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.



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.



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

Unseen Folklore of Dia de los Muertos – Storytelling for Everyone

By Bailey White

When I was involved in my high school’s Spanish club, our biggest event was the Dia de los Muertos celebration. Dia de los Muertos, or better known as Day of the Dead, gave us an opportunity to prepare Mexican food, decorate the school, and dress up in colorful Hispanic garb. To my unintentionally ignorant peers, Dia de los Muertos was just seen as two celebration-filled days that honor deceased family members and friends in Hispanic culture.

What my schoolmates did not know was that underneath all the celebrations and festivities that occur during Dia de los Muertos, there are several underlying messages that Latin Americans have been trying to convey for thousands of years. Through the celebration of death, Hispanics have discovered what life is really about: family, equality, and tradition.

Despite Dia de los Muertos primarily being a commemoration for deceased loved ones, the underlying folklore of the holiday cherishes diversity and unification through traditions, such as ofrendas.

In Hispanic culture, family is one of the most important and cherished aspects of life. Being from a large Hispanic family myself, I can attest to the notion that we will find any reason to commemorate a living family member or ancestor. Family is so extremely valued and honored in Latin American culture that death makes our relationships with each other even stronger.

This inseparable bond of loved ones through life and death is what spurred one of the most iconic traditions of Dia de los Muertos: ofrendas. Ofrendas are elaborate, vibrant altars that often boast large arches and offerings that honor a passing of a loved one.

The four elements of the Earth are an essential tradition of an ofrenda:

Water is served in a clay pitcher or glass to quench the spirit’s thirst from their long journey. Fire is signified by the candles that are lit. Wind is signified by papel picado (tissue paper cut-outs). The earth element is represented by food, usually pan de muerto (bread of the dead). Alongside the Earth elements, friends and family shower spirits with memorable photographs, incense, fruit, assorted flowers, and personal items. All of these offerings contribute to the overall goal of honoring loved ones and sending the simple message of: I will love you and remember you always.

This loving tradition began ages ago; it first dates back to the Mesoamerican times, when the Aztecs believed that once the physical body died, the soul would continue to live in another realm of the universe. In those days, many would use ofrendas to summon back ancestors’ souls and lead them back home. Due to colonization of what is now modern-day Mexico and the European influence on the Aztec culture, the altar’s purpose has changed radically, but the main idea has not.

Ofrendas and the celebration of Dia de los Muertos is one of the few Mesoamerican traditions that successfully slipped through the cracks of the Spaniard’s religious control of Mexico. Although the Spaniards learned to understand the tradition of the ofrendas, many cultures are still unaware of their purpose today.

In order to dig deeper into the misconceptions of ofrendas, I used qualitative research techniques to understand others’ opinions on this holiday more thoroughly.

I interviewed Mexico native and old friend, Majo Rodriguez, on how Americans view traditional ofrendas. “In modern day Mexico, ofrendas are used as a way to say ‘We miss you dearly.’ But people who do not celebrate Dia de los Muertos misread it as us trying to summon spirits and see if they will eat the food that is displayed on the altars. Many I have encountered have it all wrong.”

Despite what other cultures may think, this ancient tradition is a way to bring families closer, and honor those who have passed on. The core of the ofrenda is to remember those who are important to you, and that family is one of nature’s greatest blessings.


Source: White, Bailey, “The Unseen Folklore of Dia de los Muertos” (2018). Jessie O’Kelly Freshman Essay Award. 1.

This Essay is brought to you for free and open access by the English at ScholarWorks@UARK. It has been accepted for inclusion in Jessie O’Kelly Freshman Essay Award by an authorized administrator of ScholarWorks@UARK.

Author adminPosted on November 1, 2021November 1, 2021Categories Folktales, History, Legends, Personal Story, SeasonsTags Aztec, Dia de los Muertos, hispanic, Latinx, Mexico

Frau Holle – Storytelling for Everyone


In some Scandinavian traditions, Frau Holle is known as the feminine spirit of the woods and plants, and was honored as the sacred embodiment of the earth and land itself. She is associated with many of the evergreen plants that appear during the Yule season, especially mistletoe and holly, and is sometimes seen as an aspect of Frigga, wife of Odin. In this theme, she is associated with fertility and rebirth.

In the Norse Eddas, she is described as Hlodyn, and she gives gifts to women at the time of the Winter Solstice, or Jul. She is sometimes associated with winter snowfall as well. It is said that when Frau Holle shakes out her mattresses, white feathers fall to the earth as snow. A feast is held in her honor each winter by many people in the Germanic countries.


There was once a widow who had two daughters—one of whom was pretty and industrious, while the other was ugly and idle. But she was much fonder of the ugly and idle one, because she was her own daughter; and the other, who was a step-daughter, was obliged to do all the work in the house. Every day the poor girl had to sit by a well, in the highway, and spin and spin till her fingers bled.

Now it happened that one day the shuttle was marked with her blood, so she dipped it in the well, to wash the mark off; but it dropped out of her hand and fell to the bottom. She began to weep, and ran to her step-mother and told of the mishap.

But she scolded her sharply, and was so merciless as to say, “Since you have let the shuttle fall in, you must fetch it out again.”

So the girl went back to the well, and did not know what to do; and in the sorrow of her heart she jumped into the well to get the shuttle. She lost her senses; and when she awoke and came to herself again, she was in a lovely meadow where the sun was shining and many thousands of flowers were growing.

Along this meadow she went, and at last came to a baker’s oven full of bread, and the bread cried out, “Oh, take me out! take me out! or I shall burn; I have been baked a long time!” So she went up to it, and took out all the loaves one after another with the bread-shovel.

After that she went on till she came to a tree covered with apples, which called out to her, “Oh, shake me! shake me! we apples are all ripe!” So she shook the tree till the apples fell like rain, and went on shaking till they were all down, and when she had gathered them into a heap, she went on her way.

At last she came to a little house, out of which an old woman peeped; but she had such large teeth that the girl was frightened, and was about to run away.

But the old woman called out to her, “What are you afraid of, dear child? Stay with me; if you will do all the work in the house properly, you shall be the better for it. Only you must take care to make my bed well, and to shake it thoroughly till the feathers fly—for then there is snow on the earth. I am Mother Holle.”

As the old woman spoke so kindly to her, the girl took courage and agreed to enter her service. She attended to everything to the satisfaction of her mistress, and always shook her bed so vigorously that the feathers flew about like snow-flakes. So she had a pleasant life with her; never an angry word; and boiled or roast meat every day.

She stayed some time with Mother Holle, and then she became sad. At first she did not know what was the matter with her, but found at length that it was homesickness; although she was many times better off here than at home, still she had a longing to be there.

At last she said to the old woman, “I have a longing for home; and however well off I am down here, I cannot stay any longer; I must go up again to my own people.” Mother Holle said, “I am pleased that you long for your home again, and as you have served me so truly, I myself will take you up again.”

Thereupon she took her by the hand, and led her to a large door. The door was opened, and just as the maiden was standing beneath the doorway, a heavy shower of golden rain fell, and all the gold remained sticking to her, so that she was completely covered with it.

“You shall have that because you are so industrious,” said Mother Holle; and at the same time she gave her back the shuttle which she had let fall into the well. Thereupon the door closed, and the maiden found herself up above upon the earth, not far from her mother’s house.

And as she went into the yard the cock cried: “Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your golden girl’s come back to you!”

So she went in to her mother, and as she arrived thus covered with gold, she was well received, both by her and her sister.

The girl told all that had happened to her; and as soon as the mother heard how she had come by so much wealth, she was very anxious to obtain the same good luck for the ugly and lazy daughter.

She had to seat herself by the well and spin; and in order that her shuttle might be stained with blood, she stuck her hand into a thorn-bush and pricked her finger. Then she threw her shuttle into the well, and jumped in after it.

She came, like the other, to the beautiful meadow and walked along the very same path. When she got to the oven the bread again cried, “Oh, take me out! take me out! or I shall burn; I have been baked a long time!” But the lazy thing answered, “As if I had any wish to make myself dirty!” and on she went.

Soon she came to the apple-tree, which cried, “Oh, shake me! shake me! we apples are all ripe!” But she answered, “I like that! one of you might fall on my head,” and so went on.

When she came to Mother Holle’s house she was not afraid, for she had already heard of her big teeth, and she hired herself to her immediately.

The first day she forced herself to work diligently, and obeyed Mother Holle when she told her to do anything, for she was thinking of all the gold that she would give her. But on the second day she began to be lazy, and on the third day still more so, and then she would not get up in the morning at all.

Neither did she make Mother Holle’s bed as she ought, and did not shake it so as to make the feathers fly up. Mother Holle was soon tired of this, and gave her notice to leave. The lazy girl was willing enough to go, and thought that now the golden rain would come.

Mother Holle led her, too, to the great door; but while she was standing beneath it, instead of the gold a big kettleful of pitch was emptied over her. “That is the reward of your service,” said Mother Holle, and shut the door.

So the lazy girl went home; but she was quite covered with pitch, and the cock by the well-side, as soon as he saw her, cried: “Cock-a-doodle-doo! Your pitchy girl’s come back to you.” But the pitch stuck fast to her, and could not be got off as long as she lived.


Source: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Household tales by the Brothers Grimm. Translated by Margaret Hunt. George Bell and Sons, London, 1884.

The Winter Spirit – Storytelling for Everyone

Ojibwa Legend

An old man was sitting alone in his wigwam by the side of a frozen stream. It was the close of winter, and his fire was almost out. He appeared very old and very desolate. His locks were white with age, and he trembled in every joint. Day after day passed in solitude, and he heard nothing but the sounds of the tempest, sweeping before it the new-fallen snow.

One day as his fire was just dying, a handsome young man approached and entered his dwelling. His cheeks were red with the blood of youth; his eyes sparkled with life, and a smile played upon his lips. He walked with a light and quick step. His forehead was bound with a wreath of sweet grass, in place of the warrior’s frontlet, and he carried a bunch of flowers in his hand.

“Ah! my son,” said the old man, “I am happy to see you. Come in. Come, tell me of your adventures, and what strange lands you have been to see. Let us pass the night together. I will tell you of my prowess and exploits, and what I can perform. You shall do the same, and we will amuse ourselves.”

He then drew from his sack a curiously-wrought antique pipe, and having filled it with tobacco, rendered mild by an admixture of certain dried leaves, he handed it to his guest. When this ceremony was attended to, they began to speak.

“I blow my breath,” said the old man, “and the streams stand still. The water becomes stiff and hard as clear stone.”

“I breathe,” said the young man, “and flowers spring up all over the plains.”

“I shake my locks,” retorted the old man, “and snow covers the land. The leaves fall from the trees at my command, and my breath blows them away. The birds rise from the water and fly to a distant land. The animals hide themselves from the glance of my eye, and the very ground where I walk becomes as hard as flint.”

“I shake my ringlets,” rejoined the young man, “and warm showers of soft rain fall upon the earth. The plants lift up their heads out of the ground like the eyes of children glistening with delight. My voice recalls the birds. The warmth of my breath unlocks the streams. Music fills the groves wherever I walk, and all nature welcomes my approach.”

At length the sun begun to rise. A gentle warmth came over the place. The tongue of the old man became silent. The robin and the blue-bird began to sing on the top of the lodge. The stream began to murmur by the door, and the fragrance of growing herbs and flowers came softly on the vernal breeze.

Daylight fully revealed to the young man the character of his entertainer. When he looked upon him he had the visage of Peboan, the icy, old, Winter-Spirit. Streams began to flow from his eyes. As the sun increased he grew less and less in stature, and presently he had melted completely away.

Nothing remained on the place of his lodge-fire but the mis-kodeed, a small white flower with a pink border, which the young visitor, Seegwun, the Spirit of Spring, placed in the wreath upon his brow, as his first trophy in the North.


Source: The Indian Fairy Book: From the Original Legends [Contains 26 Native American folktales] by Cornelius Mathews. Allen Brothers, New York, 1869.

Author adminPosted on December 14, 2022December 14, 2022Categories Folktales, Legends, Nature, SeasonsTags Indigenous people, Native American, Ojibwa, seasons

The Epic of Gilgamesh – Storytelling for Everyone

Ancient Mesopotamia

Gilgamesh mourns Enkidu

The Epic of Gilgamesh is, perhaps, the oldest written story on Earth. It comes to us from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written on 12 clay tablets in cunieform script. It is about the adventures of the historical King of Uruk (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE).

Gilgamesh also seems to have been homosexual.

The great love of Gilgamesh’s life was Enkidu, a wild man. Gilgamesh’s mother, a goddess, told him about Enkidu that: “a strong partner shall come to you . . . you shall love him as a wife.” The prostitute Shamhat, after seducing and civilizing Enkidu, told him that he and Gilgamesh “will love one another.”

The epic story begins with the introduction of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third human, blessed by the gods with strength, courage and beauty, and the strongest and greatest king who ever existed. The great city of Uruk is also praised for its glory and its strong brick walls.

However, the people of Uruk are not happy, and complain that Gilgamesh is too harsh and abuses his power by sleeping with their women. The goddess of creation, Aruru, creates a mighty wild-man named Enkidu, a rival in strength to Gilgamesh. He lives a natural life with the wild animals, but he soon starts bothering the shepherds and trappers of the area and jostles the animals at the watering hole.

At the request of a trapper, Gilgamesh sends a temple prostitute, Shamhat, to seduce and tame Enkidu and, after six days and seven nights with the harlot, he is no longer just a wild beast who lives with animals. He soon learns the ways of men and is shunned by the animals he used to live with, and the harlot eventually persuades him to come to live in the city.

Meanwhile, Gilgamesh has some strange dreams, which his mother, Ninsun, explains as an indication that a mighty friend will come to him. The newly-civilized Enkidu leaves the wilderness with his consort for the city of Uruk, where he learns to help the local shepherds and trappers in their work.

One day, when Gilgamesh himself comes to a wedding party to sleep with the bride, as is his custom, he finds his way blocked by the mighty Enkidu, who opposes Gilgamesh‘s ego, his treatment of women, and the defamation of the sacred bonds of marriage.

Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight each other and, after a mighty battle, Gilgamesh defeats Enkidu, but breaks off from the fight and spares his life. He also begins to heed what Enkidu has said, and to learn the virtues of mercy and humility, along with courage and nobility.

Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu are transformed for the better through their new-found friendship and have many lessons to learn from each other. In time, they begin to see each other as brothers and become inseparable.

Sometime later, the goddess Ishtar (goddess of love and war, and daughter of the sky-god Anu) makes sexual advances to Gilgamesh, but he rejects her, because of her mistreatment of her previous lovers. The offended Ishtar insists that her father send the “Bull of Heaven” to avenge Gilgamesh’s rejection, threatening to raise the dead if he will not comply.

The beast brings with it a great drought and plague of the land, but Gilgamesh and Enkidu, this time without divine help, slay the beast and offer its heart to Shamash, throwing the bull’s hindquarters in the face of the outraged Ishtar.

The city of Uruk celebrates the great victory, but Enkidu has a bad dream in which the gods decide to punish Enkidu himself for the killing of the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. He curses the door he made for the gods, and he curses the trapper he met, the harlot he loved and the very day that he became human.

However, he regrets his curses when Shamash speaks from heaven and points out how unfair Enkidu is being. He also points out that Gilgamesh will become but a shadow of his former self if Enkidu were to die.

Nevertheless, the curse takes hold and day after day Enkidu becomes more and more ill. As he dies, he describes his descent into the horrific dark Underworld where the dead wear feathers like birds and eat clay.

Gilgamesh is devasted by Enkidu’s death and offers gifts to the gods, in the hope that he might be allowed to walk beside Enkidu in the Underworld. He orders the people of Uruk, from the lowest farmer to the highest temple priests, to also mourn Enkidu, and orders statues of Enkidu to be built. Gilgamesh is so full of grief and sorrow over his friend that he refuses to leave Enkidu‘s side.

In time, Gilgamesh too dies, and the people of Uruk mourn his passing, knowing that they will never see his like again.



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Legend of Spanish Moss – Storytelling for Everyone

When I was a young girl, living along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I was spellbound by the gray Spanish moss in the old oak trees. The moss dangled in massive shapes with an eerie sweep, swaying in the wind. We neighborhood kids who lived along the back road in town used to dare one another to walk through Live Oak Cemetery and lie full length on a grave under the ghostly, moss-laden trees. I’ll never forget lying on the chill, damp earth of a 19th century grave, nestled under its ancient headstone for a full count of one hundred for a double dare.

Back then, I never wondered why it was called “Spanish moss.”

Spanish moss has had a number of different names as various settlers and explorers have encountered the mystical plant. The French called it “Spanish beard” while the Spanish called the plant “French hair.” It has also been known as “graybeard” and “tree hair.” “Spanish moss” derived from the original “Spanish beard” and is the name that has stuck.

There are a few legends that tell how Spanish moss got its name. Here is one of the most-told tales:

Long ago, Spanish pirates used to sail these off these waters in search of other ships to pillage and plunder, and when they were in need, to visit the coast for water and provisions. The most blood thirsty and evil-looking of them all was a pirate captain by the name of Gorez Goz. He was a large man—well over six feet tall, with muscles bulging from his arms that made him look like a giant.

His face was deeply scarred from many battles, and his eyes were black as coal. Because he was a giant of a man, he had a giant beard—some say it grew down to his bulging waist. Like his eyes, it too was black as coal. It was his great pride.

One fine October evening, as Gorez Goz crew was carrying water from the Spanish wells to be taken to the pirate ship, a small group of Cusabo Indians quietly approached. There were three of them—two old men and, standing between them, a beautiful young girl.

They stood motionless, hoping the pirates would not notice their presence. The Cusabo knew the reputation of these men, knew they respected no one and put no value on the life of a Cusabo. They were all evil, but none more so than Gorez Goz.

Just as the three Cusabo began retreating into the trees around the wells, a knife whistled by the head of the oldest Indian and sunk deeply into a tree trunk inches from the old man’s head.

“Hold!” a man cried out. It sounded like thunder. The pirates stopped loading. Great blue herons flew up from their rookery nearby. Deer skittered deeply into the forest. The Cusabo trio didn’t move.

Gorez Goz approached them. It was he who bellowed out the command. Even in the dimming light, the Cusabo could see the evil smile on the pirate captain’s face. He was looking at the young girl. She was fifteen and lovely. Her eyes were like large pools of the richest amber, her beautiful cheeks high, almost austere. Her long black hair sparkled in the twilight.

The pirate captain came close to the girl, his stale breath reeking of rum and garlic. “I want this girl,” he said.

“You cannot,” the oldest man said. “She is my daughter and I am the chief.”

“Not for long,” Gorez said, with a sickening smile, as he pulled out his sword, thinking he would end the old man’s life quickly.

“Wait!” the young girl said quickly. “I have an offer for you,” she said, giving Gorez her best smile. “Spare my father and I will let you chase me. If you catch me I am yours.”

The pirate captain roared with laughter. “Then run my fair maiden!” he said, laughing even louder and watching her go. The rest of the pirates joined in the merriment, but when Gorez Goz turned back to the chief and the maid, they had disappeared.

Gorez Goz cursed but took off after the girl, thinking of what fun he could have. For a big man, he could move fast. He was sure he could catch the girl in moments. He saw her through the trees and began the chase in earnest. The light was dimming quickly so he carried a torch with him to guide his way.

Trailing the girl was easy: a broken twig here, a footprint in the soft forest floor there. It was as if she wanted the ugly pirate to catch her. But the chase soon took its toll on Gorez Goz. He had been at sea for weeks, and all the running started to slow him down. But just as his pace slowed, he heard the girl’s soft voice calling to him from a giant oak tree just ahead.

“Here, up here, you ugly oaf. Climb to me,” the girl sang.

Gorez Goz looked up at the tree. The girl was in the high branches of the massive live oak. The pirate captain’s anger rose; he jumped to a low branch and began his climb. Higher and higher he went, and as he did, the girl climbed higher still. Gorez Goz cursed her under his breath but kept going up and up until he was almost within reach of the young girl.

“I have you now!” the pirate hissed, the tree’s tiny branches at the top of the tree prickling his face.

“No, you ugly toad. I think the tree has you now,” the girl laughed. To the amazement of Gorez Goz, she jumped from the tree. It was only then he noticed the creek below and heard the splash.

Gorez Goz attempted to climb back down the giant oak, but the small branches held him in place. He couldn’t move down. So he decided to follow the girl into the water. It was the only way.

But as he flung his body away from the branches, the branches held tightly to his huge beard and would not let go—would never let him go.

The funny thing is that long after Gorez Goz died, his beard would not stop growing. It continued to spread to all the oak trees along the coast and into the forests. We now call the pirate’s beard, Spanish moss.

And if you don’t believe me, take a piece of moss, remove the grey scales that cover it and you will see the moss itself as a black as coal!


Source: Adapted from a retelling by Michael Segers 

Photo: Live Oaks Cemetery, Pass Christian, Mississippi
Notes: On the October 23, 1851, Mr. Henderson deeded the cemetery to the Wardens and Vestry of Trinity Church on condition that the grounds shall remain for the use of all people and would contain, in addition to the privately-owned lots, “Free Ground for the interment of both white and black.”

Demeter Goddess of Grain – Storytelling for Everyone

Greek Mythology

Demeter appeared most commonly as a grain goddess. The name Ioulo (from ioulos, “grain sheaf”) has been regarded as identifying her with the sheaf and as proving that the cult of Demeter originated in the worship of the grain mother.

Demeter, in Greek religion, daughter of the deities Cronus and Rhea, sister and consort of Zeus (the king of the gods), and goddess of agriculture. Her name indicates that she is a mother.

Demeter is rarely mentioned by Homer, nor is she included among the Olympian gods, but the roots of her legend are probably ancient.

Her legend centers on the story of her daughter Persephone, who is carried off by Hades, the god of the underworld. Demeter goes in search of Persephone and, during her journey, reveals her secret rites to the people of Eleusis, who had hospitably received her, the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Another important aspect of Demeter was that of a divinity of the underworld; she was worshiped as such at Sparta, and especially at the festival of Chthonia at Hermione in Argolis, where a cow was sacrificed by four old women.

The epithets Erinys (“Avenger”) and Melaina (“the Black One”) as applied to Demeter were localized in Arcadia and stress the darker side of her character.

Demeter also appeared as a goddess of health, birth, and marriage. A certain number of political and ethnic titles were assigned to her, the most important being Amphiktyonis, as patron goddess of the Amphictyonic League, subsequently well known in connection with the temple at Delphi.

Among the agrarian festivals held in honour of Demeter were the following: Haloa, apparently derived from halōs (“threshing floor”), begun at Athens and finished at Eleusis, where there was a threshing floor of Triptolemus, her first priest and inventor of agriculture; it was held in the month Poseideon (December).

Chloia, the festival of the grain beginning to sprout, held at Eleusis in the early spring (Anthesterion) in honour of Demeter Chloë (“the Green”), the goddess of growing vegetation.

Proerosia, at which prayers were offered for an  abundant harvest, before the land was plowed for sowing. It was also called Proarktouria, an indication that it was held before the rising of Arcturus. The festival took place, probably sometime in September, at Eleusis.  

Thalysia, a thanksgiving festival held in autumn after the harvest in the island of Cos. The Thesmophoria, a women’s festival meant to improve the fruitfulness of the seed grain.

Her attributes were connected chiefly with her character as goddess of agriculture and vegetation—ears of grain, the mystic basket filled with flowers, grain, and fruit of all kinds. The pig was her favourite animal, and as a chthonian (underworld) deity she was accompanied by a snake.

In Greek art Demeter resembled Hera, but she was more matronly and of milder expression; her form was broader and fuller. She was sometimes riding in a chariot drawn by horses or dragons, sometimes walking, or sometimes seated upon a throne, alone or with her daughter.

The Romans identified Demeter with Ceres.



Author adminPosted on November 23, 2022Categories Folktales, History, Legends, Myth, Nature, SeasonsTags Demeter, goddess, greek, harvest, rituals, Thanksgiving

Celtic Goddess – Storytelling for Everyone

of Love, Summer, and Sovereignty

Aine is often remembered as a Celtic goddess of love. But she was also a deity of wealth, sovereignty, and the summer. Her sensitive and joyful personality brought her many followers in the Celtic world. The heart of her cult was located in Limerick, Ireland, though her fame spread like the sun’s rays over many other regions.

Associations between Aine with Venus, Aphrodite, and any other love deity are vague. She was a very complex goddess. One may assume that the goddess of love would have had bright and happy myths surround her, however the legends about Aine are rather depressing. Stories often told of the goddess being raped and murdered, as well as facing many other difficult situations.

Yet these sad stories actually brought her closer to the women who lived in the tough Celtic world. It is important to remember that when the Celtic army worked for others or fought for their land, women also had to protect their homes, towns, and settlements. Therefore, death, cruelty, and sexual abuse were unfortunately quite common for women.

Despite the sad tales, Aine brought women hope and reminded them of the joys of summer and more pleasant times. This may be why she was worshipped instead of some other deities. Aine brought women hope and reminded them of the joys of summer and more pleasant times.

A Sunny Goddess

Celtic legends say that Aine was the daughter of Eogabail, who was a member of the legendary Tuatha Dé Danann. In folklore, she was also recognized as the wife of the sea god Manannan Mac Lir – a deity who was very important for Celtic warriors.

In ancient Irish myths and legends, Aine is described as a Faery Queen, a goddess of the earth and nature, and a lady of the lake. It was believed she brought luck and good magic to her worshippers. Some identify her as a brighter side of the famous goddess Morrigan.

Aine is also known as the goddess who taught humans the meaning of love. She took many human men as lovers and bore many Faerie-Human children. There are countless stories about her escapades with human lovers. Most of the stories about Aine and her lovers were happy and peaceful tales, but some were also sad or disturbing.

The Legend of Aine’s Encounter with Ailill Aulom

One of the unpleasant legends speaks of a man who didn’t want to learn the meaning of love, but was only driven by his sexual desires. This lout was the King of Munster called Ailill Aulom. According to the traditional story, he raped Aine, so she bit off his ear – which made people call him ‘One-eared Aulom.’

In Old Irish law, kings needed to have a perfect appearance and a complete body. Thus, Aulom lost his authority. This story shows that Aine was also a powerful goddess of sovereignty. As a deity, she granted power to good people, but also took it away from the bad ones.



Author adminPosted on July 6, 2022Categories Fairy Tales, Legends, Myth, Nature, SeasonsTags Celtic, faery queen, goddess, Ireland, Limerick, Love, summer, warrior

Goddess Bereginya – Storytelling for Everyone

Ukrainian Spirit of Protection

Bereginya – art by Lana Frey

The ancient Slavs believed in Bereginya – the Great Goddess that produced all things. Bereginya is basically a combination of  “hearth-mother,” associated with the guardianship, even of the nation itself, which is a trait of Mokosh, and the rusalka (feminine water spirits).

Bereginya has many similarities with rusalka. According to popular belief, a betrothed bride who had died before her wedding could easily turn into either a Bereginya or a rusalka. The main trait which sets Bereginyas apart from rusalkas is that they usually live in light instead of water.

On Rusalka or Trinity week, the time of flowering rye, Bereginyas and rusalkas would emerge from another world and haunt the earth. But come end of Rusalka week, and Rusalkas would leave earth and return to water. Bereginyas, on the other hand, would leave earth to go back to the light.

However, Bereginya has more power than a regular Rusalka. She is a protector of the family, and a protector of women – which is another trait of Mokoš.

Cult of Bereginya in Ukraine

Since the Ukrainian independence in 1991, she has undergone a folkloric metamorphosis, and is today identified as a combination of the “hearth-mother” (associated with the guardianship of the nation) and a rusalka.

This metamorphosis has its roots in the late 1980s, as several Ukrainian writers sought to personify their vision of an ideal Ukrainian woman. Consequently, Berehynia (the Ukrainian version of the name) today also has a place in Ukrainian nationalism, feminism, and neopaganism.

The re-interpretation as a “protectress” is due to a folk-etymology, which associates the name, which is derived from the Ukrainian word bereh (Russian bereg) – “river bank”, with the unrelated verb berehty in Ukrainian (Russian berech) which means “to protect”.

In 2001, a column with a sculpture of Berehynia on top (pictured) was erected at Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in the center of the city, on the site of the former Lenin monument. The monument is to serve as a protector of Kiev, with an older monument located just across the square – Kiev’s historic protector Archangel Michael, who is also pictured on the Coat of Arms of Kiev.

Rituals of Bereginya

Rituals foods devoted to Bereginya are dairy products: milk, butter, curds, and cheese. This is why in some villages this day is called: “Cheese Bogoroditsa”, i.e. Mother Mary of Cheese.

N.V. Belov also mentions a ritual of “bewitching the field for plenty of grain” on this day.

For this, three women of different ages, take new linen towels, and go into the field. Each of these women waves the towel in the air with her left hand and recites a spell. They recite in an order of age: the oldest first, then the middle one, and finally – the youngest one. The spell sounds like this:

“Mother Earth-Zemlyanitsa, it is your holiday today,
We three came to honor you
And brought new towels.
Give Goddess, so that earth would not be empty,
So that rye would be thick.
In the name of our native Gods,
Now and forever!
So Mote It Be!”


Source: Igor Ozhiganov

Bereginya – The Slavic Spirit of Protection

Author adminPosted on March 14, 2022Categories Fairy Tales, Folktales, Legends, Myth, NatureTags Bereginya, goddess, Mother Earth, Protection, slavic

Easter Stories and Myths – Storytelling for Everyone

Have you ever wondered why colored eggs, rabbits, and baby chicks, are symbolic of Easter? And why we give Easter baskets filled with candy to children? Most historians, including Biblical scholars, agree that Easter was originally a pagan festival.

Ancient Celebration of the Spring goddess

Easter was originally a celebration of Eostre, goddess of Spring, otherwise known as Ostara, Austra, and Eastre. One of the most revered aspects of Ostara for both ancient peoples was a spirit of renewal. The Sumerian goddess Inanna was known outside of Mesopotamia by her Babylonian name, “Ishtar.” In ancient Canaan, Ishtar was known as Astarte, and her counterparts in the Greek and Roman pantheons were known as Aphrodite and Venus.

Celebrated at Spring Equinox on March 21, Ostara marks the day when light is equal to darkness, and will continue to grow. As the bringer of light after a long dark winter, the goddess was often depicted with the hare, an animal that represents the arrival of spring as well as the fertility of the season.

According to Jacob Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, the idea of resurrection was ingrained within the celebration of Ostara: “Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing.”

The Origins of Easter Customs

The most widely-practiced customs on Easter Sunday relate to the symbol of the rabbit (‘Easter bunny’) and the egg.  As stated, the rabbit was a symbol associated with Eostre, representing the beginning of Springtime. Likewise, the egg has come to represent spring, fertility and renewal. 

In Germanic mythology, it was said that Ostara healed a wounded bird she found in the woods by changing it into a hare. Still partially a bird, the hare showed its gratitude to the goddess by laying eggs as gifts.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains the pagan traditions associated with the egg: “The egg as a symbol of fertility and of renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians, who had also the custom of coloring and eating eggs during their spring festival.” In ancient Egypt, an egg symbolized the sun, while for the Babylonians, the egg represents the hatching of the Venus/Ishtar, who fell from heaven to the Euphrates.

And so, the Easter basket is symbolic of a nest, and eggs are symbolic of birth, and a new beginning. There was a time when families would put their Easter meal in a basket and bring it to their local church to have it blessed. By the late 19th century chocolate eggs began to replace the real kind, and today we think of an Easter basket as something to give a child.  

Whether it is observed as a religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Christ, or a time for families in the northern hemisphere to enjoy the coming of Spring and celebrate with egg decorating and Easter bunnies, the celebration of Easter still retains the same spirit of rebirth and renewal, as it has for thousands of years.


Image: Spring Goddess (Nejron Photo / Adobe Stock)

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Author adminPosted on April 8, 2020Categories Legends, Myth, SeasonsTags Eostre, german, goddess, Ishtar, Persian