Friday, September 13, 2013
Cherokee Legend for the Day: Uktina
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.