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 in Northern Canada, in Nunavut, the Inuit people speak of Angilak Suluk, literally, the biggest feather. Suluk is a griffon, a beautiful creature with the body of a lion and the head and powerful wings of an eagle. She spends her summers playing hopscotch along the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, flirting with the muskox.
Griffons are regal creatures. It is said that Apollo’s carriage (and subsequently, the sun) was not pulled by horses but by griffons instead. Strong enough to carry elephants in their talons and admired for their intelligence, griffons were used as heraldic symbols by the likes of the Republic of Genoa and Trinity College, Oxford. According to the New Dictionary of Heraldry by Stephen Friar, it was believed that a griffin’s claw had medicinal properties and a griffon’s feathers could restore sight to the blind.
Suluk is loved because of her intelligence and her strength. The Norse explorers returned home from their explorations of ancient Nunavut with horror stories of blood-thirsty yetis and sea monsters that could not be vanquished. Suluk has rid the countryside of the yetis, saving the native peoples from another century of terror and pain. And the sea monsters? They seem to have vanished as well, and some say on windy nights you can still hear the echos of screams from Suluk’s attacks on the feared beasts.
But she is not just a killer of killers. Suluk loves to make snow angels, rolling in drifts with her strong legs and enormous wings. She then flies across Nunavut, shaking her feathers and toes as she swoops over towns and roads, letting the remnants of her snow angel play scatter and fall from the sky. The people of Nunavut say that the first snow fall is always from Suluk, playing in the early snow high on Barbeau Peak.
John Milton wrote in Paradise Lost:
“As when a Gryfon through the Wilderness
With winged course ore Hill or moarie Dale,
Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth
Had from his wakeful custody purloined
The guarded Gold: So eagerly the fiend
Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,”
When that first snow falls (and that could be very soon for many of us, though it is still October), tilt your head to the skies and think of Suluk. She may be shaking snow from among the stars, or perhaps it’s one of her brethren. Though fearsome, they are marvelous creatures. Thank goodness they still fly, reminding us of magic and protection.
Sleep tight, my pets. Dream deep.