The Hero’s Journey is universal. Joseph Campbell set out this premise when he noticed how similar stories and myths were around the planet. How was this possible when these people did not have contact with each other? Campbell proposed the stories were embedded in our consciousness. I would add, perhaps in our DNA.
If that is true, then these stories affect us every day on a level so low we would have to stop and turn our attention to it deliberately, like our breath or our heartbeat, to exert any control over it.
In the last month or so, three separate times I’ve come across variants of the story of Sky Woman, a creation story from the Iroquois and Huron tradition. A summary:
Sky Woman is the Iroquois mother goddess, who descended to earth by falling through a hole in the sky. She was a celestial being who was cast out of the heavens either for violating a taboo or through her jealous husband’s treachery; waterbirds carried her down to the sea and set her on the back of a turtle, which became her home (Turtle Island.) Sky Woman is either the grandmother or the mother (depending on the version) of the twin culture heroes Sky-Holder and Flint, sometimes known as Good Spirit and Bad Spirit.
Myths about Sky Woman vary enormously from community to community. In some Iroquois myths Sky Woman is a minor character who dies in childbirth immediately upon reaching the earth, while in others, she is the central character of the entire creation saga. In some myths Sky Woman is the mother of the twins, but more commonly she is the mother of a daughter, Tekawerahkwa or Breath of the Wind, who in turn gives birth to the twins. In some Iroquois traditions the twins represent good and evil, while in others, neither twin is evil, but Flint represents destruction, death, night, and winter to Sky-Holder’s creation, life, day, and summer. In many versions of the myth Sky Woman favored Flint, usually because Flint has deceived her into thinking Sky-Holder killed Tekawerahkwa, but sometimes because Sky Woman herself disapproved of Sky-Holder’s human creations and their ways. In other versions Sky Woman supported both of her grandchildren equally, declaring that there must be both life and death in the world. Sky Woman is associated with the moon by many Iroquois people. In some traditions, Sky Woman turned into the moon; in others, Sky-Holder turned her body into the sun, moon, and stars after her death; and in still others, it was Sky Woman herself who created the sun, moon, and stars.
For a gorgeous, long version read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer or see an excerpt here.
What I wondered was why do they keep showing up for me? Maybe better questions are, Why am I noticing them? What are they telling me should I choose to listen?
The wonderful paradox of story and myth is that while they have universal themes and imagery, they also reflect unique a message for each person.
After a really long walk this morning before the sun was up completely, going to a twelve-step meeting, and then sitting in the backyard thinking about Sky Woman, I realized what she was telling me.
Creation didn’t just happen once. It happens every day, and every moment, and over and over through cycles.
I have been “falling” in the past few months. I have been feeling antsy and occasionally not sleeping well– waking from dreams with unusual images. I recognize my privilege and the choices I’ve made to be where I am right now, but that doesn’t reduce the angst I feel at the change I know is coming. I am falling, but right now allies I have not yet met are building solid ground on which I will land.