Homegrown Hauntings

WHAT’S PLAYING: All American RejectsGives You Hell

Since it is October, I thought I’d share tales of a few monsters from Choctaw lore that never failed to scare the ever-loving-shit-crap out of me when I was a kid.

1. Shampe – A giant, foul-smelling beast that lives in the deepest parts of the woods, some believe the Shampe followed the Choctaw on their long migration from the West. Often described as part vampire, part wendigo, and part Sasquatch, they are nocturnal monsters that can’t stand sunshine or fresh air. These vampire beasts are attracted by the smell of blood and will often stalk hunters carrying fresh kills. They do not have very good vision, but posses a keen sense of smell. They can track any person or animal for miles.

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There are two ways to tell if a Shampe is near. One is the foul smell, a scent so terrible that many have died from its odor. The other is the whistling noise they make as they stalk their prey. Once this beast has caught your scent, your only hope is to drop a dead or wounded animal and pray that the smell of fresh blood will draw the Shampe away from your trail. Then run as far and as fast as you can.

2. Hattak Chito “Big Man” – A huge, manlike beast similar to Sasquatch that lives in the swamps or tangled creek bottoms. Covered in coarse grey or brown hair, this creature has long arms and a stooped walk that appears shambling but is deceptively speedy. Legend has it that the Hattak Chito was once a slave to an evil conjurer called Ohoyotubbi “Woman Killer,” who would use the beast to terrorize anyone who angered him. On one occasion, Ohoyotubbi became angry with a farmer that lived near his home on the Little River and sent the manbeast to kill the farmer’s cattle. In retaliation, the farmer and his sons crept to Ohoyotubbi’s home the next night and set it afire, destroying the witchman. Since then, the manbeast has continued to live in the Boklawa area.

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He tries to avoid people, but some reported sightings have occurred as late as 1979. It is said in legend that should you meet the manbeast and are frightened, he will run away from you. But, if you meet him and are not afraid, he will become your slave and serve you as he once served Ohoyotubbi.

3. Na Lusa Chito “Big Black Thing” – The ancient Choctaw’s counterpart to Satan or the Devil, the Na Lusa Chito, or soul eater, is the cause of depression. If you allow evil thoughts to enter your mind, the Na Lusa Chito will creep inside you and eat your soul, barring your way to the Happy Land where Choctaws enjoy life after death.

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Thus it became a practice that, after an Oklan dies, his name was never again mentioned aloud by any member of his family or any of his friends for fear that the soul eater might discover that he was dead and devour his soul. Also, a wife never refers to her husband by name. In conversation, he is “My Husband,” and perhaps later will become “My Son’s Father.”

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Stories from my Grandfather – The Tale of the Wind Horse (Part 2) as told by Tipi Pinti

WHAT’S PLAYING: Emeli SandéNext to Me

 

(Continued from Monday, August 26)

As they traveled, Wind Horse listened to the Boy’s hopes that someday he would run with the leaves that blew across the ground. He felt the Boy’s yearning for someone to love. Yet who could ever care for a nameless, little Boy with a bad leg?

As he listened, love for the Boy grew in his heart, and Wind Horse knew that this would be his last rider. He nuzzled the Boy with affection and slowed down, for the end of their journey was near.

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The Boy looked up and saw the home of those who had gone before. He realized that this journey was the last one he would ever make, and trembled with fear. But as Wind Horse finally stopped, the Boy realized that all his wounds, hunger, need, and hurt were gone. And since Wind Horse made no move to leave, the Boy knew that at last, he had found the companion he had wished for all his life.

As Wind Horse and the Boy walked into their new world, the Choctaw felt great sadness. Even though they did not know what was happening, they felt the last Wind Horse pass from this world to the next, and wept with grief.  

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Wind Horse heard their cries of despair, but he had made his last journey. He knew that with the passing of many suns and moons, they would soon forget him and his race. He prayed to the Great Spirit to send a reminder of him to the Choctaw to comfort them.  

And, that is how horses came to us as gifts from the Great Spirit and the last Wind Horse.

Stories from my Grandfather – The Tale of the Wind Horse (Part 1) as told by Tipi Pinti

WHAT’S PLAYING: Fun. feat. Janelle Monáe “We Are Young”

Once upon a time, when Day and Night were still deciding who comes first, there lived a horse—the fastest and gentlest of all Indian ponies—called Wind Horse, and his kind will never be seen in the world again.

The story begins this way:

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One day, when Wind Horse was feeling good from being free, he heard a cry for help. He ran to the edge of the forest and found a little boy who had gotten his foot caught in a bear trap. The child had managed to free himself but could not move, for the trap had crushed his foot. The Boy, who had no name, could not believe such a beautiful horse would come to him as a friend. He gave thanks to the Great Spirit and prepared himself for death.

Knowing the wound was fatal, Wind Horse bent to let the boy get on his back, so he could take him to the Sacred Hunting Ground, where he would no longer know pain, fear, or need. The thought of one so young going to the Sacred Hunting Ground made Wind Horse sad, but he did not want the boy to suffer.

 

wild mustangs

The Boy clung to Wind Horse’s back, the pain in his foot forgotten. All his life he had lived alone, for his parents were dead and no one else wanted him. Riding Wind Horse, he felt whole, as though he had finally found a family. They rode through time out of mind, the trail shifting to reflect the Boy’s life. The Boy saw himself caught in the bear trap, alone and weeping. Then the scenery changed and he saw himself smiling and happy with his parents. Soon, they travelled back to before the boy was born ad he didn’t recognize anything. As his life passed by, the Boy clutched Wind Horse tighter, frightened by what awaited them at their journey’s end.

Wind Horse was the last of a great race of horses who could share the feelings of their riders. He had never allowed anyone to ride him for too long, for once a bond was forged it could not be broken. He knew that if he continued this run, he would never again be free.

Stay tuned for Part 2 coming up on Wednesday!

Stories from my Grandfather – The Redbird as told by Tipi Pinti

WHAT’S PLAYING: Slash feat. Fergie “Beautiful Dangerous

Once, when time was not quite old enough to be counted, there lived a lovely Choctaw maiden, who was very skilled in house and fieldwork. She could do all the things needed to keep her lodge in order, but lacked the one thing she longed for most—a mate.

One day, she spied a red bird sitting in a tree and sighed. “Redbird, will I ever find the one meant for me? Someone to care for, who will care for me?

Young-Native-American-Girl

The Redbird had no answer for the maiden, but heard the loneliness in her voice. Every morning for the passing of seven suns, the Redbird came and listened to the maiden’s story. As each day passed, the maiden’s loneliness filled the Redbird until he decided to do something about it.

One day, during his travels, the Redbird came upon a handsome Choctaw brave. The brave called to him and began to speak. Redbird heard the same loneliness in the brave’s voice that the maiden had shown and realized that these two lonely people had the same wish, to find another who would love and care for them, as they would care for their mate.

choctaw brave

On the fifth day of listening to the brave, Redbird feigned an illness. The brave became concerned, for the Redbird had become his friend. Each time the brave would approach Redbird, the wily beast would hop away, leading him further and further away from home.

In this way, the Redbird led the brave to the maiden’s lodge, where she sat outside. As soon as Redbird saw the maiden, he flew away. The brave realized that he had wandered far from home, and so went to the maiden to ask where he was.

The Redbird sat in a tree and watched the brave and the maiden. After their initial shyness, they were soon talking and laughing like old friends.

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Redbird saw this and thought that it was good. He had done all he could and now it would be up to the brave and maiden. As Redbird flew away, he thought of how Great Spirit had known that someday the two would find each other.

Now it was good that Maiden had someone who would see for her and Brave had someone who would hear for him and that they finally had someone who would care.

Stories from My Grandfather – Why the Flowers Grow

WHAT’S PLAYING: Smilez and Southstar “Tell Me

Long ago, when the world was young, there was a beautiful star named Bright Eyes, and she was the brightest star in all the heavens. After many years, another star entered the sky and hid Bright Eyes from view. This made her sad because people could not see her face.

So she called to her sisters, saying, “Come, let us go down to Earth where we can live with the people and make them happy. The new star has hidden my light and the sky does not need us any longer.”

ChoctawBelle

On their way to Earth, Bright Eyes and her sisters stopped on Mount Joy where Uncta, the Great Bronze Spider, lived and spun the finest webs. The maidens begged the Spider God to teach them to spin and weave, and he agreed. Soon, they were able to spin beautiful threads and weave them into fine cloth.

One day, Bright Eyes decided that it was time for her and her sisters to continue on their journey, and she turned to Uncta for help.

“Will you help us get to Earth?” she asked the Spider God. “We want to teach the people how to spin and weave.”

Uncta was sad to see the sisters go, but he knew that they would bring much joy to the people of earth. He wove a basket and used it to lower them to Earth.

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When Bright Eyes and her sisters landed, they became the Little Folk. They lived in the forest, working, dancing and playing. They taught the Choctaw how to make bright colors and use them in weaving their rugs and blankets. The Choctaw loved the Little Folk who helped them and Bright Eyes was happy again.

Whenever one of the Choctaw was sick, Bright Eyes and her sisters would go into the forest and pray to the Great Spirit to protect them. They told the people to pray to the Great Spirit as well.

All of the prayers went up to Sandlephone, who sat on a great ladder high in the sky. As soon as the prayers had come into his hands, they changed into lovely flowers. He closed the blossoms and dropped the seeds upon the earth while the perfume wafted on up to the Great Spirit.

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The Little Folk cared for the seeds as they fell and from them sprang the wild flowers. This is why the Choctaw do not pick flowers.

They are tokens of love from the Great Spirit.

The Ever-faithful Lily Wanda

WHAT’S PLAYING: Duffy “Syrup and Honey”

Once upon a time, the Choctaw held a Green Corn Festival to show love and gratitude to the Great Spirit who had given them so much. The Queen of the festival was Lily Wanda, the most beautiful maiden in the village.

When time came for the Chief to speak, he stepped forward and the people fell silent.

“My people,” he said, “The Great Spirit has been good to us. Green Corn Goddess has watched over our corn. Rain God watered it and Father Sun warmed it. We give them thanks. I have long wondered where Father Sun sleeps. Someone must journey to find the answer. This traveler will face great danger and hardships. He may never return. But, if he can find the place, he will be great among men.”

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After the Chief had spoken, the silence was unbroken but for the wind that sighed through the trees.

Finally, a brave young man named Oklawana stepped forward. “My Chief,” he said, “I will go and find where Father Sun sleeps.”

Lily Wanda cried out in distress. “No, no, do not go, Oklawana!” she said, pushing through the crowd to stand before her lover. “You will never return!”

Oklawana turned to Lily Wanda. “I must go. Our chief wishes it. I will return with great honor and claim you for my bride.” He took her hand. “I leave my wampum belt with you. It tells the story of our people’s councils. Guard it well until I return.” Then he made four bundles of sticks for the four seasons of the year. “Count these for me as the seasons pass.”

Unable to speak, Lily Wanda nodded and took the belt and sticks. The next sunrise, she watched her sweetheart start his long journey.

Young-Native-American-Girl

Every day, Lily Wanda prayed to the Great Spirit to send Oklawana back. She counted the bundle of sticks as the seasons passed. In the evenings, she sat in her doorway watching for his return. In time, she went up on the mountain and built signal smokes to guide her lover home.

Seasons passed and Lily Wanda grew old. She still counted the sticks and guarded the belt. She watched and prayed. One day as she prayed at the mound of Nanih Waiya, a stranger came to her.

“I saw the signal smoke and came to you,” he said. “Lily Wanda, do you remember me? I am Oklawana who went in search of the sleeping place of Father Sun. I have come back to you.”

“That is not true,” she replied. “Oklawana has been dead for many years. You are some other.”

“Is this the belt he gave you?” he asked, pointing to her waist.

“Yes, I have kept it for him but he does not return.”

“I gave you the belt. Don’t you remember me?”

“No, you are Halvah, the story-teller. Let me be.” With these words, Lily Wanda died of a broken heart.

Oklawana caught her as she fell. He carried her body to the village and found that no one knew him.

nanihWaiya

“I followed Father Sun day after day, season after season,” Oklawana said wearily. “Finally, I saw him sink into a great blue lake, and I could not follow him. I have wandered many years trying to find my people, but you do not know me. My Lily Wanda did not know me. Now she is dead.”

Then he sank to the earth in despair and died of grief.

The people buried him and his faithful Lily Wanda together.

Stories from My Grandfather—Origin of the Ants

WHAT’S PLAYING: Timbaland feat. Justin TimberlakeCarry Out

Long ago, when the world began, Hashtali—The Great Spirit—fashioned people and grasshoppers from the same yellow clay.

They woke in a deep underground cavern and walked to the surface through a long tunnel, emerging from the passage together. But the people were so much bigger than the grasshoppers, that they could not see the insects in the dark and trampled many of them, including the Great Mother Grasshopper.

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Fearing they would be wiped out, the grasshoppers called out to Hashtali for help. The Great Spirit—who hears the cries of all living things—took pity on the little ones. He made the tunnel smaller and turned the remaining people into ants so that they could no longer trample the grasshoppers.

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The ants you see today are the descendants of those people. Don’t step on them!