Jan 092014

Leprechaun posterWhen the Irish came over to America, I’m sure they were surprised to learn that Native Americans had a version of the leprechaun in their lore.  And there are many similarities.

Despite colonial biases, the Cherokee did not copy the Irish Leprechaun.  The Cherokee Yunwi Tsunsdi (Little People) was part of ancient legend and myth.  As Will Rogers might have said, “The Little People didn’t come over with the colonists, they met the boat.”

These interesting “Little People” figure prominently in many old Cherokee stories, including origin stories.  They were probably introduced to non-native Americans by James Mooney in his monumental work “Myths of the Cherokee” published in 1900.  The Cherokee medicine man, Swimmer, related to him the following:

Oct 312013

          The raven, the largest bird in the Crow family, also carries the largest brain in the bird world.  It has captured the imagination of all cultures in all times and has become an integral part of folklore.  Perhaps it’s the raven’s eyes—so human looking, so inquisitive, so devious.  Perhaps it is the raven’s association with carcasses and death that contributes to the fear and often revulsion we have for them.  Perhaps it is the cleverness of this highly intelligent creature.  It is hard to rate the intelligence of non-linqual creatures.  But those who have studied Corvids place them at the top of the bird world, on a par with coyotes and wolves, and many other intelligent mammals.

Oct 242013

It seems that in ancient cultures and all around the world, the raven has played an important role in their lore.  It is the largest of the Crow family and has the largest brain of any bird.  It is renown for its cunning and problem-solving ability.  In this series, I want to explore this amazing bird and the place it holds in cultures.

G - Raven on the Standing Stone


[Read full article]

May 162013

Part 1: Nûñ’yunu’wï

Voodoo Devil


Mankind seems to have an inherent fascination with witchcraft.  From Merlin in King Arthur’s court to Voo Doo in the Carribean it is celebrated in some cultures and, as with the Salem Witches, denounced by others.  The Cherokee had their share of witches.  Sometimes the difference between a witch and a medicine man was a very fine line.  But the distinction was important because the medicine man was revered, but the witch was reviled. 

Apr 302012
It seems that all cultures have practitioners of the dark arts!  Witches have played a big part in American history.  The most famous were perhaps the Salem Witches.  Witches and wizards also played an important role in Native American culture.  Following is an excerpt from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I. [1900] written by James Mooney.
“Of all the Cherokee wizards or witches the most dreaded is the Raven Mocker (Kâ’lanû Ahkyeli’skï), the one that robs the dying man of life. They are of either sex and there is no sure way to know one, though they usually look withered and old, because they have added so many lives to their own.
At night, when some one is sick or dying in the settlement, the Raven Mocker goes to the place to take the life. He flies through the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong wind. Every little while as he flies he makes a cry like the cry of a raven when it “dives” in the air–not like the common raven cry–and those who hear are afraid, because they know that some man’s life will soon go out. When the Raven Mocker comes to the house he finds others of his kind waiting there, and unless there is a doctor on guard who knows bow to drive them away they go inside, all invisible, and frighten and torment the sick man until they kill him. Sometimes to do this they even lift him from the bed and throw him on the floor, but his friends who are with him think he is only struggling for breath.
After the witches kill him they take out his heart and eat it, and so add to their own lives as many days or years as they have taken from his. No one in the room can see them, and there is no sear where they take out the heart, but yet there is no heart left in the body. Only one who has the right medicine can recognize a Raven Mocker, and if such a man stays in the room with the sick person these witches are afraid to come in, and retreat as soon as they see him, because when one of them is recognized in his right shape he must die within seven days.
… The other witches are jealous of the Raven Mockers and afraid to come into the same house with one. Once a man who had the witch medicine was watching by a sick man and saw these other witches outside trying to get in. All at once they heard a Raven Mocker cry overhead and the others scattered “like a flock of pigeons when the hawk swoops.” When at last a Raven Mocker dies these other witches sometimes take revenge by digging up the body and abusing it.”
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