Tag Archives: Nez Perce

Considering White-Skunk III…

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That White-Skunk possess power is not in doubt.

Bald-Eagle himself is wary of it.

The point at issue is the uses to which that power is put.

White-Skunk uses his power as a weapon to serve his own ends alone.

He heals Meadow-Lark of a wound, that he himself has inflicted, only in return for information on the whereabouts of his musk-sac.

Could any act be more worthy of the phrase ‘to take advantage’?

*

The camp of the Clever-Fellows appears to be a Star-Realm.

Here White-Skunk’s musk-sac sparkles like a star and is given as a child’s play-thing.

This is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed but it enrages White-Skunk who regards it as a slight.

When White-Skunk approaches the outskirts of the Star-Fields he is granted an object lesson in the proper use of power.

His musk-sac is shared freely, in turns, by all…

*

*

Heedless of yet another life lesson White-Skunk returns from this spirit-quest and uses his brush with real power for self aggrandisement and as a means of terrorising his peers.

He then proceeds to mete out gifts and punishments as he sees fit on the basis of past favours or perceived misdemeanours.

*

White-Skunk’s third and final encounter with spirit proves fateful.

He sees Rice-Bird only for the spiritual treasures he holds.

But the treasures of a ‘dead’ spirituality are redundant.

Even had they been procured for the use of others which they palpably had not.

The Wolf brothers finally put White-Skunk out of his misery as he talks to, and plays with, himself amid his redundant treasures.

It could, and perhaps should, have been so different.

*

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Considering White-Skunk II…

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Winged creatures are almost universally regarded as symbols of spirituality.

Is there any evidence to regard them as such in this tale?

Bald-Eagle has fire.

Meadow-Lark has far sight.

Rice-Bird can play dead.

Not a bad ‘trawl’.

*

*

On his way back to the lodge to re-instate ‘natural law’, Bald-Eagle creates a valley with his wings.

This valley alerts Skunk to Bald-Eagle’s cognisance of his ruse.

It is tempting to regard the rest of the action of the story as taking place within this ‘wing-formed’ valley.

*

*

The sight which greets Skunk on his return to the lodge is not a happy one.

Does Skunk show any remorse for the actions which have led to this unhappy state?

He does not.

He thinks only of revenge.

He thus reinforces and perpetuates the consequences of his original error.

*

*

The ‘reflection trick’ played by Bald-Eagle and the Plover sisters on Skunk may further emphasise their spiritual nature and Skunk’s now inevitable distance from that ideal.

His subsequent attempt to ‘storm the ramparts of heaven’ lead only to a further loss of status and also the loss of his, potentially, one and only saving grace.

Skunk’s musk-sac, caught in the current of the river, drifts off downstream without him.

*

Considering White-Skunk…

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The Opening dynamic resembles the ‘Edenic’ in so far as a prohibition is transgressed…

‘Do not eat from that tree, for you shall surely die.’

‘Do not cross the lodge, for you shall leave a stench.’

*

…And there is also a spacial parallel in that Skunk moves from a state of relative equilibrium to a state of outright hierarchy, although it could, perhaps, be argued that a state of equilibrium in which prohibitions are issued is no state of equilibrium at all.

*

At any rate, Skunk moves from a  safe and protected ‘inner’ state to a dangerous and unprotected ‘outer’ state of being, as a result of his actions, as do Adam and Eve as a result of theirs.

*

There are, though, some important, differences.

Were we to read Skunk’s tale literally, no one could blame the Plover and Frog sisters for Skunk’s ‘fall’ and no one could regard the sensual life as intrinsically ‘sinful’.

But then, why should we read the tale literally, it is a story after all?

Since when did ‘once upon a time’ suddenly become ‘this is how it is’?

The substitution of a dogmatic belief search, for the willing suspension of disbelief, in relation to stories, is an error which can never lead to  enlightenment.

Skunk’s error, on the other hand, is one of ‘natural order’.

The feminine prerogative of choosing a husband is perverted by his desire.

In satisfying this desire he also, inadvertently, transgresses the original prohibition.

He has to physically move the Plover Sisters from Bald-Eagle’s bed to his own.

From this, all Skunk’s ‘woes’ follow…

*

White-Skunk seeks medicine IX…

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… After leaving Skunk, Young-Wolf had overtaken his brothers and told them that, “Skunk was carrying a poor Rice-Bird in his back-pack.”

They all came back down the valley looking for Skunk.

They heard his stick-game song and crept up on him stealthily.

They saw Skunk squirming about between his sticks playing the game by himself.

They saw Rice-Bird’s, beads and shells piled up between the rows of rotten wood and feared the worse.

Young-Wolf crept up behind Skunk,  deftly placed his foot on Skunk’s tail and at the same time seized him by the nape of the neck.

Skunk did not stir.

“Fetch me a wooden club and let me club him to death,” said Young-Wolf to his brothers.

But that roused Skunk.

“Eh! What, am I an old woman that you should club me to death like that,” said Skunk, “put me down and let us meet face to face!”

“Your brave talk is only on account of your musk-sac,” said Young-Wolf, he called to his brothers, “hurry up with that club!”

His brothers handed Young-Wolf a wooden club and he clubbed poor Skunk to death.

Then the Wolf brothers took the beads and shells of Rice-Bird and went on their way.

This far and no further for White-Skunk.

*

White-Skunk seeks medicine VIII…

*

… Once Rice-Bird’s whistle could no longer be heard, Skunk soon forgot his fear.

He came to a shady place.

“Ah, this would be a good place to play the stick-game,” thought Skunk.

He gathered some chunks of rotten wood to put up in a large circle.

Then he took five more chunks of wood to represent his lost wives and seated himself among them, “move over a little,” he said to the ‘youngest of his lost wives’, “you are hampering my play, move over!”

Then Skunk arranged the rotten chunks of wood in two rows, with each chunk facing an opponent of the other side. He piled all the shell and bead ornaments that he had stolen from Rice-Bird in the middle between the opposing sides.

When everything had been properly arranged, Skunk again began to sing, “White-Skunk is playing the stick game, White-Skunk is playing…”

Every so often he would turn to scold one of his ‘lost wives’.

“Move over you, you will cause me to lose, and nobody can beat me for I am on my way from the Camp of the Clever Fellows.”

So went Skunk wriggling about on his haunches, talking and singing to the rotten chunks of wood.

He gave himself up to the wild enchantment and thrill of his game.

Skunk had become so enraptured by his own game that he failed to realise that the Wolf brothers had re-entered the valley and were looking for him.

to be continued

White-Skunk seeks medicine VII…

*

… Rice-Bird now knew the thing that Skunk feared and he began to throw his voice in a whistle from Skunk’s back-pack.

“Ugh!” cried Skunk when he heard the whistle and he turned and fled in the opposite direction.

But Rice-Bird threw his voice into a whistle again and again stopped Skunk in his tracks.

“Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!” cried Skunk.

But whichever way Skunk fled, Rice-Bird threw his voice into a whistle which sounded like it was coming from up ahead and it was not long before Skunk was exhausted from running in circles without getting anywhere.

Skunk collapsed onto the ground, prostrate. “I am tired,” he said to himself, “it is too much for me to be carrying such a weight on my back, I will hang up my brother, here, while I go on and then return for him later.”

So Skunk stripped off all Rice-Bird’s adornments, for Rice-Bird was again playing dead, and hung him up on a thorn bush.

As Skunk turned to leave, Rice-Bird emitted a low whistle, and Skunk swiftly scampered away from the thorn bush in fear.

With one long, strong, final blast of a whistle, Rice-Bird sent Skunk far and away up the valley at a pace before he finally disappeared in a cloud of dust.

“That’ll teach him,” laughed Rice-Bird, unhooking himself from the thorn bush.

He had lost the beads from around his neck but at least he was still alive…

to be continued

White-Skunk seeks medicine VI…

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… “There is nothing I fear!” sang Skunk going his way, “there is just nothing I fear! Should a boulder roll at me as I pass I would squirt it with musk and blast it into a thousand pieces, there is nothing I fear! Should a pine tree fall over me I would squirt it with musk and split it into a thousand splinters, there is nothing I fear!”

Just then Skunk stopped in his tracks for a thought had come to him.

A long buried memory of the one thing that he did fear.

“Just one thing I fear,” went the song before Skunk could stop it, and that made Skunk even more nervous. He started running to and fro from one side of the valley to the other, “Only one thing I fear,” went the song as Skunk wheedled his way up the valley.

 Rice-Bird, who had been feigning death in Skunk’s back pack the whole time could hear all his prattling.

“Oh, I do wish Skunk would name his fear,” thought Rice-Bird.

“There is one thing I fear so I will have to name it,” went on Skunk.

“Oh good,” thought Rice-Bird.

“The thing I fear is whistling, the thing I fear is whistling!”

With his fear out in the open of the wide valley, Skunk became even more frightened and he bolted at top speed up the valley…

to be continued

White-Skunk seeks medicine V…

*

… As Wolf approached, Skunk called out, “Oh brother, you are on your way but do not come up to me, pass around at a safe distance, I have come from the camp of the Clever Fellows and their power is contagious.”

“Yes brother,” replied Wolf “it is as you say, the power of those Clever Fellows is contagious.”

So Wolf passed by without coming too close to Skunk and did not realise that he was hiding a ‘dead’ Rice-Bird in his pack.

Skunk went on and just up the way he met another Wolf Brother who reacted in the same way to his warning.

“So be it, if you are on your way from the camp of the Clever Fellows!” said Wolf as he too passed by at a distance.

The same thing happened with two more Wolf brothers but then Skunk saw the youngest of their kin approaching towards him apace.

“That youngest Wolf will be dangerous to meet,” thought Skunk, “he is so spirited and bold.”

Skunk fell onto his back as before and again called out as a warning, “I am on my way from the Camp of the Clever Fellows, you will do well to pass by!”

“Yes, yes,” replied Young-Wolf, “but it is a while since we last met, you must needs give me your hand.”

Young-Wolf went straight up to Skunk with his hand held out.

“No, brother, no,” cried Skunk, “I am contagious!”

“Yes, yes,” said Young-Wolf, “but you must still shake my hand,” and so saying he approached Skunk and seized his hand, catching a glimpse of  Rice-Bird in Skunk’s back pack.

“So be it with you on your way from the camp of the Clever Fellows,” said Young-Wolf affecting ignorance of his discovery, and off he went.

So Skunk continued on his way believing he had fooled Young-Wolf as well as the rest of the Wolf brothers…

He began to forget his earlier fears and eventually raised his voice in song…

to be continued

White-Skunk seeks medicine IV…

*

… Skunk came to a longhouse, and recognised the people there as those who pushed his musk-sac back into the river in repulsion, he said to those people, “I am on my way from the camp of the Clever Fellows, but I will stop awhile and sing you some of their songs.”

The people gathered around in readiness and expectation of the power songs and Skunk sprayed them with his musk. He made them pungent and foul to the taste for these were the plant people like celery, and ginseng and garlic.

Skunk went on up the valley and saw another longhouse.

He recognised these people as those who had tried to to recover his musk-sac for him.

“I am just on my way from the camp of the Clever Fellows,” he said to them.

The people gathered around.

He danced and sang for them and they watched enraptured.

Skunk continued on his way up the valley.

Rice-Bird spied him and played dead for fear of attack.

“Oh, Brother,” said Skunk seeing the dead Rice-Bird, “those Clever Fellows have killed you in their envy for your ostentatious pomp,” he was eyeing the beads around Rice-Bird’s neck, “such a proud one should always be wary of such victimisation.”

Just then Wolf came dashing down the valley.

Skunk quickly hid Rice-Bird in his back pack and laid on the ground so Wolf wouldn’t see…

to be continued

White-Skunk seeks medicine III…

*

‘Please stop when you remember

We work together

Anyway

All right.’

– Shaman Blues

*

…That night as Skunk was going along he came to the camp of the Clever Fellows.

He saw them all far off because there was such a lot of them.

And he could see something else as well, shooting between them one to the other, sparkling like lightning as it went.

Skunk’s beady black eyes lit up at the sight of his musk-sac and as he approached closer to the camp he was thinking all the while on how he might retrieve his power.

“I’ll make an exchange with them,” thought Skunk.

Just then the musk-sac was cast out of the circle in his direction.

Scooting along the ground it came and Skunk swiftly turned around and the musk-sac ran up and into his body.

At the same time Skunk hurled the shrub-sac back into the circle of Clever Fellows who continued to fire it one to the other until its sparkle died out.

Before that happened Skunk had scampered away thinking, “If they catch me they will kill me.”

When the shrub-sac had puttered out the Clever Fellow’s wanted to know what had happened.

“I saw Skunk skulking around awhile back,” said one of them. “He must have switched his musk-sac for this dud.”

But by then Skunk was far away, hiking swiftly along the valley.

“Now I shall visit my vengeance on all those who found my musk-sac so repulsive,” he thought to himself…

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