Thursday, April 7, 2011
The Seven Brothers - a Tsalagi Tale of the Pleiades
Pointing up to the six stars of the Pleiades, Janis softly said, “Willow Woman once told me the story of the Seven Brothers. Would you like to hear it?” She didn’t have to ask twice as Ray pulled her to sit beside him on the ground, their feet towards the fire with the log as a backrest.
“Willow woman told me that, when the world was new, there were seven boys who spent all their time playing gatayû'stï. The game is now called Chunky and is played by rolling a stone wheel along the ground with a curved stick. Their mothers scolded them, telling there was other more important things to do than play. But it didn't do any good. One day the mothers collected some gatayû'stï stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner.”
When the boys came home their mothers dipped out the stones and said, “Since you like the gatayû'stï better than working, take the stones and eat them for your dinner.”
The boys became very angry, and went away, saying, “Since our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we will never trouble them any more.”
“Poor guys,” Ray said. “Just think, they were expected to do something worthwhile in order to eat.”
Janis hushed him and continued the story. The boys began a dance - some say it was the Feather Dance - and went round and round, praying to the spirits to help them.
At last, their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing, and as they watched, the mothers noticed the boys' feet were off the ground. Not only that but, with every round, they rose higher and higher into the air.
The mothers ran to get their children but it was too late. They had already risen above the trees - all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayû'stï pole. The boy struck the ground with such force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.
The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee call Ani'tsutsä, The Boys.
“The people grieved long after them,” Janis continued. But, the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot until the earth was damp with her tears. At last, a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we now call Noh Tsi, the pine. And, the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.”
Just then, one of the logs snapped, dazzling gold-red sparks erupting into the air.
[This is an excerpt from Tsalagi Tales, the sequel to Sonora Symphony which I hope will be published sometime this year by Virtual Tales.]