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Call of the Raven

In the beginning, Raven was first and foremost the Creator and Trickster God of the Native Americans, especially the nations of the Pacific Northwest who often claim he discovered the first humans.  Legends and stories abound about raven.   The ownership of Native American stories can itself be a cultural minefield.  As Europeans, stories are treated purely as entertainment.  To the Native American it is part of their cultural property - not to be trifled with.  Please visit A Line In The Sand for more information on these less tangible cultural issues.

For the traditional story of "Raven Steals the Sun/Light", it is difficult to say where the origins of this myth are, but there are many variations and versions of this story up and down the west coast of North America, and it is central to the Northwest Indian's spiritual beliefs.  Just as western religion suggests that the world was void of light in the beginning, so too does this.

animated raven carryingthe sun In many versions Raven steals the Sun from the Old Man who had hidden it away to keep for himself, thus returning the Sun to the Sky and to the People who have been in the dark for a long time.  In the process of holding the sun in his beak, Raven, who was white up to this point, had turned black from the soot.  This accounts for his current state.  There are variations that say Raven is sooty because he escaped through the smoke hole of the Old Man's House and got sooty on his way out.  There is a version where Raven becomes the small needle of a pine tree and gets into the Old Man's daughter's nightly tea.  She therefore becomes pregnant with Raven.  Raven is then born into that world as the child of Old Man's Daughter who it seems is very pretty, which made the whole process bearable for Raven.  Once inside the family, Raven is given the privileges of family and access to the family stories and goods.  One day he asks the Old Man to show him where the light is hidden.  Of course, the Old Man obliges Raven because Raven is his beloved grandson.  Now that Raven knew where the Sun (also called The Light) was located, he crept into the Old Man's house one night when everyone was sleeping and stole the Sun.  In some versions Eagle attacks Raven as he is making his escape, causing him to drop Sun, which breaks, creating the moon and stars.  Another interesting version involves all the animals who try to steal the light with raven being the one who finally succeeds.

The story told below I chose because it not only is a bit different from the more common versions, but it also goes well with the the title of this site "Children of the Sun" and the Raven feather that is throughout the site.  I hope you enjoy the story also.  My thanks once again for the many story tellers and the sacred way in which they hold and honor the Creator.  Here is the Steilacoom telling of the story...


The Legend of Raven

This is an ancient story told on Puget Sound and includes how Raven helped to bring the Sun, Moon, Stars, Fresh Water, and Fire to the world.

Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the sun and moon and stars, of fresh water, and of fire.  Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden.  People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.

Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her.  At that time Raven was a handsome young man.  He changed himself into a snow-white bird, and as a snow-white bird he pleased Gray Eagles daughter.  She invited him to her fathers longhouse.

When Raven saw the sun and the moon and the stars and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagles lodge, he knew what he should do.  He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking.  He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole.

As soon as Raven got outside he hung the sun up in the sky.  It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean.  When the sun set, he fastened the moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places.  By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.

He flew back over the land.  When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen.  It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world.

Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill.  The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black.  When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand.  It struck rocks and went into the rocks.  That is why, if you strike two stone together, fire will drop out.

animated raven divider

Ravens feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand.  That is why Raven is now a black bird.

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