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.

Wendigo_II

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 – 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.

crape-choctaw

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.

briout-when-aegina-is-depopulated-by-a-plague-king-aescus-asks-zeus-to-turn-the-ants-into-people

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!

More Homegrown Hauntings (Continued from Part 1)

WHAT’S PLAYING: Pussycat DollsI Hate This Part

More creatures and legends from the reservation:

1. Ishkitini “The Horned Owl” – a sinister character believed to prowl about at night killing men and animals. When the ishkitini screeches, it means sudden death or murder. Owls were often associated with witchcraft.

2. Heloha “Thunder” and Melatha “Lightning” – huge birds responsible for dramatic thunderstorms. Heloha would lay her giant eggs in the clouds. They rumbled as the rolled around atop the clouds, causing thunder. Her mate, Melatha, was so fast that he left a trail of sparks as he streaked across the sky.

3. Shilombish “Outside Shadow” – Choctaws believed that every man had a shilombish (outside shadow) and a shilup (inside shadow). After death, the shilup departs to The Land of Ghosts or Heaven, while the shilombish is doomed to wander about its former home. The shadow would often try to frighten the dead man’s family and drive them from the house by imitating the cries of a fox or owl, which were bad omens. The only way to tell the difference between the cries of the shilombish and the animals it imitated is to listen for a reply. When a fox barks, or an owl screeches, another fox or owl replies. But when the shadow imitates the sound of either animal, no response is given.

4. Nahullo – This is a generic term that applies to spirits that never existed as human beings, although some say they were a race of gigantic hunters who lived in western Tennessee and the northern parts of Alabama and Mississippi during the Choctaw immigration. Later, the term was applied to Caucasians due to their pale skin.

Homegrown Hauntings

WHAT’S PLAYING: Kinna Grannis “In Your Arms”

In keeping with the theme of the season, I thought it would be cool to share some of the ghosts and monsters that followed the Choctaw through the years.

1. Hashok Okwa Hui’ga “Grass Water Drop” – a Choctaw version of the will-o’-the-wisp. At night, only its heart is visible. Anyone who looks at it is led astray.

2. Hoklonote’ she – a malevolent shape shifter who can read people’s thoughts.

3. Kashehotapalo – a man-deer who delights in frightening hunters. The Choctaw admired him for his speed and agility, but if angered, he would race ahead to warn the enemy or animals being hunted.

4. Bohpoli “Thrower” – a mischievous, but not malicious, wood sprite who dwells alone in thick, dark woods. About two feet high, this little man playfully throws sticks and stones at people, and takes great pleasure in hitting pine trees to make noise. All unexplained sounds heard in the woods were attributed to Bohpoli.

5. Okwa Naholo (Oka Nahullo) “White People of the Water” – pale creatures that dwell in deep pools. They sometimes capture humans whom they convert into beings like themselves.

6. Nalusa Falaya “The Long Black Being” – monster that resembles a man with very small eyes and long, pointed ears. Some believe that he prefers to approach men by sliding on his stomach like a snake to frighten them. He can also transfer his power to people, which causes them to do harm to others.

Up next: Part Two.