pourquoi tale – Storytelling for Everyone

An Aboriginal Legend

Artist, Patricia Blee

A very long time ago, there was Crocodile. He was not so nice and not so courteous. He had the control of fire. Fire was very important for living. It was giving you light during the night and keeping you warm when you were cold. What can you do when you deal with a mean, ill-mannered crocodile? Many animals pleaded with Crocodile, but the more they begged, the meaner Crocodile would get.

One day even a little kangaroo pleaded with Crocodile, “Please give us some fire.”

You know what was Crocodile’s response? He exhaled some fire from his throat, scaring little kangaroo.

High up on a tree, there was a very nice Bird, who was observing everything. The Bird Woman also suffered from the lack of fire. She didn’t like eating her food raw. So, Bird Woman also pleaded with Crocodile to give some light not only to the animals, but also to the people.

“Please share some light with others,” begged Bird Woman on many occasions.

Once, Crocodile blew some fire at Bird Woman, almost burning her feathers. Another time, it snapped, “What do you need the fire for?”

“Well, for example, to cook our food,” she was nicely explaining to Crocodile.

“Eat it raw,” retorted Crocodile.

“Well, it tastes so much better, when it’s cooked,” continued Bird Woman.

“I will cook you with my fire, if you don’t disappear right now,” Crocodile replied angrily.

So she flew away not to anger Crocodile even more.

However, Bird Woman continued to observe Crocodile from her house in the tree. She was patiently watching and waiting. Then, one early morning, Crocodile was still half asleep, stretching and yawning. At his last yawn, he opened his jaw so wide that it took him quite some time to close it.

During that time, Bird Woman quickly flew down, snatching the fire-stick.

Before Crocodile realized what had just happened, Bird Woman was already flying up with the fire-stick. She flew around each tree putting fire into tree’s core. This way a tree could be used as wood to create fire. So people could cook their food, stay warm, and light their way through darkness.

This creation was very magical. It looked as Bird Woman was creating a rainbow with the yellow fire, flying around green trees and with the blue sky shining on her.

“Now, the people can have fire,” said Bird Woman proudly.

Bird Woman flew back to Crocodile and warned him, “From now on, you need to stay in the swamps. Don’t you dare to come out on land or I will light you up.”

The scared Crocodile now stays deep in the swamp. From time to time, he only ventures with his eyes above the water, curious what is going on with the other animals on the land.

So now you know why crocodiles live in the swamps and why the heroine bird is called Rainbow Bird.


Source: Rainbow Bird: An Aboriginal Folktale from Northern Australia by Eric Maddern.
An Aboriginal fire legend of the Dalabon people of Beswick Reserve, telling how Bird Woman stole fire from Crocodile Man, and at the same time, turned herself into the beautiful Rainbow Bird, a dreamtime myth.

Author adminPosted on January 13, 2023January 13, 2023Categories Animal, Legends, Myth, NatureTags Aboriginal Australians, Indigenous people, pourquoi tale, rainbow bird, stealing fireLeave a comment on Bird Woman and Crocodile

Filipino folktale


More than a hundred seasons ago, a Tinguian went one day to the mountains to hunt. Accompanied by his faithful dog, he made his way steadily up the mountain side, only halting where it was necessary to cut a path through the jungle. And the dog ran here and there searching in the thick underbrush.

On and on he went without seeing any game, and then, when he was almost at the top of the highest peak, the dog gave a sharp yelp, and out of the brush leaped a fine deer. Zip! went the man’s spear, and it pierced the animal’s side. For an instant he waited, but the deer did not fall.

On it ran with unslackened speed, and a moment later it plunged into a hole in the ground with the man and dog in close pursuit.

A short distance from the entrance, the cave opened out into large, spacious rooms, and before he realized it the man was hopelessly lost. In the distance he could hear the baying of the dog; with no other guide, he hurried on through the darkness.

Following the sound, he went for a long time from one unfamiliar room to another, stumbling in the darkness and striking against the stone walls, and then suddenly his outstretched hands grasped a small tree on which berries grew.

Astonished at finding anything growing in this dark place, he broke off a branch, and as he did so the shrub began to talk in a strange language. Terrified, the man ran in the direction he had last heard the dog, and a moment later he found himself in the open air on the banks of the Abra River, with the dead deer at his feet.

When he examined the twig which he still held in his hand, he saw to his great surprise that the berries were agate beads of great value. And packing the deer on his back, he hastened home where he told his wonderful story.

The sight of the beautiful beads convinced the people that he told the truth, and a number of men at once returned with him to fell the tree.

Their quest, however, was unsuccessful, for ere they reached the spot, they saw the evil spirit had taken the tree away. On the walls of the cave it had made strange carvings which even to this day can be seen.


Source: Philippine Folk Tales by  Mabel Cook Cole. A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago, 1916.

Note: This folktale seems to tell of an early discovery of mysterious cave art: Discovered again in 1965, the Angono Petroglyphs are believed to be the oldest known artworks in the Philippines. Dating to the third millennium BCE, they are a collection of 127 figural carvings engraved on the wall of a shallow cave of volcanic tuff.


Author adminPosted on September 2, 2022September 2, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, NatureTags cave art, Filipino, Hunt, magic, petroglyphs, Philippines, pourquoi tale, prehistoric, quest, rock art

A Brazilian Folktale

Years and years ago at the very beginning of time, when the world had just been made, there was no night. It was day all the time. No one had ever heard of sunrise or sunset, starlight or moonbeams. There were no night birds, nor night beasts, nor night flowers. There were no lengthening shadows, nor soft night air, heavy with perfume.

In those days the daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, who dwelt in the depths of the seas, married one of the sons of the great earth race known as Man. Yemaya left her home among the shades of the deep seas and came to dwell with her husband in the land of daylight.

Her eyes grew weary of the bright sunlight and her beauty faded. Her husband watched her with sad eyes, but he did not know what to do to help her.

“O, if night would only come,” she moaned as she tossed about wearily on her couch. “Here it is always day, but in my father’s kingdom there are many shadows. O, for a little of the darkness of night!”

Her husband listened to her moaning. “What is night?” he asked her. “Tell me about it and perhaps I can get a little of it for you.”

“Night,” said Yemaya, “is the name we give to the heavy shadows which darken my father’s kingdom in the depths of the seas. I love the sunlight of your earth land, but I grow very weary of it. If we could have only a little of the darkness of my father’s kingdom to rest our eyes part of the time.”

Her husband at once called his three most faithful slaves. “I am about to send you on a journey,” he told them. “You are to go to the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent who dwells in the depths of the seas and ask him to give you some of the darkness of night that his daughter may not die here amid the sunlight of our earth land.”

The three slaves set forth for the kingdom of the Great Sea Serpent. After a long dangerous journey they arrived at his home in the depths of the seas and asked him to give them some of the shadows of night to carry back to the earth land.

The Great Sea Serpent gave them a big bag full at once. It was securely fastened and the Great Sea Serpent warned them not to open it until they were once more in the presence of his daughter, their mistress, Yemaya.

The three slaves started out, bearing the big bag full of night upon their heads. Soon they heard strange sounds within the bag. It was the sound of the voices of all the night beasts, all the night birds, and all the night insects. If you have ever heard the night chorus from the jungles on the banks of the rivers you will know how it sounded. The three slaves had never heard sounds like those in all their lives. They were terribly frightened.

“Let us drop the bag full of night right here where we are and run away as fast as we can,” said the first slave.

“We shall perish. We shall perish, anyway, whatever we do,” cried the second slave.

“Whether we perish or not I am going to open the bag and see what makes all those terrible sounds,” said the third slave.

Accordingly they laid the bag on the ground and opened it. Out rushed all the night beasts and all the night birds and all the night insects and out rushed the great black cloud of night. The slaves were more frightened than ever at the darkness and escaped to the jungle.

Yemaya, daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, was waiting anxiously for the return of the slaves with the bag full of night. Ever since they had started out on their journey she had looked for their return, shading her eyes with her hand and gazing away off at the horizon, hoping with all her heart that they would hasten to bring the night.

In that position she was standing under a royal palm tree, when the three slaves opened the bag and let night escape.

“Night comes. Night comes at last,” she cried, as she saw the clouds of night upon the horizon. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep there under the royal palm tree.

When she awoke she felt greatly refreshed. She was once more the happy princess who had left her father’s kingdom in the depths of the great seas to come to the earth land. She was now ready to see the day again.

She looked up at the bright star shining above the royal palm tree and said, “O, bright beautiful star, henceforth you shall be called the morning star and you shall herald the approach of day. You shall reign queen of the sky at this hour.”

Then she called all the birds about her and said to them, “O, wonderful, sweet singing birds, henceforth I command you to sing your sweetest songs at this hour to herald the approach of day.” The cock was standing by her side. “You,” she said to him, “shall be appointed the watchman of the night. Your voice shall mark the watches of the night and shall warn the others that the madrugada comes.”

To this very day in Brazil we call the early morning the madrugada. The cock announces its approach to the waiting birds. The birds sing their sweetest songs at that hour and the morning star reigns in the sky as queen of the madrugada.

When it was daylight again the three slaves crept home through the forests and jungles with their empty bag.

“O, faithless slaves,” said their master, “why did you not obey the voice of the Great Sea Serpent and open the bag only in the presence of his daughter, your mistress? Because of your disobedience I shall change you into monkeys. Henceforth you shall live in the trees. Your lips shall always bear the mark of the sealing wax which sealed the bag full of night.”

To this very day one sees the mark upon the monkeys’ lips, where they bit off the wax which sealed the bag.

And in Brazil night leaps out quickly upon the earth just as it leapt quickly out of the bag in those days at the beginning of time.


Source: Fairy Tales from Brazil: How and Why tales from Brazilian folk-lore by Elsie Spicer Eells, Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc., Chicago, 1917.

A Brazilian story with African roots tells how an ancient African sea goddess brought the gift of night to the land of daylight. A story from Bahia, Brazil featuring the goddess Yemaya of the Yoruba, known in Candomble as Yemoja or Iemanja, sometimes as a mermaid.

Author adminPosted on August 31, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, MythTags Africa, Brazil, creation, goddess, Mermaids, pourquoi tale

An African American Folktale


Back in the old days, Brer Lizard was an awful lot like Brer Frog, meaning he could sit upright. Things were like this for quite a spell.

Then one day when they were walking down the road by their swamp, Brer Lizard and Brer Frog spotted some real nice pasture land with a great big pond that was on the far side of a great big fence.

Ooo did that land look good. Looked like a great place for Brer Lizard to catch insects and other good food.  And Brer Frog wanted a swim in that big ol’ pool. 

Brer Lizard and Brer Frog went right up to the fence, which got bigger and bigger as they approached. It kinda loomed over them, as big and tall as they were little and small. And the boards of that fence were mashed together real tight, and deep into the ground. 

It was too tall to hop over, and neither of them was much good at digging, so they couldn’t go under.  That fence said Keep Out pretty clear, even though no one had put a sign on it.  

Well, Brer Lizard and Brer Frog sat beside that tall fence with their bottoms on the ground and their front ends propped up, ‘cause Brer Lizard could still sit upright then, and they tried to figure out how to get through the fence. 

Suddenly, Brer Frog saw a narrow crack, low to the ground. “I’m going ta squeeze through that crack over there,” he croaked. “Lawd, help me through!” And Brer Frog hopped over and pushed and squeezed and struggled and prayed his way through that tiny crack until he popped out on t’other side.

“Come on Lizard,” Brer Frog called through the crack.

“I’m a-comin’!” Brer Lizard called back. “I’m a-goin’ to squeeze through this here crack, Lawd willin’ or not!” 

Brer Lizard scurried over to the crack in the fence and he pushed and squeezed and struggled and cursed. Suddenly, a rail fell down and mashed him flat! 

After that, Brer Lizard couldn’t sit upright no more. And he never did get through that fence to eat them insects, neither!


Source: https://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2011/07/why_lizards_cant_sit.html

Retold by S.E. Schlosser

Author adminPosted on February 9, 2022Categories Animal, FablesTags African American, Black history, Brer Frog, Brer Lizard, pourquoi tale

Nigerian Folktale


Many years ago the sun and water were great friends, and both lived on the earth together. The sun very often used to visit the water, but the water never returned his visits.

At last the sun asked the water why it was that he never came to see him in his house, the water replied that the sun’s house was not big enough, and that if he came with his people he would drive the sun out.

He then said, “If you wish me to visit you, you must build a very large compound; but I warn you that it will have to be a tremendous place, as my people are very numerous, and take up a lot of room.”

The sun promised to build a very big compound, and soon afterwards he returned home to his wife, the moon, who greeted him with a broad smile when he opened the door. The sun told the moon what he had promised the water, and the next day commenced building a huge compound in which to entertain his friend.

When it was completed, he asked the water to come and visit him the next day.

When the water arrived, he called out to the sun, and asked him whether it would be safe for him to enter, and the sun answered, “Yes, come in, my friend.”

The water then began to flow in, accompanied by the fish and all the water animals.

Very soon the water was knee-deep, so he asked the sun if it was still safe, and the sun again said, “Yes,” so more water came in.

When the water was level with the top of a man’s head, the water said to the sun, “Do you want more of my people to come?” and the sun and moon both answered, “Yes,” not knowing any better, so the water flowed on, until the sun and moon had to perch themselves on the top of the roof.

Again the water addressed the sun, but receiving the same answer, and more of his people rushing in, the water very soon overflowed the top of the roof, and the sun and moon were forced to go up into the sky, where they have remained ever since.


Source: Outa Karel’s Stories: South African Folk-Lore Tales retold by Sanni Metelerkamp, Macmillan and Co., Limited St. Martin’s Street, London, 1914.

Author adminPosted on May 26, 2021Categories Folktales, LegendsTags African, Nigeria, pourquoi tale, South African

Nigerian Folktale

Art print by Kanayo Ede

Old Town, Calabar, once had a king called Essiya, who, like most of the Calabar kings in the olden days, was rich and powerful. Although he was so wealthy, he did not possess slaves. He therefore used to call upon the animals and birds to help his people with their work.

In order to get the work done quickly and well, he determined to appoint head chiefs of all the different species. The elephant he appointed king of the beasts of the forest, and the hippopotamus king of the water animals, until at last, it came to the turn of the birds to have their king elected.

Essiya thought for some time which would be the best way to make a good choice, but could not make up his mind, as there were so many different birds who all considered they had claims. There was the hawk with his swift flight, and of hawks there were several species. There were the herons to be considered, and the big spur-winged geese, the hornbill or toucan tribe, and the game birds, such as guinea-fowl and the partridge.

Then again, of course, there were all the big crane tribe, who walked about the sandbanks in the dry season, but who disappeared when the river rose, and the big black-and-white fishing eagles. When the king thought of the plover tribe, the sea-birds, including the pelicans, the doves, and the numerous shy birds who live in the forest, all of whom sent in claims, he got so confused.

He decided to have a trial by ordeal of combat. He sent word round the whole country for all the birds to meet the next day and fight it out between themselves, and that the winner should be known as the king bird ever afterwards.

The following morning many thousands of birds came, and there was much screeching and flapping of wings. The hawk tribe soon drove all the small birds away, and harassed the big waders so much, that they very shortly disappeared, followed by the geese, who made much noise, and winged away in a straight line, as if they were playing “Follow my leader.”

The big forest birds who liked to lead a secluded life very soon got tired of all the noise and bustle, and after a few croaks and other weird noises went home.

The game birds had no chance and hid in the bush, so that very soon the only birds left were the hawks and the big fishing eagle, who was perched on a tree calmly watching everything.

The scavenger hawks were too gorged and lazy to take much interest in the proceedings, and were quietly ignored by the fighting tribe, who were very busy circling and swooping on one another, with much whistling going on. Higher and higher they went, until they disappeared out of sight. Then a few would return to earth, some of them badly torn and with many feathers missing.

At last the fishing eagle said—

“When you have quite finished with this foolishness please tell me, and if any of you fancy yourselves at all, come to me, and I will settle your chances of being elected head chief once and for all.”

But when they saw his terrible beak and cruel claws, knowing his great strength and ferocity, they stopped fighting between themselves, and acknowledged the fishing eagle to be their master.

Essiya then declared that Ituen, which was the name of the fishing eagle, was the head chief of all the birds, and should thenceforward be known as the king bird.

From that time to the present day, whenever the young men of the country go to fight they always wear three of the long black-and-white feathers of the king bird in their hair, one on each side and one in the middle, as they are believed to impart much courage and skill to the wearer.

And if a young man is not possessed of any of these feathers when he goes out to fight, he is looked upon as a very small threat indeed.


Source: Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria by Elphinstone Dayrell. Longmans, Green and Co., London, New York, Bombay & Calcutta, 1910. Introduction written by Andrew Lang.

Author adminPosted on February 5, 2021Categories Animal, FolktalesTags Africa, Black history, Fishing eagle, Nigeria, pourquoi tale


Once upon a time Uncle Rabbit, who is called Tio Conejo, was searching in the forest for berries. His stomach growled, for winter was coming on, and fruit was growing scarce. The other forest creatures stayed out of Tio Conejo’s way, for he was a trickster, and no one ever knew what he would do next.

Soon Tio Conejo began to mutter. “I walk so much, but I find so little.” He sighed and wondered what trick he could play to find himself some food. Suddenly he came to a tiny bush that was still green, and on its branches grew a few berries.

“Mmmm, this is exactly where I want to be,” Tio Conejo said, and he began to nibble at the berries and forgot all about tricks.

Suddenly Uncle Buzzard, who is called Tio Zopilote, was flying overhead, looked down and saw Tio Conejo. He swooped low.

“Glad to see you, Tio Conejo,” Tio Zopilote called, though he wasn’t glad to see him at all. He was angry with Tio Conejo, who had played many tricks on him in the past. Tio Zopilote had been waiting for a long, long time to take his revenge.

“Ahh, this fruit is good, Tio Zopilote,” Tio Conejo said as he munched and sighed contentedly. “I’m a very hungry rabbit today.”

Tio Zopilote smiled to himself. “Tio Conejo, if you are truly hungry, I know just the place for you. Up in heaven are the best feasts. Yes, my old friend, if you want the best food in the world, it’s up here above the clouds you want to be.”

“I have never been to those feasts,” Tio Conejo said dejectedly. “I can’t fly, so I have no way of getting there.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Tio Zopilote said, though he could barely contain his laughter. “There’s a great feast happening up there right now, and if you’ll bring along your guitar and play for me, I’ll fly you there. I’m sure my friends in heaven would love to hear your fine music.”

“Hold on and I’ll get my guitar,” Tio Conejo said, and hopped back to his warren as fast as he could. He returned even faster, bringing with him his guitar.

“Now climb on my back. Hold onto me beneath my wings,” Tio Zopilote told Tio Conejo.

Tio Conejo strapped his guitar around his neck, climbed on Tio Zopilote’s back and held on tightly. Tio Zopilote flew into the sky. Up and up he flew, higher and higher. And all the time he was flying through that wintry sky, he was planning his revenge on Tio Conejo.

“Wait until you see the size of the fruit in heaven,” Tio Zopilote said, and chuckled to himself. Oh, how sweet it will be, he thought, to fool Tio Conejo just the way he fools everyone else.

Down below, they could see the beautiful world spread out beneath them. The trees seemed only tiny specks. The other creatures looked like ants. The fruit wasn’t visible at all, and soon Tio Conejo’s mouth began to water as he thought of the huge fruit in heaven.

“Why don’t you play a song for me?” Tio Zopilote coaxed. “The trip will go faster that way.”

“Well, not now,” Tio Conejo said. “I’d prefer to hold onto your back.”

“Oh, I’ll fly carefully,” Tio Zopilote said, and so Tio Conejo reached for his guitar. Settling himself carefully on Tio Zopilote’s back, he began strumming a tune.

Tio Zopilote smiled wickedly, and suddenly began to fly in tight circles. Then he flew in a zigzag. He turned upside down and circled again. He flew as fast as he could. He did everything possible to make Tio Conejo fall off.

“Stop your crazy flying,” Tio Conejo cried. “I’m dizzy and I’m going to fall,” but he let go of his guitar, and it swung wildly around his neck. He held onto Tio Zopilote’s neck as tightly as he could.

“I always fly this way when I’m near heaven,” Tio Zopilote said. “It’s the winds, you see. The winds of heaven are very different from the winds of earth.”

“Ohhh,” Tio Conejo moaned. His stomach churned and his head began to spin. “Stop, Tio Zopilote. I’m dying …”

“We’re near heaven,” said Tio Zopilote as he swooped and twisted and whirled some more.

“Go back to earth,” shouted Tio Conejo, but Tio Zopilote spun again.

Tio Conejo grabbed his guitar and banged it on Tio Zopilote’s head. Tio Zopilote’s head went right inside the guitar, and he couldn’t see a thing. He began to spin and twirl, but now he was falling back toward earth.

Tio Conejo held Tio Zopilote’s wings out so they floated gently to the ground below.

When they landed on the soft earth, Tio Conejo jumped off Tio Zopilote’s back. “Take the guitar off my head!” Tio Zopilote cried.

“Ask your friends in heaven to take it off,” Tio Conejo laughed. And he skipped away.

Tio Zopilote pulled at that guitar. He twisted and turned. He stood on his head. But he could not shake that guitar loose.

At last he slunk home. His wife laughed at him, but she pulled his head out of the guitar. With it came most of his feathers. Tio Zopilote’s neck was stripped bare.

Those feathers never grew back, and Tio Zopilote’s children never had feathers on their necks, either. And that’s the way it’s been with buzzards ever since.

As for Tio Conejo? Well, he’s still playing tricks, but the other creatures understand. After all, Tio Conejo is a trickster. And they never try to take revenge on him.


Source: Venezuelan Folktale

Stories of animal tricksters have been told in Venezuela for centuries. Among all the characters that populate Venezuelan folklore, Tio Conejo was the quintessential favorite of children and grown-ups alike. But Tio Conejo was not a Venezuelan: His roots are deeply attached to African tricksters, like Anansi the spider. The multiple shapes this character adopted in the Americas have to do with the brutal, socio-historical circumstances the Africans faced who brought their folktales to the continents. Brer Rabbit is a trickster character with the same African roots, in stories told in the Southern United States.

Arraiz, Antonio. Tío Tigre y Tío Conejo. Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores, 1980.

Author adminPosted on February 25, 2019February 25, 2019Categories Animal, TricksterTags African, pourquoi tale, tio conejo, Venezuela

Peace – Storytelling for Everyone

by Laura Shannon

I imagine many of you share my feelings of anger, grief, and dread about this invasion of Ukraine. It is hard to know what to do and terrible to feel so powerless. I would like to offer a practice which I am finding very helpful: to meditate on Ukrainian Goddess embroideries as a prayer for peace.

Goddess figures are ubiquitous in Ukrainian folk art, in woven and embroidered clothing, ritual textiles, pottery, painting, and pysanky, ceremonially decorated Easter eggs. Goddess embroideries are also found throughout the entire Slavic world, Eastern Europe, the Near East and North Africa, and even farther afield.

The Goddess motif is very ancient, as evidenced by archaeological artefacts found in Ukraine – and in many other regions – going back thousands of years to the Neolithic Goddess cultures of Old Europe. 

The Goddess signifies fertility, abundance, benevolence, the source of life, and the natural cycles of birth, death, and regeneration. Goddess embroideries can be understood as living emblems of the ancient egalitarian culture of peace which once reigned in this vast region, according to archaeologist Marija Gimbutas.

The women who make these sacred signs in cloth remember and preserve a worldview of harmony, beauty, peace, and reverence for the earth, the mother and the cycle of life.

Ukraine is also the home of an ancient circle dance tradition, so the women who embroider are also women who dance, and the same life-affirming messages are encoded in the dance steps and the dance experience. 

Goddess embroideries are found in every region of Ukraine, and are frequently the central motif in the woven and embroidered ritual cloths known as rushnyky.

rushnyk (pl. rushnyky) is a long and narrow ritual cloth, usually made from one loom’s-width of linen and about 3 metres long, richly ornamented with woven or embroidered patterns. Ceremonial cloths of this type are found among all Slavic peoples as well as in other regions of Eastern Europe and the Near East. They are used in rituals of weddings, births, baptisms and funerals; in homes, they are draped over icons and outside they are tied to crosses or sacred trees.

The red-on-white rushnyky shown here are typical of central Ukraine; each district has its own distinctive style. The embroidered patterns are outlined freehand in stem stitch, then filled in with a wide variety of different stitches. The same motif is mirrored at both ends. This embroidery technique is used exclusively for rushnyky, not for ‘secular’ textiles.

Each rushnyk is a unique creative expression of the woman who made it, and no two are alike. Nevertheless, the embroideries follow certain guidelines. Typically, a narrow border frames all four edges, delineating a space filled with symmetrical floral motifs.

In Ukrainian folklore, the Goddess has many names and faces. She is honored in three main aspects: Birth, Fertility, and Protection.

I suggest that the essential aspects of these three main Goddesses can be discerned in the three main visual elements of the rushnyk: the central point of origin corresponds to the Birth Goddess, Rozhanytsia, the source of all life; the abundance and joyful flowering designs represent Mokosh, Goddess of Fertility and life-giving moisture, rain and dew; while the narrow borders along the edges of the rushnyk are an embodiment of Berehinia, Goddess of Protection.

Very often the Goddess appears in the rushnyk, either as a recognizable female figure or disguised in the more abstract, stylized floral form of the Tree of Life.  These are the qualities the rushnyky can awaken in us as we contemplate them, and which I would like to invite you to send in our prayers to Ukraine.

The practice I suggest is simply to meditate and pray with these beautiful, joyful and ancient images, to kindle peaceful feelings in ourselves and in the world.

You may find that contemplation of Goddess embroideries helps you embody their qualities of being grounded, centered, connected, and protected.


Source: https://feminismandreligion.com/2022/03/04/goddess-embroideries-of-ukraine-as-prayers-for-peace-by-laura-shannon/ 

Author adminPosted on June 3, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, MythTags ancient, Berehinia, embroideries, folk art, folklore, goddess, Mokosh, Peace, ritual, Rozhanytsia, slavic, UkraineLeave a comment on Goddess Embroideries of Ukraine as Prayers for Peace

A Sioux Legend

Two young men were out strolling one night talking of love affairs. They passed around a hill and came to a little ravine or coulee. Suddenly they saw coming up from the ravine a beautiful woman. She was painted and her dress was of the very finest material.

“What a beautiful girl!” said one of the young men.

“Already I love her. I will steal her and make her my wife,” said the other.

I know what you young men have been saying; one of you is good; the other is wicked,” she said.

She laid down the pipe on the ground and at once became a buffalo cow. The cow pawed the ground, stuck her tail straight out behind her and then lifted the pipe from the ground again in her hoofs; immediately she became a young woman again.

“I am come to give you this gift,” she said. “It is the peace pipe. Hereafter all treaties and ceremonies shall be performed after smoking it. It shall bring peaceful thoughts into your minds. You shall offer it to the Great Mystery and to Mother Earth.”

The two young men ran to the village and told what they had seen and heard. All the village came out where the young woman was.

She repeated to them what she had already told the young men and added:

“When you set free the ghosts of the dead, you must have a white buffalo cow skin.”

She gave the pipe to the medicine men of the village, turned again to a buffalo cow and fled away to the land of buffaloes.


Source: Project Gutenberg’s Myths and Legends of the Sioux, by Marie L. McLaughlin, 1913.

Author adminPosted on May 19, 2021Categories LegendsTags Native American, Peace, Sioux

The American Story

Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”

Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service. 

Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.

Ann Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mothers’ Day.”

Anna Jarvis Turns Mother’s Day Into a National Holiday

The official Mother’s Day holiday arose in the 1900s as a result of the efforts of Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis. Following her mother’s 1905 death, Anna Jarvis conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 she organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day also saw thousands of people attend a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who remained unmarried and childless her whole life—resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.

By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Jarvis denounces Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.

Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.


Source: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

Author adminPosted on May 7, 2021Categories HistoryTags American, Ann Jarvis, Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day, Peace, temperance

Long ago, Klos-kur-beh, the Great Teacher, lived in the land where no people lived. One day at noon, a young man came to him and called him “Mother’s brother.”

Standing before Klos-kur-beh, he said, “I was born of the foam of the waters. The wind blew, and the waves quickened into foam. The sun shone on the foam and warmed it, and the warmth made life, and the life was I. See–I am young and swift, and I have come to abide with you and to help in all that you do.”

Again on a day at noon, a maiden came, stood before the two, and called them “my children.” “My children, I have come to abide with you and have brought with me love. I will give it to you, and if you will love me and will grant my wish, all the world will love me, even the very beasts. Strength is mine, and I give it to whosoever may get me. Comfort also is mine, for though I am young, my strength shall be felt over all the earth. I was born of the beautiful plant of the earth. For the dew fell on the leaf, and the sun warmed the dew, and the warmth was life, and that life is I.”

Then Klos-kur-beh lifted up his hands toward the sun and praised the Great Spirit. Afterward, the young man and the maiden became man and wife, and she became the first mother. Klos-kur-beh taught their children and did great works for them. When his works were finished, he went away to live in the Northland until it should be time for him to come again.

The people increased until they were numerous. When a famine came among them, the first mother grew more and more sorrowful. Every day at noon she left her husband’s lodge and stayed away from him until the shadows were long. Her husband, who dearly loved her, was sad because of her sorrow. One day he followed her trail as far as the ford of the river, and there he waited for her to return.

When she came, she sang as she began to ford the river, and as long as her feet were in the water she seemed glad. The man saw something that trailed behind her right foot, like a long green blade. When she came out of the water, she stooped and cast off the blade. Then she appeared sorrowful.

The husband followed her home as the sun was setting, and he bade her come out and look at the beautiful sun. While they stood side by side, there came seven little children. They stood in front of the couple, looked into the woman’s face, and spoke: “We are hungry, and the night will soon be here. Where is the food?”

Tears ran down the woman’s face as she said, “Be quiet, little ones. In seven moons you shall be filled and shall hunger no more.”

Her husband reached out, wiped away her tears, and asked, “My wife, what can I do to make you happy?”

“Nothing else,” she said. “Nothing else will make me happy.”

Then the husband went away to the Northland to ask Klos-kur-beh for counsel. With the rising of the seventh sun, he returned and said, “O wife, Klos-kur-beh has told me to do what you asked.”

The woman was pleased and said, “When you have slain me, let two men take hold of my hair and draw my body all the way around a field. When they have come to the middle of it, let them bury my bones. Then they must come away. When seven months have passed, let them go again to the field and gather all that they find. Tell them to eat it. It is my flesh. You must save a part of it to put in the ground again. My bones you cannot eat, but you may burn them. The smoke will bring peace to you and your children.”

The next day, when the sun was rising, the man slew his wife. Following her orders, two men drew her body over an open field until her flesh was worn away. In the middle of the field, they buried her bones.

When seven moons had passed by and the husband came again to that place, he saw it all filled with beautiful tall plants. He tasted the fruit of the plant and found it sweet. He called it Skar-mu- nal–“corn.”

And on the place where his wife’s bones were buried, he saw a plant with broad leaves, bitter to the taste. He called it Utar-mur-wa-yeh– “tobacco.”

Then the people were glad in their hearts, and they came to the harvest. But when the fruits were all gathered, the man did not know how to divide them. So he sent to the great teacher, Klos- kur-beh, for counsel.

When Klos-kur-beh came and saw the great harvest, he said, “Now have the first words of the first mother come to pass, for she said she was born of the leaf of the beautiful plant. She said also that her power should be felt over the whole world and that all men should love her.

“And now that she has gone into this substance, take care that the second seed of the first mother be always with you, for it is her flesh. Her bones also have been given for your good. Burn them, and the smoke will bring freshness to the mind. And since these things came from the goodness of a woman’s heart, see that you hold her always in memory. Remember her when you eat. Remember her when the smoke of her bones rises before you. And because you are all brothers, divide among you her flesh and her bones.

Let all share alike, for so will the love of the first mother have been fulfilled.”

Penobscot and Abenaki legends, First Mother and her sacrifice for her children. Source: Indigenous Peoples Literature
Illustration: “Lammas” by Wendy Andrews

Author adminPosted on November 25, 2019Categories Legends, NatureTags Abenaki, Gratitude, Native American, Peace, Penobscot, Thanksgiving

Kwanzaa UMOJA (Unity) – Storytelling for Everyone

African Folktale

When Anansi’s first son was born and Anansi and his wife, Aso, were ready to name the child, the baby spoke up and said, “I have brought my own name with me. It is See Trouble.” Their second son also announced his name in this way. He was Road Builder.

Each of his six sons in turn announced their names in this way. There was River Drinker, Game Skinner, Stone Thrower and Cushion.

Once, Anansi had to go on a long journey. On his trip, he found a big, bright, shiny ball. He was bringing it home, when he fell into the lake and was swallowed by a big fish.

Anansi decided right then that he would give the bright shiny object to whoever rescued him.

As time passed, and Anansi did not return home, his family became worried. See Trouble looked ahead to see Anansi inside the big fish. He told his brothers. Right away, Road Builder cleared a path through the forest for his brothers to follow.

When they got to the lake, it was the thirsty brother’s turn.

River Drinker drank up all the water in the lake. There was the big fish at the bottom. Game skinner went right to work. He cut open that fish to let Anansi out. Anansi was still holding that bright, shiny object he had found.

Suddenly a giant bird flew down and grabbed Anansi. It took him way up into the sky. Stone Thrower grabbed a rock and threw it. He hit the bird just right to make it let go of Anansi. Down, down Anansi fell, but he didn’t get hurt because Cushion put himself in the way. Anansi landed softly.

Anansi wanted to give the bright, shiny object to the son who had rescued him, but he couldn’t decide who had done the most to help him.

He gave the bright, shiny thing to Nyame, who put it up in the sky until someone could figure out which son deserves it the most. It is still there in the sky. You can see it tonight.


Sources: Ashanti People of Ghana



Author adminPosted on December 27, 2021December 27, 2021Categories Animal, Fables, Family, FolktalesTags African, Anansi, Ashanti, Kwanzaa

The Water-Nixie – Storytelling for Everyone

German Folktale

A little brother and sister were once playing by a well, and while they were thus playing, they both fell in. A water-nixie lived down below, who said, “Now I have got you, now you shall work hard for me!” And carried them off with her.

She gave the girl dirty tangled flax to spin, and she had to fetch water in a bucket with a hole in it, and the boy had to hew down a tree with a blunt axe, and they got nothing to eat but dumplings as hard as stones.

Then at last the children became so impatient, that they waited until one Sunday, when the nix was at church, and ran away. But when church was over, the nix saw that the birds were flown, and followed them with great strides.

The children saw her from afar, and the girl threw a brush behind her which formed an immense hill of bristles, with thousands and thousands of spikes, over which the nix was forced to scramble with great difficulty; at last, however, she got over.

When the children saw this, the boy threw behind him a comb which made a great hill of combs with a thousand times a thousand teeth, but the nix managed to keep herself steady on them, and at last crossed over that.

Then the girl threw behind her a looking-glass which formed a hill of mirrors, and was so slippery that it was impossible for the nix to cross it.

Then the nix thought, “I will go home quickly and fetch my axe, and cut the hill of glass in half.” Long before she returned, however, and had hewn through the glass, the children had escaped to a great distance.

The water-nixie was obliged to betake herself to her well again.


Source: Kinder-und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales, Grimms’ Fairy Tales), final edition (1857).

Author adminPosted on August 4, 2021Categories FolktalesTags german, grimm, water spirit

Storytelling Techniques in Memoir – Storytelling for Everyone

There are many ways to approach writing a memoir: one of them is that of the storyteller. The oral tradition offers time-honored techniques in the construction of story, whether a folktale or a personal narrative, so that it is universal and engaging. The three most effective techniques in the enduring, oral art of storytelling for memoir are:

Role of the narrator
Structure of story as a narrative arc
Importance of voice

Narrator in the Oral Tradition

The role of the storyteller is omniscient, knows it all, interprets the characters, emotions, meaning, and frames the story. The traditional teller is like the black robed musician in the symphony orchestra, invisible, the instrument that allows the music to fill the concert hall with its drama, emotion, power. So, the storyteller becomes invisible and allows the story to take over, so that listeners can become lost in the story, engage, and find their own meaning.

Marie Louisa Shedlock in her classic work, The Art of the Story-Teller (1915), defined the essence of art with stunning clarity. Shedlock described storytelling performance as an “inside out” process that is both powerful and simple.

Many of the storytelling guides today, either published or online, tend to construct stories from basic elements, such as: story structure, narrative arc, emotional charge, or timing. By crafting stories from the “outside in” one can develop good story lines, but they won’t reflect the essence of the art or engage the listeners in the same way. This is also true for memoir writing.

This is how Marie Shedlock describes the role of the teller:

“It would be a truism to suggest that dramatic instinct and dramatic power of expression are naturally the first essentials for success in the art of story-telling, and that, without these, no story-teller would go very far; but I maintain that, even with these gifts, no high standard of performance will be reached without certain other qualities, among the first of which I place apparent simplicity, which is really the art of concealing the art … The fault in the artist which amounts most completely to a failure of dignity is the absence of saturation with his idea. When saturation fails, no other real presence avails, as when, on the other hand, it operates, no failure of method fatally interferes.”

The role of the storytelling narrator is neutral—even though the story might be full of emotion, catharsis, passion, the teller must remain at enough of an emotional distance to be “saturated” in the entirety of the story, taking all the parts, knowing the inside out of all its characters, holding the story within an all-embracing awareness.

Gaining this emotional distance and detachment can be useful because the writer is shaping raw experience into a story to share with others, who will then identify and make of it what they will.

Simple Structure: Narrative Arc

In the folktales and fairy tales that have survived millennia, one immediately imagines a framework, the conventional beginning, middle, and end, ‘Happily ever after.” Implicit in that structure, is the role of the storyteller, the mastermind of the piece, ever present, but not visible, the impresario.

Stories in the oral tradition that have survived have a simple structure, often with a repetition of the main action, such as the three bears, or the three wishes. We enjoy the predictability that also allows for rising tension that comes with each repeated act.

If you can select one action scene from your memoir or personal narrative and adapt it for storytelling, doing so can provide a number of benefits: role of narrator, structural shaping, repetition, clear resolution, and emotional distancing.

Creating effective scenes, using an outline to track its narrative arc, or a storyboard. If your action scenes have a clear structure, they will engage readers, and allow for the neutrality of the narrator, who can step aside, and let the story take hold.


The oral tradition relies on the spoken word to convey all meaning. The same can be true of memoir. Here are a few practical ways to develop your awareness of voice and to use the spoken word to deepen your understanding of your story.

Recording the story: Practice telling the story until it comes naturally. There are any number of ways to practice telling a story. You could play the recorded story and join in with your live voice until there is no hesitation in the flow of words. Recruit your family, friends, or pets for a live audience—often the best way. Tell it to a mirror without notes and watch your facial expressions and hand gestures. Videotape your telling and play it back on Zoom or Facebook Live or another app.

Listening to the story: Deepen your connection to the story by isolating the truth in the story and relating it to your own truths. Spend time doing some research to verify the accuracy of your personal story. Consult with friends or family members who were there or had similar experiences. Even though you might not add the details you research or learn from eye witnesses to the tale, they verify what you have remembered. You might then listen to your recording of the story and close your eyes, at a time when you are most relaxed. Think about what the symbolism of the story means to you. Your understanding of the layers of meaning in a story greatly adds to the telling of it. This is the subtext: It tells what cannot be said.


All three of these storytelling techniques taken together, create neutrality by encouraging empathy within the teller and the writer of memoir: Acceptance  of all events, each character, and the final outcome.

Signal Bird – Storytelling for Everyone

Choctaw Folktale

Luksi, Choctaw Nation Totem

The Choctaw people loved nature and lived close to it. They observed carefully the happenings that occurred before weather changes. Their understanding was attributed to Great Spirit’s teachings.

The little Luksi or terrapin lives near the water, but he cannot live in it. He knows days ahead if there is to be a flood and moves to high ground. When the Indians see the terrapin moving, they know they must move too.

The Indians say saw grass, one of the sedges, blooms every hundred years unless a wind and rainstorm is coming. The terrapin does not like the odor of the blossoms, so as soon as the blooming begins; he moves to higher land where there is no grass. The blossoms and the moving terrapin tell the Indians of the approaching storm.

They say if the wind blows from the east for three consecutive days, rain will fall.

At times when rain is needed, the Indians may try to bring rain. If a snake can be found, it is killed and left with its stomach up to the sun. This will surely bring rain.

The Indians call the redheaded woodpecker the signal bird. If it pecks on the house or a tree near the house that is a signal danger is near and they must use precaution. Should a signal bird fly in front of one who has started on a trip, he knows danger lies ahead and he should return home.

When Josephine was little, she lived with her grandmother. She was always happy when she could go to see her mother. One morning soon after they had started, the signal bird flew in front of them.

“No, no! We must not go on. There is danger!” suddenly cried the grandmother.

“But we have just started! Why must we go back?” asked Josephine.

“Didn’t you see the signal bird fly in front of us? We must not go on!”

“I want to see my mother. I do not want to stay!” protested Josephine.
“We cannot ignore the bird’s warning,” her grandmother said firmly.

Josephine was so angry, when she got home, she took the blowgun her grandfather used to kill birds and went out to find the signal bird. Soon she saw him and blew an arrow at him. It caught his wing and he fluttered to the ground. Josephine ran and picked him up.

After she removed the arrow, she held him so he could not get away. She took him to her grandmother.

“Here, Grandmother, is the signal bird that flew in front of us,” she said as she opened her hands.

“Oh, Josephine, why did you do this?” scolded her grandmother when she saw the dead bird.

“I did not mean to kill him, but I am not sorry,” she said stubbornly.

“He was warning us of danger. You should not have killed him!”

“He would not let me see my mother! I did not like him!”

At that moment her grandfather came in to the house. “The river is up; you do not go today! It is so swift you could not cross,” he explained.

“Do you understand now, Josephine? We might have been drowned if the signal bird had not stopped us.”

Josephine could say nothing but a tear rolled down her cheek.


Source: https://www.choctawnation.com/history-culture/heritage-traditions/childrens-stories

Note: May we heed the signals of all nature, with thoughts of safety for those in Hurricane Ida’s path, the home of the Choctaw Nation.

Author adminPosted on August 30, 2021Categories Animal, Nature, SeasonsTags Choctaw, flood, rainstorm, weather

John Barleycorn – Storytelling for Everyone

British Legend

Sir John Barleycorn and Miss Hop

It is now high summer and the union of Sun and Earth, of God and Goddess, has produced the First Harvest. Lammas is the celebration of this first, Grain Harvest, a time for gathering in and giving thanks for abundance.

In English folklore, John Barleycorn is a character who represents the crop of barley. Equally as important, he symbolizes the wonderful drinks which can be made from barley—beer and whiskey—and their effects. In the traditional folksong, John Barleycorn, the character of John Barleycorn endures all kinds of indignities, most of which correspond to the cyclic nature of planting, growing, harvesting, and then death.

Robert Burns & the Barleycorn Legend

Although written versions of the song date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, there is evidence that it was sung for years before that. There are a number of different versions, but the most well-known one is the Robert Burns version.

Believe it or not, there’s even a John Barleycorn Society at Dartmouth, which says, “A version of the song is included in the Bannatyne Manuscript of 1568, and English broadside versions from the 17th century are common. Robert Burns published his own version in 1782, and modern versions abound.​”

The lyrics to the Robert Burns version of the song are as follows:

There was three kings into the east,
three kings both great and high,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn must die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
put clods upon his head,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on’
and show’rs began to fall.
John Barleycorn got up again,
and sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of Summer came,
and he grew thick and strong;
his head well arm’d wi’ pointed spears,
that no one should him wrong.

The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
when he grew wan and pale;
his bendin’ joints and drooping head
show’d he began to fail.

His colour sicken’d more and more,
and he faded into age;
and then his enemies began
to show their deadly rage.

They took a weapon, long and sharp,
and cut him by the knee;
they ty’d him fast upon a cart,
like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
and cudgell’d him full sore.
they hung him up before the storm,
and turn’d him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
with water to the brim,
they heav’d in John Barleycorn.
There, let him sink or swim!

They laid him upon the floor,
to work him farther woe;
and still, as signs of life appear’d,
they toss’d him to and fro.

They wasted o’er a scorching flame
the marrow of his bones;
but a miller us’d him worst of all,
for he crush’d him between two stones.

And they hae taen his very hero blood
and drank it round and round;
and still the more and more they drank,
their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
of noble enterprise;
for if you do but taste his blood,
’twill make your courage rise.

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
’twill heighten all his joy;
’twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
each man a glass in hand;
and may his great posterity
ne’er fail in old Scotland!


Source: https://www.learnreligions.com/the-legend-of-john-barleycorn-2562157

Mashpee Ghost Story – Storytelling for Everyone

As the holiday season approaches, and we celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, enjoy a ghost story from one of the first North American tribes to greet the Pilgrims. It appears to be a terrifying tale in some ways, but it might contain a ghostly moral. What message could it have for us today, in our shared country?

One night on Cape Cod at Gay Head, a Mashpee woman and her children were alone in their wigwam. The children were sound asleep in their blankets and their mother sat knitting beside her central fire-pit. As customary, her door-flap was wide open. Suddenly she became aware of someone approaching her doorway, and went to see who it might be.

A sailor stood outside. She asked him, “What do you want?” He replied, “I’d like to come inside and warm myself by your fire, because my clothes are wet and I feel chilled to the bone.”

She invited him inside and offered a place for him to sit beside the fire to dry out and warm himself. She placed another log on her fire, then resumed her knitting. As she watched the fire, she noticed that she could see the fire right through the sailor’s legs, which were stretched out between her and the fire–as if he were a ghost!

Her fear of him increased, but since she was a brave woman, she kept on with her knitting while keeping a suspicious eye toward the visitor. Finally the sailor turned to the Indian woman and said, “Do you want any money?”

Her first thought was not to answer his question. Then he repeated, “Do you want any money?” She replied, “Yes.”

The sailor explained, “If you really want a large amount of money, all you have to do is go outdoors behind your wigwam. Beside a rock there you will find buried a kettle full of money. I thank you for your hospitality. Good night.” He went away.

The Mashpee woman did not go outdoors immediately, as she wanted to think about the sailor’s proposal. She sat and knitted and thought for a while longer. Still, she felt frightened from the evening’s experience and was reluctant to leave her wigwam. More knitting time elapsed.

Then she thought, “I might as well go out and see if the sailor spoke the truth–to see if there really is a kettle of money out there.”

She took her hoe and went outside to the back of her wigwam, and easily saw the place described by the sailor. She began to dig with her hoe. She realized that every time she struck her hoe into the ground, she heard her children cry out loudly, as if in great pain. She rushed indoors to see what was their trouble. They were soundly sleeping in their blankets.

Again and again she dug with her hoe; each time her children cried out loudly to her; each time she rushed in to comfort them, only to find them soundly asleep as she had left them.

After these episodes had occurred several times, the mother decided to give up digging for the night. She thought she would try again early next morning after bright daylight and her children were awake.

Morning came, but she wondered if she had only dreamed last night’s happenings. Her children were eating their breakfast when she went out to the digging place. There was her hoe, standing where she had left it. But she could see that someone else had been there in the meantime and had finished digging while she slept.

Before her, she saw a big round hole. She knew someone had dug up the hidden treasure. She was too late for the pot of gold promised by the ghostly sailor. But again she thought and wondered, “But was I really too late?”

Again she thought, “That sailor may have been the Evil Spirit in disguise—or even a real ghost. Perhaps he was tempting me to see whether I cared more for my children, or more for the gold?”

Nevertheless, the Mashpee woman and her children continued to live in their village for a long, long time, even without the benefit of the ghost’s kettle of gold.


Note: The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, also known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present day Massachusetts and Eastern Rhode Island for more than 12,000 years. They are often called, the “Thanksgiving Tribe,” one that greeted the Pilgrims. After an arduous process lasting more than three decades, the Mashpee Wampanoag were re-acknowledged as a federally recognized tribe in 2007.

Source: Indigenous Peoples Literature is a non-profit educational resource and collaboration dedicated to the indigenous peoples of the world and to the enrichment it can bring to all people.

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Storytelling with Kate Farrell – Storytelling for Everyone

Podcast by San Francisco Writers Conference

Podcast host Matthew Félix asked Kate about the importance of stories, based on her book, Story Power. He also asked about the history of oral storytelling, as well as the resurgence it has enjoyed since the 1970s.

Kate explained the difference between telling a story orally and writing it down, highlighting the role that a live audience has as co-creator in the experience. She also discussed how storytelling foments change, both for the audience and the storyteller themselves.

Storytelling is not just for the stage, but also has practical, day-to-day applications, as illustrated by three types of stories: defining, signature, and personal branding, which Matthew and Kate discussed.

Kate explained the benefits of having a repertoire of stories at the ready for different circumstances and shared ways of gathering stories, as well as how to choose which ones might best be suited to storytelling.

Matthew asked Kate about the features essential to every story, and they reviewed the seven steps to preparing a story to be told—Kate emphasizing that stories should not be memorized.

Kate shared key things to keep in mind while performing, including important aspects of vocalization and the importance of making eye contact with the audience.

Matthew asked Kate about what she referred to as the cutting edge of storytelling: weaving or braiding archetypes with personal narratives.

Podcast by Matthew Félix

Enjoy the entire interview!

Listen here or on: iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify | Google | TuneIn | Amazon | 
Player FM | Deezer

Watch on YouTube

Check out San Francisco Writers Conference 2022!

For more about storytelling and how to tell your stories, order the award-winning Story Power: Secrets to Creating, Crafting, and Telling Memorable Stories in eBook or paperback, available at all retail outlets:

IndieBound.com | BN.com | Amazon.com |  

“Telling unforgettable stories will feel easy after reading the advice various contributors give in this book. Each contributor shares their secrets for how they tell memorable tales. Stories define us, and Story Power embodies the power storytelling has to help everyone discover themselves and better the ways they communicate with others. ”
            -Reviewed By Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite

Kate Farrell, a graduate of the School of Library and Information Studies, UC Berkeley, has been a language arts classroom teacher, an author, a librarian, a university lecturer, and a storyteller since 1966. She founded the Word Weaving Storytelling Project, and she has published numerous educational materials on the art of storytelling. Kate edited the anthology, Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother, and co-edited two others: Times They Were A-Changing: Women Remember the ’60s & 70s and Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence. She is past president of the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association and a presenter for the San Francisco Writers Conference.

Learn more about Kate Farrell: https://katefarrell.net/

Author adminPosted on January 18, 2022Categories Folktales, Personal Story, TechniquesTags Matthew Felix, San Francisco Writers Conference, story power, storytelling

The First Rainbow – Storytelling for Everyone

An Achomawi Myth

Pit River Rainbow

Sixty little spider children shivered as they slept. The snow had fallen every day for months. All the animals were cold, hungry, and frightened. Food supplies were almost gone. No one knew what to do. Blue Jay and Redheaded Woodpecker sang and danced for Silver Gray Fox, the creator, who floats above the clouds. Since Silver Gray Fox, had made the whole world with a song and a dance, Blue jay and Woodpecker hoped to be answered with blue skies. But the snow kept falling.

Finally the animals decided to ask Coyote. Coyote had been around a long time, almost since the beginning. They thought that he might know how to reach Silver Gray Fox. They went to the cave where Coyote was sleeping, told him their troubles, and asked for help. “Grrrrowwwlll…go away,” grumbled Coyote, “and let me think.”

Coyote stuck his head into the cold air outside and thought till he caught an idea. He tried singing in little yelps and loud yowls to Silver Gray Fox. Coyote sang and sang, but Silver Gray Fox didn’t listen, or didn’t want to. After all, it was Coyote’s mischief-making when the world was new that had caused Silver Gray Fox to go away beyond the clouds in the first place. Coyote thought he’d better think some more.

Suddenly he saw Spider Woman swinging down on a silky thread from the top of the tallest tree in the forest. Spider Woman’s been on Earth a long, long time, Coyote thought. She’s very wise. I’ll ask her what to do. Coyote went to the tree and lifted his ears to Spider Woman.

“Spider Woman, O wise weaver, O clever one,” called Coyote in his sweetest voice. “We’re all cold and hungry and everyone’s afraid this winter will never end. Silver Gray Fox didn’t seem to notice. Can you help?” asked Coyote.

Spider Woman swayed her shining black body back and forth, back and forth, thinking and thinking, thinking and thinking. Her eight black eyes sparkled when she spoke, “I know how to reach Silver Gray Fox, Coyote, but I’m not the one for the work. Everyone will have to help. You’ll need my two youngest children, too. They’re little and light as dandelion fluff, and the fastest spinners in my web.” Spider Woman called up to her two littlest ones. “Spinnnnnn! Spinnnnnn!”

They came down fast, each spinning on eight little legs, two fine, black twin Spider Boys, full of curiosity and fun. Spider Woman said, “My dear little quick ones, are you ready for a great adventure?” “Yes! Yes! We’re ready!” they cried.

Spider Woman told them her plan, and the Spider Boys set off with Coyote in the snow. They hadn’t gone far when they met two White-Footed Mouse Brothers rooting around for seeds to eat. Coyote told them Spider Woman’s plan. “Will you help?” he asked. “Yes! Yes! We’ll help!” they squeaked.

So they all traveled the trail towards Mount Shasta until they met Weasel Man looking hungry and even leaner than usual. Coyote told Weasel Man his plan. “Will you help?” asked Coyote. “Of course,” rasped Weasel Man, who joined them on the trail.

Before long they came across Red Fox Woman swishing her big fluffy tail through the bushes. “Will you help?” asked Coyote. “Of course, I’ll come,” crooned Red Fox Woman. Then Rabbit Woman poked her head out of her hole. “I’ll come too.” She sneezed, shivering despite her thick fur.

Meadowlark wrapped a winter shawl around her wings, and trudged after the others along the trail to the top of Mount Shasta.

The snow had stopped, but the sky was still cloudy. On top of Mount Shasta, Coyote barked, “Will our two best archers step forward?” The two White Footed Mouse Brothers proudly lifted their bows.

“Everyone listen,” barked Coyote. “If any one of us is only half-hearted, Spider Woman’s plan will fail.

“To get through the clouds to Silver Gray Fox, we must each share our powers, our thoughts, our dreams, our strength, and our songs whole-heartedly. Now, you White-Footed Mouse Brothers, I want you to shoot arrows at exactly the same spot in the sky.”

Turning to the others, Coyote said, “Spider Boys, start spinning spider silk as fast as you can. Weasel Man, White-Footed Mouse Brothers, Red Fox Woman, Rabbit Woman, and I will sing and make music. We must sing with all our might or the Spider Boys won’t make it.” “One!” called Coyote. Everyone got ready. “Two!” counted out Coyote. The animals drew in deep breaths.

The Mouse Brothers pulled back their bowstrings. “Three!” said the Coyote. Two arrows shot straight up and stuck at the same spot in the clouds. “Whiff! Wiff! Wiff Wiff!”, sang the White Footed Mouse Brothers. “Yiyipyipla!”, sang Red Fox Woman. “Wowooooolll!” sang Coyote. Rabbit Woman shook her magic rattle. Weasel Man beat his very old and worn elk-hide drum.

The Spider Boys hurled out long lines of spider silk, weaving swiftly with all their legs. The animals sang up a whirlwind of sound to lift the spider silk until it caught on the arrows in the clouds. Then the Spider Twins scurried up the lines of silk and scrambled through the opening. All the while, down below, the animals continued singing, rattling and drumming. The little Spiders sank, breathless, onto the clouds.

Silver Gray Fox spied them and called out, “What are you two doing here?”

The Spider Boys bent low on their little legs and answered. “Silver Gray Fox, we bring greetings from our mother, Spider Woman, and all the creatures of the world below. We’ve come to ask if you’d please let the sun shine again. The whole world is cold. Everyone is hungry. Everyone is afraid spring will not return, ever.”

They were so sincere and polite that Silver Gray Fox became gentler, and asked, “How did you two get up here?”

The Spider Boys said, “Listen, can you hear the people singing? Can you hear the drum and rattle?”

Silver Gray Fox heard the drum and rattle and the people singing. When the Spider Boys finished telling their story, Silver Gray Fox was pleased and told them, “I’m happy when creatures use their powers together. I’m especially glad to hear that Coyote’s been helping too. Your mother, Spider Woman, made a good plan. To reward all your hard work, I’ll create a sign to show that the skies will clear. And you may also help, but first picture the sun shining bright.”

The Spider Boys thought hard and saw the sun sending out fierce rays in all directions.

“Now, where sun rays meet the damp air” said Silver Gray Fox, “Picture a stripe of red, red as Woodpecker’s head. Add a stripe of blue nearby, blue as Blue Jay’s blue.” The Spider Boys thought hard, and great stripes appeared of red and blue. Silver Gray Fox chanted. “Now, in between, add stripes of orange, yellow and green!” The Spider Boys thought of this and dazzling their eyes, a beautiful arc of colors could be seen across the whole sky above the clouds. It was the very first rainbow.

Meanwhile, down below, beneath the clouds, the animals and people were so cold, hungry, and tired that they had stopped singing and drumming. Spider Woman missed her two youngest children. Each day she missed them more. She blamed Coyote for the trouble. So did the other animals. Coyote slipped away silent, lonely and sad. Above, on the clouds, the twins rested. Their legs ached and their minds were tired.

Silver Gray Fox said, “You did what I asked and kept it secret. That’s very difficult, so I’m giving you a special reward. On wet mornings, when the sun starts to shine, you’ll see what I mean.”

Then the Spider Boys spun down to Earth, and ran back to their mother as fast as they could. Spider Woman cried for joy and wrapped all her legs around her two littlest children. Their fifty-eight sisters and brothers jumped up and down with happiness. All the animals gathered around to hear the Spider Boys’ story.

When they finished, the Spider Boys cried, “Look up!”

Everyone looked up to see that the clouds had drifted apart and there, like a bridge between the earth and the sky was a radiant arch – they could still see the very first rainbow. The sun began to warm the earth. Shoots of grass pushed up through the melting snow.

Meadowlark blew her silver whistle of spring across the valley, calling streams and rivers to awake. Coyote came out of hiding, and racing to a distant hilltop, he gave a long, long howl of joy. The animals held a great feast to honor the rainbow, Silver Gray Fox, Spider Woman, the Spider Twins, Coyote, and the hard work everyone had done together.

To this day, after the rain, when the sun comes out, dewdrops on spider webs shine with tiny rainbows. This is the spiders’ special reward.


Source: https://rainbowwall.com/rainbows-myths-legends/

Note: The Achomawi (also Achumawi, Ajumawi, and Ahjumawi) were one of several bands known as the “Pit River” tribe of Native Americans who lived in northern California. They lived in the Fall River valley, Tule Lake, and Pit River area near Montgomery Creek in Shasta County to Goose Lake on the Oregon state line. They were closely related to the Atsugewi; both speaking Palaihnihan languages. Their name, “Achomawi,” translates to “River people.”

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