One story every day
©2009 Dreamtime Kullilla-Art all rights reserved
Long ago in the Dreamtime when the world was very young, all the birds and animals spoke the same language and lived forever. No one ever died, so none of the creatures knew anything about the concept of death.
One morning a young Cockatoo was playing high up in a tree, swinging on a branch, when he slipped and fell to the ground landing on his head. Cockatoo did not move. The other animals tried to wake him up but he just lay there. A wise old Wombat looked at the bird and told the others that he had broken his neck. The animals, believing the Spirits had done this, called a meeting of all the animals under a big old gum tree to discuss this problem.
While they were talking, the Spirits came and took the little Cockatoo up into the sky. The other animals saw their friend wafting away into the far and beyond. This puzzled the animals very much. Why did the Spirits take their friend? Wombat told the animals that the Spirits had taken Cockatoo up into the sky so they could change him into something new. The animals wanted to know more about it and agreed that someone should go up to see what the Spirits would do with their friend; but who? It was nearly Winter and none of them wanted to go except for the Caterpillars. They agreed to go up together, into the far and beyond and make camp there for the Winter and return in the warmth of Spring to tell them what happened to Cockatoo. In one huge wriggling cloud the Caterpillars went up into the sky and all the other animals waited for Spring.
At the end of Winter, Wombat called all the animals to search for the Caterpillars but to no avail. They searched daily but would return with nothing. Then, on the first warm day of Spring, they saw them! A beautiful parade of brightly coloured wings; the first Butterflies.
The animals realised then that these beautifully coloured creatures were proof that the Spirits had given the Caterpillars a new and beautiful shape and that this must have also happened to their Cockatoo friend. As the Butterflies settled in the trees, they were such a mesmerising sight that the oldest animals decided that this is the way it must always be.
As we retreat into our homes and cocoons, life gives us an opportunity to transform and find new beauty. Just as it did that first time, long ago, in the Dreamtime…
Long ago, when the world was young, a Lakota spiritual leader placed himself on top of a high mountain, lay a willow hoop around him and dressed himself with silence. While he was sitting there - at one with nature - a vision came to him. The great trickster and teacher of wisdom - Iktomi - appeared in the form of a spider and spoke to him in a sacred language. He listened with great care, for only spiritual leaders of the Lakota could understand these words.
As Iktomi spoke, he took the elder's willow hoop - which had feathers, horse hair, beads and offerings on it - and began to spin a web inside the hoop. Whilst doing so, Iktomi shared with the elder all about the cycles of life and how we begin our lives as infants. We then move on to childhood and in to adulthood, until finally we come to old age where we must be taken care of as though we were infants again; thus completing the cycle.
"But," Iktomi said, "in each time of life there are many forces - some good and some bad. If you listen to the good forces, they will steer you on the right path. But, if you listen to the bad forces, they will hurt you and drive you in the wrong direction." He continued, "There will be many forces! Some can help with the harmony of nature, others will interfere with it.".
All the while the spider spoke, he continued to weave his web ... starting from the outside and working towards the centre. When Iktomi had finished speaking, he gave the Lakota elder the hoop with the web inside and said, "See, the web is a perfect circle with a hole in the centre. "Use the web with great care and discipline. Only then it will help you and your people. It will catch your good thoughts and bad energy will slip away through the hole.".
The Lakota elder passed this vision on to his people. Parents and grandparents started to recreate these webs for their families and named them: Dreamcatchers. Lakota believe the dreamcatcher holds the destiny of our future, whilst evil forces escape through the centre's hole and will no longer be part of our lives…
There once was a young Samurai who was rather brave but at the same time very lazy and this was a problem. He would sleep for hours in the morning, wake up at midday, then remember that he was supposed to be a some war but by the time he would arrive at the battle field, the war was already over. He once tried to wake up early but, because he was so sleepy, he drove his horse to the wrong battle field, only to find out that no one was there. And by the time he did get to the right battle field… the war had already finished.
One day he said to himself: “I will not miss another war again! I will go to the battle field at night and wait there till morning and be in time for the war to start.”. He did go to the field that night and he did wait till morning along the side of the field. But just before the sun came up and the other Samurai arrived, he fell asleep. He slept right through the whole war, whilst all the fighting was going on around him. By the time he woke up, he could see the last fighters leaving the field and he had missed yet another war.
All this made him feel deeply worthless. Why was he such a bad Samurai? Highly frustrated, he sat down on a rock in the middle of a forest. Then, an old woman came to him and told him: “Your vocation in life is not to fight but to save. It is your divine destiny. Go to the North of the country, behind the seventh hill. There you will find a hidden Kingdom. Nobody lives there except for the King and his daughter. Recently, the King has died and the Princess is all alone in her big palace. You must save her from her loneliness.”.
The young Samurai jumped on his horse and galloped through the country, all the way to the North, over the seven hills and ended up in the hidden Kingdom. It was strange to be in a Kingdom where nobody lived. Suddenly he stood in front of a great palace. Golden balconies dressed the façade and marble stairs went up to the main gate. He entered and called out: “Hello? Anybody there? …Princess?”. But the palace was silent. He looked in every room, in every corridor but everywhere he looked, all he found was emptiness and silence.
“The story of my life,” he uttered, “I am probably too late for this as well. I’ll just stay the night and head back tomorrow.”.
That night, the young Samurai slept against the warm belly of his horse until something woke him up in the middle of the night. “What’s that? Hello…?”. It sounded like a soft whisper and a gentle giggle. He followed the vague sound through the corridors, up the stairs and into a grand ballroom, which he had not noticed before. Christal chandeliers were holding brightly burning candles, a royal table was laid with the finest porcelain and silverware and the most delicious food was served on silver plates. And there she stood, at the end of the table; The lonely Princess!
She was the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Her eyes were wise, her smile was kind and her dress magical. The lonely Princess offered him a golden chair, handed him a glass of wine and allowed him to nibble at the delicious food. Heavenly music came from somewhere far away and the lonely Princess started to dance, in circles, around him. She danced and danced and danced. And the young Samurai followed her with his eyes; round and round and round she went. The whole room started to go round as well and the young Samurai turned and turned and turned and felt ever so happy. And finally…. He fell asleep.
As he woke up, there was no more grand ballroom, no more golden chair, no more chandeliers or table or wine or nibbles or music. The magical palace had vanished and so had the lonely Princess. The young Samurai found himself on a rock in the middle of a forest.
In his pocket, he found a note, written on the finest silk paper he had ever seen. It wrote: “Thank you, my dear Samurai. By allowing magic in your life, you saved me from loneliness.”.
A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarrelling among themselves. Every day, something small would set one of them off and they ended up fighting over the issue all day. The more the father tried to calm his sons down, the stronger their fight became. So, they lived in a constant state of screaming and yelling and it drove the father crazy.
One day, when again the sons were in a vicious argument, the father chose a new approach. Since he had failed to heal their disputes by his exhortations,
he determined to give them a practical illustration of the evils of their dis-union. And for this purpose he told them to bring him a bundle of sticks.
The eldest son collected a bundle of sticks and brought it to his father. In return, the father placed the bundle into the hands of the youngest son and ordered him to break it in pieces. He did so with every son. Each son - eager to be stronger than his brother – tried to break the bundle with all their might, but none were able to. After the last son had failed, the father took the bundle, untied it, took the sticks apart and one by one broke them easily.
The boys fell silent.
Then the father said: "My dear sons, if you are all of one mind and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle; uninjured by all the attempts of danger. But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.".
Sticking together does make us strong. Even though we cannot do so physically - right now - we can travel through the World of Stories and meet each other there.
Little Gnome was confused. Why did he have to stay home? Didn’t everyone know how little gnomes love to roam! He could not go to Gnome school, he could not play with his friends in the forest and his friends could not visit him. Little Gnome was stuck in his knobbly tree root home.
At least he could look out his window through the rocks and the tree roots. He was surprised that there was so much to see. Little ants were scurrying by, brightly coloured beetles were climbing up and down the fallen leaves and floppy eared rabbits were hopping in and out their burrows. But even with all these things to watch, little gnome was growing impatient. Why did he have to keep on staying home? It didn’t make sense to him why he could not roam.
Then Mother Tree whispered to him: ‘Things are not as they used to be - but trust me - soon you will be free - trust me, trust me.’.
Little Gnome knew in his heart that he could always trust Mother Tree. Mother Tree carried the wisdom of the whole forest! Mother Tree knew all about everything. The birds and the wind were her friends and messengers. They visited her every day sharing the news of the big wide world. Little Gnome could hear when the birds came by. He could hear them singing high up in the branches of Mother Tree. Little Gnome could see when the wind was visiting. He could see the branches swaying this way and that. He sometimes had to close his window to keep out the leaves and dust stirred up by this busy friend!
Everyday Mother Tree continued to whisper to him: ‘Things are not as they used to be - but trust me - soon you will be free - trust me, trust me.’.
So Little Gnome had to trust, and Little Gnome had to wait. Soon he knew he would be free again to leave his home amongst the rocks and tree roots. Soon he knew he would be free to roam once again in the beautiful forest. And while he waited, he was surprised how many things he could find to do in his cosy little tree root home. It made him want to sing:
‘Little Gnome can dance, Little Gnome can sing, Little Gnome can paint and draw and do somersaults across the floor.
Little Gnome can dance, Little Gnome can sing, Little Gnome can clean and cook and curl up with a picture book.
Little Gnome dances, Little Gnome sings, Little Gnome can… do a million things!’.
At the bottom of the tree, in his knobbly tree root home, Little Gnome sang and danced whilst busy finding many things to do. Maybe we are all able to do them too…
©Susan Perrow, Australia, March 2020