I love stories. For millennia people would have huddled around the camp fire, collectively, and heard stories of old being told by Elders; and even today, we love our stories, albeit they’re told mainly in movies on tv or in cinemas etc, and we then lose that interactivity.
But, sometimes, just sometimes I like to get a few people together, and over a meal, tell (and listen to) metaphysical stories and myth. In 1990, when a few of us did this, we used to call these gatherings ‘Dead Poet Society’ meals, named after the movie at that time. Today, we call them ‘Telling Places’, which is much closer to what they would have been called in ancient times. Continuity.
I love stories, especially ones that are unfamiliar – as sometimes with the familiar stories, we can become complacent and miss something. For instance, in my ‘tribe’ the Creation story can seem relatively ‘simple’ – six days to create everything. But, are there two creation accounts, was there some ‘stuff’ that was pre-existing, where did the light on Day 1 come from if the sun wasn’t created until midweek, and why does it record the first man being put into a deep sleep but never woken up? And what about ‘tohu wa bohu’ found in Genesis 1:2? (It’s a great poetical, descriptive phrase, pronounced toe-hoo vah boe-hoo. You can award yourself a point if you know what it means). I have my own views on all of these – but in one sense, to answer any of these misses the point that the creation story, or, rather, creation itself is an awesome (ongoing) event, that nature is to be enjoyed and also respected; and also, it points us to That Which Is Larger Than Ourselves, if we look ‘behind’ the story at its meaning.
But, by listening to unfamiliar stories we can learn about other cultures, and also our own!
So, as a mythical story (much the same as a parable) which has something at its heart that I believe we can benefit from, here’s one of my favourite creation stories. This is from the Navajo tribe. Okay, it’s not Celtic, not Christian, nor Druidic, but it does contain a truth – and truth wherever it is found is the truth, and it is relevant to us, I believe; and it does come from a people that, like the ancient Celts, Christians and Druids who were/are nature-based, and nature-respectful.
The following, then, is a creation story, a myth, a tale about night and day, their changing lengths due to the seasons, and it is about balance – which from the Celtic, Druid point of view is very significant as we draw closer to the Alban Elfed, the Autumn equinox; that time of night/day balance, and as we ponder on balance in the wider world and our individual lives. It’s a story I will use this coming Autumn equinox.
A long time ago, when the world was only just being created, the animals separated into ‘Day animals (those that would forage and be active during the day eg dogs, lions, monkeys etc) and Night animals (those that would forage and be active at night eg owls, bears etc).
It was a time when animals could talk, and they would often play games together taught to them by the Giant who had then gone away on a journey. The animals would play the moccasin game (of hiding several moccasins in the soil, and the opposing team would guess which one contained the small ball hidden within the moccasins). It was a favourite game. Each team, the Day animals and Night animals would play, alternating games of guessing. And so it went on.
Each side would up the stakes. One side would say, if we win, then we control the river. The other side would then say, if we win, we control the weather. Until eventually, the Night animals suggested that if they win, then the world would forever experience night-time and never day-time, and so the Day animals said that if they won if would be forever day.
And, so that game started – perhaps it’s still being played today: as days grow shorter in the winter, and then night grows shorter in the summer, as each side scores more winning points. A balance of sorts?
However, the owl started to cheat. When the owl buried the moccasins, he kept the ball hidden under his wing, and so the Day animals could never guess where the ball was hidden, because it wasn’t hidden in a moccasin. The Day animals were doomed to lose.
Imbalance entered the world.
And so, the Day animals, realising what the Night animals were doing, cried out in lament to the Giant to return and restore order. Their cry was ‘Give it back, give it back’. A plea for the Night animals to return the hidden ball, to play fair, and not cheat, and for order to be restored.
Even today, that cry, is sung by the Navajo, and has been turned into a modern song.
Night and day vie for supremacy, still, throughout the changing seasons, and yet there is still some order and balance in night and day, and the changing seasons.
For us, it is a timely story for the impending Autumn equinox. A time of balance.
[If you would like to hear that Navajo traditional tribal song on this theme of the Day Animals/Night animals’ story, called Yeha Noha, which means ‘Give it back’, to a fairly modern tune – please click: here] or here.]