How Crow gave us the stars

A tale told to me by the Grandmothers.




Once upon a time, when the world was young and people were new, all that the sky had was the sun. The sun would heat the world during the day, but when night came all the people had was a an inky blackness with nothing to see by. And under cover of the black, shadow creatures would creep out and take the children of the people and steal them off into the darkness. Each night, as the sun sank lower in the sky, the children would pray for something to break the darkness, so that they would not be taken by the shadows.

Crow, that silly bird, loved the people. She loved their shiny things and the way they would laugh and she loved to listen to the children as they played. She learned their words and learned to play with the people, mimicking their laughter and their speech. She spent more and more time watching the children as they ran and sang, and each night she heard their tears and listened to their prayers. And each prayer made her heart ache and made her dark eyes glitter with sorrow.

One day, as Crow sat listening to their prayers, she had a thought. “If I can carry their prayers to the Great Mother, maybe she can find a way to beat back the shadows and save the children.” Crow spent months flying from child to child, collecting their prayers as shining jewels in her heart and her eyes. And when she was so heavy with prayers she didn’t think she could fly anymore, Crow set off to find the Great Mother.

She searched for a year, looking under ever rock and in every cave. Crow searched and searched and called for the Great Mother until her voice was just a croak. And when she was almost exhausted, she looked up into the setting sun and realized that was the last place she had not yet looked. So Crow started flying, chasing the setting sun. She flew until she was enveloped in shadows. She flew until her feathers were ragged and her wings were weak. She flew until she could no longer see the earth and no longer see the sun.

And in her last moment of exhaustion and desperation. Crow flung the children’s prayers into the shadow, hoping that at least one would reach the Great Mother. And something amazing happened. The children’s prayers caught on the skin of the shadow and stayed there. They danced and glittered, they told stories against the dark. They illuminated the shadows. And they caught the Great Mother’s attention. She looked up and heard the prayers of the children and saw Crow falling from the darkness.

The Great Mother reached up and caught Crow in her hands. She healed Crow and blessed her for her love.

The Great Mother placed the moon up in the sky amongst the dancing, glittering stars, to illuminate the night sky and drive away the shadows. She placed it, as white and pure as Crow’s heart, as a conduit for the prayers of the humans to reach her, no matter what. She painted Crows feathers as black as the shadows, as a blessing for her devotion and placed Crow amongst the humans as an eternal guide and keeper of the shadow path, to help the humans find their way out of the darkness.

So next time you look up at the night sky and see the moon and the stars, say a quick thank you and a quick prayer for the light to help keep the shadows away.

The shuffle of my feet kicks up your holy scents,

loam and smoke and the deep breath of ancient forests.

I would kneel here and press my nose deep into the ground

if I didn’t think they would worry more for my sanity.

Here is the rich iron of blood,

metalic in my mouth.

Here is the soft cruch of bone beneath our feet

and even farther down the rancid smell of decay

that wrinkles our noses and softens our lips.

Here is my holy, my relics,

as much of the earth

as of the stars above our heads.


Wrap me in your soft decay

and allow me to live even as I die.

I have no words for my struggles. 

I look to other religions for a sense of familiarity and, while I love the words, I don’t find the connectiveness I long for. I tear up at the words of Rumi, but don’t feel the same sense of adoration and love as professed in the poems.  I follow the paths and only get so far. I am not trying to love the sense of Immenseness I sense. I am not trying to dissolve my humanity or to become a God in my own right.  But I know there is something more, missing pieces of our history that would help us paint a fuller picture.

“Dig deeper” He whispers in my head, and those words hold a promise, like a prayer on the wind.

We have roots deep in the culture of India, rich with lamas and yogis. We have a common thread of ancestry in our language and our ideas. It makes sense to me that we would have had our own path of mysticism, us of the European ancestry. The shaman morphs into the seeker, turns away from the priests of organized religion and runs into the woods to commune with the wolves.

Now we have witches and priests, laymen and Holy men.  We have those who read the books and those who speak and those who lead. But where are our hermits, our isolated weirdos contemplating the stars?

How do I balance the questions in my soul with the ideas of tribe and community in my Heathen faith? I don’t have any answers anymore, I only know that the community multiplies my sense of isolation. I can hang onto whatever vestiges of titles I want to, they slip through my fingers like sand on the beach.

Still, the shadows of the missing pieces haunt me, fill my dreams. I turn to my ancestors and they sing me into being, show me secrets lost in the mists. The lines of countries blur, we become tribes following the reindeer across the miles.

I wish my ramblings made more sense. I am trying to end the silence and put into words the ideas I have been struggling with. But I don’t think I come any closer to breaking throught the barriers.

Other paths have a path to follow, other’s have shadows they can track against the constant movement of time. I do not.

I run through the forest in pursuit of ideas. I bang my knees and scrape my toes and might leave a trail of blood behind me but I cannot afford to look behind me, I might lose my way. I question my decisions, second-guess and third-guess every step until I am too scared to move. I do not seek salvation, salvation at least has a white flag I might wave in supplication. I seek communion, that thinning of my skin where “I” does not matter so much. It hurts too much to be “I”, to inhabit this mind and this skin.

I call myself many titles and many names, as if I might find a way to white-wash my pulse behind the walls, but it is always myself I find in the dark corners. I can pray and do and do and pray and each evening I kneel down, heavy, beneath the same doubts that plagued me the night before. I crave silence but even that is elusive, masked by the noises of the insects outside my window.

Even behind the Divine I have glimpsed there is a Divine I cannot begin to know, like a scent carried on the winds. It brings with it the scent of deep earth and caves and shadows and ancient memories that play across my skin and make me want to cry.

Forgive me if i am skittish and cannot focus on the topic at hand.

I can hear the forest’s calling my name.