Tag Archives: moon

Change and the River

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Drawing Down the Moon_0003

For our new prompt, Michelle and I are changing our focus from the Moon to rivers. I began with the previous post, which still included a big old full moon.  Writing this I began to wonder about the meaning of that Moon in relation to the subject of compassionate acts. I remembered the way Islam divides charitable deeds in several categories – zakah, which is an obligatory giving incumbent on all Muslims and sadaqah, which is private giving over and beyond one’s obligatory tithe. Sadaqah itself has two components -an open-handed kind where one is seen to be doing good works (inspiring other to do the same) and a secret kind, even more meritorious, in which the gift is given anonymously (so secretly that “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”). In my previous collage, no one except the Moon is witness to the monk’s act of compassion. I like the idea of anonymous giving because it seems cleaner, somehow.  On the other hand public acts inspire and inform others.  I think its wise to promote both kinds.

Zakah is derived from the verb zaka, “to thrive,” “to be wholesome,” “to be pure.”  Charitable giving is seen as a way to purify oneself from the pollution of greed.  Which brings us back to rivers and flowing waters. Rivers have long been associated with purification.  Partly, I think, because they represent change. Heraclitus said it many centuries ago, “You cannot step twice into the same river.”

Nothing represents change more than a river. They move constantly undulating across the plains and carving furrows through mountains. A river is by definition moving water, unlike a sea, lake, pond or puddle it cannot be defined as a body because it is polymorphous, continually changing shape. It is change that purifies us and redeems us, for the past can never be erased or changed – all we can do is make the present count.   To do that we need to do it differently.  Even if it was good before,  we must accept that we cannot duplicate it.  Attempts to stop change result in stagnation.  We tend to think of dams as good things, ways to control nature (read “change”), but in fact dams kill ecosystems, reduce the fertility of the land and create the possibility for flooding larger by many degrees of magnitude than nature creates on its own.  We are a metaphor of the river.  Our own emotions and psyche reflect the same phenomena; dammed thought and feelings damn us to all sorts of ills, some long-lasting, some so insidious their effects don’t appear for years.

We go down to the river to pray, to wash, cleanse, refresh, renew.  Stepping into the current we become current, we become relevant.

Standing in the river, I am continuously present to what is, instead of what was or will be.

 

 

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Lunescence

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Drawing Down the Moon

The Moon has long been linked to women’s mysteries, particularly their menstrual cycles. The twenty-eight days of a woman’s cycle correspond to the Moon’s own waxing and waning. She is mistress of the dark night whose ebony depths are echoed in the wombs of women and the underground caverns of Earth. In our culture and many other’s the Moon is considered feminine with strong links to a host of goddesses – Artemis, Hecate, Áine, Sefkhet, Cerridwen, Selene, Chang-o, Ishtar, Hina Hine, Mama Quilla ‑ the list is long and comes from around the world.

moon worshipper

Most of the moon goddesses are associated with fertility, childbirth or the protection of women. While scientific data assures us the old stories linking moon and madness have no basis in reality; other studies confirm what women have always known – the Moon can affects their production of hormones and the onset of menses.

Little if any scientific research has been devoted to determining if the Moon actually affects the way plants grow but the amount of anecdotal evidence is enormous. There are over five million references on the web to planting by moonlight. Moon gardening continues to have Goddess knows how many hundreds of thousands of adherents as it has for millennia. Fertility is her watchword.

Women have always gathered on the full moon to perform their rites and practice their mysteries. To this day circles of women meet in circles at the full moon to seek sisterhood, counsel and support from each other.

DrawMoon

My collage shows a Mycenae priestess engaged in the rite of drawing Down the Moon, a ritual in which women gather together to focus their attention on invoking the Goddess while their priestess opens herself to the Goddess’s presence and allows Her to speak through her. The priestess holds a snake – powerful symbol of feminine life, renewal and transformation. The snake sheds its skin just as a woman once a month sheds the soft inner lining of her uterine wall.

I can’t mention this rite without pausing to remember Margot Adler who died this year on my birthday.  She is was just my age.  Below you can see a copy of her original well-thumbed and much-loved book. In 1979 we were just beginning to re-member the feminine divine and revive Her mysteries.

Margot Adler 1946-2014 Author of "Drawing Down the Moon"

Margot Adler 1946-2014
Author of “Drawing Down the Moon”

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A small catlike form perches on the priestess’s head. Cats were once considered sacred and revered in their own right. Cats are nocturnal creatures, prowling the night with luminous round eyes. They too have a long association with birth, fecundity, motherhood and milk.

People see different things in the Moon – rabbits, faces, buffalo and sometimes a beautiful woman with long dark hair.  My moon is based on medieval Celtic design. It contains a woman tangled in her own hair and surrounded by ancient symbols. She represents the strange and prophetic nature of dreams, visions and intuitions sent by the Moon to those who seek her counsel.  She also stands for the danger inherent in stepping between worlds to engage with either the numinous  or one’s own unconscious.  The gods can drive you mad if you strive to penetrate their mysteries to vigorously, tangling you in a labyrinth of self-reflecting thoughts and imaginings.

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If you look closely, you will find several flakes of mugwort incorporated in the design of the background. Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic plants in the genus Artemisia, named after the moon goddess Artemis. Mugwort can be used as a sacred smoking or smudging herb for protection or divination. Used in a ritual context it may enhance astral projection, lucid dreaming and altered states of consciousness. Keeping mugwort under your pillow or in your bedroom encourages prophetic dreams.

“Driving into the Moon”

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Driving Into the Moon

Driving Into the Moon

 

The Night Owl and Driving into the Moon

I am a card-carrying member of the Night Owl Club… I have been my whole life. Even as a child, I was never one to fall asleep easily or get up early. Getting to school on time was always a challenge. Recently a friend of mine said, “I’m a heavy sleeper and it’s impossible for me to wake up and jump to it.” I don’t know if I’m a heavy sleeper but I know I do not wake up and jump to it.

My collage, The Night Owl, shows the big-eyed owl in flight. The moon, the trees and the night sky with thousands and thousands of stars are the owl’s domain. The Owl has binocular vision and can easily estimate the depth of field. His ears are not symmetrical. One ear is lower than the other. This makes it possible for the owl to locate its prey. Their night vision is excellent. Their wings have feathers on the edge that make it very difficult for their prey to hear them coming.

My second collage,” Driving into the Moon”, is about an experience I had a few years back. I was driving across a bridge at night heading east towards the hills. The lights on the bridge were yellow/orange. There were very few cars. The moon was huge. It was huge and orange and it sat at the end of the roadway. As I traveled along, rather alone, encased in an orange cocoon of light, the blackness of the bay and of the darkness of the night carried me into another world. I was driving into the moon. It was the strangest feeling, otherworldly, very cosmic. I kept looking down at my hands on the steering wheel reminding myself that I wasn’t dreaming. My senses told me it wouldn’t be long before I would be off the bridge and I wondered if the Moon would move and let me pass.

I haven’t forgotten those moments of confusion. That enormous orange moon, the night sky, the stars and the sounds in the darkness are both magical and scary. It is a time when the imagination can paint all kinds of pictures in our head. It was the fodder of science fiction stories.

Ancient peoples around the world had many different stories about the moon. Babylonians gave the Moon precedence over the Sun. Oriental nations in general worshipped the Moon before the Sun. In central Asia, it was said the moon is the Goddess’s Mirror reflecting everything in the world. The Sioux Indians called the Moon
“The old woman who never dies.” The Iroquois people called her “The Eternal One.”
The Moon is the “Moon Goddess “who created time, with all its cycles of growth, decline and destruction, which is why ancient calendars were based on phases of the moon…

The Vedas say all souls return to the moon after death, to be devoured by the maternal spirits. Pythagorean sects viewed the Moon as the home of the dead, a gate (yoni) through which souls passed on the way to the paradise-fields of the stars. Greeks often located the Elysian Fields, home of the blessed dead in the moon. In advanced cultures the themes of the moon as the land of the dead or the regenerating receptacle of souls … between reincarnations, it sheltered both the dead and the unborn, which were one and the same. The symbol of the moon is the Crescent shape. The ancient Gaul and the modern day French make moon-cakes … a crescent shaped pastry they call, Croissants. The crescent moon worn by Diana is said to be the ark or vessel of fertility or the container of the Germ of Life. As the Moon governs the sea’s tides so she is supposed to govern the tides of life and death.

Luna’s Hare

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Luna's Hare_NEW_0001“Sometimes, when you’re deep in the countryside, you meet three girls, walking along the hill tracks in the dusk, spinning. They each have a spindle, and on to these they are spinning their wool, milk-white, like the moonlight. In fact, it is the moonlight, the moon itself, which is why they don’t carry a distaff. They’re not Fates, or anything terrible; they don’t affect the lives of men; all they have to do is to see that the world gets its hours of darkness, and they do this by spinning the moon down out of the sky. Night after night, you can see the moon getting less and less, the ball of light waning, while it grown on the spindles of the maidens. Then, at length, the moon is gone, and the world has darkness, and rest…..

…on the darkest night, the maidens take their spindles down to the sea, to wash their wool. And the wool slips from the spindles into the water, and unravels in long ripples of light from the shore to the horizon, and there is the moon again, rising above the sea….Only when all the wool is washed, and wound again into a white ball in the sky, can the moon-spinners start their work once more….”

Mary Stewart, The Moonspinners

Today, we introduce the Moon, as our symbol for the next few weeks. Though some ancient cultures saw the Sun as feminine and the Moon as masculine, in most minds Moon is equated with the feminine. Rightly so, for she governs conception, pregnancy and birth; sowing, sprouting and reaping – all things fecund begin with her blessing. It’s little wonder that in China, Korea, Japan people see a rabbit in the Moon, rather than a man or woman. The Cree nation also associates the rabbit and the moon as did the Aztecs. Of course some rabbits are white and they all like to come out at night, enhancing their association with the most magical, fascinating and unearthly object this world has ever known. Not that the sun doesn’t command respect and worship – it certainly does, but the elements of enchantment and numinosity are sometimes lost in its penetrating, consistent, brilliance. The Moon changes, wanes and waxes. Her gravitational power links us to her as the water that makes up 60% of our flesh moves to her rhythms, captive as the ocean tides. Whatever her phase, she never fails to stir the human imagination, even in her absence.

Rabbit happens to be my totem animal. She has many many attributes ranging from shameless trickster in her male guise to nourishing mother. Like the Moon, and all of us, Rabbit has a shadow side that complements her brighter aspects. For instance she is fearful and tends to freeze in the face of danger, her escape is swift and erratic and sometimes much too quickly triggered. She has always had much to teach me.

Rabbit also links us to the number three forming a bridge from our study of the last few weeks to this new, not so unrelated topic. Below you see some examples of the three rabbit or three hare motif. The first known representation of this symbol comes from some Chinese Buddhist temples along the Silk Road dating from about 600 B.C.E (obviously, it was already a commonly recognized image or it wouldn’t have been used as a temple decoration). Three rabbits form a lunar circle to share three ears, though each appears to have two. This optical illusion is created by arranging the three ears in a triangle, allowing each pair of adjacent hares to share an ear. In some ways it thus becomes a visual koan.

Buddhist Cave Painting, Silk Road circa 640 B.C.E.

Buddhist Cave Painting, Silk Road, China ca. 640 B.C.E.

Egyptian or Syrian 1200 C.E.

Egyptian or Syrian pottery fragment ca. 1200 C.E.

three hares Paderborn Cathedral

Church window, Paderborn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany ca.1600

 

 

 

The design must have struck some deep chord in people because it spread through China, and the Middle East and then across Europe, making the transition into Islam and Christianity without losing an iota of its original pattern.

Whichever of Rabbit’s facets we focus on, her long ears and soft fur speak to humans on some deep primal level – that same deep pool of unknowing through which the Moon moves, trailing our psyches behind her.

 

 

 

 

 

Hittite Priest

Hittite Priest Moon Priest

Ring Seal ca. 1600 B.C.E.

The White Ibis

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The White Ibis

The White Ibis

 

The White Ibis

We are still exploring “Birds”. I’ve selected this week the White Ibis. Back in the 1980’s I had a retail store called, Ibis gifts and jewelry. The shop was located on the corner of my local shopping village in Oakland, CA. When I decided that I was going to open a retail store it needed a name. I wanted to use the name of an animal or a flower. I briefly considered the flower Trillium. A Trillium is a tri-flower perennial herb that is part of the Lily family. I was looking for a symbol to use as the logo.

I finally chose an Ibis to be my store’s symbol. The logo was two Ibis heads looking into the future. They were framed by an arched window with the words Ibis gifts and jewelry written below. I loved the curved beaks of the bird design. We had wooden exterior  signs made and painted the birds in flight high on the tall long wall of the store. Like cranes, herons and spoonbills the Ibis looks quite graceful in flight.

In my collage I have a white Ibis and the Ibis headed Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth is the god of knowledge, hieroglyphs, wisdom, the moon and magic. In nature the long-legged birds wade in shallow water, their long down-curved beaks searching the mud for food, usually crustaceans through they also eat snails, small lizards, flies, crickets, beetles and grasshoppers.. Most Ibis nest in trees. The word Ibis comes from the Greek/Latin and probably ancient Egypt. There are 28 different species. I took a field trip to the San Francisco Zoo to visit the Ibis that live in Northern California.

In Steven D. Farmer’s book, “Animal Spirit Guides” the Ibis is listed as a bird that reminds you that everything is sacred. Call on Ibis when you want to “Follow your heart and trust in its wisdom.” Ibis seem to know when weather will turn bad. When a storm is brewing, the Ibis are the last to leave the shore-line and the first to return when the worst has passed… If an Ibis is part of your life “Keep your eyes, ears and heart open in order to notice the miracles around you each and every day.

The Auger

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The Auger

… If a bird flying from right to left

disappears, it is favorable; but if it raises

its left wing, flies away and disappears,

it is unfavorable.  If a bird flying from left

to right disappears on a straight course,

it is unfavorable; but if after raising

its right wing and flying away it disappears,

it is favorable …

~translated by Derek Collins from an inscription at Ephesus (late 6th century B.C.E.)

As the above description demonstrates, augury, divination by interpreting the flight, action, song and colors of birds, dates back to ancient days.  One can safely assume with most inscriptions of this kind of lore that the procedure described was in actual practice for many many, years before anyone bothered to write it down.  It’s the same with fairy tales, folk songs or myths – they didn’t appear the moment someone actually decided to record them, instead they are part of a long oral tradition whose original telling disappears into the mist of prehistory.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, survivors of the great worldwide destruction by comet that marked the end of the Cretaceous period.  They have been around for the entire history of the human race – good fairies at our birth, flying between the worlds of imagination and physical reality to bring us messages from the gods and from our own innermost selves.

Interpreting their messages requires a profound knowledge of bird behavior.  Once upon a time, when most people lived close the land and saw the divine in everything, folks paid much closer attention to the way things work and connect.  But as time passed, many of us moved to cities and our work became so specialized we diverted our attention from the wider world and began to focus on the inner workings of one or two things instead of the interrelationship of the many.  Gradually, we came to rely on prophets, priests, oracles and augers to pay attention in our stead and tell us what meaning the signs, we once interpreted ourselves, held.

My collage depicts just such a person.  She sits  on the edge of a large pot or cauldron symbolizing the primordial womb that contains and sustains, protects and gestates, provides food and gifts and gives birth.  It represents the dark void out of which the universe sparks into being.  Out of  her pots fly seven birds whose flight will inform her answer to the question I have come to ask.  She is a priestess of the night and her rites are conducted in the light of the full moon.  Her special guide is an owl, once sacred to Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom.  tetradrachmOwls have long been symbols of wisdom, sorcery and magic.  The owl was believed to have the power to illuminate Athena’s shadow side, thus enabling her to speak the whole truth.  Ancient Romans believed that an owl’s heart, placed on the breast of a sleeping woman, forced her to tell all her secrets.  Egyptians drew owls, sculpted them and wrote with them.  Egyptian owl 2To this very day, Algerian folklore states that to make a woman tell you everything, put the eye of an owl into her sleeping hand.  Most cultures attach symbolic meaning to the owl, for good or ill they associate it with femininity and magic.  Owls are found in all regions of Earth except Antarctica and some remote islands; their DNA dates back to the very first birds.  Humans have held them in special regard since the beginning.  Witness the cave paintings  of Chauvet, France, which date back 35,000 years, and contain a depiction of an owl, drawn the way today’s children still draw them.

Owl from Chauvet 35,000 BCE

Owl from Chauvet
35,000 BCE

Owls are considered evil omens by some, but I think that dread arises from fear of the dark.  Once one accepts darkness and learns to appreciate its gifts, fear diminishes, though a certain amount of awe and respect is appropriate and necessary to approach the divine in any aspect.

Recently a friend found a small owl dead beside the road.  She is drying the body out in cornmeal and in a month or so we will respectfully and ceremoniously pluck and divide the feathers.  Owls hold special symbolic significance for me and form part of my individual cosmology.  I feel honored that Owl has made its presence known, once again, and am glad for the privilege and opportunity of acknowledging it through art.

“Why three seasons? What happened to fall?”

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Hekate

In very early times, around the Mediterranean where Western cultures first flourished, humankind thought that their food sources depended solely on the Earth and people divided the year into two seasons only – spring and autumn, the flowering and the fruit.  Later on, when the phases of the Moon became a way of measuring the seasons and determining times to plant, another season, winter, was added.  Since my story was set in ancient days – “once upon a time, long ago and far away” – I chose to have three seasons and three sisters who echo the ancient triple goddesses like Brigit and Hecate.

I suppose I should have called them Spring, Fall and Winter, but fairy tales come from an oral tradition.  Part of the art of telling those stories is to change the language and emphasis to fit the times and audiences. Summer contrasts more with spring and winter in our culture, than does autumn, which seems a more ambiguous and elusive season. So I chose summer, winter and spring as my seasons and my sisters.

Leaping for the Moon

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Leaping for the Moon

This piece went through many changes.  My first idea grew out of a song Anna sings in The King and I – “Toads toads, all your people are toads!”  I was remembering it as’ frogs’, but then I remembered that the courtiers were toadies and…never mind!  Suffice it to say I’ve had frogs on the brain and toads being such close relations get included in the mix.  With a bit of poetic license they can even stand in for their cousins (witness the previous collage).

At first, I envisioned a bunch of toads in a pool of water with their heads sticking out, but I couldn’t find the right kind of water in my picture files and my lily pads had disappeared somewhere.  I decided to make water out of strips of patterned paper in blues and greens and purples.  I found this great spiral design in the shades I wanted and decided movement was more fun than straight-edged strips.  The frogs looked wonderful with their heads sticking out, but then  this wonderful leapy-type jumped out at me begging to be used.  I placed  him above the waves, leaping into the air after a golden ball.

It looked great!  All I needed was a background.  Day or night?  I couldn’t decide.  I tried beige to match the previous collage, then a soft mottled dusky paper with mauve and lavender.  Rummaging through my calendar collection I came across one featuring moons.  What if he were jumping for the Moon instead of a golden ball?  The Moon is a ball!

When I put it all together, the other frogs seemed to take away from the drama of the picture.  Out they jumped!  Leaving me with another pared down simple image – even though my intention was to create a more complicated intricate piece.  Perhaps the message is that more and more, I value simplicity.  Or maybe, because the tales are structured so austerely, the pictures inspired by them also demand simplicity and a certain starkness, leaving room for the viewer/reader to fill in the planks and turn the caricatures into characters with motivations and emotions reflecting her/his own inner life.

Like the story,  this picture raises questions.  Is this an expression of exhilaration?  Or does it teach me about the foolishness and futility of trying to reach beyond my grasp?  Maybe it’s a lesson in lunacy?  Or possibly, connection?

All stories hold layers of meaning and all woven with the warp and woof of real experiences, real people’s lives.  Pull out just one thread and it will pull you down by-ways you never imagined were there.  You may even find yourself leaping for the Moon.

Purple Fruit

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The Universe in Krishna

Young Krishna and the Purple Fruit

 I read and re-read the story.  I asked myself, “What is this story really about?”  My immediate answer … I don’t know.  Perhaps, it will come to me as I work on my Collage.

As I looked through my images, I have boxes and boxes of cut images that I’ve collected over the 15 years that I have been doing collage art, I realize there are no images of Krishna as a child. In fact, there are only a few Hindu images period.  Hindu Mythology is a subject with which I am only casually acquainted.

I know a little bit about a few of the Hindu deities. I know Ganesha, the elephant headed god that removes obstacles, Hanuman, the Monkey headed God that helped recover a stolen Goddess, Kali, the Goddess who slays the demons, and Shiva, the lord of the dance. Otherwise, the many myths and epic stories that make up the religion of Hinduism are foreign to me.

Finally, I found a picture of a child playing the flute. I decided I would make it into a Young Krishna. Therefore, my collage will start with that image.

I looked up Krishna on the internet and read about Him on the Wikipedia website. I have many images of the Universe so I will include a few. I discover Krishna is a simple herdsman using his flute to bring the animals together. When I finish the collage and complete the Wikipedia article, I feel like I know a little more about Krishna

The Universe is Krishna, and Krishna maintains the Universe. Each of us are the Universe, we are it and we are Krishna. The divine spark is in each of us. What about the Purple Fruit. Krishna gobbles the purple fruit. I decided the purple fruits are plums.
However, after I re-read the story again, I change my mind and decide the fruits are cherries.

I grew up in San Leandro, CA, which at the time had hundreds, perhaps thousands of Cherry trees. There were cherry orchards and cherry trees lined the streets. In the spring, the entire town glowed with Cherry blossoms. We could hardly wait for the cherries. From time to time we would climb up in the trees and test a cherry or two to see if they were ripe yet. Finally, the cherries would turn a deep purple red. My brother and I would climb up into the trees and pick cherries popping them into our mouths as fast as we could pick them. I know from experience that there is no way you can eat all the cherries off a cherry tree.

In our Tale of the Purple Fruit, the older boys are upset because Krishna is gobbling up all the fruit. They are afraid that he will eat all the fruit and they will get none. He is not doing what they told him to do. Krishna knows that there is plenty of fruit and so he doesn’t worry about what he is doing. Besides, he is still very young and is driven by the taste of the Cherries. They are ripe, juicy and delicious. At some point He will be full.

Krishna, just like my brother and me who had been told Do NOT eat the fruit, we did not follow instructions. We just thought … ripe Cherries ready for the picking … gobble, gobble …Yum!

 

I am Raven.

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I am Raven

I Upset Things. It’s my job, it’s what I do!

This story comes from the people of the Pacific Northwest. A people closely linked with the sea. It is a tale that explains the tides.  My favorite parts of the story are when the lines, “It’s my job. It’s what I do!” are said by Fog man, The Man who sits on the Tide, and finally by Raven. Each character knows their part in the over all plan. Each of us also wants to fit in and be part of an over all plan.  For some of us, knowing what our job is isn’t the easiest thing to figure out.

The seagull in my collage symbolizes “not knowing.” He is about to land on top of the head of the giant that sits on the tide. In the Tale, Raven asks Seagull if he knows how to move the water out of the way, but Seagull does not reply because he is busy searching for answers himself.

In some indigenous cultures, you are given a name that explains what you do.  In our Tale, the person who makes fog is called the Fog Man. Early on, many surnames came from what the person did. For an example, Shoemaker,  Schumacher, let us know that the person made shoes. The person named Fletcher was the individual who puts the feathers on arrows so they fly straight. Today, our name rarely represents how we fit in. Today we have to decide for our self. Yet, we are still judged by what we do. Most of us realize that there is more to who we are than how we earn a living.

Raven and Seagull are the main characters in another story. When the great creator created things, he kept them separate in Cedar boxes. The boxes contained such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One of the boxes was given to Seagull who decided not to open his box. All the animals tried to get him to do so but he refused. The animals called upon Raven to get Seagull’s box open. Raven tried reasoning with Seagull, but that didn’t work. Next he tried to trick Seagull into releasing the box, that to failed.  Finally, Raven was so angry that he stuck a thorn in Seagull’s foot.  Seagull dropped the box and the lid fell off. Out came the Sun, the moon and the stars. This brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.

Raven is an old friend to me.  I wrote a story that had Raven as an important character. He acted as a go between people and the gods.  He is the one that blithely goes forward believing in the  future and his role of happily discovering it.  I loved the trickster.