Tags: mythology

Winter Storm Brutus and Folktales

So this is the third day of the winter storm here in Montana, called by the weather pros "Brutus," and very light snow is still falling, with about 16 inches on the ground in one fell swoop. I wish I had a camera that worked but I don't so you'll just have to imagine it :-) I'm pretty much just hunkered down, enjoying the peace and quiet.

But this quiet wintry landscape has also brought me back to a project I have been working off and on for many years. Storytelling. Some of my past work on this subject is on this blog, here.

I am working on a collection of our Ioway tribal traditional stories, retold, the Wekan and the Worage, in part to preserve them in a more accessible way for the tribe, in part to better embed them in myself, in part to better understand them in a functional and larger context, and finally, to be able to become a better traditional storyteller to keep the stories alive as they were meant to be, through telling them as oral tradition. Also, since I am an artist, I will get to fulfill a dream of mine since childhood, which is not only to write up such a collection, but illustrate the stories as well!

The Wekan basically are considered to be sacred, as they deal with things far back in time: origins of creation, origins of clans, origins of ceremonies...but also stories of when animals talked and behaved as people do, in ancient times. We don't consider them to be secular or to be "myths" (yes I know the term means something different when Joseph Campbell etc. use it, but most Native people still think it means "untruth" so it is held to be a pejorative term). Wekan are distinguished also by the fact you can only tell them in winter. This is because the guardians of sacred things like the Wekan, guardians like the Thunder and the Snakes, are away or asleep in winter. If you tell them during the summer, they will hear, and the Snakes will come and bite you.

Worage are not sacred in that sense, though some individuals may hold them with great wonder and respect. They are basically news, things that really happened in recent times, some of them told in extended narrative forms. Even a story of a person's encounter with the supernatural, as in a vision quest, is considered to be a Worage.

I do not have a degree in folklore, but I am an anthropologist as well as a member of my tribe (I actually was appointed to be on my tribe's Elder's Committee this fall, a great honor!). In connection with this project, I am learning about the whole folktale motifs and tale types area of research in folklore, and learning about the resources from Sith Thompson and others:

"A tale type is a representative and plot outline that applies to similar folk tales from around the world. Tale types are categorized according to a type-numbering system developed by the Finnish scholar Antti Aarne and the Indiana University folklorist Stith Thompson (link to site); the numbers given to the tales are commonly referred to as AT numbers. Hans-Jorg Uther published an update of the system in 2004; these numbers are referred to as ATU numbers." (http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=7982, which also has a great research guide on the same page).

A useful tool to look into Thompson's work is here: http://www.ruthenia.ru/folklore/thompson/

The problem is that most of these resources are in multivolume works held in particular libraries I don't have access to (like the HRAF, Human Resource Area Files, drat) so I have to hunt and gather what I can online. I can't buy the bloody things because they range from about $100 upward for each volume, and some are multivolume sets as I said.

If anyone has any other recommendations for other useful blogs or resources on folktales (especially about the codes on motifs and tale types) please let me know.

Begin Mythic Thinking Where You Live


"Mountains, burial mounds, crossroads, monuments, graves, trees, streams and rivers were ancient locations of the numinous. They are no less full of power today, if we but reclaim them. If communities and individuals have lost the sense of power attached to places - a very real loss - nevertheless the magician's work requires them.... Employ mythic thinking to invest the mundane with the magical. ...The magician looks about them and sees the magical potential in all things." (Jake Stratton-Kent, in Geosophia I, p. 47)

Indeed, this blog was mainly established to investigate, and re-invest, the mythic dimensions of the landscape I live in, have lived in, and have kept returning to, since childhood. Just click the keywords beside this post, especially Helena, and you will see some of this. Each of these categories deserve more research:

Mountains and Hills: Two of the most significant mountains in a mythic sense for this valley are Mount Helena and the Sleeping Giant. But those are just the start, as the rim of mountains encircle and define this valley, and shift and morph depending on one's viewpoint and location. I have written before about Tower Hill and the mountains around here.

Burial Mounds/Graves: There are no burial mounds of which I am aware here, even the native burials are forgotten, or hidden from enemies, but there are many cemeteries with people significant to the history of this place: Benton Avenue, Forestvale, and several others. Many of the dead are actual heros in the cast of the ancient mythic heros, such as military veterans who won medals for proven courage in battle. I will be doing further research on this.

Crossroads: There are dozens of crossroads in Helena, with some of the most interesting in the historic South Central Historic District: the classic four-way, but also forked crossroads such as up Last Chance Gulch.

Monuments: There are several monuments scattered around Helena, often in parks, commemorating historic events, service in war, such as the monument to the U.S.S. Helena at Anchor Park, or the veteran monuments in Memorial Park. These are the sites of ongoing, intermittent ceremonies, especially on Veterans' Day and Memorial Day.

Trees: Some of the trees are about as old as Helena, 120 years and more. The old hanging tree was probably the most famous, but it was cut down, although the neighborhood it was located in still has a reputation for being haunted, and there are probably still unlocated graves there. There is the old elm tree by the house too, but over the last few years, ignorant vandals have been tearing at the bark as they walk by, and I worry about it.

Springs, Streams and Rivers: Helena resides in the valley that was called the Prickly Pear Valley by Lewis and Clark, and the Missouri River lies between the valley and the Big Belt Mountains. All the drainages and streams, such as Last Chance and 10-Mile Creek, run into the Missouri after meandering across the valley. The Missouri River here connects me spiritually with the homelands of my Ioway ancestors, almost a thousand miles downstream. It was also one of the corridors for the peopling of America, over ten thousand years ago. There are also locations in Helena that once were the locations of springs, though all have been capped and utilized. However there are still sacred springs up in the mountains.

Learn the myths of the land you are in. And if the myths are gone or unknown, begin to think mythically, and find the archetypes of The Mountain, The Tree, The Grove, The Stone, The River, The Spring, The Crossroads, The Grave, and The Cave where you live.

Mythology and Bundles

I have been revisiting my tribal mythology and culture, and found some important things to keep in mind in Karen's Armstrong's "A Short History of Myth":

Today the word ‘myth’ is often used to describe something that simply isn’t true. A politician accused of a peccadillo will say it is a ‘myth’, that it never happened. When we hear of gods walking the earth, of dead men striding out of tombs, or of seas miraculously parting to let a favoured people escape from their enemies, we dismiss these stories as incredible and demonstrably untrue. Since the eighteenth century, we have developed a scientific view of history; we are concerned above all with what actually happened. But in the pre-modern world, when people wrote about the past they were more concerned with what the event had meant. A myth was an event which, in some sense, happened once, but which also happened all the time. Because of our strictly chronological view of history, we have no word for such an occurrence, but mythology is an art form that points beyond history to what is timeless in human existence...

...In mythology… we entertain a hypothesis, bring it to life by means of ritual, act upon it, contemplate its effects upon our lives, and discover we have achieved new insight into the disturbing puzzle of our world.

A myth, therefore, is true because it is effective, not because it gives factual information. If, however, it does not give us new insight into the deeper meaning of life, it has failed. It is works, that is, if it forces us to change our minds and hearts, gives us new hope, and compels us to live more fully, it is a valid myth. Mythology will only transform us if we follow its directives. A myth is essentially a guide; it tells us what we must do in order to live more richly. If we do not apply it to our own situation and make myth a reality in our own lives, it will remain as incomprehensible and remote as the rules of a board game, which often seem confusing and boring until we start to play.

I wrote my M.A. thesis in Anthropology on the Sacred Bundles of my tribe, the Ioway Indians. We had lived in the upper midwest, centered in Iowa, until we were moved by the government to a reservation on the border of Kansas and Nebraska where the Missouri River flows by. The Sacred Bundles (waruxawe: "that which is flayed") were of many types, for war, protection, healing, social organization, tattooing, and more. My thesis examined them in detail (you can take a look at the thesis here and get a copy if so moved: http://stores.lulu.com/lancemfoster).

But the question I always ask myself, is, apart from understanding the past, what can we learn from the Sacred Bundles to help us in our lives today? Merely fetishizing the past does not necessarily help us now. It does not help our children and their children live in a damaged and transforming world so different from the one our ancestors lived in. Can we build a revitalized way of life around what the Sacred Bundles and the Sacred Myths have to teach us?

Mary Scriver writes about the Blackfeet revitalization of Sacred Bundle ways in Montana:

The “problem” (if that’s what it is) with the contemporary Bundle Keepers’ interpretation of the Bundle Ceremony is based on “doing what our ancestors did because we are their children.” But the old-time Circle, as they danced with the contents of the Bundle -- which are skins of animals meant to prompt thoughts of those lives on the shared prairies -- were relating to the actual animals, each well-known to them with its penumbra of characteristics. The modern Bundle Keepers are worried about maintaining their relationship with their culture. The ancient Bundle Keepers were worried about maintaining their relationship to the land which both preserved and destroyed them: it was their essential source of life itself, the foundation of their culture. (http://prairiemary.blogspot.com/2010/12/bundle-bundle-whos-got-bundle.html)

The Old People did what they did not because of a focus on the past but on a focus on proper relationship with the source of life.

In the Ioway Sacred Bundles I examined, there were plant medicines and animal skins. Not dead things, but living, the power of life in them in some mysterious way still. I know. I saw some of these things still sleeping,yet moving in their sleep. For example, there was a squirrel skin with a tiny woven sash tied around it like a man wears a belt. A squirrel skin in a warriors bundle? Hawk, eagle, bear, or wolf in a war bundle, okay, but a squirrel?? Surely you have seen the agility and speed of a squirrel, and its evasiveness and willingness to defend itself and its relations. This is the power of a squirrel.

A mother defending her child from a dog.

Defending a fallen comrade from enemies.

There is also a video of a squirrel attacking a snake. I have seen them attack cats. They do not always win, but they have courage, speed, aggressiveness, endurance...things a warrior needs. Things that live in a properly obtained and prayed-over squirrel skin war amulet, that can help a warrior out when he needs it.

It is good and necessary to know about the past, which is the source of where we come from and who we are. But one must also build knowledge of the present, and build a way of life, including the spiritual, that also answers where we are going.

What elements, plants, animals in your personal and observed life have not only lessons to teach you, but power to connect you to the source of life, our green-growing, four-legged, winged, crawling, swimming relatives of the Land?

That is what the Old People were doing in the past, not tradition for the sake of tradition only, but in order that they might live, and live in proper relationship to the source of life, and based on that relationship, to each other. That is the concern of culture.

This must be about building and maintaining our connection with the source of life: the land, animals, plants of the place we live in. Not only for ourselves, but for the generations to come.

Notes on Time and Place

Notes for free association

Thomas More invented the word "Utopia"... he formed it from Ancient Greek words:
Eu topos = Good place
Ou topos= No place
Utopia= "the good place that is no place"

Cacotope or Cacotopia is the opposite of Utopia, from
kakos (κακός) topos = a place that is foul, evil, bad
also more frequently heard today is dystopia
A dystopia (from Ancient Greek: δυσ-: bad-, ill- and Ancient Greek: τόπος: place, landscape)
One might say that dys- expresses more of a feeling of difficulty, in its badness
while kakos is intrinsically evil, depraved, loathsome

So dystopian landscape is a difficult landscape, that the resources have been stripped, and it is hard to live there; there is a feeling of destruction from human acts
While a cacotopian landscape is plain old bad, evil, rotten

Time is a one-dimensional quantity used to sequence events, to quantify the durations of events and the intervals between them, and (used together with space) to quantify and measure the motions of objects. Time is quantified in comparative terms (such as longer, shorter, faster, quicker, slower) or in numerical terms using units (such as seconds, minutes, hours, days). It is measured using a clock.

Time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in the International System of Units. The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos."

CHRONOS (Ancient Greek: Χρόνος)
Sequential, quantitative time. Measured time. In Greek mythology, Chronos in pre-Socratic philosophical works is said to be the personification of time. His name in Modern Greek also means "year" and is alternatively spelled Chronus (Latin spelling). In Ioway, this type of time would be bigundhe, from bi (sun) + gundhe (to indicate, measure). The Wheel and Seasons of the Year is of Chronos.

KAIROS (Ancient Greek: καιρός)
An ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment).
A moment of undetermined period of time in which something special happens. Qualitative nature of time. The appointed time. Kālá (Sanskrit: काल, IPA: [kɑːˈlə], time) denotes a fixed or right point in time (compare rtu, kairos). Ritu (ṛtú) in Vedic Sanskrit refers to a fixed or appointed time, especially the proper time for sacrifice (yajna) or ritual in Vedic Religion


oldest Greek word for place, -region, country, space. Subjective, sacred, irrational, immanent space. The meaning, eternal aspect rather than the physical container. Love of "home" and "country" is chorophilia.

Topos (τόπος, Greek 'place' from tópos koinós, common place; pl. topoi), in Latin locus (from locus communis). Location, objective features of a place. The container, rather than the meaning or energy. Love of the physical place is topophilia.

MORPHAI- fire, air, water, earth (shapes, characters, forms)
DYNAMEIS- hot, dry, wet, cold (powers, qualities)
PATHE- feelings, passions

"Myth is a natural expression of what may be grasped by bastard reasoning." Walter 123

Nostalgia: lit. 'Painful return home.' A sentimental, useless longing for places and situations no longer available.

Numen, numina (numinous) - presence, 'nodding', the power of a spirit present in places and objects. A sacred grove (nemus) is named for the numen there.
Ond: Norse
Wod: Anglo-Saxon
Yoruba: ase
Japanese: kami
Algonquian: manitou
Ioway: wakanda (specifically, as in other Siouan languages 'kan')

Genius loci - Anima loci - Anima mundi

"The Celestial Omnibus," by E. M. Forster

The boy who resided at Agathox Lodge, 28, Buckingham Park Road, Surbiton, had often been puzzled by the old signpost that stood almost opposite. He asked his mother about it, and she replied that it was a joke, and not a very nice one, which had been made many years back by some naughty young men, and that the police ought to remove it. For there were two strange things about this signpost: firstly, it pointed up a blank alley, and, secondly, it had painted on it, in faded characters, the words, "To Heaven."

"What kind of young men were they?" he asked.

"I think your father told me that one of them wrote verses, and was expelled from the University, and came to grief in other ways. Still, it was a long time ago. You must ask your father about it. He will say the same as I do, that it was put up as a joke."

"So it doesn't mean anything at all?"

She sent him upstairs to put on his best things, for the Bonses were coming to tea, and he was to hand the cake-stand.

It struck him, as he wrenched on his tightening trousers, that he might do worse than ask Mr. Bons about the signpost. His father, though very kind, always laughed at him - shrieked with laughter whenever he or any other child asked a question or spoke. But Mr. Bons was serious as well as kind. He had a beautiful house and lent one books, he was a churchwarden, and a candidate for the County Council; he had donated to the Free Library enormously, he presided over the Literary Society, and had Members of Parliament to stop with him - in short, he was probably the wisest person alive.

Yet even Mr. Bons could only say that the signpost was a joke - the joke of a person named Shelley.

"Of course!" cried the mother: "I told you so, dear. That was the name."

"Had you never heard of Shelley?" asked Mr. Bons.

"No," said the boy, and hung his head,

"But is there no Shelley in the house?"

"Why, yes!" exclaimed the lady, in much agitation. "Dear Mr. Bons, we aren't such Philistines as that. Two at the least. One a wedding present, and the other, smaller print, in one of the spare rooms."

"I believe we have seven Shelleys," said Mr. Bons, with a slow smile. Then he brushed the cake crumbs off his stomach - and, together with his daughter, rose to go.

The boy, obeying a wink from his mother, saw them all the way to the warden gate, and when they had gone he did not at once return to the house, but gazed for a little up and down Buckingham Park Road.

His parents lived at the right end of it. After No. 39 the quality of the houses dropped very suddenly, and 64 had not even a separate servants' entrance. But at the present moment the whole road looked rather pretty, for the sun had just set in splendor, and the inequalities of rent were drowned in a saffron afterglow. Small birds twittered, and the breadwinners' train shrieked musically down through the cutting - that wonderful cutting which has drawn to itself the whole beauty out of Surbiton. and clad itself, like any Alpine valley, with the glory of the fir and the silver birch and the primrose. It was this cutting that had first stirred desires within the boy - desires for something just a little different, he knew not what, desires that would return whenever things were sunlit as they were this evening, running up and down inside him, up and down, up and down. till he would feel quite unusual all over, and as likely as not would want to cry. This evening he was even sillier, for he slipped across the road towards the signpost and began to run up the blank alley.

The alley runs between high walls - the walls of the gardens of "Ivanhoe" and "Bella Vista" respectively. It smells a little all the way, and is scarcely twenty yards long. including the turn at the end. So not unnaturally the boy soon came to a standstill. "I'd like to kick that Shelley," he exclaimed, and glanced idly at a piece of paper which was pasted on the wall. Rather an odd piece of paper, and he read it carefully before he turned back. This is what he read:

S. and C.R.C.C.

Alteration in Service

Owing to lack of patronage the Company are regretfully compelled to suspend the hourly service, and to retain only the

Sunrise and Sunset Omnibuses,

which will run as usual. It is to be hoped that the public will patronize an arrangement which is intended for their convenience. As an extra inducement the Company will, for the first time, now issue

Return Tickets!

(available one day only), which may be obtained of the driver. Passengers are again reminded that no tickets are issued at the other end, and that no complaints in this connection will receive consideration from the Company. Nor will the Company be responsible for any negligence or stupidity on the part of Passengers, nor for Hailstorms, Lightning, Loss of Tickets, nor for any act of God.

For the Direction.

Now he had never seen this notice before, nor could he imagine where the omnibus went to. S, of course was for Surbiton, and R.C.C. meant Road Car Company. But what was the meaning of the other C.? Coombe and Maiden, perhaps, or possibly "City." Yet it could not hope to compete with the South-Western. The whole thing, the boy reflected, was run on hopelessly unbusiness-like lines. Why not tickets from the other end? And what an hour to start! Then he realized that unless the notice was a hoax. an omnibus must have been starting just as he was wishing the Bonses good-bye. He peered at the ground through the gathering dusk, and there he saw what might or might not be the marks of wheels. Yet nothing had come out of the alley. And he had never seen an omnibus at any time in the Buckingham Park Road. No, it must be a hoax, like the signposts - like the fairy tales, like the dreams upon which he would wake suddenly in the night. And with a sigh he stepped from the alley - right into the arms of his father.

Oh, how his father laughed! "Poor, poor Popsey!" he cried. "Diddums! Diddums! Diddums think he'd walky-palky up to Ewink!" And his mother, also convulsed with laughter, appeared on the steps of Agathox Lodge. "Don't, Bob!" she gasped. "Don't be so naughty! Oh, you'll kill me! Oh, leave the boy alone!"

But all that evening the joke was kept up. The father implored to be taken too. Was it a very tiring walk? Need one wipe one's shoes on the doormat? And the boy went to bed feeling faint and sore, and thankful for only one thing - that he had not said a word about the omnibus. It was a hoax, yet through his dreams it grew more and more real, and the streets of Surbiton, through which he saw it driving, seemed instead to become hoaxes and shadows. And very early in the morning he woke with a cry, for he had had a glimpse of its destination.

He struck a match, and its light fell not only on his watch but also on his calendar, so that he knew it to be half an hour to sunrise. It was pitch dark, for the fog had come down from London in the night, and all Surbiton was wrapped in its embrace. Yet he sprang out and dressed himself, for he was determined to settle once for all which was real: the omnibus or the streets. "I shall be a fool one way or the other," he thought. "Until I know." Soon he was shivering in the road under the gas lamp that guarded the entrance to the alley.

To enter the alley itself required some courage. Not only was it horribly dark, but he now realized that it was an impossible terminus for an omnibus. If it had not been for a policeman, whom he heard approaching through the fog, he would never have made the attempt. The next moment he had made the attempt and failed. Nothing. Nothing but a blank alley and a very silly boy gaping at its dirty floor. It was a hoax. "I'll tell papa and mamma," he decided. "I deserve it. I deserve that they should know. I am too silly to be alive." And he went back to the gate of Agathox Lodge. There he remembered that his watch was fast. The sun was not risen: it would not rise for two minutes. "Give the bus every chance," he thought cynically, and returned into the alley.

But the omnibus was there.

It had two horses, whose sides were still smoking from their journey, and its two great lamps shone through the fog against the alley's walls, changing their cobwebs and moss into tissues of fairyland. The driver was huddled up in a cape. He faced the blank wall, and how he had managed to drive in so neatly and so silently was one of the many things that the boy never discovered. Nor could he imagine how ever he would drive out.

"Please," his voice quavered through the foul brown air. "Please, is that an omnibus?" "Omnibus est," said the driver, without turning round. There was a moments silence. The policeman passed, coughing, by the entrance of the alley. The boy crouched in the shadow, for he did not want to be found out. He was pretty sure, too, that it was a Pirate; nothing else, he reasoned, would go from such odd places and at such odd hours.

"About when do you start?" He tried to sound nonchalant.

"At sunrise."

"How far do you go?"

"The whole way."

"And can I have a return ticket which will bring me all the way back?"

"You can."

"Do you know. I half think I'll come." The driver made no answer. The sun must have risen, for he unhitched the brake. And scarcely had the boy jumped in before the omnibus was off.

How? Did it turn? There was no room. Did it go forward? There was a blank wall. Yet it was moving - moving at a stately pace through the fog, which had turned from brown to yellow. The thought of warm bed and warmer breakfast made the boy feel faint. He wished he had not come.

His parents would not have approved. He would have gone back to them if the weather had not made it impossible, The solitude was terrible; he was the only passenger. And the omnibus, though well-built, was cold and somewhat musty. He drew his coat round him, and in so doing chanced to feel his pocket. It was empty. He had forgotten his purse.

"Stop!" he shouted. "Stop!" And then, being of a polite disposition, he glanced up at the painted notice-board so that he might call the driver by name. "Mr. Browne! stop; oh, do please stop!"

Mr. Browne did not stop, but he opened a little window and looked in at the boy. His face was a surprise - so kind it was and modest.

"Mr. Browne - I've left my purse behind. I've not got a penny. I can't pay for the ticket. Will you take my watch - please? I am in the most awful hole."

"Tickets on this line," said the driver, "whether single or return, can be purchased by coinage from no terrene mint. And a chronometer, though it had solaced the vigils of Charlemagne, or measured the slumbers of Laura, can acquire by no mutation the double-cake that charms the fangless Cerberus of Heaven!" So saying, he handed in the necessary ticket, and, while the boy said "Thank you," continued: "Titular pretensions. I know it well, are vanity. Yet they merit no censure when uttered on a laughing lip, and in an homonymous world are in some sort useful, since they do serve to distinguish one Jack from his fellow. Remember me. Therefore - as Sir Thomas Browne."

"Are you a Sir? Oh, sorry!" He had heard of these gentlemen drivers. "It is good of you about the ticket. But if you go on at this rate, however does your bus pay?"

"It does not pay. It was not intended to pay. Many are the faults of my equipage; it is compounded too curiously of foreign woods; its cushions tickle erudition rather than promote repose; and my horses are nourished not on the evergreen pastures of the moment, but on the dried bents and clovers of Latinity. But that it pays! - that error at all events was never intended and never attained."

"Sorry again -" said the boy rather hopelessly. Sir Thomas looked sad, fearing that, even for a moment, he had been the cause of sadness. He invited the boy to come up and sit beside him on the box, and together they journeyed on through the fog, which was now changing from yellow to white. There were no houses by the road; so it must be either Putney Heath or Wimbledon Common.

"Have you been a driver always?"

"I was a physician once."

"But why did you stop? Weren't you good?"

"As a healer of bodies I had scant success, and several score of my patients preceded me. But as a healer of the spirit I have succeeded beyond my hopes and my deserts. For though my drafts were not better nor subtler than those of other men, yet, by reason of the cunning goblets wherein I offered them, the queasy soul was ofttimes tempted to sip and be refreshed."

"The queasy soul" he murmured; "if the sun sets with trees in front of it, and you suddenly come strange all over, is that a queasy soul?"

"Have you felt that?"

"Why yes."

After a pause he told the boy a little, a very little, about the journey's end. But they did not chatter much, for the boy, when he liked a person, would as soon sit silent in his company as speak, and this, he discovered, was also the mind of Sir Thomas Browne and of many others with whom he was to be acquainted. He heard, however, about the young man Shelley, who was now quite a famous person, with a carriage of his own, and about some of the other drivers who are in the service of the Company. Meanwhile the light grew stronger, though the fog did not disperse. It was now more like mist than fog, and at times would travel quickly across them, as if it was part of a cloud. They had been ascending, too, in a most puzzling way; for over two hours the horses had been pulling against the collar, and even if it were Richmond Hill they ought to have been at the top long ago. Perhaps it was Epsom, or even the North Downs; yet the air seemed keener than that which blows on either. And as to the name of their destination. Sir Thomas Browne was silent.


"Thunder, by Jove!" said the boy, "and not so far off either. Listen to the echoes! It's more like mountains."

He thought, not very vividly, of his father and mother. He saw them sitting down to sausages and listening to the storm. He saw his own empty place. Then there would be questions, alarms, theories, jokes, consolations. They would expect him back at lunch. To lunch he would not come, nor to tea, but he would be in for dinner, and so his day's truancy would be over. If he had had his purse he would have bought them presents - not that he should have known what to get them.


The peal and the lightning came together. The cloud quivered as if it were alive; and torn streamers of mist rushed past. "Are you afraid?" asked Sir Thomas Browne.

"What is there to be afraid of? Is it much farther?"

The horses of the omnibus stopped just as a ball of fire burst up and exploded with a ringing noise that was deafening but clear, like the noise of a blacksmith's forge. All the cloud was shattered.

"Oh, listen, Sir Thomas Browne! No, I mean look; we shall get a view at last. No, I mean listen; that sounds like a rainbow!"

The noise had died into the faintest murmur, beneath which another murmur grew, spreading stealthily, steadily - in a curve that widened but did not vary. And in widening curves a rainbow was spreading from the horses' feet into the dissolving mists.

"But how beautiful! What colors! Where will it stop? It is more like the rainbows you can tread on. More like dreams."

The color and the sound grew together. The rainbow spanned an enormous gulf. Clouds rushed under it and were pierced by it, and still it grew, reaching forward, conquering the darkness, until it touched something that seemed more solid than a cloud.

The boy stood up. "What is that out there?" he called. "What does it rest on, out at that other end?"

In the morning sunshine a precipice shone forth beyond the gulf. A precipice - or was it a castle? The horses moved. They set their feet upon the rainbow.

"Oh, look!" the boy shouted. "Oh - listen! Those caves - or are they gateways? Oh, look between those cliffs at those ledges. I see people! I see trees!"

"Look also below," whispered Sir Thomas. "Neglect not the diviner Acheron."

The boy looked below, past the flames of the rainbow that licked against their wheels. The gulf also had cleared, and in its depths there flowed an everlasting river. One sunbeam entered and struck a green pool. and as they passed over he saw three maidens rise to the surface of the pool, singing, and playing with something that glistened like a ring.

"You down in the water -" he called.

They answered, "You up on the bridge -" There was a burst of music. "You up on the bridge, good luck to you. Truth in the depth - truth on the height."

"You down in the water, what are you doing?"

Sir Thomas Browne replied: "They sport in the mancipiary possession of their gold"; and the omnibus arrived.

The boy was in disgrace. He sat locked up in the nursery of Agathox Lodge, learning poetry for a punishment. His father had said, "My boy! I can pardon anything but untruthfulness," and had caned him, saying at each stroke, "There is no onmibus, no driver, no bridge, no mountain; you are a truant, a guttersnipe, a liar." His father could be very stern at times. His mother had begged him to say he was sorry. But he could not say that. It was the greatest day of his life, in spite of the caning and the poetry at the end or it.

He had returned punctually at sunset - driven not by Sir Thomas Browne, but by a maiden lady who was full of quiet fun. They had talked of omnibuses and also of barouche landaus. How far away her gentle voice seemed now! Yet it was scarcely three hours since he had left her up the alley.

His mother called through the door. "Dear, you are to come down and to bring your poetry with you."

He came down, and found that Mr. Bons was in the smoking-room with his father. It had been a dinner party.

"Here is the great traveler!" said his father grimly. "Here is the young gentleman who drives in an onmibus over rainbows, while young ladies sing to him." Pleased with his wit, he laughed.

"After all -" said Mr. Bons, smiling, "there is something a little like it in Wagner. It is odd how, in quite illiterate minds, you will find glimmers of Artistic Truth. The case interests me. Let me plead for the culprit. We have all romanced in our time, haven't we?"

"Hear how kind Mr. Bons is," said his mother, while his father said. "Very well. Let him say his poem - and that will do. He is going away to my sister on Tuesday, and she will cure him of this alley-slopering." (Laughter.) "Say your poem."

The boy began. "Standing aloof in giant ignorance."

His father laughed again - roared. "One for you, my son! 'Standing aloof in giant ignorance!' I never knew these poets talked sense. Just describes you. Here, Bons, you go in for poetry. Put him through it, will you, while I fetch up the whisky?"

"Yes, give me the Keats," said Mr. Bons. "Let him say his Keats to me."

So for a few moments the wise man and the ignorant boy were left alone in the smoking-room.

"'Standing aloof in giant ignorance, of thee I dream and of the Cyclades, as one who sits ashore and longs perchance to visit -'"

"Quite right. To visit what?"

"'To visit dolphin coral in deep seas,'" said the boy, and burst into tears.

"Come, come! why do you cry?"

"Because - because all these words that only rhymed before - now that I've come back they're me."

Mr. Bons laid the Keats down. The case was more interesting than he had expected. "You!" he exclaimed. "This sonnet you?"

"Yes - and look further on: 'Aye, on the shores of darkness there is light, and precipices show untrodden green.' It is so, sir. All these things are true."

"I never doubted it," said Mr. Bons, with closed eyes.

"You - then you believe me? You believe in the omnibus and the driver and the storm and that return ticket I got for nothing and -"

"Tut, tut! No more of your yarns - my boy. I meant that I never doubted the essential truth of poetry. Some day, when you have read more, you will understand what I mean."

"But Mr. Bons, it is so. There is light upon the shores of darkness. I have seen it coming. Light and a wind."

"Nonsense -" said Mr. Bons.

"If I had stopped! They tempted me. They told me to give up my ticket - for you cannot come back if you lose your ticket. They called from the river for it, and indeed I was tempted, for I have never been so happy as among those precipices. But I thought of my mother and father, and that I must fetch them. Yet they will not come, though the road starts opposite our house. It has all happened as the people up there warned me, and Mr. Bons has disbelieved me like every one else. I have been caned. I shall never see that mountain again."

"What's that about me?" said Mr. Bons - sitting up in his chair very suddenly.

"I told them about you, and how clever you were, and how many books you had - and they said, "Mr. Bons will certainly disbelieve you."

"Stuff and nonsense, my young friend. You grow impertinent. I - well - I will settle the matter. Not a word to your father. I will cure you. Tomorrow evening I will myself call here to take you for a walk, and at sunset we will go up this alley opposite and hunt for your onmibus, you silly little boy."

His face grew serious, for the boy was not disconcerted, but leapt about the room singing, "Joy! joy! I told them you would believe me. We will drive together over the rainbow. I told them that you would come." After all - could there be anything in the story? Wagner? Keats? Shelley? Sir Thomas Browne? Certainly the case was interesting.

And on the morrow evening, though it was pouring with rain, Mr. Bons did not omit to call at Agathox Lodge.

The boy was ready, bubbling with excitement, and skipping about in a way that rather vexed the President of the Literary Society. They took a turn down Buckingham Park Road, and then - having seen that no one was watching them - slipped up the alley. Naturally enough (for the sun was setting) they ran straight against the omnibus.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Mr. Bons. "Good gracious heavens!"

It was not the omnibus in which the boy had driven first, nor yet that in which he had returned.

There were three horses - black- gray, and white, the gray being the finest. The driver, who turned round at the mention of goodness and of heaven, was a sallow man with terrifying jaws and sunken eyes. Mr. Bons, on seeing him, gave a cry as if of recognition, and began to tremble violently.

The boy jumped in.

"Is it possible?" cried Mr. Bons. "Is the impossible possible?"

"Sir; come in, sir. It is such a fine omnibus. Oh, here is his name - Dan someone.

Mr. Bons sprang in too. A blast of wind immediately slammed the omnibus door, and the shock jerked down all the omnibus blinds, which were very weak on their springs.

"Dan ... Show me. Good gracious heavens! we're moving."

"Hooray!" said the boy.

Mr. Bons became flustered. He had not intended to be kidnapped. He could not find the door handle, nor push up the blinds. The omnibus was quite dark, and by the time he had struck a match, night had come on outside also. They were moving rapidly.

"A strange, a memorable adventure," he said, surveying the interior of the omnibus, which was large, roomy, and constructed with extreme regularity, every part exactly answering to every other part. Over the door (the handle of which was outside) was written. Lasciate ogni baldanza voi che entrate - at least, that was what was written, but Mr. Bons said that it was Lashy arty something - and that baldanza was a mistake for speranza. His voice sounded as if he was in church. Meanwhile, the boy called to the cadaverous driver for two return tickets. They were handed in without a word. Mr. Bons covered his face with his hand and again trembled. "Do you know who that is!" he whispered, when the little window had shut upon them. "It is the impossible."

"Well, I don't like him as much as Sir Thomas Browne, though I shouldn't be surprised if he had even more in him."

"More in him?" He stamped irritably. "By accident you have made the greatest discovery of the century, and all you can say is that there is more in this man. Do you remember those vellum books in my library - stamped with red lilies? This - sit still. I bring you stupendous news! - this is the man who wrote them."

The boy sat quite still. "I wonder if we shall see Mrs. Gamp?" he asked - after a civil pause.

"Mrs. -?"

"Mrs. Gamp and Mrs. Harris. I like Mrs. Harris. I came upon them quite suddenly. Mrs. Gamp's bandboxes have moved over the rainbow so badly. All the bottoms have fallen out, and two of the pippins off her bedstead tumbled into the stream."

"Out there sits the man who wrote my vellum books," thundered Mr. Bons - "and you talk to me of Dickens and of Mrs. Gamp?"

"I know Mrs. Gamp so well," he apologized. "I could not help being glad to see her. I recognized her voice. She was telling Mrs. Harris about Mrs. Prig."

"Did you spend the whole day in her elevating company?"

"Oh - no. I raced. I met a man who took me out beyond to a racecourse. You run, and there are dolphins out at sea."

"Indeed. Do you remember the man's name?"

"Achilles. No; he was later. Tom Jones."

Mr. Bons sighed heavily. "Well, my lad, you have made a miserable mess of it. Think of a cultured person with your opportunities! A cultured person would have known all these characters and known what to have said to each. He would not have wasted his time with a Mrs. Gamp or a Tom Jones. The creations of Homer, of Shakespeare, and of Him who drives us now, would alone have contented him. He would not have raced. He would have asked intelligent questions."

"But, Mr. Bons." said the boy humbly, "you will be a cultured person. I told them so."

"True, true, and I beg you not to disgrace me when we arrive. No gossiping. No running. Keep close to my side, and never speak to these Immortals unless they speak to you. Yes, and give me the return tickets. You will be losing them."

The boy surrendered the tickets, but felt a little sore. After all, he had found the way to this place. It was hard first to be disbelieved and then to be lectured. Meanwhile, the rain had stopped, and moonlight crept into the onmibus through the cracks in the blinds.

"But how is there to be a rainbow?" cried the boy.

"You distract me," snapped Mr. Bons. "I wish to meditate on beauty. I wish to goodness I was with a reverent and sympathetic person.

The lad bit his lip. He made a hundred good resolutions. He would imitate Mr. Bons all the visit. He would not laugh, or run, or sing, or do any of the vulgar things that must have disgusted his new friends last time. He would be very careful to pronounce their names properly, and to remember who knew whom. Achilles did not know Tom Jones - at least, so Mr. Bons said. The Duchess of Malfi was older than Mrs. Gamp - at least, so Mr. Bons said. He would be self-conscious, reticent, and prim. He would never say he liked anyone. Yet, when the blind flew up at a chance touch of his head, all these good resolutions went to the winds, for the omnibus had reached the summit of a moonlit hill, and there was the chasm, and there, across it - stood the old precipices, dreaming, with their feet in the everlasting river. He exclaimed. "The mountains! Listen to the new time in the water! Look at the camp fires in the ravines," and Mr. Bons after a hasty glance retorted. "Water? Camp fires? Ridiculous rubbish. Hold your tongue. There is nothing at all."

Yet, under his eyes, a rainbow formed, compounded not of sunlight and storm, but of moonlight and the spray of the river. The three horses put their feet upon it. He thought it the finest rainbow he had seen, but did not dare to say so, since Mr. Bons said that nothing was there. He leant out - the window had opened - and sang the tune that rose from the sleeping waters.

"The prelude to Rhinegold," said Mr. Bons suddenly. "Who taught you these leit motifs." He, too, looked out of the window. Then he behaved very oddly. He gave a choking cry, and fell back on to the onmibus floor. He writhed and kicked. His face was green.

"Does the bridge make you dizzy?" the boy asked.

"Dizzy," gasped Mr. Bons. "I want to go back. Tell the driver."

But the driver shook his head.

"We are nearly there," said the boy. "They are asleep. Shall I call? They will be so pleased to see you, for I have prepared them."

Mr. Bons moaned. They moved over the lunar rainbows which ever and ever broke away behind their wheels. How still the night was! Who would be sentry at the Gate?

"I am coming," he shouted, again forgetting the hundred resolutions. "I am returning - I, the boy."

"The boy is returning." cried a voice to other voices - who repeated, "The boy is returning."

"I am bringing Mr. Bons with me."


"I should have said Mr. Bons is bringing me with him."

Profound silence.

"Who stands sentry?"


And on the rocky causeway - close to the springing of the rainbow bridge, he saw a young man who carried a wonderful shield.

"Mr. Bons, it is Achilles, armed."

"I want to go back," said Mr. Bons.

The last fragment of the rainbow melted, the wheels sang upon the living rock, the door of the omnibus burst open. Out leapt the boy - he could not resist - and sprang to meet the warrior, who, stooping suddenly - caught him on his shield.

"Achilles!" he cried - "let me get down. for I am ignorant and vulgar - and I must wait for that Mr. Bons of whom I told you yesterday."

But Achilles raised him aloft. He crouched on the wonderful shield, on heroes and burning cities, on vineyards graven in gold, on every dear passion, every joy, on the entire image of the Mountain that he had discovered, encircled, like it, with an everlasting stream. "No, no" he protested. "I am not worthy. It is Mr. Bons who must be up here."

But Mr. Bons was whimpering, and Achilles trumpeted and cried, "Stand upright upon my shield!"

"Sir, I did not mean to stand! something made me stand. Sir, why do you delay? Here is only the great Achilles, whom you knew."

Mr. Bons screamed, "I see no one. I see nothing. I want to go back." Then he cried to the driver. "Save me! Let me stop in your chariot. I have honored you. I have quoted you. I have bound you in vellum. Take me back to my world."

The driver replied. "I am the means and not the end. I am the food and not the life. Stand by yourself, as that boy has stood. I cannot save you. For poetry is a spirit; and they that would worship it must worship in spirit and in truth."

Mr. Bons - he could not resist - crawled out of the beautiful omnibus. His face appeared, gaping horribly. His hands followed, one gripping the step. the other beating the air. Now his shoulders emerged, his chest, his stomach. With a shriek of "I see London." he fell - fell against the hard, moonlit rock, fell into it as if it were water, fell through it, vanished, and was seen by the boy no more.

"Where have you fallen to, Mr. Bons? Here is a procession arriving to honor you with music and torches. Here come the men and women whose names you know." The mountain is awake, the river is awake, over the race course the sea is awaking those dolphins, and it is all for you. They want you -"

There was the touch of fresh leaves on his forehead. Someone had crowned him.


From the Kingston Gazette, Surbiton Times, and Raynes Park Observer

The body of Mr. Septimus Bons has been found in a shockingly mutilated condition in the vicinity of the Bermondsey gas works. The deceased's pockets contained a sovereign-purse, a silver cigar-case, a bijou pronouncing dictionary, and a couple of omnibus tickets. The unfortunate gentleman had apparently been hurled from a considerable height. Foul play is suspected, and a thorough investigation is pending by the authorities.

"The Bewitchin' Pool," Frau Holle and the Mami-Wata

When I watched "The Hunt" episode from the Twilight Zone (a couple of posts ago), I noticed it had been written by Earl Hamner (of "The Waltons" fame). I also saw he had written a couple of other TZ episodes. The next one that caught my eye was "The Bewitchin' Pool," which was broadcast as the final TZ episode. Reading the comments, I saw people either really loved it or really hated it. Now I always liked the connection provided by Appalachian and Ozark traditions between American culture today and the old ways of Europe, so I watched it...




After watching it, I thought, dang! That Aunt T... Yeah, she's a witch in a way, but not the Hansel and Gretel type. She's actually a goddess, known variously as Frau Holle, Holda, and Hulda, and others also connect her to Berchte or Perchta...or plain old Momma. She is best known to most in America through the tale "Frau Holle" by the Brothers Grimm. In that tale, she is noted as a spinner of cloth, a fastidious homemaker, and a bringer of the snow (when her feather bed is shaken). She is also a kindly granny who provides refuge to an ill-treated girl who falls into a well and ends up in the realm of Frau Holle.

"Holda (also known as Holle, Huld, and Frau Holle) is a Goddess from Northern Germany. Her name means “friendly, benevolent one” (in Old High German the word “Hold” meant benevolent or faithful) or “hidden one”. She is said to dress in white with keys on her belt. The keys were often worn by women who were head of their household to indicate their status. She is described as having ugly, big teeth, a big nose and a flat foot, which is a result of her love of weaving. The foot can flatten a due to the frequent pressing of the peddle on the loom. Her home is widely accepted to be Hohe Meissner mountain in Westphalia. She is said to dwell there in Kitzkammer cave where her cats live (who may be girls who Holda has turned into cats to live and work with her for a time as a consequence of their laziness) and have a lake known as Frau Holle lake where she keeps the souls of newborns and infants who die." (www.eplagarthrkindred.org/HoldaArticle.doc)

See the connection? The ill-treatment of the children by the parents, the kindly granny whose realm is reached by water and who provides refuge, the focus on chores and that in this case Aunt T works with needlepoint (akin to spinning). But there's more!

Holle Teich

Am Grunde eines kleinen Sees soll der Eingang zu Ihrem unterirdischen Reich liegen. Hier hütete sie die Seelen bis zu Ihrer Wiedergeburt. Aus der Tiefe brachte sie die Kinder in die Welt. Junge Frauen wurden schwanger, wenn sie Blumen in den See warfen oder darin badeten...

Der Frau Holle Teich mit seiner Holzskulptur der Frau Holle ist zum mythischen Mittelpunkt des Meißners geworden.

In jugendlicher Schönheit steht sie am Rande des Teichs. Der Sage nach soll Frau Holle hier ihr unterirdisches Reich gehabt haben. Hier brachte sie die Kinder aus der Tiefe des Wassers ans Licht der Welt, sodass noch bis in jüngster Vergangenheit Frauen mit Kinderwunsch kleine Opfergaben in den Teich warfen, um mit Kindersegen beglückt zu werden. Auch holte Frau Holle gerne spielende Kinder in die Tiefen des Teichs, um sie festlich zu bewirten und dann wieder nach Hause zu schicken.

Das von den Brüdern Grimm aufgezeichnete Märchen Frau Holle hat hier unverkennbar seinen Ursprung. Erstmals genannt wird der Frau Holle Teich 1641 in einer Beschreibung des Niederfürstentums Hessen als „Frauhollenbad“. Zuvor wurden die Geschichten rund um den Teich mündlich weitergegeben.

My German is pretty rusty but this is an approximate translation, using Babelfish, an old German dictionary, and my 30-year old high school German I learned from Frau Whitney (Danke sehr, meine Lehrerin!):

Frau Holle Teich (pond)

On the bottom of this small lake lies the entrance to her underworld kingdom. Here she guards the souls until your rebirth. Out of the depths she brings the children to the world. Young women would become pregnant if they threw flowers into it or bathed in it...

The Frau Holle pond, with its wood sculpture of Frau Holle, became the mythic center of the Meisners.

In youthful beauty she stands at the edge of the pond. The legend holds that Frau Holle has her underground realm here. Here she brought the children from the depths of the water to the light of the world, so that up until the recent past, women who wished to have children threw little offerings into the pond, in order to be lucky and blessed with children. Also kind Frau Holle gladly played with the children in the depths of the pond, in order to festively entertain them, and then again send them home.

The fairy tale "Frau Holle" noted by the Brothers Grimm has its recognizable origin here. Frau Holle's pond is described for the first time in 1641 in "Niederfürstentums Hessen" [a regional geography of Hesse] as "Frau Holle's Bath." Before that the history was passed on around the pond through oral tradition.

In many traditions, children are brought to our world from wells, ponds, lakes, rivers.

In Yorubaland, Nigeria, Africa, the Mami-Wata has much the same role as Frau Holle in this regard as a guardian and keeper of children's souls in the water. I went to Nigeria in 1996 through the sponsorship of Mike Warren, an American who had been appointed a chief through his marriage during Peace Corps service in Ghana to Mary Warren, a woman of chiefly lineage in Ara, Oyo State. Mary told us her parents had difficulty conceiving, so they made the appropriate prayers and sacrifices to the Mami-Wata ("water-mother," a river goddess), and in return, the Mami-Wata gave them one of her children for their own to raise, in this case, Mary. One recognizes these Mami-Wata children by the fact that until a certain age, one must not cut their hair, unlike other children. So in traditional Yoruba towns, when you see a pampered child with long dredlocks, I was told this is a sign the child is a gift of the Mami-Wata.

There is an additional layer of shamanic worldview here too. When Aunt T mentions the ways children get to her place, they are all liminal places, threshholds, "betwixt-and-between," traditional shamanic routes between the worlds. The swimming hole and the swimming pool are the same as the well and the pool in the Brother Grimm's tales. But she also mentions the other ways: coming down chimneys (passing between the upper and lower worlds), standing on a street corner (the crossroads), opening a door and there they are or on door steps (the threshhold between inside and outside).

"Mother Hulda is one of Germany's most durable female legendary figures and one who without doubt represents a pre-Christian heathen deity who survived in popular belief and in the memory of common people well into the nineteenth century" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Hulda). That included the American South of Earl Hamner's literary world as well...and the reality is it didn't end with the nineteenth century! There are plenty of people who still revere Frau Holle today, both in Europe and in the U.S.
Here is a YahooGroup dedicated to Frau Holle.

"The Bewitchin' Pool" also seems to have been a favorite episode of many kids going through rough times. See this fellow's essay about it.

By the way, to me Aunt T looks a lot like what I remember of my Great-Grandma Head, who died in the 1970s when I was a boy. Her family was from the South and her maiden name was ... HAMNER. She was a professional seamstress too...

Twilight Zone's "The Hunt" and the Sacred Nature of Dogs

"The Hunt" by Earl Hamner, Jr. (retold by Richard L. Dieterle)

Once there was a man of the name of Hyder Simpson who lived in a cabin in the mountain country of Appalachia. He had a dog that he loved like a member of his own family. Every night they would go out hunting for raccoons or possums, and his dog never failed to pick up the trail. Once his wife Rachel remarked, "Sometimes I wonder who you love more, me or that dog of yours." He loved his wife dearly, but he liked to get out of the cabin and hunt whenever he could. He was tracking a raccoon on a particularly dark night, and his dog got well out ahead of him. He was an old man, and it was not easy for him to keep up. Although the dog was in hot pursuit, it seemed that he could never quite catch up to the raccoon. The raccoon cleverly doubled back on an old dead branch that stuck out way over the water's edge at a deep forest pool. The dog rushed headlong up the branch and fell straight into the water. Soon the old man was upon the scene. He called frantically for his dog, and soon realized that he had fallen into the pool. He did not hesitate for a moment to jump right in to the rescue.


The next day he woke up sitting against a tree trunk, his trusty dog lying by his side. "Well, old boy," he said to his dog, "it seems we spent the whole night sleeping out here in the boondocks. By now the old lady is probably frettin' up a storm. Time we got on back, I reckon." They were very near home when he crossed a field where two men were digging a hole in the ground. "Howdy," he said, "what's y'all diggin'?" But they did not answer him, even though they knew him. This made the old man angry: "What's the matter, you boys forget your manners?" Yet they just kept on with their idle talk just like he wasn't there. One said to the other, "You know, it's too bad about that dog, too." Then the old man understood, and said to himself, "That's mighty sad. No wonder they don't want to talk, they've lost their dog," and he and his own dog moved on towards home. He walked right in his cabin and there, unexpectedly, was a coffin sitting right in the middle of the room. He went to the back room, and there his wife was with the minister of the local church. She was in tears and he was trying to comfort her. The old man said, "Who died?" but no one answered him. "Woman," he said, "what's that coffin doing in our cabin?" Still she did not answer him. He found their behavior mighty peculiar to say the least. "Well," he thought to himself, "if that's how people are going to treat me, then I might as well spend the day huntin'." So he set out with his dog with nowhere in particular as a destination.


After traveling a very long ways, he came across a well traveled dirt road that he had never seen before. He had not long been on that course when he came to a fork in the road, and on the north fork was a man standing in a small booth like he had seen at the county fair many years ago. He looked just like a carnival barker, complete with straw hat and ready smile. "Howdy," said Hyder, "what's behind this here gate?" "Why, I would have figured that by now you'd know you was dead — this is the gate to Heaven, and I'm fixin' to let you right in!" said the gatekeeper. "Well, don't that beat all," said Hyder, "I should 'a known. So, you're St. Peter, then?" "The bona fide article," he replied. The gatekeeper swung the gate open. "And this here is Heaven," he added. However, Hyder saw wisps of smoke in the distance and asked the man, "What's that smoke off yonder?" "Why, them's just clouds," the gatekeeper replied reassuringly. As Hyder started to step in, the dog balked, and when he tried to pull him in, the gatekeeper said, "Now hold up there! We don't allow no dogs in Heaven." "Well," said Hyder with some regret, but with a firm resolution, "if they don't allow no dogs in Heaven, then I reckon Heaven ain't for me." With that, he walked on down the road, not knowing what to expect.


He didn't travel too far when to his surprise he saw a young man walking towards him. The man was dressed much like Hyder's own kinfolk, only his plaid shirt and levi britches looked new, store bought. The young man looked happy to see him, extended his hand, and said, "Howdy!" Hyder replied in kind, but felt a little uncertain about what was going on. "I'm the feller they sent to show you the way to Heaven," the young man said. "Now that's mighty strange," replied Hyder, "just down the road I met St. Peter himself and I would have been in Heaven already, 'cept they don't allow no dogs there. I just couldn't see goin' in if I couldn't take my huntin' dog with me." "That tweren't no Heaven, friend, and he tweren't no St. Peter," the young man replied. "Don't you see? If'n they had let your dog in he would 'a warned you of the burning sulfur up ahead. That's why he don't much cotton to dogs taggin' along." "My dog's gotten me out of plenty of jams before, but this do beat all!" Hyder declared. "Just the same, if they don't allow huntin' where you come from, then I don't reckon I'll be comin' along." The young man smiled at his naiveté — "Now what kind of heaven would it be if there was no huntin' and no dogs?" Then Hyder knew for sure he was headed in the right direction, and the two of them strolled happily down the lane towards the setting sun.

Commentary from Richard L. Dieterle:

"When I first saw this broadcast in 1962, I thought the story was very touching and in many ways more "realistic" than the usual Christian fare of winged angels and harps. The realistic elements are precisely those found in Hočąk thinking. I think any reader acquainted with Hočąk ideas of the afterlife will find it impossible to believe that this story is not profoundly indebted to them. For these themes, see below under "Themes."

The close association of man and dog is a prominent feature of Hočąk culture. In the accounts of some clans, the road to Spiritland has a fork with one branch leading off to the great Evil Spirit, Herešgúnina. The gatekeeper plays the role of Herešgúnina, and the young man is like one of the guides who helps the departed soul find his way to Spiritland. In the accounts of some clans, the soul may go to a heavenly village set aside for members of his clan. In the present story, this is reflected in the socio-cultural affinity of the young man with Hyder, and contrasts with the alien abode that will not admit dogs."

An interesting nexus of synchronicities. This episode of the Twilight Zone, "The Hunt," was always one of the favorites of my brothers and me, sometimes THE favorite. Our family always had dogs, held them in great esteem, and we also believe dogs to have special qualities. We were almost religious about dogs, specifically hounds, as my grandpa was a big hunter with hounds in his youth in Nebraska and Kansas, mainly hunting raccoons. I did not know Hamner wrote the original story the episode was based on (http://www.magazine.uc.edu/0506/writing2.htm). He was also the creator of the series "The Waltons," which our family always watched. Many of our ancestors were poor rural whites from the hill country of the South, the Ozarks and the Appalachians. And the Hočąk are also known as the Winnebago, a tribe closely related to my tribe the Ioway. Interesting...

History Channel: "Clash of the Gods: Zeus"

Tonight is Heracles/Hercules on the History Channel's "Clash of the Gods"...the Zeus episode was excellent! This is a clip of Zeus vs Typhon:

Watch the full episode on Zeus online at:

The full list of episodes and when they first air:

Zeus 8/3
Hercules 8/10
Odyssey(1) 8/17
Odyssey(2) 8/24
Hades 8/31
Medusa 9/7
Thor 9/14
Lord of the Rings 9/21
Minotaur 9/28
Beowulf 10/5

Can a Myth be "New"?

I was taking part in a discussion in a group about whether there are "new myths". Joseph Campbell is famous in his call for new myths for our time. Campbell --God love him and God rest his soul-- thought that the Star Wars cycle might be such an example. Perhaps at its outset, with the first three episodes, there was promise. I certainly felt so when I was 17 and was entranced by the original "Star Wars"...but with all the corruption and bad storytelling and commercialization over the past, oh, 30 years (!!)...the only myth that Star Wars tells effectively is Greed and The Fall from Grace. See this for example...what if George Lucas (creator of the Star Wars cycle) made "The Lord of the Rings" movie:

So can there be a "new myth?" Some consider "Lord of the Rings," or "Star Wars," or "Star Trek" or whatever new anime/video game world has been created to be new myths. But none of those are really new myths. They are only new bottles full of old wine, old wine such as The Journey for New Land, the Fight Against the Monster, the Origin of The People, etc. They are only new masks over old faces.

I just think a major problem is that everyone is defining myth in a different way. Some think of a myth as something profoundly moving, a story that touches on the timeless themes of human culture. By that definition, certainly there can be new myths, or perhaps, just old wine in new bottles. So is that a new myth then, really? Or an old myth with a new mask? For example, the Trickster myth has many faces, from that of Odysseus and Loki and Anansi and Blue Jay...to the legends of Kung-Fu Panda and Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman...

Others think of a myth as something tied to a particular people, their culture and history, that addresses who we are, where we come from, and where we are going (to paraphrase the artist Gauguin). That kind of myth is tied to a particular people with a particular history...and history requires the passage of time, generally significant periods of time...which means that it is impossible for a myth to be new. In this model, there are no new myths because a "new myth" is an oxymoron. It takes time...we need to see if a particular re-telling has "staying power" like Johnny Appleseed (the Green Man type) or George Washington chopping down the cherry tree (the godlike and virtuous Leader and Father of a People) ...myths don't have to be factual, just True.

I guess I don't really believe we can intentionally create a new myth. Not intentionally. We can certainly try, but only time will tell if it is incorporated into our culture as a new myth. We can only know in retrospect. Certainly all myths were new at one time, whether it is the myth of progress, of Manifest Destiny, of Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan and Uncle Remus...or as old as the Man who Became a Bear who became a Man...

The best we can do is skillfully retell an old myth in a newer way, with the symbols, terms, sensibilities, of our time...but the mythical is eternal...and eternal is not "old" or "new" ...it is outside of time, thus "eternal." What IS human, is the need for myth; human nature is eternal after all.


Finally, here is proof that human nature is the same, wherever you go... from my friend Kaiana:

Classic Verses

Classic Verses


As I was going up the stair
I saw a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish that man would go away.

-"Antigonish" (1899) by William Hughes Mearns (1875-1965)


From ghosties and ghoulies,
And long-leggedy beasties,
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

-Medieval Scottish Prayer


Up the airy mountain
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting,
For fear of little men...

From "The Fairies" by William Allingham (1828-1889)


I heard the dogs howl in the moonlight night;
I went to the window to see the sight;
All the Dead that ever I knew
Going one by one and two by two.

From "The Dream" by William Allingham (1828-1889)


The moss is soft on Clootie's croft,
and bonny's the sod o' the Goodman's toft;
But if ye bide there till the sun is set,
The Goodman will catch you in his net.

-Medieval Scottish folk song (William Henderson, Notes on the Folk Lore of the
Counties of England and the Borders, 1879, p. 278)