- Orlando, FL
- Last Record: 2013-05-19 16:37:09 -0400
- Joined: Aug 02, 2010
This is an old Choctaw tale of how we came to have fire.
Long ago, in the ancient times, the Great Spirit looked down on the People – the Bird People, the Animal People, the Insect People, and the Human People – resting in their cocoons, eyes closed, hands across their chests.
“My poor People,” whispered the Great Spirit, and the quiver of his voice cracked their cocoons, causing their limbs to fall from their chests. When their arms unfolded, the People's eyes fluttered open.
But there was nothing to see, for all was shrouded in darkness. There was no sun, no moon, not even a single star twinkling in the night sky. The world was dark and cold.
Soon, the Animal and Bird People called a great pow-wow. Many of their People pushed themselves to the front, in the dark, while the Insect and Human People stayed quietly in the back.
“Brothers!” cried the Animal People, ”We cannot live in darkness. It brings only misery! We must find a way to end this night!”
“There is light and warmth in the East,” a voice called out. “It is given by fire. Someone must find the East and bring back the fire.”
“But what if the People of the East will not part with their fire?” another voice replied.
“Then we must steal it!”
Opossum pushed his way to the front. “I shall go East,” he said, “for I am a great hunter, and Chief of all the Animal People. I have the bushiest tail of all animals, and that is where I shall hide the fire!”
The People agreed and Opossum scurried off to the East. When he arrived, he saw the beautiful flames of fire flickering guarded by the People of the East. Opossum crept closer and closer until he was close enough to snatch a small piece of wood, which he stuck in his bushy tail. But quickly, his tail began to smoke and then it burst into flames! Opossum leapt in the air and swished his tail back and forth trying to put out the flames. Soon, the flames disappeared, but so had the fire and all the hair on Opossum’s tail. And to this day, no Opossums have hair on their tails.
Word soon reached the pow-wow that Opossum had failed. So the People chose another volunteer, this time from the Bird People. It was Buzzard, a bird with great wings and long, beautiful feathers on his head.
So Buzzard flew East and when he saw the red fire, he swooped down grasping a piece of burning ember in his mighty talons. He hid the ember in his head feathers, but his head and feathers began to smoke and flame even faster than Opossum’s tail. Buzzard shook and shook the embers out of his feathers, but it was too late. By the time the flames had disappeared, all of his head feathers had burned away, leaving his scalp red and blistered, a trait that all of his descendents now carry.
“This is more complicated than we thought,” said the People at the pow-wow. “How will we ever get fire from the East?”
“I can try,” a tiny voice from the back said. It belonged to Grandmother Spider, of the Insect People. The Animal and Bird People whispered their doubt to one another. How could a small spider, with no great feathers or bushy tail in which to hide burning embers, steal fire from the People of the East? But since an Animal and Bird had failed, it was decided that Grandmother Spider should have her chance.
Grandmother Spider set out. But before heading East, she travelled to the stream, where she had found clay. With her eight spindly legs, she made a small clay jar with a lid, and carried it on her back. Then she spun a glorious web to the East, across which she tip-toed until she found the fire. Grandmother Spider was so small that the People of the East took no notice of her. She put a tiny piece of fire inside of her clay jar, placed the lid on top, and quietly tip-toed back to the People.
“Grandmother Spider,” the People said, “You have failed! We see no fire!”
“Oh no,” Grandmother Spider said, removing the lid, “Here is your fire!” And the beautiful flames jumped from the jar, greeting their friend, the Air, with fiery kisses. “Now who shall take this wonderful gift?”
The Animal and Bird People stepped back. After seeing what had happened to Opossum and Buzzard, they decided that fire was not for them. The Insect People thought the fire very beautiful, but feared its seductive power.
Just when the People thought no one would take the fire, a timid voice spoke from the back, “We will take it, if Grandmother Spider will help us.” It was the Human People.
So Grandmother Spider brought the jar over to the Human People and showed them how wood made the fire bigger and stronger, and how to keep the fire safely contained by clay and stones. She also showed them how to weave, and the Human People honored her by weaving glorious tapestries of Grandmother Spider with a fire on her back, so that their children may always remember Grandmother Spider: the Fire-Bringer.