Tag Archives: storytelling

in un raniin awi (Assimilation)

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

The Arikara people (also called the Ree peoples) lived in North and South Dakota long before they were called North and South Dakota. Strong agriculturalists, they traded with both the white settlers to the East and their fellow Native Americans to the West. While originally a peaceful people, the Arikara were often caught in the bloody differences between the European and White peoples and the Native peoples of the United States. Staying peaceful is sometimes a bloody business, my dears.

The tribe met with the Lewis and Clark expedition when they came through their lands. They were fascinated with their journals and the expedition crew’s habit of filling them with notes and pictures. While the Arikara had no written language, they were adept at picking up the languages of their neighbors – white and otherwise.

When several Arikara men joined General Custer’s cavalry crew, legend has it that they kept their own versions of expedition journals, chronicling their travels and their experiences. The Arikara called these in un raniin awi, literallly “written pictures”; since they had no written language they used photos in their pain-stakingly crafted journals. In the aftermath of The Battle of Little Bighorn, one of these journals was found. Nothing is known of the original owner, but it is clear that the Arikaras’ affinity for meeting peoples of all colors and creeds helped fuel a robust in un raniin awi.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

 

Assimilation

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Shamus

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

Deep, deep, deep in the Bohemian Forest lives a hunter of specific tastes. Shrouded in a burlap cape and covered in a fur that melds with the botanicals, Shamus quietly picks his way through the forest. His nose twitches, constantly searching for his prey, and his nimble feet barely leave prints in the dirt. Shamus, you see, is a mushroom hunter. He follows the paths of the ancient Boii, a Gaelic people whose name means “outsider”. Shamus could be called an outsider, though he knows the forest better than any other creature. He is a solitary hunter, hoarding mushrooms in his cape until he can secret them away to his lair. His eyes, accustomed to the dark of the thick forest, allow him to see at night, and he can spot the tiniest mushroom by the light of just one star.

The children of Bavaria grow up mushroom hunting, but they make sure that they are home by dark, just to avoid Shamus. He is stealthy, able to pluck a mushroom without disturbing the dirt around it, and mushroom hunters young and old are haunted by visions of his tiny hands curling around one’s mushroom basket, silently stealing their cache.

It is said that on a silent winter’s night, if you find yourself in the peat bogs, you can smell wild mushrooms inexplicably on the wind. Perhaps it’s Shamus, cooking his supper from his den. Shamus can’t be the only creature of his kinda, can he? Perhaps you should leave a mushroom out on your sill tonight. Stay vigilant, for the those tiny hands will pull that mushroom out of sight silently.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

shamus

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Erter Vinter

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

In Alfheimr, home of the Light-Elves and one of the Nine Worlds of Old Norse mythology, the erter vinter (winter peas) dwell. These tiny elves sing and fly through the heavens on the dreams of dead animals. They smell like salt and when they sing make whistling and tinkling sounds like bells and chimes in the wind. They are happy beings and welcome spirits to heaven with a warmth that seems unfathomable for a Norwegian winter.

Here on earth, we live with the Dark-Elves, creatures dark as pitch and thick with evil. It is easy to become mired in their darkness, to believe the terrible things they whisper, and this is exactly what they want.

As is written in the eddic poem Gylfaginning:

That which is called Álfheim is one, where dwell the peoples called Light elves [Ljósálfar]; but the Dark-elves [dökkálfar] dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-elves are blacker than pitch.

Yes, the erter vinter are tiny. And yes, they are silly and happy creatures that could easily somersault across the palm of your hand. But they battle the dökkálfar each and every day. They ride on clouds of otter dreams, singing songs to remind us of the simple strength of the snowflake and to remind us that our world is beautiful and that we are each loved. The dökkálfar are fierce and impressive, but the erter vinter are fiercer.

And they’re cute, too.

The next time you succumb to the insidious whispers of the dökkálfar, take a moment to listen for the chimes and bells that are the songs of the erter vinter. Take a deep breath of the salt in the air that means the erter vinter are near. Let their soft songs seep into your subconscious. It can be warm even in the coldest winter.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

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The Kappa

Oh, my dears. It’s been a long week. And it is Friday night. The sky is dark, the moon is traveling past the stars, and much of the world is readying for bed. Curl up and listen to the tales I weave, until your eyes grow heavy and you slip into slumber, ready for the Dream Maker.

Have you ever had a picnic next to a river, perhaps, or taken a walk by a babbling brook, and had the feeling that someone – something – was watching you? Perhaps an otherwise placid stream burbles too loud too suddenly, or the babbling brook seems to be babbling rather vicious things. You could be in the presence of a Kappa.

The Kappa is from Japanese legend, a water demon (a suijin) that looks like a short, wrinkled man with a beaked nose and a turtle shell on his back. Kappas live in rivers and eat unwary people, especially children. Don’t worry, pets, I am always thinking of your safety.

There are two ways to keep yourself safe from a Kappa. Firstly, Kappas love cucumbers, so if you carve your name into a cucumber and throw it into the river, the Kappa will find it, remember you and thus will spare you should you ever run into him. (This could be why my brother Mordecai always travels with a cucumber and a pen knife.)

Second, the Kappa’s strength comes from the water. He has a depression in the top of his head that carries water so he is never without it. If you should run into a Kappa, all you need to do is bow. He will have to bow in return, and when he does the water will spill out of the bowl in his head. He will be powerless until he can return to the river, which gives you time to run and run for your life.

Interestingly, though mostly evil, if one does capture a Kappa, it will pledge to assist with farm work or to teach its captor the arts of setting bones and making medicines and salves. I still recommend removing oneself from a Kappa’s presence as quickly as possible, though. While bone-setting and mixing salves is incredibly useful, capturing a flesh-eating Kappa seems much riskier than, say, entrance exams for medical school.

Whether you know this Suijin by a different name, perhaps Kelpie, Näkki, or Vodnik, when riverside, to be vigilant and keep your wits about you. Don’t jump into shallow water and beware the Kappa.

Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.

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