Paiute Legends: A Journey To The Ghost Land Of Shin-Au-Av

Shin-au-av

Death Valley in Eastern California is a strange, forbidden, and mysterious place of myths and legends of the First People. One legend from the Native American Paiute people of the region tells of the Ghost Land – the realm of the dead – ruled over by Shin-au-av (1), and accessed through caves and tunnels under the desert valley. This tells how a Paiute chief grieved so much by the death of his wife could not face living without her. The more he dwelt upon the memory of his dead wife, the more determined he became to join her. Finally, after much thought, he decided he would travel in his earthly body to the Ghost Land (2) to find her.

The Journey to the Ghost Land

After spiritually preparing himself, he followed the trail of his ancestors through miles of underground tunnels and passages for days. It was a perilous long, lonely, and harrowing journey through the depths and bowels of the earth. These dark places were inhabited by strange vicious beasts, evil spirits, and demons, and he had to fight off their attacks. Nevertheless, he was determined to reach the realm of Shin-au-av to reunite with his dear wife and overcome all the perils he faced. After many weary, fear-filled days, he finally came to the end of the tunnel and stepped into the most glorious light. 

As his eyes grew used to the light, he found himself on a high ledge looking down the throat of an abyss. On the far side of the chasm was a beautiful land of soft sunshine and lush green meadows. From the ledge where he stood, a narrow rock bridge arched over a dark, bottomless void and was the only way he could find to reach the other side and the beautiful land beyond. He realized he either had to go back or brave the bridge crossing. The chief was bold and determined to reach the realm of Shin-au-av and find his wife, so he carefully crossed over the bridge to the other side. 

As he stepped off the bridge, he was welcomed by a beautiful maiden who introduced herself as the daughter of Shin-au-av. She escorted him to a small valley that was very much like a giant natural amphitheater and told him to be seated. 

The Dance of the Dead

Sitting as she directed, he looked before him and saw thousands upon thousands of dead people all dancing in a great circle before him. He saw that they all seemed fit, well, and incredibly happy. This gave him great comfort thinking his wife would be happy too. But, watching intently as they all danced in the circle before him, he felt despondent and said, “How will I ever find my wife among so many?”

The daughter of Shin-au-av promised him he would find her but told him he must be patient. She went away and returned with food and drink to make his watch more bearable. After eating with him, she told him she had to go, but before leaving, she told him, 

“Your wife is one of the dancers and will dance in the circle with the others. As soon as you see her, run into the circle, take hold of her, and carry her out as quickly as you can. After that, you and she must return to the world above. Go back over the bridge and through the tunnels the way you came. Whatever you do, neither of you must look back – I repeat – do not look back!”  

He watched the dance for seven days and saw many people dancing in the circle; thousands passed before him. A number of these he recognized who had been his family or friends, while others he saw had been his enemies dancing in the circle together. But, to his frustration, his wife did not appear in the dance, and he began to despair. 

At last, she appeared, and he quickly jumped up and ran forward, embracing her and pulling her out of the circle. The two joyously ran hand in hand across the valley to the rock bridge that spanned the void. Approaching the bridge, they slowed down to cross carefully and safely. The chief nervously glanced over his shoulder to see if they were being followed. When he looked to the fore again, he was shocked to see his wife vanish before his eyes and found himself alone.

Return Home

Stunned by his foolishness and not knowing what else to do, he made his way back over the rock bridge and through the dark tunnels the way he had come. Finally, after many dangerous adventures, he found his way home and told his people of the Dance of the Dead and the wonder of the realm of Shin-au-av and the dark terrors of the tunnels he had endured in his dark, lonely journey. Despite his escape, he yearned for the day he would return to join the Dance of the Dead and reunite with his beloved wife in the Ghost Land of Shin-au-av.

© 11/10/2022 zteve t evans


Notes

(1) Shin-au-av in connection with this legend sometimes comes across as the name of a mythical underground land of the dead, or lost city, or kingdom. In this work I am interpreting Shin-au-va to be the ruler of the land of dead, which was nameded epynomynously after him, but also known as the Ghost Land or other names. There is also a cultural hero, spirit or god named Shin-au-va and sometime two siblings known as the Shin-au-va brothers appear in several legends. The elder of these is named Tabuts or similar and considerd a wolf, while the younger is Shinangway and considered a wolf. Shi-au-va is sometines associated with a spirit or hero called Na-gun-to-wip which is also sometime the name of a fabled place. (This all needs more research).

(2) It is worth noting the Paiutes are also strongly connected to the Ghost Dance religion and wonder if this legend also has associationssomewhere along the line. (This needs more research)


References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 11th, 2022 zteve t evans


The Peach Blossom Spring – Musings On Utopia

Peach Blossom Spring

Peach Blossom Shangri-la, also known as Peach Blossom Spring and the Peach Blossom Land, is a Chinese fable written in 421 CE by Tao Yuanming, one of the greatest poets of the six dynasties. He wrote it during a period of national disunity and political instability and tells how a poor fisherman chanced upon a hidden utopian village where people lived happily in peace and harmony, isolated from the outside world.

There are elements and influences from Chinese mythology and folklore and the political and social situation at the time of the author’s life and is essentially an allegorical work of fiction. Nevertheless, with millions of refugees in the modern world seeking a safe sanctuary to live in peace without fear, in the ways of their ancestors before them, this story is still very relevant today. Presented here is a translation by Rick Davis and David Steelman (1), followed by a few observations for discussion.


Peach Blossom Shangri-La: Tao Hua Yuan Ji By Tao Yuanming Translation

During the Taiyuan era of the Jin Dynasty there was a man of Wuling who made his living as a fisherman. Once while following a stream he forgot how far he had gone. He suddenly came to a grove of blossoming peach trees. It lined both banks for several hundred paces and included not a single other kind of tree. Petals of the dazzling and fragrant blossoms were falling everywhere in profusion. Thinking this place highly unusual, the fisherman advanced once again in wanting to see how far it went.

The peach trees stopped at the stream’s source, where the fisherman came to a mountain with a small opening through which it seemed he could see light. Leaving his boat, he entered the opening. At first it was so narrow that he could barely pass, but after advancing a short distance it suddenly opened up to reveal a broad, flat area with imposing houses, good fields, beautiful ponds, mulberry trees, bamboo, and the like. The fisherman saw paths extending among the fields in all directions, and could hear the sounds of chickens and dogs. Men and women working in the fields all wore clothing that looked like that of foreign lands. The elderly and children all seemed to be happy and enjoying themselves.

The people were amazed to see the fisherman, and they asked him from where he had come. He told them in detail, then the people invited him to their home, set out wine, butchered a chicken, and prepared a meal. Other villagers heard about the fisherman, and they all came to ask him questions. Then the villagers told him, “To avoid the chaos of war during the Qin Dynasty, our ancestors brought their families and villagers to this isolated place and never left it, so we’ve had no contact with the outside world.” They asked the fisherman what the present reign was. They were not even aware of the Han Dynasty, let alone the Wei and Jin. The fisherman told them everything he knew in great detail, and the villagers were amazed and heaved sighs. Then other villagers also invited the fisherman to their homes, where they gave him food and drink. After several days there, the fisherman bid farewell, at which time some villagers told him, “It’s not worth telling people on the outside about us.”

The fisherman exited through the opening, found his boat, and retraced his route while leaving markers to find this place again. Upon his arrival at the prefecture town he went to the prefect and told him what had happened. The prefect immediately sent a person to follow the fisherman and look for the trail markers, but they got lost and never found the way.

Liu Ziji of Nanyang was a person of noble character. When he heard this story he was happy and planned to visit the Shangri-la, but he died of illness before he could accomplish it. After that no one else ever looked for the place.


Peach Blossom: A Special Moment In Time

Peaches are highly regarded in Chinese mythology and tradition and are considered the fruit of immortals. Therefore, when the fisherman comes across a grove of blossoming peach trees, he is moving into a magical place, and their flowering indicates a special moment in time. Furthermore, the blossoming peach trees stop at the head of a natural water spring, further showing that something extraordinary is happening. For the Chinese, the wellsprings and sources of streams and rivers are places where water and life enter the world pure, uncontaminated, and transparent. 

A Vulnerable Paradise 

This utopian village exists in tandem with the outside world but is separated and hidden from it, only protected by a secret entrance through a cave. Here, people happily live together in the ways of their ancestors, in peaceful harmony independent of the outside world, sustained by their own efforts. This would seem an ideal way of life, a veritable paradise to many people. But is it all that it seems?   

A Sceptical Viewpoint 

While this happy utopian village society has not changed in centuries, the outside world has moved on. Unlike other examples of mythical other worlds or magical places, the time in the village runs at the same speed as the time in the outside world. We know this because when the fisherman leaves for home after several days, he is still in step with the inhabitants of the outside world.

In this Chinese example, although the two societies move in time, they have evolved in oppossing ways. Moreover, despite the conflict and chaos in the outside world, it is deemed to have progressed, yet remains dangerous. The village has remained stable, happy, peaceful, and safe. While some people see this positively because, living in this state of splendid isolation, its people have remained content and safe from interference from the rest of humanity. 

Conversely, cynics see the village as static and sterile, where no progress has been made in centuries. A hideout for people who lack the courage to face the turmoil, fear, and pain of the outside world, lacking the will to adapt to change to survive. They argue that trouble and pain make the external world dynamic, forcing and accepting change, making individuals and society tough and adaptable. 

The apparent absence of strife in the reclusive village, although bringing happiness and peace to its citizens, provides a static society vulnerable to change from natural events and interference from the outside. The villagers certainly know the dangers of the outside world and ask the fisherman not to reveal their presence. Their fear is underlined by the fisherman marking trees hoping to find his way back and by telling the Prefect of a town of his discovery.

Chop Wood, Carry Water: A Positive View

There is a well-known proverb or koan from Zen Buddhism which springs to mind,  

“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” 

Although the quote may not have influenced Tao Yuanming, it does relevant with the villager’s way of life. 

On the surface, a person appears no different after enlightenment as they were before. However, that is not necessarily so. Before enlightenment, a person focused on the outside world of “doing,” doing what ever must be done to survive. After enlightenment, the person’s inner consciousness has changed, and the focus becomes the world of “being”  and being at peace while doing the necessary mundane tasks. 

The hidden village in Tao Yuanming’s story is the inner world of being – the world of enlightenment, peace, and contentment – while the outer world – the world of their origin, the world of the fisherman, of emporers, wars, and strife that stem from the inner resistance and conflict we fight in when doing things we do like doing, despite knowing they have to be done. The villagers all appear happy and content externally to an outside observer, but it takes a great deal of inner strength and effort to accept the necessity of the everyday mundane tasks and sheer hard work necessary for survival. 

The outstanding achievement of the villagers is their acceptance allows them to carry out the mundane and demanding tasks of life happily. Conversely, people in the outside world tend to protest and oppose the tedious and challenging aspects of life even though they are necessary for survival, only to create more conflict for themselves and their society. 

The villagers may appear to look calm and living effortlessly, in a similar way a swan may appear to glide easily and serenely over the water. Yet, all the time below the waterline, out of sight, its legs constantly work hard to maintain the seemingly effortless movement across the water. 

Curiously, the fisherman chooses to return home to his own world, hoping to reveal the rare and fragile paradise he has found rather than stay and enjoy it. He leaves a trail intending to return himself or others to follow, but the trail disappears strangely. Liu Ziji of Nanyang, a man of noble character who planned to visit the village, dies suddenly, so the hidden sanctuary remains undisturbed.   

The disappearance of the trail and the nobleman’s death are fortunate for the villagers. However, the attempted betrayal of the hidden sanctuary’s whereabouts is a typical reaction by someone from the outside world, who finds somewhere special, where people have lived peacefully and happily for centuries, and feels the world must be told about it and see for themselves.   

The Mystery Of Meaning

The meaning of the work has been and still is discussed and argued over by many experts and scholars since its creation. There are many different views, and I would contend the different viewpoints are a necessary part of its mystery which is why it continues to be studied and discussed, and reminds us how,

“all the best things escape too much definition.” (2)

© 14/09/2022 zteve t evans


References, Attributions, And Further Reading

Copyright September 14th, 2022 zteve t evans


The Brujo De Chiloé – The Wild Warlocks Of The Chiloé Archipelago – For Ancient Pages

This article was first published on AncientPages.com, May 4, 2022, titled, The Brujo De Chiloé – The Wild Warlocks Of The Chiloé Archipelago, by zteve t evans.

The Brujo de Chiloé

The Brujo de Chiloé, or the Warlocks of Chiloé, were a secretive coven of male witches allegedly involved in witchcraft and crime on the islands of the Chiloé Archipelago off the coast of southern Chile. It should be emphasised that not all witches on Chiloe were males or belonged to the cult. There were male and female witches who worked for the good of people and were healers and fortune tellers. These were called Machis and considered benevolent, but there were also malevolent practitioners called Kalku, and from these the Brujos may have originated.

Brujo’s cult was believed to be a complex tight-knit, secretive organisation, drawing from indigenous superstition and tradition and using black magic in their activities. Utilizing the superstitions and beliefs of the islander to their advantage they were alleged to have used intimidation and fear to minimise opposition and to achieve their aims. They were said to be involved in blackmail, extortion, smuggling and other criminal activities.

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Native North American Lore: The Cherokee Earth Diver Creation Myth

Mythical Water Beetle

EARTH DIVER CREATION MYTHS

Creation myths evolve in the oral traditions of society, providing an unscientific account of how the world was created and became inhabited by people, animals, and plants.  With oral transmission, it is common to find several versions of the same myth in the same society.  A cultural group often considers these stories to carry important information or truths coded through allegory, metaphor, and symbolism giving that culture, and the individual members, a sense of origin, history, purpose, and even destiny. 

Mythologists classify creation myths in various ways, and the following example is an Earth Diver type of myth.  Earth Diver myths provide a narrative explaining how the earth or land mass formed, making life possible for humans, fauna, and flora.   The diver is a fictional character, usually an animal, bird, or insect that dives to the bottom of the ocean to bring back a clod of the ocean floor which expands into a landmass suitable in size with enough attributes and qualities to sustain plants, living creatures, and humans. 

Presented here is a retelling of an Earth Diver creation myth from the Cherokee people of North America taken from, Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney, followed by a brief discussion of some of the points of interest raised in the story.


BEFORE CREATION

In this myth, the earth is an enormous island floating in an ocean of water.  The island had four cords attached to the sky vault, which was of solid rock.  These four cords kept the island suspended in the water, preventing it from sinking.

Cherokees have always known this but cannot remember who attached these cords.  Furthermore, they say they will fray and break when the world wears out with age, and the island will sink into the ocean.  The Cherokees feared this event deeming it inevitable.

The island has not always existed.  In the distant past, there was a vast ocean of water below the sky vault without a single landmass.  Above the sky vault was a place called Gălûñ′lătĭ, where the animals and birds lived before the creation of land.  It was not very spacious and overcrowded with animals and birds, but there was nowhere else to go because all the world below was covered by water, and there was no land.

DAYUNSI, THE WATER BEETLE

In their cramped environment, the animals and birds were curious to know about the world below, wondering if they could live more comfortably below and spent a lot of time discussing this.  At last, the water beetle named, Dayunsi, or “Beaver’s Grandchild,” boldly volunteered to venture to the watery world below to explore and return with an answer to their questions.

Dayunsi went down and ran over the sea surface in all directions discovering there was no solid place above the water where anything could live.  Finally, diving deep below the water to see what lay beneath, he came upon the sea floor.  Reaching out, he grabbed lumps of soft mud and returned to the surface.

On the surface, the mud began to swell, grow, and expand in all directions until it became an island called land or earth, but in these early times, it was flat, exceptionally soft, damp, and muddy.   Dayunsi returned to Gălûñ′lătĭ to report what he had seen and what he had done.

Although the animals and birds yearned to leave their cramped environment and pondered deeply on the possibility of living below, they were very patient and wary.  Therefore, to play safe, they sent different birds to fly down to explore and bring back news of what the island was like, hoping it would eventually make a suitable home for them.

THE GREAT BUZZARD

Time after time, different birds flew down and explored the world below, only to report the land was still too soggy and wet to bear any weight.  Nevertheless, other birds continued to fly down at intervals to check the condition of the land, only to report that the ground was still too soft.  At last, the Great Buzzard, the father of all buzzards, flew out and returned with news the land was now dry and solid enough to bear their weight.  They sent him back to further scout out the island so he could advise further.

Flying down and all around, he discovered parts of the island were hardening, but many other places were still too soft.  He grew tired as he passed over one region, and his wings flapped against the ground, and wherever his wings struck the soft ground, rifts, ridges, and peaks formed in the mud.  These hardened into valleys, hills, and mountains, and this region became the land of the Cherokees and explains why their country is full of peaks and valleys today.  The animals called down to him to return, fearing that the entire island would become covered in mountains and valleys.

SETTING THE SUN

The animals cautiously waited a while longer until the ground was drier and more solid, and then they went down to live upon it.  There was much more space, but it was a dark world, so the Conjurors positioned the sun to travel under the arch of the sky vault, moving from east to west over the earth.

Unfortunately, the sun was not high enough, and the earth was too hot, causing the shell of Tsiska′gĭlĭ′, the Red Crawfish, to burn bright red ruining his meat for Cherokees to eat.  Therefore, the Conjurors raised the sun a handbreadth higher, but it was still too hot.  So they raised it handbreadth, by handbreadth, until they got it to just the right altitude to warm and light the earth comfortably.  The height they raised it to was called “the seven handbreadths,” or “Gûlkwâ′gine Di′gălûñ′lătiyûñ,” and is the highest point the sun can be above the land without touching the sky vault.

Every day the sun traveled in a set course under the arch of the sky vault, lighting and warming the Overland, and then traveled underneath, doing the same to the Underland, returning to its starting point in the Overland every morning to resume its journey until the end.

THE UNDERLAND AND OVERLAND

The Underland is like the Overland having the same animals, birds, and plants.  The seasons are the same but correspond the opposite to the world above. The mountain streams that flow down from the mountains are the paths that lead to the entrances of the Underland.  The springs that are the sources of these streams are the doors and entrances to the Underland.  Those who wish to enter the Underworld must fast by eating and drinking minimum food and water and be guided by a person of the Underland.

PLANTS AND FLOWERS

During the creation period of the plants and flowers, everyone was to remain awake for seven nights watching the process.  Most managed to stay awake the first few nights, but although they tried, many fell asleep.  After that, only the panther, the owl, and a few other creatures stayed awake.  These received abilities to see in the dark and prey upon those that had to sleep during the night.

Some of the trees also remained awake while the other trees fell asleep.  Those trees which remained awake became forever green, and the best medicine came from them.  However, The trees which fell asleep lost their hair every winter.  Cherokees do not know who ordained this because it all happened before they appeared upon the land.

BROTHER AND SISTER

According to the Elders, the first Cherokees were a brother and sister, and there were no others.  The brother struck his sister with a fish and instructed her to reproduce.  Seven days later, she gave birth to a child, and every seven days after, another child, and so forth.

The population increased fast, and there became a danger the land would not be able to maintain everyone.  Therefore, it was decreed that women should only give birth once a year.  The Elders do not know who ordained this, but it has remained that way ever since.


POINTS OF NOTE

The animals and birds in the myth existed before the creation of the earthly world, moving down from the cramped domain of Gălûñ′lătĭ above the sky vault to populate the newly formed land in the world below.  There was one language used and understood by all living things to communicate with one another and between species.

Intellectually, they were much more human-like than their modern counterparts, consulting, discussing, and making plans together.  Moreover, they appear physically greater and more robust than their modern-day counterparts.

For example, the Great Buzzard must have been gigantic for his wings to dip in the semiliquid ground and form the mountains and valleys of the home country of the Cherokees.  Additionally,  Dayunsi, the water beetle, dives to depths far beyond that of modern-day beetles to return with the mud that formed the land.  Instead of choosing a larger, more potent animal, the humble water beetle plays a significant part in the creation of the land, making life on earth possible for animals, birds, plants, and humans. 

The first humans appeared only after land, sun, animals, birds, plants, and trees became established.  When they did, they found a world that supplied their daily living needs, ready and waiting for them to take advantage of it.  The plants, trees, animals, and birds provided food, clothing, medicine, and most of their daily living needs. 

Of course, people will see many discussion points in myths like this, and opinions will vary, but what matters is what the reader makes of it for themselves.

©20/07/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCE, ATTRIBUTIONS, AND FURTHER READING

Copyright July 20th, 2022 zteve t evans


Spanish Folklore: The Legendary Fish-Man of Liérganes

Fish-man statue in Liérganes, Cantabria. – Image by Bigsus, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

THE FISH-MAN OF LIÉRGANES

The town of Liérganes in the region of Cantabria, in northern Spain, hosts a statue of a strange fish-man commemorating his life. An English translation of a nearby plaque referring to him reads,

“His feat crossing the ocean

from the north to the south of Spain,

if it was not true it deserved to be.

Today his greatest feat

is to have crossed the centuries

in the memory of men.

Truth or legend,

Liérganes honors him here and sponsors

his immortality.”

The plaque is found on the promenade of the Fish-Man of Liérganes, along the shore of the Miera River.

The statue and plaque are referring to a local myth of a strange individual known as the “fish-man of Liérganes, ” or “El hombre pez,” in Spanish and, “L’hombri pez,”  in Cantabrian dialect. According to this myth the fish-man was an amphibious humanoid being, alleged to have been a human male who had become lost at sea. A theory developed that somehow, he had evolved into a semi-human aquarian entity at home in the sea, or on land. After being captured by fishermen he was returned to his family in Liérganes.

BENITO JERÓNIMO FEIJOO

The Spanish monk, scholar and writer, Benito Jerónimo Feijoo, during the Age of Enlightenment in Spain, was well known for promoting scientific and pragmatic thinking. Yet, he claimed the fish-man of Liérganes to be fact.

There is more than one version of the myth with differences on how the boy disappeared. In one version he goes swimming in the Miera River on the eve of Saint John’s Day, 1674 with friends. After undressing and entering the water he continued swimming after they had finished and dressed. Initially, his friends knowing he was a strong swimmer, were not concerned but he never returned.

Everyone assumed he had drowned but according to the legend he continued swimming until he reached the sea where he evolved into a fish-man. It was in this apparent amphibious condition he was later captured by curious fishermen in the bay of Cadiz.

FEIJOO’S ACCOUNT

However, Feijoo maintained that in Liérganes, in Cantabria, in about the year 1650, there lived a couple named Francisco de la Vega and María del Casar, who had four sons. When Francisco, the father died the family had no means of financial support, so she decided to send one of her sons, Francisco de la Vega Casar, named after his father and mother, to Bilbao to work as an apprentice carpenter.

He was known to have lived and worked there until the eve of Saint John’s Day when he went swimming in the estuary of Bilbao with his friends. He was believed to have been a good swimmer, but he got caught in strong currents and swept out to sea. He was last seen alive still swimming into the sea where he was believed to have been lost and drowned.

In 1679,  five years after Francisco was last seen a fishing boat working in the bay of Cadiz discovered they had a made a very unusual catch. A very strange creature had become entangled and attempted to fight itself free. The fishermen tried to capture the creature, but it managed escape into the sea. Several sightings of the creature were reported by other fishermen in the area as it became entangled in their nets. Finally, someone had the idea of enticing it with bread and it was finally brought on deck.

To their surprise, they found the creature had a human body such as belonged to an adolescent human male. His skin was pale, and he had sparse red hair and his nails were short and corroded.Curiously, it also had noticeable attributes of a fish having a strip of scales from its throat to its midriff and another strip of scales running along its spine. Around its neck it had that appeared to be gills. The combination of human and fish features and having pulled it from the sea baffled them.

THE CONVENT OF SAINT FRANCIS

The fishermen had never seen anything like it before, having no idea whether what they had caught was human or fish. Thinking it may be an unholy monstrosity, they took it onshore to the nearby convent of Saint Francis. Here the strange individual was exorcised and questioned but yielded no identifying or helpful information. The only attempt at speech he made was one word which sounded like “Liérganes.”  Unfortunately, no one knew what the word, if it was a word, meant.

News of this strange unknown individual spread around Cadiz Bay, and although people wondered, no one could say what the word, “Liérganes” meant.Eventually news of the individual and its strange speech came to a sailor from the north of Spain who docked at Cadiz. He pointed out there was a village called Liérganes  close to his hometown.Furthermore, the secretary of the Holy Office, Domingo de la Cantolla, verified the existence of the village of Liérganes which was situated near to Santander where he had come from.

In a further development, the bishop of Cadiz forwarded a description of the individual detailing physique and appearance in the hope someone would recognise or at least know something of him. An answer came back stating that no such creature, or individual, was known to exist, or ever have existed, around Liérganes.Moreover, the only extraordinary, though tragic event in the village was five years earlier with the presumed drowning of Francisco de la Vega Casar. His body had never been found but it was remembered he had red hair.

RETURN TO FAMILY LIFE IN LIÉRGANES

It was not much to go on, but it struck a chord with one of the priests of the convent who speculated that the fish-man was Francisco de la Vega Casar.Therefore, he requested permission to visit Liérganes accompanied by the fish-man. Speculatively, he visited María del Casar, the mother of Francisco, who instantly recognised the unknown individual as her son.

With Maria, claiming Francisco as her son, the priest left him with his family. Although he lived peacefully and quietly with in the family home, he had peculiar habits.He never wore anything on his feet, preferring to walk around barefoot, and unless he was specifically given clothes to wear tended to prefer nudity. He never spoke enough words to form a sentence so never really conversed with anyone. Sometimes he would mumble single words such as “bread,” “wine,” or “tobacco,” but never seemed to relate them to eating, drinking, or smoking.

Although he would eat with enthusiasm when the mood took him, he often went a week before eating again.He was always amiable and affable, and in his own unassuming way, polite and courteous. When asked to do a task he would oblige, completing it quickly and efficiently but without showing any enthusiasm.

He spent nine years living with his mother and family in this way but one day he went into the sea for a swim and never returned. What became of him is a mystery, but very much speculated about. Whether he drowned, or simply resumed his former life living in the sea is unknown, but no sign of him was seen of him ever since.

CONTROVERSY

Of course, with such an extraordinary case as this there are no shortage of sceptics. Feijoo, although having a reputation based on his pragmatism and scientific approach seems to have been convinced of the authenticity of the case even if others were not. In his version of the case, he is meticulously detailed giving names and dates and has investigated and verified accounts given by reputable witnesses.

He confesses when he first heard of the story, he did not believe it, but claimed his research led him to conclude the case was genuine.The fact that Feijoo was a strong critic of superstition, hoaxes and charlatans lent to him considerable authority. People took the opinion that if such a renowned sceptic as he believed in the case it must be true. It does seem strange that he would have backed this story, but hedid, and later even put forward scientific arguments aimed at backing the existence of fish-men in the sea.

DR. GREGORIO MARAÑÓN

Nevertheless, there were others who were unconvinced he had interpreted the evidence correctly and one of them was 20th century Spanish scholar and physician named Dr. Gregorio Marañón.He argued that the existence of the fish-man was mistaken but admitted that the fact that there were so many credible witnesses and testimonies could not be easily ignored. He proposed there were certain elements of the story that were possible and offered an alternative explanation.

He proposed that the individual presented symptoms of being inflicted with an ailment called cretinism, now usually referred to as “Congenital Iodine Deficiency Syndrome.” This affliction is usually apparent at birth and one cause is inadequate dietary iodine during pregnancy (1).

He pointed out the individual displayed symptoms such as being virtually speechless, only being able to produce a few words. He had thinning red hair and white scaly skin, chewed his nails, and wander around which he asserted are symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, this affliction was often found in mountainous regions such as Cantabria, claiming it was commonly found around the Santander region at that time. Alternatively, he pointed out ichthyosis could have caused the skin problems – a very widespread genetic disease, causing the skin to become exceptionally dry, rough, and flaking, not unlike fish scales.

He suggested the boy had wandered off getting lost and followed the coast from the estuary of Bilbao where he was last seen round to the Bay of Cadiz where he was noticed by fishermen and captured.The scaly white skin gave him an outlandish, and fish-like appearance, to people who knew nothing of the disease. With his discovery by the sea and his scaly and unattractive skin condition, which may have been exaggerated as word spread, people jumped to false conclusions, from these coincidences, erroneously thinking he was part human and part fish.

MARAÑÓN’S THEORY

However, Marañón produced a different explanation as to how he had been found in the Bay of Cadiz. He believed it would not have been possible for him to swim there from the estuary of Bilbao, proposing he had wandered on foot following the coastline. Along the way he searched for food which he may have found readily along the seashore in form of shellfish and marine algae. Importantly, both foods happen to be rich in iodine, which is known to alleviate Congenital iodine deficiency syndrome, especially when given to babies diagnosed with the condition. Sea air is also naturally iodised and may have been a more comfortable environment.

It was purely coincidental that when he was last seen in Estuary of Bilbao, he was swimming out to sea, yet when he was found in the Bay of Cadiz he was also in the sea.

He speculated that when his father died, his mother and family struggled to make ends meet, which was why he was sent to Bilbao to learn carpentry. It may have been a relief to his employer and co-workers to be rid of such an unproductive burden as it may have been to his family.

Marañón further speculated both employers and family were not too sorry to be relieved of him, which was why little fuss was made of his alleged drowning. However, rather than perish in the sea he had wandered off alone, following the shore where possible, with no idea where he was going, he ended up in the Bay of Cadiz.

His diet of algae and seafood sustained and even helped him, but because of his age the iodine intake was of limited value.Nevertheless, the sea air and the warmer environment may have been more to his liking. It may have been the worst thing that could happen to him was to return to a mountain environment of Liérganes. His return to his mother and family may have been an unwelcome emotional and economic burden, an extra mouth to feed, or they may have been simply ashamed of him. Marañón suggests his later disappearance into the sea again was not an accident, and not of his own making, yet provides no firm proof of anything sinister.

The story of Francisco de la Vega Casar is certainly mysterious and unquestionably tragic we can only hope what ever happened to him in the end brought peace.

© 23/06/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright June 23rd, 2022 zteve t evans


Khasi Folktales: The Legend of Lum Sophet Bneng

Thanks to Cliparts.Co

THE KHASI PEOPLE

The Khasi are an ancient people dwelling mainly in the Indian state of Meghalaya with smaller populations in the neighboring state of Assam and regions of Bangladesh. They have a long history and rich culture and many ancient traditions and festivals are still practiced. There are still those who remember many of their old myths and stories which give an explanation of where they came from and the world around them.

KHASI MYTHOLOGY

According to their traditional lore, the original home of the Khasi people was known as “Ki Hynñiewtrep” or “The Seven Huts” in English.  Their supreme deity was called, “U Blei Trai Kynrad” or “God the Lord Master,” who had ordered humanity into sixteen divine families known as “Khadhynriew Trep.” In those days families could move freely between Heaven and Earth because a physical connection between the two realms was located on their sacred hill of Lum Sohpet bneng, which means “Navel of Heaven.” Today it is a place of festival and pilgrimage for those Khasis who continue to remember and respect the old religion keeping alive the ancient traditions and lore of their people.

The following folktale of the Khasi people is called The Legend of Mount Sophet Bneng from a collection of tales, legends and myths titled, “Folk-Tales of the Khasis” by Mrs. Rafy.  This tells that on top of the great hill of Lum Sohpet Bneng there once grew tree so tall it reached from Earth up to Heaven.

THE LEGEND OF MOUNT SOPHET BNENG

The tree was called the Jingkieng ksiar and sometimes referred to as the Golden Bridge or Golden Ladder, because the people of Heaven used it to climb up and down between Heaven and Earth.  At the time the Earth was not inhabited by people because they would visit and return to Heaven to live.  

During this time all of humanity lived in Heaven but the Earth was inhibited by all manner of different animals, birds, reptile, insects, and a multitude of other different lifeforms.   There was a great variety of plants, some large, some small, many with luscious fruits, beautiful flowers, and vibrant foliage.  It was a very beautiful and wonderful world, and the humans would visit Earth by climbing down the tree where they could roam in wonder and delight and return at their leisure by climbing back up the tree.

In those blessed days there was only one language spoken and sang and all of creation communicated freely together. Trees, flowers, birds, animals, fishes, insects even rocks and stones and the sixteen families used it to commune among themselves and with nature.

PLANTING GARDENS

When they discovered the soil around Lum Sohpet Bneng was rich and fertile they began to cultivate crops for profit planting many gardens and fields.  U Blei Trai Kynrad, their supreme divinity granted this but decreed that they must return to Heaven every night and only be on Earth during the day. The sixteen human families of Heaven followed this practice rigidly.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, there was a single malevolent one among them who lusted power and resented divine authority. Furthermore, he grew loathe to follow the will of the Creator and sought to rule over his fellow human beings. He was always seeking ways to further and attain his ambitions and gain control over the people.

One day seven families climbed down the tree to work upon their gardens and fields on Earth, leaving the other nine to go about their business in Heaven.

SEVERING THE CONNECTION

When all the seven families were hard at work the malevolent one saw his chance.Thinking that without the tree to move between Heaven and Earth those seven families would be easier to bring under his control without the interference of God the Lord Master. Therefore, he took an axe and cut down the tree that connected Heaven and Earth. The seven families working their crops were stranded on Earth, and those nine families in Heaven severed completely from Earth.

This is how humans came to live permanently upon the Earth. Those seven families were called “Ki Hinniew Skum” which means the “seven roots”, or “seven nests” and it is from these that the rest of humanity living on Earth is descended.

Ever since the people of Heaven and Earth have been separated from each other.  Furthermore, as the seven families spread over the Earth the language became splintered into many different tongues.  The ability of the people to communicate with one another was damaged and the ability to converse with nature was lost or severely impaired.  This all happened thousands of years ago through the act of one evil man who craved power and control over the people.

ANOTHER VERSION

Another version of the myth tells that in the early days of the world there was no separation between Heaven and Earth and people obeyed God’s laws and lived in harmony with the natural world. Heaven and Earth were connected by the Jingkieng ksiar,andpeople began living on Earth. Overtime they forgot or disobeyed the rules of the creator and made their own laws.  Where there had been one language in Heaven and on Earth a multitude of tongues evolved.  People could no longer talk to nature or among themselves and they came into conflict with Heaven.  Because of this the tree withered and died and the connection between the two realms was lost.

A WARNING!

The loss of the tree is often viewed as an allegory warning of the consequences of the severing of connections between humans on Earth and God in Heaven.

©08/06/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright June 8th, 2022 zteve t evans


Khasi Folktales: The Cooing of the Doves

Presented here is a retelling of an ancient folktale of the Khasi people who dwell in Meghalaya in north-eastern India and parts of Assam and Bangladesh, sourced from “Folk-Tales of the Khasis,” by K. U. Rafy. It tells how long ago, unlike today, doves sang wonderful songs like many other birds. These songs expressed their happiness to be alive and the glory of the world around, until something happened to end their glorious melodies. Their joyous singing was replaced with the sad, wistful, “Cooing” sound, we are familiar with them making today.

THE COOING OF THE DOVES

The story tells how back in the old days a happy family of the first doves lived in the forest. The youngest was a daughter named was Ka Paro. Being the youngest she was much loved by her parents and siblings who were all protective of her pampering her more than they should. The family often ate together in a nearby field of grain. When it was time for food, they insisting she remain securely hidden in their family nesting tree until the signal was given that all was safe enough for her to venture forth.

Ka Paro

 One day they had left Ka Paro alone in the family nest while they flew to the field and around the area making sure there was no potential danger. While she waited, Ka Paro grew bored and flew to the top of a nearby tree which had a many succulent red berries growing in its branches. She was not interested in the berries but was looking forward to feeding in the grain field with her family. While she waited, she saw many other birds feasting upon them but did not take much notice. Instead, she spent her time preening her feathers while waiting for her family to give the signal all was clear for her to join them.  

A Handome Jungle Bird

To her surprise a very handsome jungle bird of a clan she had never seen before flew down and perched on a nearby branch and started pecking at the berries. Ka Paro had never seen a bird as stunning as this one, with such gorgeous feathers of gold and green, and he came and pecked berries on the very branch that she perched upon.

She was surprised and delighted, and greatly admiring this handsome stranger and began to sing one of her sweetest melodies to attract his attention hoping to please him.

Seeing the gentle beautiful Ka Paro, and hearing her beautiful voice, he was very quickly drawn to her and sang along with her. He introduced himself as U Jylleit, the jungle bird, and she told him she was Ka Paro the dove. The two became fast friends and met every day on the same branch in the same tree. She would sit preening her feathers and singing while, he picked at the berries singing a duet with her. Every now and then the two exchanged shy, admiring glances.

They grew to love each other and U Jylleit plucked up the courage to ask her parents for consent to their marriage. However, her parents were not warmly welcoming to the proposal not feeling too sure of how genuine U Jylleit really was. They did not want to judge him unfairly yet wanted to protect their beloved daughter from being hurt.

Marriage

Therefore, they thought carefully about what to do. Ka Paro loved U Jylleit with all her heart and begged her parents to approve the marriage. She begged, she pleaded and argued her case again and again declaring she loved him like the moon loved the stars and that she would love him forever, while he declared his own eternal love for her before her parents.

However, her parents knew more of the world than their young daughter. Maybe they were being overprotective, but they were not too certain of this handsome stranger who had flown in from nowhere to win their daughter’s heart. Furthermore, there was also the question of a marriage between two different unrelated clans, which the two lovers undeniable were, which made them feel uncomfortable. There was also another reason that caused them to doubt the strength of U Jylleit’s love for their daughter.

They knew that the red berries had attracted him to the tree where their daughter perched, and knew those berries only appeared at the present time of the year. Moreover, with all the other birds feeding on the berries the tree would eventually be gone and would not return until the following year. They also knew, like other crops, the berries appeared at various times in different places and birds and animals moved from one place to another to feed on them.

A Test

For these reasons they were reluctant to risk their daughter’s happiness. Nevertheless,  rather than issues a flat refusal they wisely decided to put U Jylleit to a test

Ka Paro’s parents told the two lovers they would only allow the marriage after all the berries were gone. They wanted to see if U Jylleit, for the love of their daughter, be content with the meagre diet of the doves, which he could have survived on. The two lovers readily agreed. U Jylleit swore he would stay with Ka Paro through thick and thin and never leave her. For her part, Ka Paro had absolute confidence her lover would stay and share the same plain and meagre food as her. She simply did not believe he would fly away to another place where the berries could be found in abundance.

And so, the two lovers continued to meet in the tree and while Ka Paro sang and preened U Jylleit sang and ate red berries which became fewer and fewer. One day Ka Paro flew to the tree to meet her lover and began singing and preening expecting her to join her. He did not arrive as he usually did so she continued and preening and singing but still he did not arrive. Looking around, for him she was shocked to see all the berries had gone and realised the truth.

Hearbreak

U Jylleit, without even saying goodbye, had  taken wing to find another berry tree and she never saw him again. Her heart broken; Ka Paro never sang another note. The only sound she would utter from that moment on was a melancholy “cooing” which is the same we hear from doves all around the world today.

© 28/04/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright April 28, 2022 zteve t evans


PUBLICATIONS BY zteve t evans

Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

Available as a Kindle Ebook And Large Print Paperback – Dimensions : 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm All Images Non-color



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

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Ukrainian and Slavic Folktales:  The Origin of the Mole

Jos Zwarts, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Presented here is a retelling of a folktale from Ukrainian and Slavic folklore followed by a brief discussion.  The story has similarities to tales from several different countries, and like them is a myth of the origin of the mole and gives a warning which is very relevant to this day. 

THE ORIGIN OF THE MOLE

This story tells how a rich man, and a poor man once shared a field.  The poor man was humble and respectful and followed God’s laws the best he could.  The rich man was proud and scornful, following no rules but his own.  One year, both simultaneously sowed their allotted parts with the same type of seed.  With the help of God, the poor man’s seed grew healthy and abundant, giving an excellent yield. However, the seed of the rich man, who scorned the Almighty, yielded a poor and spindly crop.

The rich man looked upon the poor man’s yield and grew jealous.  Then, being accustomed to having his way and the best of everything, he unrightfully claimed the part of the field that the poor man had sown, insisting the yield was his. 

See, here,” he said to the poor man, “See how well my seed has grown while your own has grown weak and spindly!”

The poor man was shocked at the false claim and protested.  But the rich man shook his head, refusing to listen to his protestations, and said,

“If you do not believe me, I can provide undeniable evidence of my ownership.  Should you wish to see it come into the field before sunrise, bringing as many witnesses as you choose, and I will give you infallible proof of my ownership for all to witness, and God alone shall be the judge of the matter!”

Upset and bewildered, the poor man went home while the rich man watched him go.  As soon as he was out of sight, he dug a hole in the poor man’s portion of the field and told his son to jump in and hide there until morning, telling him,

“Listen carefully to what I say, my son, and follow my instructions exactly as I tell you.  I will cover you over so that no one will know you hide in this hole.  You must wait here until just before sunrise tomorrow morning, when I, and others, will come into this field.  I will shout out as if speaking to God, asking him to reveal the owner of this part of the field.  You will loudly proclaim that this part of the field belongs in full to the rich man, and it is the other part of the field that the poor man owns.  Make sure you stay hidden in the hole until I tell you otherwise!”

After he was sure his son understood, he covered him over carefully, thoroughly disguising the hole from plain sight, and went home.

The next morning, before daybreak, he returned to the field where the poor man accompanied by a crowd of neighbors to act as witnesses waited. Unfazed, the rich man stood in the center of the disputed part of the field, raised his hands to the sky, and cried,

Oh, great and wise God speak your truth!  Who is the owner of this part of the field where I stand?   Does it belong to this poor man, or I, the rich man?”

His son, hearing his father, shouted back,

“You stand in the rich man’s part of the field with a fine crop growing that you sowed,  and the poor man’s crop that he sowed lies next to it growing weak and spindly.”

The rich man turned and laughed at the poor man whose face had dropped in bewilderment and disappointment.  All those who stood as witnesses were full of awe and wonder, except for one who was not a local man. No one knew who he was, or how he had joined them, but he stepped forward and spoke to the them saying sternly,

“Do not listen to this rich man; he is a cheat and liar!  The part of the field where the good crop grows belongs to the poor man who plowed and sowed it!”

He told the witnesses all about the deception and pulled the camouflage from the hole revealing the rich man’s son. To the rich man’s son, he commanded,

“Stay where thou art, and sit beneath the earth all thy days, so long as the sun is in the sky.” (1)

And the rich man’s son instantly transformed into the first mole.

DISCUSSION

The tale is allegorical and not quite what it seems, giving a fanciful explanation of the origin of moles, while warning those who seek to covet another person’s property to expect unforeseen consequences in the future.  In earlier times families tended to stay together often supporting parents and grandparents through their old age. The loss of such a support would have been a hard blow. The transformation of the rich man’s son into a mole seems like a harsh punishment for the son for following his father’s directions. 

But, if the rich man’s son was only following his father’s instructions, so does it mean the child automatically inherits the parent’s sins?

Maybe not, if the story is considered an allegory.  Children take on much of their behavior from their parents yet are not strictly bound by nature to continue that behavior.  They can, and do, change as they grow older, and this sometimes brings them into conflict with their parents’ values and philosophy of life and sometimes the society in which they live.  If such behavior becomes accepted and practiced from generation to generation, then, yes, the parents’ sins become those of the child.  They also become a continuous source of conflict between citizens, creating an increasing anti-social and dysfunctional society. 

Therefore, wrongdoing must be challenged and replaced by more healthy alternative behavior to prevent this.  Ideally, this should happen at the time of the misconduct or as soon as possible after.  But, unfortunately, sometimes it does pass on through the generations and becomes accepted as the social norm – the share standards of socially acceptable behavior – until someone dares challenge it.  In this light, members of a society are responsible for ensuring dishonest behavior is discontinued as soon as it is recognized.

When parents act immorally it does not make it correct for their children to continue the bad behavior from generation to generation.  The idea may be that rectifying dishonest or harmful behavior, preferably as it happens, or as soon as possible after it is recognized, leads to a more harmonious and fairer society.

Of course, there is much more that could be said, but it is entirely up to the reader to form their own opinions should they wish, or maybe accept it as no more than an entertaining tale.

© 16/03/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright March 16th, 2022 zteve t evans


Further Publications by zteve t evans

Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

Available as a Kindle Ebook And Large Print Paperback – Dimensions : 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm All Images Non-color



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

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Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Moreau.henri, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Myths and legends of great and wealthy cities lost or destroyed appear worldwide. A common theme is an excessive pride or ungodly behavior of the rich or ruling classes that eventually invokes divine retribution upon the city. Presented here are three examples of such legends taken from the collection, “Tales of the Lost, The Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye: Vengeance Will Come!” by zteve t evans.

THE DROWNING OF KER-IS

In Breton folklore, a beautiful city named Ker-Is, or Ys, was located in the Bay of Douarnenez, Brittany, France, reaching its zenith during the reign of King Gradlon before disaster struck. Unfortunately, tidal erosion from the sea threatened to drown the city. So the rulers built massive walls around it to keep out the rising water installing great gates giving access and egress between the harbor and the sea. Gradlon wore the key to these gates on a chain around his neck at all times. 

He fell in love with Malgven, a beautiful pagan woman who bore him a daughter named Dahut. Shortly after, she told him her time in the world was over and she must leave. However, she insisted Dahut should be well-schooled in pagan ways. Gradlon honored this though he chose to convert to Christianity himself.

Dahut grew up to be as beautiful as her mother and became a high-priestess of the old faith. Gradlon gave her Ker-is to rule but retained the key. She planted beautiful gardens filling them with exotic animals and plants, and the city flourished.  One day there came to Ker-is, a mysterious stranger known as the Red Knight who stole Dahut’s heart.  On the night of a great storm, to please him, she foolishly stole the key from her father as he slept, and the Red Knight used it to unlock the gates allowing the sea to flood the city.  

Gradlon managed to mount a horse and rescue his daughter, but the horse could not carry both of them to safety. As the horse struggled, God spoke to Gradlon, commanding him to throw her into the sea. After initially refusing, he complied and survived.  

The old pagan gods rescued their high priestess transforming her into a sea morgen. But, even today, local people and mariners say she is still to encountered sitting on rocks along the wild coastline singing strange songs to lure passing sailors to their doom.

TANNEN-EH: THE CITY ENTOMBED IN SNOW

Kenwbar – Kenneth Barclay – Public Domain

High in the snowy Alps, there was once a beautiful city named Tannen-Eh whose citizens were honest, hardworking, and god-fearing, living harmoniously with one another and their environment.  They fulfilled their basic needs by careful husbandry of agriculture and natural resources. Artisans and those who worked by physical labor were granted as much respect as academics and administrators. The rich happily looked after the poor, who lived in the valley below, who repaid by giving their best service. In this way, for many centuries isolated in the alps, time moved slowly, and Tannen-Eh flourished peacefully untainted by the world beyond.

Outside everything moved faster. Factories churned out toxins contaminating the environment and consuming natural resources ever more quickly and quicker. There was never enough; they wanted more, more, more. Airborne toxins spread far and wide, eventually blighting the pure white snow of Tannen-Eh, but with it came something more frightening. It came slowly, quietly, and unseen, but it was a blight of the worst possible kind.  It crept into the human heart, into the very soul, and the people of Tannen-Eh fell victim to it.

The wealthy grew richer, craving ever more frivolous luxuries. The more they brought, the more they wanted. Their wealth increased, and so did their pride, and they regarded the struggling poor with disdain.   Putting the poor to work, they built a great tower like that of Babel and in it placed a bell. The bell would ring out for every birth, christening, marriage, or death of the fortunate wealthy ones, but not for the poor who they now regarded as unworthy of acknowledgment or commemoration.

 The poor prayed for help, and their prayers went up beyond the tower, beyond the skies, and heard.  But, Heaven works in mysterious ways, and there came a great famine, and the poor starved and suffered. The rich locked their treasure in strongrooms, refusing to spend it to alleviate poverty and distress, and many people died of starvation.

In the first days of winter, snowflakes began to fall, gently at first but soon thick and fast. Soon snow rose above the windows, covering the roofs, leaving only the top of the magnificent tower visible. The rich folk struggled to their tower and tolled the bell seeking assistance from outside. No one came. Snow entirely entombed the city below, and the building became encrusted in an icy white shell so thick it prevented the sound of the bell from escaping.  

Down in the valley, the poor saw the entire city completely covered in snow with only the tower reaching up to Heaven like a glimmering, silvery-white needle. Today, the Oetzthal Glacier entombs the city of Tannen-Eh.

THE DROWNING OF STAVOREN

Statue of the “Lady of Stavoren” in the harbour of Stavoren – Emperoredwin, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

A Dutch folktale called “The Lady of Stavoren” tells of the ruin of a wealthy widow and the divine retribution inflicted upon the city named Stavoren. The widow moved in the highest circles of Stavoren society, whose members were all rich, proud, and very arrogant, competing continuously to outdo one another. The town was populous and prosperous, but only the elite few owned the wealth. Insatiably, the fortunate ones clawed in ever more wealth while the poor endured beggary and poverty.  

The richest and proudest of these elites was the widow who was always seeking new ways to increase her fortune. One day, she had an idea, and to bring it to fruition, sent for the captain of Stavoren’s largest cargo ship. Giving him a chest of gold, she commissioned him to sail the seven seas and buy her the most precious commodity in the world.  The captain had no idea what the most precious merchandise was but set sail in search of it anyway. Eventually, he decided the most precious commodity was wheat, so he purchased a complete cargo and returned to Stavoren. 

Meanwhile, the widow boasted to her wealthy friends how she would soon possess the most precious commodity in the world. Intrigued, they asked what it could be, but she teasingly told them to wait and see.

When the captain returned, she went down to the ship, and he showed her the wheat. She was furious, ordering him to dump every kernel into the sea. The shocked captain begged her to alleviate the hunger of the poor of Stavoren with it. She refused, again commanding him to dump it overboard.  As the wheat went overboard, beggars gathered at the harbor begging for food. Nevertheless, the widow would not relent. The captain was ashamed and angrily foretold God would punish her and know hunger herself.

The widow looked coldly upon him and, removing her most expensive ring from her finger, held it aloft. Then, arrogantly, she told him there was as much chance of that as the precious item of jewelry returning to her as cast it into the sea. 

Divine retribution works in strange ways. The next day she attended a splendid civic banquet attended by all the city elites and served fresh fish. Imagine her shock to find the ring she had thrown into the sea in the body of the fish she was eating.  From then on, her luck changed. All her businesses and investments failed, forcing her forced into begging, but none of her former friends would aid her. She died impoverished, hungry, and cold.

With her death, the elites of Stavoren continued with their arrogant and greedy ways, unaware divine retribution was still unfolding. A sandbar formed blocking the harbor and on that strand grew wheat, but with no kernel. With the port unable to trade, the prosperity of the town plummeted. Businesses failed, shops closed, and the elites lost their wealth. 

One night a powerful storm blew in from the sea, causing the tide to rise, sweep away the dykes, and flood the town. Today Stavoren is a village of about one thousand people, and in the square is a statue representing “The Lady of Stavoren.”

DIVINE RETRIBUTION

Tales such as these provide a quiet but powerful reminder of the consequences of deviance from God’s laws. They attempt a subtle form of social control by interpreting natural catastrophes as the vengeance of an angry God while providing an engaging experience for the audience. The message is that God will not tolerate hubris, uncharitable behavior, and ungodliness in anyone. God knows and sees all, is both omnipotent and omnipresent, and when required, punishes or rewards at will, in a manner of his own choosing. 


Copyright 05/01/2022 zteve t evans

Further Publications by zteve t evans


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Copyright January 5th 2022 zteve t evans 


Bernardo Carpio: Legendary Strongman of the Philippines

Bernardo Carpio

EARTHQUAKES

In the Philippines, several etiological myths and legends attempt to explain the cause and origin of earthquakes. One of these tells of a culture hero named Bernardo Carpio, a legendary strongman whose struggles to break free from an underground trap causes earthquakes. In some stories, he must continuously hold back two massive stone slabs toppling in upon him to prevent himself from being crushed to death.  There are many different versions of tales about Bernardo, and presented here are some of the legends and folklore of how he became associated with causing earthquakes.  

GIANT, OR HUMAN?

Legends of Bernardo mostly center around a mountainous region of the Philippines known as Rodriguez today. In earlier times, the region was known as Montalban and is still sometimes referred to by that name today. The area has a geological fault system and known for earthquakes. 

He is often associated with the Montalban Gorge, formed by the Marikina River, a part of the Pamitinan Protected Landscape, and the Pamitinan Cave, which was once known as The Cave of Bernardo Carpio.  According to this local legend, the old gods punished Bernardo for insolence, chaining him to the Montalban Gorge, where he must stand forever, preventing two mountains from colliding together by the strength in his arms and body. In some stories, he is a giant of enormous stature and strength. In others, he is human with extraordinary muscular power and master swordsman, and some say whatever his fingers grasped died. However, all tales concerning him commonly present him as a man of exceptional strength and courage sharing many attributes with other cultural heroes and legendary strongmen in other parts of the world.

EARLY YEARS

In one version of the legend, Bernardo was the son of Don Sancho Díaz of Cerdenia and his lover Jimena, the sister of King Alfonso of Spain. King Alfonso was very protective of his sister and kept her in seclusion. One of the king’s generals, Don Rubio, had designs on her she rejected his advances in favor of Don Sancho, who was the one she truly loved. Despite her brother forbidding her any liaison with men, a baby boy was born to Jimena and Don Sancho. The child grew fast, quickly gaining extraordinary strength; anything he grasped broke in his hands. The priest who baptized him suggested they name him after Bernardo del Carpio, the legendary Spanish hero, and the baby was Christened Bernardo Carpio.

Rejected by Jimena, the jealous Don Rubio let it be known to King Alfonso about his sister’s love affair and the baby. As a result, the king imprisoned Don Sancho, intending to punish him further by blinding him, and doubled the guard on his sister. At the King’s command, Don Rubio adopted Bernardo as his foster son.   Bernardo soon grew big and incredibly strong and became a master swordsman. He fought for the King in many battles, becoming his greatest knight. However, when Don Rubio revealed his parentage to him and how the king had mistreated his parents, Bernardo became bitter and resentful.  

He had fought against many of the king’s pagan enemies thinking that his sovereign, being a Christian, was morally superior to them. After this news, his entire perception of the King changed. For Bernardo, the revelation had turned his whole life upside down and bitterly challenged Don Rubio to a duel and killed him.

He found the King’s treatment of his parents shocking. He now him as was no better and maybe worse than the same pagans he had fought against for him. He could not understand how he could, on the one hand, claim belief in a God of love while treating two human beings who had found true love together so cruelly. After ensuring his parents’ release, he decided he would no longer fight for God and King but fight for God and redeem the human race from wickedness and battle against sin.

REDEMPTION OF HUMANITY

Another legend tells how the Spanish engaged a shaman, known as engkantado in the Philippines, to use magic to trap him. The engkantado lured him to a cave under the mountains of Montalban, using a powerful magical talisman known as an agimat to trap him between two massive boulders, which continuously fell towards each other.  To save himself, Bernardo had to use his herculean strength to hold the boulders apart to prevent them from toppling upon him. However, in doing so, he could not let go of one without being crushed by the other. The talisman of the engkantado was of equal power to his physical strength, so he could not escape.

Some of Bernardo’s friends searched for him and found the cave hoping to rescue him. Unfortunately, a series of rockfalls blocked their way, killing several of them and forcing them to abandon him, and he remains to this day. Local people believe that when an earthquake occurs, it is Bernardo adjusting his shoulders or shrugging them to make them more comfortable. However, a powerful earthquake is seen as a sign he is fighting to free himself.

BERNARDO CARPIO AND THE MAGICAL ONE

The following legend tells of a marred couple living in abject poverty in the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. Every day was a struggle for survival. Yet, despite the hardness of life, they were overwhelmed with joy and happiness when the woman gave birth to a strong, healthy baby boy. They named their son Bernardo Carpio, and he was their pride and joy. Like all children, Bernardo loved to play, but there was something extraordinary about him. It soon became apparent that he was an exceptional child. His fingers were so strong he could pull the nails from the wooden flooring as he crawled. When he first began to walk, any rail, bar, or banister he gripped for support crumbled by the strength in his tiny hands. New toys never lasted long because he had not yet learned how to control the power in his hands, which broke items to pieces as soon as he grasped them.

He grew up to be a physically powerful and handsome young man, his strength increasing as he grew along with his fame.  He was courageous and could defeat anyone in a fight and was courteous, polite and humble. Nevertheless, he was different from other young men of his age. He avoided parties, festivities, and social gatherings and showed no interest in even the most beautiful girls, who were all very interested in him.  Instead, he preferred to roam deep into the forest, losing himself in the solitude of the trees. He liked to be in the remotest, wildest, and thickest part of the forest, where he felt at home with the animals as his friends.

In the densest part of the forest, there lived a magical being. This being was huge and very strong and had an evil nature with a tendency towards envy, causing harm and mischief top others. This magical one had seen Bernardo and visited him on many occasions, initially admiring the handsome, strong Bernardo. Eventually, getting word of his fame, the magical one became jealous and began to hate him.

The magical one believed no one in the world, including Bernardo, could match his own power and strength and wanted to kill him. Therefore, he challenged him to a fight, thinking he would back down, but Bernardo had never hidden from a fight in his life and accepted. So the two fought a duel which Bernardo won but refused to kill his opponent.  The two fought several more fights that Bernardo won but refused to kill the magical one each time. Eventually, after one particularly long battle, Bernardo defeated the magical one and again refused to kill him. Then, still feeling full of hatred and jealousy for Bernardo, the magical one slunk off to a quiet part of the forest to rest and make a plan to get his revenge.

After a while, the magical one went to Bernardo pretending friendship and invited him visit his home in a remote part of the forest. He took him deep into the trees to a hidden grove where two massive slabs of stone stood upright. The magical one told Bernardo that this was his home and inviting him in stood aside politely so his guest could enter first.  

As soon as Bernardo reached the center point between the two slabs, the magical one vanished, and the two slabs of stone simultaneously fell into the center, threatening to crush him. Bernardo managed to get a hand on each of the slabs and, by his sheer strength, stopped them from crashing down on him. Although he succeeded, he found he was trapped and unable to let go of the slabs without being crushed to death by one or the other.

THE KING-UNDER-THE-MOUNTAIN MOTIF

The legend of Bernardo Carpio contains the King-under-the-Mountain folklore motif where a heroic king lies asleep for many years, either in a cave under a mountain or a hill. Then, at a predetermined time, or when his people are in dire peril, he will awake to save them from their enemy. This motif appears worldwide, and other examples include King Arthur, Frederick Barbarossa, or Charlemagne and also known as the king asleep in mountain motif appearing in Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, and categorized as D 1960.2. The Tagalog people of the Philippines did not have kings until the Spanish imposed their own upon them, being ruled by feudal lords. In this context, it may be the heroic savior who sleeps under the mountain and will one day awake and return to save his people from an enemy or lead them to freedom. According to one legend, chains bind him to massive boulders he struggles to keep apart. Local people say that Bernardo is adjusting his shoulders or trying to break free every time there is an earthquake. Now and then, he manages to break a chain in his struggle. When the last one shatters, he will return and lead his people to freedom. 

SAVIOR OF HIS PEOPLE

Here we see the idea of him as a freedom fighter or savior of his people, possibly alluding to the occupation of the Philippines by foreigners such as the Spanish, United States of America, and the Japanese.  The legend later evolved that Bernardo would save his people from poverty and oppression rather than just a foreign occupier, thus providing a sense of hope and encouragement through troubled times.

© 03/11/2021 zteve t evans

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Copyright November 3rd, 2021 zteve t evans