Tales from the Enchanted Forest
The Blackfeet Natives of the Plains have a story from the stars that makes for a perfect tale as we embrace Spring and our Second Winter.
Welcome travellers to Tales from the Enchanted Forest! It’s finally springtime here in Europe, but Sparrow is dealing with a second winter back in Canada, so I thought today we would have a tale from Canada! Specifically, the Blackfeet Natives of the Plains.
This version of the story comes from Cyrus Macmillian’s Candian Wonder Tales and Clark Wissler’s Mythology of the Blackfoot. There is also Walter McClintock’s The Old North Trail which retells the story as the Legend of Poïa. To listen to another Native American tale, check out our episode on Sky Woman.
So snuggle in, and read this tale about the stars.
Falling Stars from Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli
The Morning Star
Once long ago, when the Blackfeet Natives dwelt on the Canadian prairies, a band camped near the mountains for the spring. The countryside was full of wildflowers, and new life was beginning to grow.
One hot night, two girls slept outside in the long grass. Restless, the elder sister, Feather Woman, woke up before dawn and saw the morning star rising. It was beautiful and bright against the cloudless Sky. The girl looked longingly at the Star, and strange fancies danced in her head. She imagined that he was her lover. After long last, she woke up her sister and declared that the morning star was more beautiful than any man.
Married at First Sight
So time went on, and the youth of spring turned to a blazing summer and finally a sweet autumn. One day, when the flowers were faded and the grass browned with age, Feather Woman was walking home when a young man blocked her path. She noticed the bright yellow plume in his hair and a shrub in his hand with a massive spiderweb. He was radiant.
Feather Woman was mesmerized but tried to sidestep him. He did not let her pass.
“I am the Morning Star,” he declared, “One night, I saw you sleeping amongst the blooming flowers, and I knew then that I loved you as you loved me. I have come to ask you to live with me in the Sky with my father, the Sun and my mother, the Moon.” He asked her to live with him in the land of the little people and the land of the Ever-Young. There would never be any troubles or cares in their lives.
Feather Woman was over the Moon, so to say, but she wanted to bid her parents goodbye. The Morning Star refused and said there was no time. So, he had her step on the spiderweb and instructed her to close her eyes. When she opened them, she was in the star country. It looked very much like Earth. All the Star women gathered around with the Moon Mother to welcome her.
Life of Sunshine
Feather Woman had a happy life in the Sky. She learned many lovely things with her new family, and she never had any worries. Besides the homes of the Star people, there was the home of Spider-Man, who weaved webs that sent the stars to Earth.
More time passed, and Feather Woman had a baby boy that she loved dearly. She called him the Star-Boy after his father.
Morning Star, Dene Suline artist Alex Janvier with assistance from his son, Dean. Sept. 1993. To read about the history of the piece, click here.
Turnips, Turnips, Turnips
One day, she found a tree-sized turnip that drew her to it, but the Moon mother warned her not to dig it up because unhappiness would follow.
Her curiosity over the turnip grew, and eventually, she decided to investigate to see what was underneath. However, try as she might, it was stuck. Two large cranes came to her aid and helped her loosen the roots.
Feather Women did not know about the brutal history between the Cranes and the Star people, so she welcomed their help. Working together, they pulled the turnip out and looking through the hole, Feather Woman realized she could see the Earth below and her people, the Blackfeet. As she watched, her heart grew heavy with loneliness.
Starboy by Paul Goble, 1987 (Collection of the South Dakota Art Museum)
Crying bitterly, she went back to her husband. At once, Morning Star and the Moon knew that she had pulled up the sacred turnip. When the Sun came home after his long journey, he was furious at his daughter-in-law, “If she has disobeyed our rules then she must go back to her people.”
The Moon and Morning Star tried to protest, but the Sun recognized that she would be unhappy in the Sky from then on.
So Morning Star led his wife and son to the Spider-Man, where he weaved a web to return them to Earth. Morning Star wrapped her in a bright robe and told her they would drop her where her people would see her fall from the Sky.
From Earth, the Blackfeet saw a bright light descending down to Earth. Curious and amazed, they ran to where the shooting star had fallen and saw the Feather Woman with her scarred baby. Her parents recognized her, and she was easily welcomed back. However, even with her people, she felt unhappy.
She would take Star-Boy to the top of a hill to show him his father. Often, she would beg Morning Star to take them back, but he refused because she would not be happy in their lands. After some time, she died and left her son alone. He was the descendant of Blackfeet and Stars but had few worldly goods and friends.
When Scarface was older, he fell in love with a beautiful girl who said she would only marry him if he removed his scar. He went to the medicine woman who told him that he had to go to his grandfather, the Sun. He had always been curious about his family, so he journeyed through the mountains to the Great Water in the West- the Pacific Ocean.
Above the Trees by Emily Carr (1939)
For three days, he prayed and fasted to the Sun God, and on the fourth day, a bright trail appeared through the West. He ran along the path until he came to the house of the Sun and Moon, where he waited.
When the Sun came out, he was furious to see a man from Earth in his home. He called for his wife and son. When Morning Star appeared, he looked more like Scarboy’s brother than his father, but he recognized the youth immediately.
Among the Stars
They cleansed him with dried sweetgrass and welcomed him lovingly. Star-Boy told them of the journey and his love on Earth. They promised to help him. He had many adventures in the land of Stars, and eventually, his grandfather took the scar from his face. Star-Boy was also made the messenger to the Blackfeet people on the Canadian Plains and promised a festival in his honour every year which would heal their sick. So, Star Boy learned the secrets of the Sun Dance festival. There were more magical gifts before they parted.
The Sun Dance
Star Boy returned home to the Blackfeet of the plains, running along the Milky Way. He taught his people the Sun Dance, married the girl he loved, and after a while, the Sun let them live in the Sky. Star Boy was just as radiant and lovely as his father, and the people would look up to see Morning Star and Little Morning Star.
And since that time, once a year, the Blackfeet of the plains hold the Sun Dance so that their sick may all be healed, as it was promised to Star-Boy by the Sun God in the old days.
Image below: Cheyenne sun dance taken by Henry Chaufty (circa 1909). Library of Congress digital ID pan.6a08724.