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Lodge of Stories and Legends

Come sit and share my fire and listen to the Legends and stories of my people.

Selu the Mother of corn

SELU lived with her hunter husband and two sons in the mountain country.One of the sons was very mischievous, and wondering where his mother got the corn that she brought home each day to grind, he talked his brother into joining him in spying on their mother.

Following their mother secretly,they saw her climb the ladder to the store house nearby that stood high above the ground on four poles. Carefully they pulled mud from between the logs untill they could watch what she was doing inside

Great was their surprise when they saw their mother set the basket on the floor and shake herself vigorously to have corn fall abundantly from her body into the basket. Their first thought was that their mother was a witch and must be put to death.

Selu, knowing their thoughts, gave them some instructions before killing her. "When you have killed me," she said, "Clear a large peice of ground in front of the house and drag my body seven times around the circle." then drag me seven times over the ground inside the circle, and stay up all night and watch. In the morning you will have plenty of corn."

The boys followed her instructions, except they cleared the yard only in seven small spots. The corn came up in those spots, and since that time it is only by planting, hard work and prayers to Creator that corn can be obtained, and even then it grows only in certain spots across the land.

Legend of the Cedar Tree as told by Jim Fox

A long time ago when the Cherokee people were new upon the earth, they thought that life would be much better if there was never any night. They Beseeched the Creator that it might be day all the time and that there would be no darkness. The Creator heard their voices and made night cease and it was day all the time.

Soon the forest was thick with heavy growth. It became difficult to walk and find a path. The people toiled in the gardens many long hours trying to keep the weeds pulled from among the corn and other food plants. It got hot, very hot, and continued that way day after long day. The people began to find it difficult to sleep and they became short tempered and argued among themselves. Not many days has passed before the people realized they had made a mistake and once again, they beseeched the Creator. "Please" they said "we have made our mistake in asking that it be day all the time. Now we think that it should be night all the time".

The Creator paused at the new request and though that perhaps the people may be right even though all things were Created in twos..representing to us day and night, life and death, good and evil, times of plenty and those times of famine. The Creator loved the people and decided to make it night all the time as they asked. The day ceased and night fell upon Mother Earth.

Soon, the people much of their time gathering wood for the fires. They could not see to hunt meat and with no crops growing it was not long before the people were cold, weak and very hungry. Many of the people died, those that remained still living gathered once again to beseech the Creator. "Help us Creator" they cried "We have made a a terrible mistake. You had made the day and the night perfect, as it should be, from the beginning, we ask that you forgive us and make the day and night as it was before"

Once again the Creator listened to the request of the people. The day and night became as it had been in the beginning. Each day was divided between light and darkness. The weather became more pleasant, and the crops began to grow again. Game was plentiful and hunting was good. The people had plenty to eat and there was not much sickness. The people treated each other with compassion and respect. It was good to be alive. The people thanked the creator for their life and for the food they had to eat. The Creator accepted the gratitude for the people and was glad to see them smiling again.

However, during the time of the long day of night , many of the people had died and the Creator was sorry they had parished because of the night. The Creator placed their Spirits in a newly created tree. These trees were named a-tsi-na tlu-gv{ah see na loo guh} Cedar trees. When you smell the aroma of the cedar tree or gaze upon it standing in a forest, remember that if you are Cherokee you are looking upon your ancestors.

Tradition holds that the wood of the cedar tree holds powerful protective spirits for the Cherokee. Many carry a small piece of cedar wood in their medicine bags worn around their neck. It is also placed above the entrances to the house to protect the entry of evil spirits. A traditional drum would be made from cedar wood. Accept the blessings and gifts Grandfather has given you and always be thankful.

The Origin Of The Pleiades And The Pine

Long ago, when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatayŻ'stÔ game, rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it. Their mothers scolded, but it did no good, so one day they collected some gatayŻ'stÔ stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner. When the boys came home hungry their mothers dipped out the stones and said, "Since you like the gatayŻ'stÔ better than the cornfield, take the stones now for your dinner."

The boys were very angry, and went down to the townhouse, saying, "As our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we shall never trouble them any more." They began to dance, some say it was the Feather Dance and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them. At last their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse, and as they watched they noticed that their feet were off the earth, and that with every round they rose higher and higher in the air. They ran to get their children, but it was to late, for they were already above the roof of the townhouse, all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayŻ'stÔ pole, but he struck the ground with such a force that he sank into it and the earth closed over him.

The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky, Where we see them now as the Pleiades, which the Cherokee still call Ani'tsuts„ (The Boys). The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone ihnto the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot until the earth was damp with tears. At last a little green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we call now the pine, and the pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.

Journey to Sunrise

A long time ago several young men made up their minds to find the place where the Sun lives and see what the Sun is like. They got ready their bows and arrows, their parched corn and extra moccasins, and started out toward the east. At first they met tribes they knew, then they came to tribes they had only heard about, and at last to others of which they had never heard.

There was a tribe of root eaters and another of acorn eaters, with great piles of acorn shells near their houses. In one tribe they bound a sick man dying, and were told it was the custom there when a man died to bury his wife in the same grave with him. They waited until he was dead, when they saw his friends lower the body into a great pit, so deep and dark that from the top they could not see the bottom. Then a rope was tied around the woman's body, together with a bundle of pine knots, a lighted pine knot was put into her hand, and she was lowered into the pit to die there in the darkness after the last pine knot was burned.

The young men traveled on until they came at last to the sunrise place where the sky reaches down to the ground. They found that the sky was an arch or vault of solid rock hung above the earth and was always swinging up and down, so that when it went up there was an open place like a door between the sky and ground, and when it swung back the door was shut. The Sun came out of this door from the east and climbed along on the inside of the arch. It had a human figure, but was too bright for them to see clearly and too hot to come very near. They waited until the Sun had come out and then tried to get through while the door was still open, but just as the first one was in the doorway the rock came down and crushed him. The other six were afraid to try it, and as they were now at the end of the world they turned around and started back again, but they had traveled so far that they were old men whey they reached home.

The First Fire

In the beginning of the world, there was no fire. The animal people were often cold. Only the Thunders, who lived in the world beyond the sky arch, had fire. At last they sent Lightning down to an island. Lightning put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree.

The animal people knew that the fire was there, because they could see smoke rising from the top of the tree. But they could not get to it on account of the water. So they held a council to decide what to do.

Everyone that could fly or could swim was eager to go after the fire. Raven said, "Let me go. I am large and strong."

At that time Raven was white. He flew high and far across the water and reached the top of the sycamore tree. While he sat there wondering what to do, the heat scorched all his feathers black. The frightened Raven flew home without the fire, and his feathers have been black ever since.

Then the council sent Screech Owl. He flew to the island. But while he was looking down into the hollow tree, a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eyes. He flew home and to this day, Screech Owl's eyes are red.

Then Hooting Owl and Horned Owl were sent to the island together. But the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had to come home, and were never able to get rid of the white rings.

Then Little Snake swam across to the island, crawled through the grass to the tree, and entered it through a small hole at the bottom. But the smoke and the heat were too much for him, too. He escaped alive, but his body had been scorched black. And it was so twisted that he doubled on his track as if always trying to escape from a small space.

Big Snake, the climber, offered to go for fire, but he fell into the burning stump and became as black as Little Snake. He has been the great blacksnake ever since.

At last Water Spider said that she would go. Water Spider has black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She could run on top of water and she could dive to the bottom. She would have no trouble in getting to the island.

"But you are so little, how will you carry enough fire?" the council asked.

"I'll manage all right," answered Water Spider. "I can spin a web." so she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a little bowl and fastened the little bowl on her back. Then she crossed over to the island and through the grass. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl and brought it across to the people.

Every since, we have had fire. And the Water Spider still has her little bowl on her back.

Aganunitsi's Quest for the Ulunsuti

Hilahiyu jigesv -- in ancient times -- in one of their battles with the Shawano (Shawnee), the Tsalagi captured a medicine man named Aganunitsi, "Ground-hog's Mother." Now, the People used to say that all the Shawano were magicians, and whether that was literally true or not, this Aganunitsi was a very powerful medicine man and a clever fellow.

He said that the Tsalagi would be fools to kill him, that he would undertake a great work for them if spared, and agree to die if he failed. One of the Tsalagi warriors got right up in Aganunitsi's face and said, "What if I asked you to bring back the Ulun'suti, the jewel in the head of the Uktena?" This made some of the other warriors laugh -- they knew well how impossible and dangerous this was, and that Aganunitsi would not live a whole lot longer hunting the Uktena than undergoing torture.

But the Shawano wise man was confident, and had heard all the lore of the Uktena. So his face did not change as he said, "I will bring you the Ulun'suti, or die trying, or meet you back here in three moons to sing my death song." The leader of the war party took a long look at Aganunitsi and then sliced his bonds. He gave instructions to supply the Shawano with corn for the journey and the best bow that could be spared. Aganunitsi lost no time setting off. He hunted his way up into the passes of the Smoky Mountains, along the North side of the Tsalagi country, where there were many dark and lonely places in which an Uktena might lie in wait for four-footed or two-footed prey.

He began to see many strange things. A black snake larger and longer than any snake he had ever seen crossed his path, but he laughed at it, being in search of bigger things still. Near a Tsalagi village he passed an enormous green snake, and called the people to see "the pretty salikwayi." A few people came up, saw the enormous snake coiled in the path, and ran back down in fear.

Laughing, Aganunitsi walked on. He knew his guides were showing him the way, and he walked tall and sang his magic songs. He saw a great lizard on top of Bald Mountain, and a frog the size of a bear as he came down the South side of the mountain, and he kept seeing more strange and monstrous reptiles, so he continued on South. He looked into a deep pool on Hiwassee, a place called Tlanusiyi, the Leech place, because people said many strange things had been seen there. But although he saw big turtles, and two enormous sun perch swam up to him and then dodged away, he came away from the Leech place with nothing but leeches.

Time was moving on swiftly, he had traveled almost a moon, and was due back within three. So he moved faster, checking all the likely places, asking all the people he met for news of the Uktena, or leads to likely places, because he had never been so deep into Tsalagi lands before. Every morning when he rose from his little bit of sleep, his nose would tingle when he looked South, so on he would go. One fine hot morning he strode up the North side of Gahuti Mountain (this is in Murray County, Georgia, just so you know how far Aganunitsi walked) and all his senses were alert.

His whole body was tingling and a crystal in his medicine pouch was hot against his chest. He stopped and strung his bow, and walked on very quietly. He followed a bend in the trail and came right up near the Uktena, which was fast asleep. Without his strong medicine, even this sight would have caused death in his family or to him. He ran swiftly but silently down the slope until he found a level spot with plenty of soil. Here he dug a circular trench and piled pine cones and branches around it, enough to burn for a long time. He lit the fire. Then running back up the trail, he circled around the monster until he had a good shot at the seventh spot back from its head, which is the only place a shot will kill the beast.

Aganunitsi made his shot cleanly, the arrow going deep into the serpent's side. It raised its head, the diamond in front flashing fire, and came straight at Aganunitsi, who turned and ran full speed down the mountain with the mortally wounded Uktena after him. Aganunitsi did not look back to see the Uktena roll over and die, but raced down until he could leap over the fire and the trench and lie flat on the ground in the center. The Uktena thrashed around, spitting poison all over the mountainside, but the drops did not pass the hot fire, burning up harmlessly except for one drop that landed on the magician's forehead. He did not even feel it. The monster's heart pumped dark poisonous blood down the slope, but it collected in the trench and did not touch Aganunitsi.

The monster finally stopped moving, caught on tree trunks not far from the bottom of the hill. Aganunitsi called all the birds of the forest, and they feasted on the corpse for seven days until it was all gone. A raven started to carry away the Ulunsuti, which was all that was left, but left it on a low branch when he saw the magician coming. Aganunitsi wrapped it carefully in a piece of deerskin and returned to the Tsalagi town in triumph.

He stayed with the People and true to the prophecy became a great wonder-worker and fortune-teller. Everyone noticed the small snake that grew from his forehead where the Uktena's venom had hit, but for the rest of his life he never saw it or knew it was there.

He passed the Ulunsuti on to a Tsalagi medicine man when he died, and it was kept hidden for several generations, and then buried with the last man who knew how to control it. Where the blood of the Uktena filled the trench, a lake formed, which was always black, and women dyed cane splits for baskets in it.

Origin of Medicine

At one time, animals and people lived together peaceably and talked with each other. But when humankind began to multiply rapidly, the animals were crowded into forests and deserts.

Man began to destroy animals wholesale for their skins and furs, not just for needed food. Animals became angry at such treatment by their former friends, resolving they must punish mankind.

Chief Old White Bear suggested that man's weapon, the bow and arrow, should be turned against him. All of the council agreed. While the bears worked and made bows and arrows, they wondered what to do about bowstrings. One of the bears sacrificed himself to provide the strings, while the others searched for good arrow wood.

When the first bow was completed and tried, the bear's claws could not release the strings to shoot the arrow. One bear offered to cut his claws but Chief Old White Bear would not allow him to do that, because without claws he could not climb trees for food and safety. He might starve.

The deer tribe called together its council led by Chief Little Deer. They decided that any Indian hunters, who killed deer without asking pardon in a suitable manner, should be afflicted with painful rheumatism in their joints.

After this decision, Chief Little Deer sent a messenger to their nearest neighbors, the Cherokee Indians.

"From now on, your hunters must first offer a prayer to the deer before killing him," said the messenger. "You must ask his pardon, stating you are forced only by the hunger of your tribe to kill the deer. Otherwise, a terrible disease will come to the hunter."

When a deer is slain by an Indian hunter, Chief Little Deer will run to the spot and ask the slain deer's spirit, "Did you hear the hunter's prayer for pardon?"

If the reply is yes, then all is well and Chief Little Deer returns to his cave. But if the answer is no, then the Chief tracks the hunter to his lodge and strikes him with the terrible disease of rheumatism, making him a helpless cripple unable to hunt again.

All the fishes and reptiles then held a council and decided they would haunt those Cherokee Indians, who tormented them, by telling them hideous dreams of serpents twining around them and eating them alive. These snake and fish dreams occurred often among the Cherokees. To get relief, the Cherokees pleaded with their Shaman to banish their frightening dreams if they no longer tormented the snakes and fish.

Now when the friendly plants heard what the animals had decided against mankind, they planned a countermove of their own. Each tree, shrub, herb, grass, and moss agreed to furnish a cure for one of the diseases named by the animals and insects.

Thereafter, when the Cherokee visited their Shaman about their ailments and if the medicine man was in doubt, he communed with the spirits of the plants. They always suggested a proper remedy for humankind's diseases.

This was the beginning of plant medicine from nature among the Cherokee Indian nation a long, long time ago.

Thunder and the Eagle

They say that Thunder and the Eagle are fast friends. Long ago, Thunder spoke to every wild creature -- everything that flew or everything with four legs-- and to the Eagle he said, "I appoint you ruler. You must have a meeting with all the wild creatures, and you must answer all their requests. If you think they [the creatures] should be a certain way, you make them that way. You must ask them what they want to be," said Thunder. So the Eagle called a meeting. All kinds of birds came to it. When they arrived, the meeting was called to order. He [the Eagle] asked each of them what he wanted to be able to do.

The Quail, who was very selfish when asked about anything, immediately arose and went and stood beside the Eagle. "Couldn't you give me power so that when a man sees me fly he will instantly die of fright?" the Quail asked the Eagle. "No," said the Eagle. "You are entirely too small. I could not give you that kind of power. But I can go this far: I can let you fly, and when a man hears you fly, he will become frightened," said the eagle to the Quail. The Quail said, "All right." That's the reason why when we hear one [a quail] flying, we Become frightened because he makes a whirring noise. That's all the power he was allowed.

Next came the Terrapin that crawls on land. "I would like to be able to produce a poison that kills people, allow me that kind of power," he said to the Eagle. "No," said the Eagle, "You are entirely too slow and small." Thunder and the Eagle had a conference. (Thunder was the ruler of all the Earth and Heaven. That's why he appointed his best friend as Ruler of the Earth.)

The thing I especially remember about the doings of the Eagle is that he gave a power to the Chickadee. He [the Chickadee] was given the power to be something like a fortuneteller among people in that he could go where people were, and if they were going to have visitors, he could inform them ahead of time. This could be done by flying to a tree near them and singing a joyous song. "Would you give me that kind of power?" asked the Chickadee. So he was given that power. That's why the Cherokees say when they see a chickadee fly into a tree, "The Chickadee says somebody is coming." That's the power that was given to him they say.

Then the Redbird, the beautifully singing bird, came up: "Let people have faith in me. I want to be able to sing joyful songs when it is going to rain." So he was given that power. That's why the old Cherokees believe that when they see this bird singing atop a tree it will rain. That's all the power he was given.

Said the people long ago: the Eagle was the Ruler of the Earth, but Thunder was the Ruler of the Whole Universe, and they got together to decide if all their distributed powers were going to be satisfactory. So said the people of long ago.

Before Selfishness Came into the World

Before selfishness came into the world, the Cherokee people were happy sharing the hunting and fishing places with their neighbors. All this changed when Selfishness came into the world and men began to quarrel. The Cherokees quarrelled with tribes on the east. Finally the chiefs of several tribes met in council to try to settle the dispute. They smoked the pipe and continued to quarrel for seven days and seven nights. This displeased Great Spirit because people are not supposed to smoke the pipe until they make peace. As he looked upon the old men with heads bowed, he decided to do something to remind people to smoke the pipe only at the time they make peace.

Great Spirit turned the old men into grayish flowers we now call "Indian Pipes" and made them grow where friends and relatives have quarreled. He made the smoke hang over the Smoky Mountains until all people all over the world learn to live together in peace.

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