The Tale of the mountain spirit and the fire bird
Various, fragmented versions of this story survive. It appears to be a creation myth, though specifics differ between tribes, particularly in the geographical details, as one might expect from people so closely linked, and reliant upon, the landscape surrounding them. In some versions of the story, the fire bird comes from an island far out to sea and flies to the dark mountains. Clearly such geographical details are dependent on the location of the tribe, and what lies to the east and west of the land over which they journey. The mountain spirit is male in some versions, and female in others, and sometimes not considered to be either, or perhaps both.
In the beginning times, the world was cold, dark and still. There was no light to wake the spirits, so they slumbered. Only the mountain spirit was awake, silent and watchful, for he was the oldest spirit. But the mountain spirit was lonely and wished for company. So he began to sing. And as he sang, the fired that burned deep inside his belly began to rise, and as it rose, its red glow could be seen, becoming brighter and brighter. And the slumbering spirits began to awaken to this new song and this new light. And still the mountain spirit sang the fire up, until at last it flew out of his mouth in the shape of a fiery bird, sweeping on great flaming wings towards the water-without-end. And all the spirits awoke and the world grew bright and beautiful and the spirits moved over its face and they began to join the song, singing all the peoples of the earth into being, the fur and feathered people, the human and scaled people, the green growing people, the small and large. And when the flames of the fire bird had faded and the world grew dark again, it crawled back into the mountain spirit’s mouth, to sleep and grow strong again. And the mountain spirit was so pleased with the beauty and brightness of this new world, that he has sung the fiery bird out of his mouth each day from that time to this.
All text and images © Christina Cairns 2011
‘The Talesingr’s Children’ is a story invented by Christina Cairns, and all accompanying ‘anthropological information’ was found hidden in an old wooden box with aged brass handles, in the attic in a corner of my mind that doesn’t get dusted very often. Or perhaps it’s all true...............................