Thanks for finding my blog. I thought it would be really nice to start out by sharing some creation myths from around the world. So if you could find some links - or retell some myths for the rest of us - that would be very much appreciated!
I would like to start this "myth-sharing" by sharing a link to a myth whose main protagonist is a Bird - or more precisely, a raven. In fact, the protagonist is not only "a" raven, he is "the Raven" - the famous North-West Coast Trickster.
|Photo by Stefan Markov|
The myth is a Haida Creation Myth. If you would like to listen to an oral version of it -- complete with Raven Song and Raven Calls in the background, please click on the following link: http://www.haidanation.ca/Pages/Haida_Legends/Audio/Raven%20Creation/Raven_Creation.html
One of the most famous Haida Mythtellers is Skaay of the Qquuna Quighawaay (also known as John Sky). A summary of his version of the Haida Creation myth can be found at the following website:
This website, though officially a site for kids, gives a pretty accurate description of Skaay's story (which was NOT a story for kids but for everybody). The original full-length version of the myth has been preserved -- even though Skaay never wrote it down himself -- because it has been transcribed word by word by the linguist John R. Swanton in 1900 and then translated by him with the help of a bilingual speaker.
Swanton's book, which includes "Raven Travelling" and several other myths by Skaay as well as by his colleague Ghandl, can be accessed on-line as e-book: http://www.archive.org/stream/haidatextsandmy04swangoog#page/n6/mode/2up
|Photo by MTSVancouver|
Robert Bringhurst has retranslated all of Skaay's myths as well as all the myths of Skaay's contemporary Ghandl in his Haida Trilogy, which consists of an introduction to Haida literature (A Story as Sharp as a Knife) as well as one volume with Skaay's stories (Being in Being) and one with Ghandl's stories (9 Visits to the Mythworld). If you would like to get an on-line taste of Robert Bringhurst's translations, here is a YouTube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQ2Ohf8WK80&feature=related
Haida Master Carver Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst have retold several "Raven Stories" in the book The Raven Steals the Light. One of these stories, "The Raven and the First Men," is particularly famous, since Bill Reid has also created a visual representation of the story in his gigantic wood sculpture "Raven and the Clamshell" that can be seen at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (Vancouver, BC). The original miniature version of the sculpture fits in the palm of a human hand and also lives in the MOA, right next to its gigantic brother.
If you would like to see Bill Reid's Raven sculpture - as well as some of his other works - please click on the following links:
Bill Reid Foundation: http://www.billreidfoundation.org/banknote/raven.htm
Bill Reid Gallery: http://www.billreidgallery.ca/
Native Online: http://www.nativeonline.com/billried.html
You can find the text of one version of the story about "the Raven and the First Humans" at the following site:
An animated retelling of one version of "the Raven Steals the Light" is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB3SgMP9QW8
The Raven, in Haida Mythology, is a typical trickster figure (similar to Coyote or Nanabush). As you can see in the first story, he doesn't really "create" the world from scratch. Instead, he is travelling around - first to the Sky-World and then to the Sea-World - and encountering and interacting with various other beings. The creation of Haida Gwaii - a group o islands West of Prince Rupert (BC) - is only possible after visiting and experiencing various new places (Sky and Sea) and after having received a gift from the old man in the Sea as well as instructions about what to do with it. I think this is a very interesting and important message about the process of creation - and very different from the Western-European and North-American concept.
|Photo by Peter Trimming|
The Raven is not the only Bird that is important in Haida Mythology. The Eagle is just as important - and often used to (counter-) balance the Raven. Ravens and Eagles are also the two "moieties" in Haida culture: people are either of the Raven or of the Eagle side. Other Birds populate the Haida stories as well, including Grebes, Gulls, and Geese. Ghandl, for example, tells a wonderful story about a man who got marries to a Goose. The story can be accessed in Swanton's book as well as in Robert Bringhurst's. Gary Snyder has also been fascinated by that particular story and written about it extensively in his book He Who Hunted Birds in his Father's Village.
The Bird who keeps calling at the beginning of Skaay's version of the Raven Myth is neither an Eagle nor a Raven or a Goose but a Loon. The reason why the Loon is calling is the fact that the Haida Gods - or Spirit Beings - are homeless, that is, they have no places to live. The Raven hears the Loon's call and, consequently, promises to create places for the Gods. In other words, it is because of the Loon's calling that the Raven sets out on his journey and finally -- after his visit to the Sky World and to the Sea World -- and with the help of the One in the Sea and his gift -- manages to create Haida Gwaii as dwelling places for the homeless Gods.
|Photo by Alan Vernon|
Sorry, this post got waywaywaywayway toooooooooo looooooooong,