An Apalachicola Story, Common Version

Beings Of Air and Water

[The full ceremonial text will be found elsewhere with notes]

IN THE FIRST TIME, which became the beginning, Earth and all that exists, "was." Creator thought it, so that caused it to be. However, all that had come into "Beingness" had no place. All were in a no-where which isn't very pleasant. Aelah! It's worst than being lost.

All were perfect--Creator made it so. However, amongst all was much confusion caused by being no-where. None were very good at being still. There was no order. It isn't very Muskogee to be without order. At this beginning time there was no Square Ground and so none could see their proper place and relationship to each other.  None had been given First Instructions, Original Teachings. Therefore, none knew their duties and responsibilities.

This was ONE ABOVE's first time at creating. There was no experience in these matters. At first, Creator was amused by all the confusion until Turtle cried out desperately. (Some say Turtle was the first Being to find her voice). Poor Turtle--all alone in a nothingness. Creator heard her. Suddenly, water was everywhere! And, Water made a place for all things to be. It was good all now had a place. Aelah, it was bad that it was Water. Almost everything was drowning! It takes a heap of experience to be a good Creator. One thing for sure, ONE ABOVE was getting experience!

"All in the Water were desperate. Turtle saw them and taught some to swim. The story doesn't say why Turtle knew how to swim; assume it came naturally. Some couldn't swim; Turtle rested these on her back, on her smooth shell. "All is well," you think. Not so. Tiredness came quickly and there was much anguish. Fear came to be; it was a most important feeling. Turtle did not fear Water; she sensed it was her home. However, the cries of others worried Turtle and Compassion was born. Compassion cannot dwell alone or in nothingness. It dwells only in the breasts of Beings with form and substance. With compassion her companion, Turtle remembered her own cries--Memory came to be. Memory is the tool of learning.

(All things made by Creator can think or reason, each in its own way and according to its own ability. But notice, by the Creek perception not everything has the same kind of reason or the same kind of thoughts. Each reasons according to its own.)

Turtle, hearing the desperate cries of others, knew something had to be done quickly. She dived beneath the Waters, swam about and found some mud. Turtle piled up the mud, and dived again and again. Soon, there was much land being formed all around.

Birds were the closest to the new land and scrambled up, soaked to the bone. They stretched out their wings to dry. Birds didn't know they could fly until they flapped their wings to shake off water and rose upwards to know flight. The fat Duck did not rise too high. She liked Water and returned to float upon it. She did not sink. Her big feet pushed her about. Duck understood Water and her place. She had no fear of Water and happiness was born.

Happiness comes from understanding. It is born a twin to sharing and not lonely by nature. So, Duck went to help Turtle. With her big feet, Duck pushed the mud together and packed it down smooth where it met Water. All other Beings could now climb ashore. And, they did so.

Birds, now airborne, desired to help. With their wings, they dried the land. Some beat their wings very hard and rose to great heights to see ONE ABOVE. Pleased with their work, Creator gave them songs, calls and wild cries so all would know of Creator's pleasure. Of course, the lazy Blue Jay did not help too much--if at all; Blue Jay did not receive a song.

(Say a quiet prayer or "Thank You" when you hear a Bird burst into morning's first song. To say "A Bird is Singing" in Creek is an act of praise, a recognition of ONE ABOVE.)

Creator breathed on the breast feathers of some Birds, those who flew highest. Those feathers at once became soft and delicate. These gentle feathers are called "prayer feathers" or "little prayers." Birds felt at peace and at one with the ONE ABOVE. They came to know fellowship and were thankful. Feathers helped Birds to reach Creator on high. Because of that, feathers became our companions to peace, prayer and thankfulness .

Prayer is the child of thankfulness. Eagles and Hawks flew closest to Creator. They carried prayers of thankfulness from Beings who had not yet learned to speak. While Birds were in the sky, they circled and soared. Calm and beautiful, they flowed with all things. Others learned peacefulness from their soaring example. The bigger Birds, Turkeys, did not fly too high either but they busied themselves sorting out rocks, pebbles, mineral nuggets and other things. The many Earth colors can still be seen on their feathers today--especially the shiny color of copper.

Water Turkey worked hardest at drying land with her great wings. So hard did she work, and so tired did she become, that ONE ABOVE preserved the ripples of the first Waters on her tail feathers, ripples of sky colors to remind us of Water Turkey's part in the first times. Creator gave Water Turkeys a special task. At times, they spread their tails across the sky to stop rains so there will not be too much water. When they first spread their colorful tails, rainbows came to be. Thunderbirds honor the first Water Turkey by taking her shape to commemorate Creation and the Power of ONE ABOVE.

Unselfish service is Water Turkey's legacy. Old ones say rippled feathers help Water Turkeys fly with ease. Creator rewards in quiet but lasting ways. Water Turkeys still dry their wings after diving to be ready to help if a need arises. ONE ABOVE often calls them to cut off the rain. Water Turkey, the Vigilant Bird, symbolizes watchfulness. Water Turkey's feathers fan Cedar and Tobacco incense upwards in prayers. Her feathers are sacred and must not be used without respect and the Elders' guidance.

Where land was piled high mountains came to be. Where land spread out, plains, forest, and gentle hills came to rest. Valleys followed where giants of old walked about. Turtle and Duck worked hard. Water Turkey, and all Birds, secured the meaning of sharing. The Duck embodied safety and security.

As all great and small winged Beings dried the land, rivers, ponds, lakes, and streams flowed from Water that dropped from their wings. Everything, of Land and Air, every such Being, came ashore and life filled the whole undivided land we call Aniweda, the "Back of the Turtle."

The In-Betweeners, The land Dwellers

Water Beings knew their place and abilities. Sky-dwellers discovered theirs, too! It was those In-Between Beings of land who had not yet found their own ways. They caused a great commotion with much moving about. Each one tried to be where the others were and do what the others did. Uncertainty came from lack of instruction. Things were a mess and getting worse. There was much to learn about creating!

(It is said today on Ceremonial Grounds that confusion occurs when many things try to occupy the same place at the same time, even if those things are only thoughts.)

At this time of confusion, one Tree sought only to stand in one place, enjoy itself and reflect on all that had come to be. That Tree was truly happy and understood itself, content with its differences from others. The roots of Trees grew from Peace.

That Tree discovered joy comes from within. Standing there full of peace and contentment, it appeared calm and happy. All Beings wanted Tree's happiness. They crowded around trying to share Tree's feeling. Aelah! It was crowded on, beaten down and broken apart in every way all because others didn't know their own proper places. That Tree felt helplessness and great pain. Sadness had been discovered.

Nothing was still, nothing cooperated. All Beings went about making an extraordinary confusion. Greed, the child of not knowing oneself, came to be. Winds gathered up in one place. Their noisy pranks and quarrels made everything in their reach miserable. The Sun couldn't decide what to do. It just stopped still, confused and fearful, and pondered its grievances. All living things near it shriveled in the searing heat.

Where the Sun was not, there was too much darkness and cold. Clouds all crowded up into that place. Fog also tried to crowd in. Beings stumbled about. Some got hurt. Not only Birds but all other Beings of speaking, singing, or crying out, had found their full voices. And--They were all now using them, too!

Noise! Shouting everywhere! Quietness was only a thought of the past, a dim memory, not even clear enough to be a dream. Where was order?

Turtle spoke to Creator : "Master of All Being, we cannot see and know as You. You are The Whole, but we are only its parts. We are of You, but each of us is only one small part. We know only enough to be troubled from ignorance."

"You have spoken well, Turtle," said ONE ABOVE. Some of Creator's wisdom had surely come to rest in Turtle, she who had been the first created. "In you," said Creator, "shall be thoughtful wisdom, slow and full of sureness; other kinds of wisdom shall be given other Beings according to their kind." This was done as promised. Of course, having wisdom doesn't guarantee common sense as we shall soon come to know!

"Turtle, you first among all things, call all the Nations together." Turtle called the Sky Nations, the Birds and other winged Beings. She called the four-footed Animal Nations, the Crawling Nations and the Water Nations, too. She summoned the Star Nations, the Forest Nations, the Grass Nations, and everything that had form, substance, thought or action" that all might learn their purpose and place. She called all Beings together as instructed. They came.

Not only did Creator tell her how to call all the Nations together but where to put them. Turtle set the Sun on one side of Creator and the Moon on the other. Everything had an appointed place!

ONE ABOVE said, "Let Winds rise at these shoulders and Water Nations gather under these feet. Put the Birds and all winged Beings at These hands and the Star Nations above. All other Nations sit with the Grasses all around--in front, behind and on all sides." Everything now had an appointed place. It was done as spoken. Now, all things came to know the true center.

First Instructions, Original Teachings

ONE ABOVE, is really without personal form or shape, being always all things. Thus, each saw Creator in a way each could understand. Each saw Creator as one of its own. Creator spoke with the voices of Winds; light shone from Creator's Eyes, Happiness and joy sprang from the Heart of the One Above. Every part of ONE ABOVE, The Whole, gave forth example for all to see and know.

ONE ABOVE forgot to remove anger from the Winds, but they were given gentleness for their major portion. Ah, there was much to be remembered during these proceedings for creating was still a new thing.

The Sun was set on its path with light for companionship. The Moon was given its trail. Star Nations were sent to be its brothers and sisters. They would be the Camp Fires of the Departed. The White Road was placed across the night sky-vault where it is still seen today. Sometimes, Feathered Serpents move across the sky-vault, too. They travel far and wide and pass this way so seldom.

All were taught their purpose and place. Each was given private things to know as well. Into each Being of form, substance, purpose and place, even each Rock, Leaf and Breath, a lesson was formed. Within every Voice and Sound a meaning was secured. With every Being in its appointed place around Creator, a great Ceremonial Square Ground--a great plaza--was formed. Each Being saw its own proper place and relationship to one another. Each understood order.

To all, a desire for balance was imparted. Of course, some lessons were not remembered too well or not yet discovered in full. A few were even ignored. Earth was to be Mother to all, giving equally to each, withholding from none. With First Instructions came contentment because each understood its own way, its own proper place.

(They say Turtle was either too tired from all her helpful efforts or too filled with her own self-importance to listen carefully to Creator during this time, during this "first Calling"--trouble would surely follow!)

Creator spoke on : "You will have language only as long as your voices don't become sister to trouble, mother to anger, or companion to unhappiness. You will each teach your own secrets and wisdom as you each seek to learn the lessons of the others."

"Guard your private wisdoms well. Do not toss them about carelessly or give them away foolishly. If so, you may lose them. If a Gift is not valued, it is no Gift." Healing plants learned to sing of their particular qualities. Few people, except healers, ever learn to hear their beautiful secret songs.

Generations: A Living Shadow of One's Own Kind

"You are the first Beings. In your own ways a part of you will return to yourselves : (ONE ABOVE further explained this puzzlement) Offspring will come. Teach them their proper ways. This will be the way of all living things." The Young will learn their ways from you but you will learn responsibilities from them. Is it not the child who teaches one how to be a parent, say the Elders today.

"There shall be Seasons to shelter these ways :  Infancy, Youth, Maturity and Old Age marked by time, change, growth and learning.  Seasons shall be grandparents to all things created;  all will know they are related." All things heard Creator and now knew this to be Father Spirit and knew also the Earth as Mother.  Order came to be from First Instructions as understanding became clearer.

Parents of the Year, Summer and Winter, and their Children, Fall and Spring, were named. The Sun is to be ever-watchful and shelter the Heart, Hands and Eyes of Creator. Its children, the Serpents who walk breast on breast with Mother Earth are to be the Ears of ONE ABOVE. Sound will be your voice, but Silence shall be the Voice of Creator.

The First Ceremonial Fire

All came to know Father Spirit as The Whole. And, all came to know that a part of Creator dwells within each Being.  Onward the Master of Breath spoke : "Our Breath and Light will dwell in your midst."  So saying, Creator placed four limbs from the Tree Nations in the midst of all the Beings there assembled on that First Square.

As the Words were spoken, the logs began to burn with Fire.  The Sun also began to burn and all knew that the ONE ABOVE was there, too. Each then felt warmth in its own bosom and knew part of Creator was within, also. Each understood this according to the size of their own hearts. Serpents, who were given a special task by Creator, were also given special abilities. They did not need all their warmth; so, they shared their warmth with the Sun. They call it back only as they need it to rest and refresh. No longer could any see Creator in its own form but only in the New Fire which continued to speak well into the First Night. In the giving of the First Fire and other things, the two natures of all things came to be known.  Rights and responsibilities were also set forth.

"Bears will live in the forest and have charge of feeding the Fire but others will help, too. Birds will fan this Fire with their wings, and Winds will sing around it. The Sun will burn above with all the Sky-dwellers : the Moon, Stars, and all of the Air."  Of course, not everything continued as it had been ordained. This, you must surely know from experience.

"Your sister Tree who first suffered pain, will forever remain green. As Sun makes its journey through Sky and the four Seasons of Earth, all other growing things will become as this Tree when she was beaten down. During such times, all will remember the confusion and pain that sprang from greed and disorder--a Season of Cold, Frost and Bitter Memory. Winter will be its home. This Tree will stand over you. Her greenness will preserve these First Times.  Berry and Blossom will then come forth to recall and honor all now assembled here together at this First Calling,when each Being was in its proper place.

When the Mulberry blossoms, all shall sit together again in a Square to remember these lessons.  The presence of this Sacred Fire in your midst will renew life if you attend it always and remember." The first Square Ground was thus ordained by Creator, the ONE ABOVE and not by humankind.

"One day another Nation will awaken among you.  When they raise up, each must seek to teach them, guard them and help them.  Set them on the good road and be friendly to them."  Thus was foretold of the coming of First Woman and her Children, the Humankind Nation.

Many things were spoken about at that time--to each Being its own lessons. No Being had yet gone to learn the teachings of another.  During First Instruction, Original Teaching, most listened intently and learned their public and private ways.

(Some didn't!  Many of those First Mothers neglected to teach their future sons to listen and hear the Silence;  thus, some lessons were learned late after much difficulty or not learned at all!)

The lazy Blue Jay had not helped too much;  nor did she listen carefully to her own Original Teachings. In fact, Blue Jay didn't even learn what color she was to be; eventually, she would steal that and other things, too! Turtle did not fully learn her First Instructions or her own ways too well either.  She was too busy to listen.  Turtle kept talking to herself about her own great deeds, how much help she had been to Creator and how others owed her a debt.  Turtle discovered arrogance and conceit. Alas, she hid these under her smooth shell so none would know but that is another story. ONE ABOVE, upon noticing Turtle's discovery, gave Birds the privilege of calling to all Nations but quieted Turtle's arrogant voice. This is why all can understand the wild cries and songs of Birds.

For these were the "Smooth Shell Days." All things were new and Turtle's back had not yet been broken. In these days, all Beings spoke, held dances in the Sky around the Great Sun Fire and kept the ceremonials given from ONE ABOVE.  This was the time when Night and Day were divided up on Raccoon's tail.  That, too, is another story for another time.  Yes, these were the "Smooth Shell Days" when Aniwida was whole.  This is how all things came to be! At least, this is how the Elders told it to us around the Fire.

[In Muskogee Minds, Creation isn't a long ago event but an on-going
and active process. We seldom think of things as finite-- even at
the most basic levels. This is only the first Canto of the Creation Story.
There are several more such stories. A full ceremonial text will be found
on this site later and in Muskogee Words & Ways, Volume 5, ]


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