Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cherokee Fables: The Bird Tribes, Part 2

The ancient Cherokee’s connection to the “Bird Tribes” is fascinating and we are so fortunate that the elders and medicine men shared their stories with James Mooney in the 1870’s.  Here is the continuing account from his book, Myths of the Cherokee.
Raven on tree stumpThe raven (kâ’länû) is occasionally seen in the mountains, but is not prominent in folk belief, excepting in connection with the grewsome tales of the Raven Mocker (q. v.). In former times its name was sometimes assumed as a war title. The crow, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, does not seem to appear in that of the Cherokee. Three varieties of owls are recognized, each under a different name, viz: tskïlï’ [also tsigili], the dusky horned owl (Bubo virginianus saturatus); u’guku’, the barred or hooting owl (Syrnium nebulosum), and wa`huhu’, the screech owl (Megascops asio). The first of these names signifies a witch, the others being onomatopes. Owls and other night-crying birds are believed to be embodied ghosts or disguised witches, and their cry is dreaded as a sound of evil omen. If the eyes of a child be bathed with water in which one of the long wing or tail feathers of an owl has been soaked, the child will be able to keep awake all night. The feather must be found by chance, and not procured intentionally for the purpose. On the other hand, an application of water in which the feather of a blue jay, procured in the same way, has been soaked will make the child an early riser.

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