Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Folktale told in the Winter Solstice

Photo by Charel Klein
The story goes that there were three gods: The first ruled the sky, the second ruled the earth, the third ruled the universe. Each god was unshakably convinced that he himself was the greatest of all the gods, and no day passed without the three gods boasting quarrelsomely about their own greatness. Eventually they became tired of convincing the others by words alone. They agreed to hold a contest, so that each can take turns to reveal themselves to the people and then find out which one among them was the greatest, once and for all.

The god of the sky mustered all his strength, then with a flourish of his left hand he whipped up the fiercest storm that the world has seen of this age. Forceful gales blew over the ocean in to the land from the furthest north, sweeping people off their feet, and carrying their homes away in mudslide and deluge. With the snap of his finger he created the lightning, and anything or anyone who crossed the path of thunder were burned to a crisp. With his right hand he shook the land and a great wave passed over the ocean, and soon a thousand fishing towns nestled by the western shores of the ocean were soon carried away by the raging waters: women in the homes, children in the homesteads, and men in fishing boats. And the Barentines and the people of Tunu and Iceland fell prostrate before him in terror and said: enough, we shall worship you; hereafter take our sacrifice. 

The god of earth mustered all his wit, and with the sweetest singing tone began to sing to the people. The wealth of your masters are ripe for the taking, as are the bounty of all the earth. Rise up against your oppressors, take what is rightfully yours. Hold on to no scruples, as I who wield the wheel of history is by your side. With his left hand he set the houses of the wealthy aflame, and with the right hand he uprooted the trees of the forest, and turned the skies grey with soot. The enlightened masses of the eastern lands fell upon their enemies with gleeful pillage, even turning on their own tribesmen in their fervour for progress. But after this unfortunate time of bloodshed and rapacity had passed, peace once again returned, and the people who remained saw all these and were happy. We shall worship you, you who have created our new world, chorused the prosperous Lenese and the well-fed Chukchi, hereafter take our sacrifice.

The god of the universe mustered all his power, then became a small child, a helpless and minuscule homunculus who grew in the womb of a woman, who bore him in the stables and brought him up until he became a man: a man of genuine human likeness and appearance, who walked among the people. He spoke in a humanly tongue of love, mercy, and the unity of mankind. Men and women of all trades were drawn to him; those who believed his words became as newborns, coming to be again in haloes of water and fire: new men of shrewdness and wisdom, incapable of deceit, yet as innocent as the buntings in the snow. With his power he forgave people of their wrongdoings, healed the incurable, and raised the dead. The rich and the powerful resented his ways, but when they tried to kill him, he tore down their place of worship and built another in its place within three days. And the Rumelians and Taimirians fell prostrate before him in the new temple day after day, proclaiming his name above that of every other god.

And this is why the Barentines live in perpetual fear of the elements, why the Lenese live in absolute confidence in their industriousness and scientific knowledge, and why when you ask a Rumelian about the god whom they worship, they could speak of him for days and days without ever stopping for breath.

References: Psalm 82:1, Philippians 2:6-11, John 3:5, John 1:47, Matthew 10:16, Mark 14:58

Photo of Snow Bunting by: Charel Klein (

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