(8/7/01 7:36:04 am)
| Native American Mythos|
In my adopted Lakota Tribe, and also other facets of my part-Native culture, we have quite a few women of strength as well as power who are revered. I notice that, in most myth, the women are either frightening witches or demure little maidens...but cultural myth has some real "uppity women".
That cannot be said for White Buffalo Calf Woman. She was the messenger who brought the pipe to the Lakota people so that they could speak with Great Spirit. She traveled with a small white buffalo calf, and no-one dared to treat her with disrespect, because it was known that she was a prophet of Great Spirit. Only one did a man dare to try and take her, and he was struck dead, his limbs falling off, turning into snakes and slithering away! When a white calf is born (as Miracle was born in Wisconsin), it marks the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman to the people.
Before Europeans came over and enforced the idea that menstruation was dirty, Lakota women were considered to be extremely powerful at this time, because blood was a sacrifice to Great Spirit and to the earth. It was during this time that a woman created baskets, weaved blankets, and prayed for the earth itself. It was also believed that anything she prayed for would come true. The only way that men could achieve this sort of prayer was through the Sun Dance, which was abolished for a time (and threw the spiritual balance of the Lakota people into complete turmoil).
Native American Mythos also reveres the Tricksters, while other mythos sees the Trickster as something evil that needs to be destroyed. Coyote is a classic example. Coyote stories are told in winter-time, and let it not be said that these are tame stories; there is usually a very blue streak in them, with lots of sexual innuendoes that has everyone in the lodge laughing with tears streaming down their faces. Coyote teaches through blunders and antics; you should never trust him, but you shouldn't ignore him either. He is, as my lodge-mother called him "The Banana-Peel of Life"!
There is no real "bad guy" in cultural mythos...just silly situations that the "anti-hero" gets themselves into, which tend to sound less "preachy" than most myths of North American literature.
Just wanted to share
(8/7/01 11:00:21 pm)
| Re: Native American Mythos|
Lucy: Thanks for sharing. I've always loved the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman, though having heard it told in the lodge by different men and women over the years, it's interesting to me that even she can be made to seem demur and submissive according to the way the story is told and the sexism (or lack thereof) of the teller. It gave me pleasure that the very oldest, most traditional elder, a man, that I've ever heard tell the story told it in the most simple way -- but one in which she was enormously powerful, and in which women were clearly worthy of great respect. Deer Woman, as we've discussed on this board in the past, is another figure who can be portrayed negatively or positively, depending on the teller.
Have you read the wonderful anthology Through the Eye of the Deer, a collection of prose and poetry by Native American women edited by our fellow board poster Carolyn Dunn? It's positively splendid. And Carolyn has a book of her own poetry coming out soon, with a lot of mythic imagery wound through it. I, for one, can't wait!
(8/9/01 8:14:11 am)
| Spider Woman|
I would add a recommendation for "Spider Woman's Granddaughters", an anthology that's been around awhile now (so maybe everyone tuning in here is familiar with it). I had the good fortune to get to review it when it first came out. It assembles stories from many traditions and periods, culminating in writings by contemporary female authors. There's not a bad story in the book.