Archive for July, 2011

Skywoman

Posted in Journal at 20:17

I’m making the most of our four-day weekend, thanks to yesterday, the 14th, being France’s national holiday, and working as much as I can on my thesis. Overall, it’s on comparative creation myths (comparative meanings, not value – I’ve never been one to hierarchise much of anything, however I’ve always been interested in meaning). My favorite part is on Skywoman/Aataentsic (“All-Knowing Wise Woman / Ancestress / Mature Flowers”), a legend that has many versions among Iroquois-family tribes, as well as a version often known as “Strawberry Legend” among the Cherokee. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League/Confederacy) version is overviewed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization; a Seneca (Iroquois) Creation Story is available thanks to Archives Canada, and the Cherokee Nation has its version at The Beginning/Legend of the Strawberries. An excerpt from the latter:

The Creator found that his daughter laughed and sang too much; and she talked constantly. She asked too many questions. Why do the leaves of the Tree of Life shine? Who created the Upper World? Who named the plants? Creator still loved her, for this was his daughter, but this constant laughter and questions, what could he do? The Creator had told them many times to stay away from the Tree of Life and not to play around its trunk. But like all curious children she had to see why her father said these things. First Man would insist that she not go to the tree but every day First Woman would climb the tree to its highest limbs. One day she found a hole in the bottom of the trunk and started to go in. First Man was again insistent that she stay away from the tree but to no avail. She went in and fell out of the bottom of Ga-lun-la-ti.

Creator returned home to find First Woman was missing. He asked First Man “where is my daughter?” to which the young man replied “I told her not to go into the hole in the bottom of the tree, but she would not listen.” Creator did not know what to do as he peered over the side of Ga-lun-la-ti and saw his daughter falling toward the awesome ball of water.

There’s an excellent documentary on the Huron-Wendat (Wyandot, Iroquoian but not members of the Confederacy/League) available online thanks to the Canadian National Film Bureau, Kanata: Legacy of the Children of Aataentsic. If you understand French, the original is at Kanata : l’héritage des enfants d’Aataentsic. It includes an oral retelling of the Aataentsic/Skywoman myth, as well as further symbolism and its relation to their way of thinking, which I found heartening as well as interesting.

In a quirky turn of events, I actually did not know of the French-language Huron-Wendat versions before beginning my thesis… which is in French. I had been prepared to translate one of the English versions, and then discovered Aataentsic, “Celle de toute sagesse”.

Reading and writing

Posted in Biographical, Cats at 20:26

09/07/2011

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy, working both at the office, and at home and at the university library on my Masters thesis. Above is a photo of the pile of books currently at the foot of my sofa – several others I’m also using are sprinkled judiciously throughout my apartment. This pile actually has 15 books in it, and there are another three around the corner, not quite in the picture. The fall semester of my Masters degree had three courses, two of which I’ve received grades for, and I’m happy to say it went very well, with grades (“notes” in French) of 16/20 and 17/20. In the humanities, it’s practically unheard of to get 20/20; a grade of 19/20 is extremely rare, 18/20 is quite rare, and 17/20 is, well, very good! When I was in the fourth year of my bachelor’s degree as an exchange student in Lyon, I had an average of 14/20, which was already very respectable for a non-French student, and good for a French student too. I honestly didn’t expect I’d do better than that in this Masters program, so it’s a very pleasant surprise, and has definitely motivated me to work even more carefully on my thesis.

Kanoko checks in on me from time to time, poking his head in the open French doors to remind me that there’s a life outside, and by the way, if I could refill his treat bowl with tuna, that would be mighty fine. Recently I decided to stop giving him pre-made wet cat food as treats, and instead buy canned fish, which is healthier. (He already eats good “carnivore” dry food, mainly Orijen and Acana.) As a result, I bought one can of every type of plain, non-seasoned fish at the supermarket and did a week-long taste test, one at a time. He disliked mackerel, found sardines only mildly acceptable, liked salmon, and, naturally, adored tuna. So now he gets tuna and salmon during the week, for his evening treat. (For info, cats shouldn’t be fed a tuna-only diet since it lacks taurine, which is essential to feline health. Kanoko’s dry food gives him everything he needs, and the fish is a perk.) It’s fun to watch him eat it because he’s very methodical: first he licks the fish dry, without eating any of the meat, then he saunters outside to enjoy some fresh air and watch birds. An hour or so later, he comes back inside to eat half the fish. Another hour later, he comes in to finish it off, and has a sip of water. Just a few days ago, he then began crouching over his empty treat bowl to meow at me weakly and sorrowfully, as if to say that without a refill of fish, he might faint. I call him a silly cat, he looks at me, nonplussed, and returns outside, his weakness suddenly gone.