Thursday, January 7, 2010
Blizzards and Legends
This was taken December 25th, 2009 outside the entrance of the hospital. Although the snow is beautiful the storm sure made for some treacherous driving conditions on Christmas Eve.
After reading the book "A Thousand White Women" my interest was renewed in my own Native American history and I recalled a story my grandmother told us when we were little. She asked us if we knew where ants came from and then she told this Choctaw legend. She said that the great Spirit made the very first people at the same time he made the grasshoppers, and both from yellow clay. They were born in an underground cave and then walked to the surface through a large tunnel. People and grasshoppers emerged together and traveled off in all directions. But the people were much bigger than the insects and trampled many of them.. Some even killed the great mother grasshopper who lived in the cave! Fearing they would be wiped out, the grasshoppers called out to Hashtali and asked that no more people be allowed to come forth. Now, the Great Spirit hears the cries of all living things and he took pity on the grasshoppers. He made the tunnel much smaller and turned the remaining people into ants so that they could no longer trample the grasshoppers. The ants you see today are those people. Don't step on them!
Here is a Choctaw superstition also shared by my grandmother. Choctaw superstition said that when a sapsucker bird lands on a tree in your yard, you will receive some news soon. It may be good or it may be bad but you would hear of it that day if you saw the news bird. Others thought that if a rooster crowed at an unusual time, there was danger nearby, or bad weather on the way. But the most common superstition was the idea that it was bad luck to say your own name! Choctaws of old never told anyone their own names. If you wanted to know what to call a new friend, you had to ask someone else for that person's name!
The Choctaws also practiced two customs which might seem strange because the reasons for these customs have become lost to history. After marriage, the bride's mother could no longer look upon the face of her son-in-law. Though they might talk to each other, they must be hidden from each other by some kind of screen. When nothing else was available, they had to cover their eyes with their hand. This must have made life very difficult for the mother-in-law, particularly when the family was traveling or were encamped for hunting or festivals. Many mothers walked about with their heads down, so that they might not accidentally see the face of a son-in-law. Can you imagine the problem of a mother with several married daughters and as many sons-in-law in the same camp? To some extent, this custom continued to exist until the early 1800s. The other custom, now considered peculiar, is that after the marriage ceremony had been completed, the wife never again called her husband by name or spoke his name aloud to family or friends. She called him or referred to him as "My Husband" or "My Man," or after children had begun arriving would call him "My Son's Father" or some such term.
I find all the stories fascinating. What a rich culture and heritage!