The Moon Maiden
Moon Maiden by Andrew Gillespie, inspired by Virginia Siva Gillespie
Now Man el the moon maiden was el ka men el, a very fine young growing young woman, el ka he wit a very beautiful, intelligent young woman, such as all Indian girls have hoped to be, and she was teaching no cot em (the people, but especially the girls).
She took the young people to a place of water, and taught them to dance and run and jump and wrestle and play games; different for the boys, and different for the girls. She taught them songs and foot-racing; taught the girls and women to rise and bathe in the pool before the men got up. Then, just as the sun came up, she taught them to shake out their hair backward and forward, to thoroughly untangle it, and then as the sun shone on it, it would never turn grey, nor get blossoms (split ends) at the ends. She taught them how to laugh and play and be merry.
Now this is a song that she taught them, all about the funny faces of the animals: the coyote, who was the youngest of them all, was the most teased of them all, so they sang the song about his long nose and his long tail, and the color of his eyes and his hide; and about the wild-cat the same way: all about his short nose and his short tail, and his bright eyes.
The coyote represents a tribe of people of his name, and the wild-cat represents a tribe of people of his name; and she taught them that coyote must never marry with coyote, or wild-cat must never marry with wild-cat.
Wolf and bear and birds and the Siou were all brothers to the wild-cat and coyote. Wolf, coyote, bear and wild turkey were all on one side, with wild-cat, lion, fox and crow on the other, and one side must not marry with each another, but the other side.
This was what the moon was teaching them, because if they should marry with their own side, the children would not be good, the people of their own side would be against them, then songs (laws) would be against them, too.
When the moon was teaching the no cot em (people) by the water, they saw a female spirit, and in the night time the spirit saw the moon, too, but she did not know about it, and the people did not know what was going to happen either.
Now when the moon came home, bringing the young people, all laughing and dancing, they stepped all over a huge rattle-snake that liked to curl himself up in the doorway in the sun. They danced on his head and on his nose, and the snake felt very badly, badly treated.
At this time Mo-Cot was lying in his house, and he saw them running over the snake, and as the snake was harmless and could not defend itself, Mo-Cot was sorry for it. So, as they went away next morning, he got up and put two cactus thorns in the snake’s mouth; if they stepped on him again, some one would be stung. When they came back in the evening the snake was watching to sting any one who stepped on him. They came as usual, walking all over him, and he bit one, but there was no harm done at all.
The next day Mo-Cot got mesquite thorns and put them in the snake’s mouth and said, “Try it with this.” The snake was ready for them when they came home in the evening. He bit the first one that walked on him, but it was just the same as before- no harm done at all.
Mo-Cot said the next morning that he was going to try again, “and if it comes out right, you can run under the rocks or into a hole (how y at) or brush.” Mo-Cot took two hairs from his beard and put them into the mouth of the snake. Now, when the young people came, happy and dancing, they did it again, just the same as before.
The first one that danced on the snake, he bit. Then he started to run under the rocks. They chased him to kill him, but he ran too fast, and the one that was bitten died.
To va vish niks chum al mi ik was the name of the one that died (meaning, a bright shining light). He was always the first to come running and laughing and dancing on the snake. No cot em (the people) they knew what Mo-Cot had done. Often at night they saw a spirit, and heard acorns and cane rattling, but they did not know what it meant.
One night Mo-Cot caused a deep sleep to come upon no cot em. Then he made trouble to the moon maiden, because she had no one to protect her. Next morning she told some of the people what had happened to her, and they decided that they were not satisfied to have this Mo-Cot stay any longer among their brothers and sisters.
When the moon maiden went back to the pool, the place of dancing, she was not happy like herself. She was pale and sick, and thinking that she did not want to stay at that place any more.
Her brothers and sisters were asking what was the matter. She did not tell them anything, but she made a song, and then everybody understood what had happened to her.
After that she became quite happy again, and all the people were glad, but they did not know what was going to happen. That night she caused them to sleep deep. They did not see or hear anything, and that night she went up into the sky.
Next morning, all her brothers and sisters could not find her anywhere. There was no track of which way she went. They looked everywhere, but they could not find her. They went to coyote, the youngest brother, and said, “You have done good things for all of us, and now you had better go all around the world and look for our sister.”
So he did. He went all over the world, but he could not find a trace of where she went.
Then one evening they saw her in the pool, looking up and laughing at them. She was in the sky, in the West, but they were seeing her in the water. They were so happy to see her again, they all yelled, “Here is our sister in the water,” and they all came and begged her to come out. But she would not come out.
They called coyote. “Our brother, you better come and drink this water, and let our sister come out.”
Coyote began to drink the water. He could not drink it all, it was too much, but he made it much lower. And yet the moon laughed and did not come up from the pool. Then they looked up and saw her in the sky. This was the first time of the new moon.
When the moon was among the people she had taught them to bathe, and ever after when they saw the first quarter of the new moon, they plunged into the water of the pool.
They were sad and lonely when they came home, for they missed their sister and teacher who was away up in the sky. They went to bed early, to forget. In the morning they went back to the pool of water where she had been teaching them, but they were feeling no better, for they missed their sister.