Sunday, November 25, 2007

Raven Steals the Sun

I don't remember what I was doing but somehow earlier today I stumbled upon this picture of a tattoo, which shows Raven, which in the folklore of many of the Native tribes on the northern west coast of America is a creator god figure. There is a story that many tribes tell in different ways, but which comes down to this: once upon a time there was no light in the world. The light was kept away by an old man (or Eagle or Seagull in some variations) who kept it locked up tight so that only he could possess it. Raven tricked his way into a place in the household via the old man's daughter (some variations say he courted her, some say he turned himself into a tiny pine needle in her tea so she swallowed him down and became pregnant) and stole away the light, scattering it across the world to form the moon, sun and stars. The old man was angry but in the end he could see how beautiful his daughter was so Raven got away with it.

I really like this story, for a lot of reasons. I think monotheistic religions are poorer for their lack of trickster role models. Ravens have always symbolized the battlefield in my mind, and I like that this story puts a harbinger of death in the position of one who brings light to the world. This is probably not the spin a Native storyteller would put on it, but it was the first thing that occurred to me when I heard this story. I like that the hero of this story is a frail bird who obtains his goals through subtle trickery instead of violent confrontation. I think it tells a true story, in the sense that it says things about the way the world works that are true.

Anyway, so this tattoo is something that I wouldn't mind getting. I won't, because I don't want to lay claim to a culture that, when it comes down to it, my ancestors purged from the land in a violent genocide; I don't really have any right to it. Its a beautiful tattoo though.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

thank you. for respecting another culture like that. too many people don't think the way you do.

Anonymous said...

i really like your tattoo. is there any way you could put up more pics of it at different angles?

MakuaKane said...

I understand what you're saying about respect. However there was one chief, and I wish I could remember his name, who said something to the effect of, "You who are killing my people today, there will come a time that the hearts of your very children will sing my songs and dream my dreams." So I say, if you hear in your heart the old songs and have a desire to walk the red path, then it's there for a reason. Walk in it and listen to the spirit of the earth speak to you. Just because you don't have native blood in you, doesn't mean you aren't supposed to sing and walk in the power and respect that are shown to you.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with MakuaKane; I am thinking of a Haida tattoo as we speak. I have no ancestry to the native poeples of the North West, however I think thier art is beautiful and their stories captivating. I think it would be in a sign of respect to place such art on your body forever.

ashley said...

well, as long as you're not russian, i think you can have a tlingit tattoo. as a tlingit myself, you have my ok lol.

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Anonymous said...

I had a Haida sun tattoo done back in the early 1990's by a friend of mine in the UK. (I have lived on the BC coast much of my life) All first nations people that have seen my tattoo love it and are glad to see their work (in my case Haida) being displayed and being recognized.

I came across your blog while looking for images of ravens as it's time to finish it off and have my sun in the mouth of a raven to complete the piece.