A.M.'s Myth and Folklore Blog

Myth and Folklore ML-3043-996

Category: Week 11

Week 11 Story: Red Threads

Grandmother always weaved from the top, bringing line over line and thread through thread, starting in the heavens and descending towards Earth.

She always kept the top high up too, never turning the weaving to ease her approach.

“If I turn the weaving upside down, why, then the sky will be at the ground and the ground in the sky, and we should all fall towards the Sun, dear child.”

First she wove the sky and the sun and the clouds of the highest reaches of the light. The she moved down, and the top of the rainbow was finally seen.

That year, the hunting was good and the winds warm; my sister was born and big brother went to hunt for the first time. The rainbow was bright and strong and curved downwards in beauty and control.

As the weaving grew downwards I grew up towards. One day, we met in the middle as the highest hills in the background first showed their tops, and still the rainbow curved down.

But then the rainbow began to droop, heavy under its own weight. Grandmother too began to stoop, her movements slower, her speech more careful.

The rainbow no longer curved to the side, but grew down, down towards the ground. Towards what, I did not know.

I hunted for the first time that year. I tripped in a crag of the rock and slammed my arm into a cactus, its thorns piercing my skin and drawing blood. Grandmother added the final inches of the weaving that year: the rainbow, unable to move for weariness, coming down to meet the cacti on the ground, as they hungrily drew red color from it.

Grandmother died that winter.

The camp is surrounded by cacti and their flowers glow like flames. Today, my son was born.

Author’s Note: I was inspired by the image above, from the course textbook entry for the story I adapted, which is a Tejas legend from the book When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends. (Via the course blog.)

In the original story, the tale is told of how the Cactus flower got its color by robbing the rainbow, who, after a hard rain, was too waterlogged to maneuver to avoid its touch.

There are details I wish I could have gotten right — I had a very hard time finding details about the Tejas way of life or their language, since I have very limited knowledge in these things and the answers weren’t trivially accessible. Still, I hope the essence of the story is worth the reading.

Week 11 Reading: Tejas Readings Part B

Source: When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends via the course blog.

  • For these reading notes, I chose to focus on the story of “When the Rainbow Was Torn”
  • This story tells of how the Cactus Flower, which has orange, red, and yellow parts — some of the many colors of the rainbow — came to have these.
  • The cactus flowers, which were once white, were wont to turn themselves towards the sky and look at the rainbow when it graced it.
  • The rainbow would always touch the ground in two places, but was afraid of the cactus’ thorns and never touched its flowers, despite their ardent wishes.
  • At one time, there was a great rainstorm, and as the rainbow came down it was so waterlogged that it was unable to control its descent.
  • So, the rainbow came into contact with the cactus flowers, which grasped at its colorful threads and tried to hold them captive.
  • The rainbow fled, trying to escape, and indeed the blue, violet, and indigo strands it could clear, but the red, yellow, and orange could not escape before the flowers grasped and tore off some part of them.
  • And so, as a result, the Cactus Flower has the three colors from the rainbow, and still looks ever more to the heavens in pursuit of the others.
A weaving of the rainbow coming down. (Image from the course blog.)

Week 11 Reading: Tejas Readings Part A

Source: When the Storm God Rides: Tejas and Other Indian Legends via the course blog.

  • For these reading notes I’ve chosen to focus on the story of “How the North Wind Lost His Hair.”
  • The north wind is personified, and we learn that he does not come into the south for fear of the young and strong south wind.
  • Nobody in the South liked the North Wind either, for he was cold and would make the tribes shiver. Once, he came and would not leave, preventing the warm south wind from returning from the Gulf.
  • Eventually, the South wind grew impatient and came to fight the North wind; they fought for a long time, tearing up trees and dissolving clouds.
  • Eventually, the south wind gained the upper hand, besting the old and tired north wind. He grasped the north wind by the hair and began to spin him around, and around, and around.
  • Eventually the hair came off of the old North wind’s head, and he fled back to the north.
  • The south wind was left holding the North wind’s hair, and he bagan to dance around, laying it over the trees, where the hair took root and began to grow.
  • Today, we know this plant as Spanish Moss, and now when the north wind sees the moss, he flees as quickly as he can back to the north, giving us the seasons.
Spanish Moss. (Image from Wikipedia.)