placed upon our
Brothers and sisters . O Great Spirit
Wipe our tears and cover us in your blanket
of love and understanding.
In balance and harmony we give thanks.
It is all good. Spirit Bear….Wado for stepping up to the plate!
One night, Bear, Yona in Cherokee, gathered all creatures for a sacred dance. All the animals brought delicious foods to sustain the dancers and the sacred fire was strong and bright. Possum came to the dance….and tsisdu (rabbit) and waya and so many wonderful creatures. Crane, Ganutsitali in Cherokee (Eastern), also came. In those days Crane had beautiful feathers even upon his legs—-like the shiny slick feathers on the back of the mallard duck, the leg feathers of the crane were uwoduhi (beautiful) and elegant. Not only that, but the crane had the most beautiful voice—like an angel he could sing–finer than any other. And so it was that all these beautiful creatures came to dance. Crane danced with the others—but became very irritated when he heard others talking instead of .singing and eating when he thought they ought to be dancing. When the dance ended, possum went to Yona and said the dance was osda…..but Crane had other thoughts….
Yona, this dance was not right, and we need to have another dance!“This dance was the best ever, Yona!” said Possum “Everyone had a good time and danced well! It was osda!” Tendrils of jealousy crept into Crane’s heart. “Yona, did you not see the giggling and the eating when they ought to be dancing? No one took the dance very seriously and I think we can do MUCH better!” “We do not have enough food to feed the dancers a second time,” said Yona “and where will we dance?” “We will go to my place,” said the Crane, “and I will lead the dance. There will be plenty of food and the dance will be osda.” Yona and the other animals agreed it would be good to dance again. So, everyone made their way to Crane’s place. True to his word there was much food, and the sacred fire was blazing strong and bright.
The drumming began and Crane chanted…..singing proudly with his beautiful voice. All danced and danced well into the night. As the dancing came to a close, possum said to Yona that he preferred the first dance—thought it was better. When Crane heard this, the tendrils in his heart grew tighter and tighter…..he began to dance harder and harder as the tendrils clutched his heart. He danced with such fire in his heart, Crane did not notice how close he was coming to the sacred fire. As the fire in his heart raged, so did the fire around him,,,,and, in an unguarded moment, his leg feathers caught fire and the smoke from the fire scorched his throat.Possum said…”Crane..you are on fire!” And so Crane ran into the river, his black, scorched legs hidden by the water and his scorched voice silent. Still today, Crane hides his legs in the water and does not sing…but merely squawks. Take care of the tendrils that capture your heart and the fire that burns within.
The second story is of a different sort of dance. This dance too is one of choice—of guarding our heart and the fire that burns.The Cherokee have a game played with a round, flat stone called Chun-key. The chunkey ball is rolled and the player throws his spear hoping to get closest to where the ball stops. If you touch the chunkey ball or knock it over in any way, you are disqualified. The children often entertained themselves with this game for hours and hours.
In one village, long, long ago, some of children became so enamored of the game, they began to neglect their chores. The mothers would ask, “Will you go gather firewood so I might cook the meal.” The boys would answer, “I’d rather play Chunkey.”The grandmothers would ask, “Would you sweep up the flint from the flint napping so no one will cut their feet.” The boys would answer, “I’d rather play chunkey.” The grandmothers and mothers would beg, “Would you help us gather the vegetables for the stew so all could eat.” and the boys would reply, “I’d rather play Chunkey” And so, every day the boys awoke, ate their breakfast and went off to play Chunkey while the mothers and grandmothers and other children did the chores. One day, the grandmothers had an idea. The started early in the day and began to gather the squash, the corn (selu), the beans, and added some venison and herbs. The rich stew cooked throughout the day and the scent wafted far and wide. Even the boys, smelling the rich stew, could not wait for the evening meal.
When the time came, all were called for supper. The boys came in from the field very hungry from a full day of playing. They saw many of the children already eating the rich stew happily. However, when they came to their bowls, all they say was a tiny chunkey stone in the bottom of the bowl filled with water.“Where is our stew? How could you do this to your children?” they demanded
The grandmothers answered, “You were given a choice to help us in our work or to play chunkey. Since you chose not to balance your work and play, and you so loved chunkey, now you will eat chunkey. Does it sustain you?”The boys became so angry that they danced in anger around the fire. So angrily they danced that they began to lift up off the ground….the mothers tried hard to hold onto the boys…but they were so angry that they were carried off into the sky. And so, in the night, when you look into the sky, you will see not the 7 Sisiters, but, from the Cherokee perspective, the 7 lazy boys……
The last story is also about a dance….but more the dance yet to come. It is a story about a grandmother whose love is so great, her last act was to teach us about the strength of spirit. Her story invites us to join the dance…but I warn you, it is not for the faint of heart. This is a story of courage and strength that invites us to a very different sort of dance……
At the time of Removal, when many hid in the mountains above the Tuckaseegee River, there was a very old and wise Grandmother who lived in a cabin high in the mountains well above Kituah. She and many others knew the soldiers would be coming soon.
Others asked her if she would come hide with them, and she refused. Being concerned about her, the village gathered and pleaded with her to go with them. The Grandmother said she was too old and too tired to go. She said she had lived here all her life, and while the soldiers could kill her, they could never kill her spirit. This was the land of her ancestors. This was the place where they lived and died. And so would she.
The Grandmother wrapped a red shawl about her shoulders sat in her rocking chair and began to rock and pray. At one point, she placed a beautiful red clay pot which had a narrow spout on her mantle. Again, she rocked and prayed….” Unetlanv….”
Other villagers begged her to come with them….she would not leave.
So, she began to rock in her chair and sing…..a last prayer for peace.
The fire outside her window told her the soldiers were near. She sang a song sounded like “Wa-sgo-na a hia a hia” . So many soldiers came for one grandmother. A lieutenant in a wide-brimmed blue hat wearing an eagle ring broke down the door. “Old woman, you must leave now—do not be stubborn.”
The grandmother said, “I will not leave the land of my ancestors. You can kill my body but not my spirit!”
The lieutenant struck the grandmother, cutting her with the ring. Then he said in anger, “ I WILL silence you, old woman!” To the horror of the other soldiers, he took a flaming torch and rammed it down her throat. As he did, the red pottery piece crashed to the floor. He set the cabin aflame.
But he did not kill her spirit. When we go to Kituah, stand on the mound….sing the old songs and listen very carefully—-very softly—-to the rushing of the river, the crackling of the leaves, and we see the wisps of smoke from the sage….her story is told in the hearts of all those who are open to it. Her dance was her life…and her rocking chair prayer….and no one will silence her spirit. If you go to Kituah, she is there…singing….encouraging….dancing….with a medicine man who wears a wolf skin. She carries a stick now attached with 3 eagle feathers. She encourages us to speak our truth and do not be afraid. No one can kill your spirit…..
I have been with the elders and have seen her. She is a strong very wise and gentle spirit.So, remember, the dance is a sacred prayer….a communication of love to our Creator. Dance the dance with honesty and joy, Dance the dance from your heart. Dance the dance….and if you dance well…others will dance with you…you will not be alone….and the beauty will endure for generations to come.
May this story bring you wisdom for the journey.
Dancing On The Wind Earrings by Soulful Stuff.
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