“Wyrd biõ ful ãræd.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cherokee Legend for the Day: Uktina

The Cherokee are intimately associated with the Appalachian Mountains.  There aren't many left now, though there are a few reservations in Western North Carolina.

I read a lot about the Cherokee, mainly because I have never figured out how they survived through the winters in these mountains.  I know they stored corn, and they hunted.  But there is just nothing here in winter but trees. I've seen reconstructed Cherokee homes, and they didn't have massive storage for corn or anything else. Could people live off just ground corn and deer meat, even if they had all they wanted?

At any rate, one of the things I've picked up is a smattering of their legends.  The Cherokee were not fond of things that went bump in the night anymore than I am.  They figured the woods were populated by all sorts of spirits and creatures, especially at night.  Uktina is a word they used to cover a multiplicity of bad actors of this nature.  One Uktina they really dreaded was half human and half wolf.   These creatures haunted the woods from dusk to dawn.  They preyed  on hunters coming back late,  women and children out gathering food who were tardy in returning to the village, and generally anyone who strayed off into the woods alone at dusk.

I myself do not make a practice of seeking grief inside the tree line after dark.  Not so much for fear of the Uktina, as out of respect for some of the other denizens like bear and hogs.  I did have a very strange experience one night when I followed my dogs up into a mountain laurel thicket .  They went in the thicket, and I pushed in after them. I had an idea a deer might have gotten tangled up in it.  It was a crystal clear winter night where your breath came out in a cloud. After I got about three feet into the thicket, the dogs came howling out and ran for the house for all they were worth. Something up slope from me blasted out a huge cloud of breath, like Smaug the Dragon in his lair. I was close enough for it wrap all around me. I backed out and backed all the way down across the meadow to the house. I was afraid to turn around and run or I would have. I don't know what was in that thicket, but whether it was a bear or an Uktina, I learned my lesson about altruistic jaunts into the woods at night.

10 comments:

  1. That is when a 'sound shot' is called for....btw, I like your Olongapo badge at the top of the page. I too served a few hundred missions over shit river...I was one of those 'screaming green meanies' for several months.

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    1. Disney Land for Adults. My youngest brother was on a ship that spent three months essentially tied up at the pier there in Subic. That was in 76. He still remembers it as one of the best times of his life. I was stationed in Okinawa for 13 months, 79-80. I used to take the MAC flight from Kadena down to Clark when I could get away and spend the time at Ologapo. Always went with other guys from my unit, one of whom was a Catholic and didn't "sin" so the rest of us could at least be sure of getting into a Jeepney and getting back across Shit River alive. I think of some of the joints I went to there and shudder...

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  2. Bigfoot?

    Your legend reminds me of the Wendigo up in Canada near Nova Scotia.

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    1. I never heard of Wendigo, I'll have to check that out. My two brothers say they saw Big Foot up in the Sierra Nevadas at my brothers place. It's way out in the mountains. But they were both annihilated on Jose Cuervo and coke (the kind you drink, not the kind you sniff up your nose) so their story is regarded with some skepticism by my family.

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  3. I've been in the city all my life. My husband grew up in the woods though. He has many tales of hearing Coyotes at night.

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  4. We hear the coyotes and the red wolves here. The dogs don't like them, and the cats all congregate on the front porch. Other than the odd Canadian folk singer coyotes usually don't get people. Red Wolves are being repopulated here after hunting exterminated them in the late 1800's. The hope is that they will help keep down the exploding deer population. Even though I know both animals are essentially harmless, hearing them howling on a dark night makes me uneasy. Have you ever spent time in the woods at night, camping or such? It's an experience you shouldn't miss, especially as a city girl.

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  5. That is a good legend. A scary monster is important, even better if it is big. The message that the big scary monster will eat people out in the woods too late is a good one also. It seems like lots of those stories are about a message of some sort.

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  6. Probably it's a throw back to the days when a scary monster would eat you if you moved outside the fire light or the cave. Most people are scared of the dark in certain environments. Dark city streets, for instance.

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  7. Oh, I don't like city streets even in the daylight. Funny but the city folk that come out here are really scared in the woods, even more than in the city with the shootings! I'm not sure what they think is going to get them, we don't really have bears other than an occasional black bear but it's rare to see them, bob cats but they leave you alone; however, we are beginning to see some signs of mountain lions. I wonder what yours was!

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    1. I'm guessing it was a bear. Hogs are the other candidate and they usually run in packs. But you never really know, in the mountains. I live near a spot where people used to think that "boogers" hung out and got you if you were on the road late. Maybe it was the booger man!

      I'd rather it was a bear though. :-)

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