Creature Feature

Creature Feature – A Winter’s Tale

Posted by  //  September 26, 2023  //  Articles, Creature Feature

Traditionally, one way the Iroquois people celebrated the Winter Solstice was by playing the Bowl Game, which used a number of stones painted black on one side and white on the other.  The stones were put into a special, flat-bottomed wooden bowl.  Players took turns tossing the rocks by banging the bowl against the floor, and depending on how the stones landed — black or white sides up — their turn was either a win or a fail.  

As the nights were so long, cold, and dark, Winter was also a time of great story-telling for the Iroquois.  One such story tells how Grandmother Moon was very displeased with the way things were going on Earth and decided that all life would end.  When the Good Spirit, protector of the Iroquois people, heard this, he asked how the world might be spared.  Grandmother Moon replied, “We will play the Bowl Game, and the one who wins will decide whether or not life continues.”   

The Good Spirit next sought out the Chickadees.  He explained his idea to use them instead of stones in the bowl, since their heads were black on one side and white on the other.  The Chickadees quickly agreed to help, and when the Good Spirit shook the bowl, the little birds flew into the air like tossed stones.  They fluttered back down into the bowl, landing in such a way to secure a perfect score for him, thus saving the Earth from destruction.

And that is why, even today, we hear the bright voices of Chickadees singing in Winter as they celebrate the continuance of life.

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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