The beginning is darkness. The end is darkness. Between them is the sea, and we who live where darkness rises to light.
So. The world was darkness. The sea was, and its beings, but all dark.
From half the world the darkness fell as rain, and left the clear sky. Where every bit of darkness fell, the sun appeared. Then the moon and stars, who are dimmer and more like us, companions to darkness.
The sun shone on the sea and the beings in it. Some it warmed: these are the Warm Beings, seal and orca and whale, whom one may not eat. Some it did not warm: fish and mussel and crab, the Cool Beings, whom one eats with delight.
One tribe of seals the sun warmed and ripened. They climbed onto the rocks, they slid from their skins like children from between their mothers’ thighs: ourselves, the Rigi.
We are Warm Beings. We are naked without our sealskins, we live in the cool darkness but our blood is warm. We dream all the dreams that swim in darkness, and we long for warmth, for light.
In the beginning there was only Light.
From a smirch of dirt, the one impurity in the Mind of Light, the root of the Living Darkness grew. Groping, delving, sapping like a mushroom in a cleft, the Living Darkness multiplied itself, a fungus blooming downward from the Light.
Light did not notice because He was Counting. Then, in His Counting, He saw the first thing ever seen: the cleft full of Darkness.
The nature of Light is to shine into Darkness, and banish it. Light sent His Eye down into the belly of the Living Darkness.
There He saw all that He was not. The Darkness teemed with animals, with bleeding people, with steam and weeping and growth and death.
His eye wept one tear.
In horror and disgust He withdrew from the Darkness, but from that tear alone was the League conceived. With steel knives the Leaguemen slashed free from the belly where they were, and won out of Darkness into Light.
How the World was Born
The world was born dancing, we say.
It was born dressed for festival, with a sad heart for the drum and flute to raise up. It was born clapping hands.
Here’s how it was: In the beginning was stillness. Nothing at all.
Then, little by little, you could hear them: the drum, and the little pipes, and voices. Why did it begin? Because it was time! Everybody knows when the festivals are!
The sun began to dance in its circle. The moon waxed and waned, the stars turned in the sky. Rising from sea and earth, animals and people were born together, male and female, dancing and embracing and clapping hands. There has been music ever since. Seal and badger and hawk and child, all together we dance. Isn’t that so?
That’s what we say. Those people over in Skokey believe differently, but they’re crazy. They wear fishskin hats and say the moon is a corn cake. But we dance with them anyway. They make good beer.
How Ouma the Bear Mother
Made the World
(To tell when you see the first crocus)
In the beginning, all was dark in the cave of the universe.
Ouma the Bear slept there.
She woke. She felt her way in the dark. She opened her eyes.
By opening her eyes she made light be. Because her feet needed softness, the grass grew; because her ears needed music, the wind blew and the creeks ran. Her nose made the roses. Her hunger made the salmon, the blackberry, the bee’s wild hive. And since grass, rose, fish and bee each had its own needs, the world came whole, in springtime in the morning.
Look for more about the Rigi, Upslope, Downshore/Tanshari and Creek in Long Night Dance, Dark Heart, Listening at the Gate, and Roadsouls.
All material on this site, both text and graphics, is ©Betsy James, and may not be used commercially without her permission.