This is another reflection on a Cherokee myth, one that seems to tie together Uktena (our Dragon, Draco) with mountains, circular ceremonies, and a gem of great power for those who knew how to wield it.
If we follow the mythic clues being presented to us, an interesting pattern begins to emerge among one of the five civilized tribes of the Southeastern US.
In one of their battles with the Shawano, who are all magicians, the Cherokee captured a great medicine-man whose name was Âgän-uni’tsï, “The Ground-hogs’ Mother.” They had tied him ready for the torture when he begged for his life and engaged, if spared, to find for them the great wonder worker, the Ulûñsû’tî.
This medicine-man comes from a long line of medicine men. There is a foundation of tradition and wisdom here.
Now, the Ulûñsû’tî is like a Blazing Star set in the forehead of the great Uktena serpent, and the medicine-man who could possess it might do marvelous things, but everyone knew this could not be, because it was certain death to meet the Uktena. They warned him of all this but he only answered that his medicine was strong and he was not afraid. So they gave him his life on that condition and he began the search.
The Blazing Star is the North Celestial Pole, a gem of incalculable worth. It is the keystone to the vault of heaven. The medicine man who could possess it might do marvelous things. But themes of death are wide-spread among myths of the west. The Egyptian Emperor Geb lost his buddies when he ventured too close, Cadmus lost his companions to the Dragon. Here, with the Cherokee, that ancient wisdom was still being passed along, as it was “certain death to meet the Uktena.“ The Uktena used to lie in wait in lonely places to surprise its victims, and especially haunted the dark passes of the Great Smoky mountains. Knowing this, the magician went first to a gap in the range on the far northern border of the Cherokee country.
Agan-uni’tsi’s first inclination is to head out to the north. This is where we usually find our Dragon. He searched and found there a monster blacksnake, larger than had ever been known before, but it was not what he was looking for, and he laughed at it as something too small for notice. Coming southward to the next gap he found there a great moccasin snake, the largest ever seen, but when the people wondered he said it was nothing. In the next gap he found a greensnake and called the people to see “the pretty sälikwâ’yï,” but when they found an immense greensnake coiled up in the path they ran away in fear. Coming on to U’täwagûn’ta, the Bald mountain, he found there a great diya’hälï (lizard) basking, but, although it was large and terrible to look at, it was not what he wanted and he paid no attention to it. Going still south to Walâsi’yï, the Frog place, he found a great frog squatting in the gap, but when the people who came to see it were frightened like the others and ran away from the monster he mocked at them for being afraid of a frog and went on to the next gap. He went on to Duniskwa`lgûñ’yï, the Gap of the Forked Antler, and to the enchanted lake of Atagâ’hï, and at each he found monstrous reptiles, but he said they were nothing. He thought the Uktena might be hiding in the deep water at Tlanusi’yï, the Leech place, on Hiwassee, where other strange things had been seen before, and going there he dived far down under the surface. He saw turtles and water snakes, and two immense sun-perches rushed at him and retreated again, but that was all. Other places he tried, going always southward, and at last on Gahû’tï mountain he found the Uktena asleep. Turning without noise, he ran swiftly down the mountain side as far as he could go with one long breath, nearly to the bottom of the slope. There he stopped and piled up a great circle of pine cones, and inside of it he dug a deep trench. Then he set fire to the cones and came back again up the mountain.
This is similar to the layout at Stonehenge, Phase I. There was a circle of 56 evenly spaced wooden posts on the outside of which was a sizable moat. They are getting ready to ‘capture’ the Dragon in this ‘net’ of, in this case, flaming pine cones. The Mississippian inhabitants of Cahokia six miles from St. Louis had poles of varying numbers (during different periods) arranged in circles to help observe the positions of the stars. The Uktena was still asleep, and, putting an arrow to his bow, Âgän-uni’tsï shot and sent the arrow through its heart (like Marduk and Apollo, this is classic Dragon myth material, to find the ‘Heart’ or ‘Center’ of heaven), which was under the seventh spot from the serpent’s head. (Presumably seven stars along the body of the serpent; possibly Omega Draconis, at 18 hrs RA in 754 BC.) The great snake raised his head, with the diamond in front flashing fire (the four stars in the head of Draco, represent the two brightest stars of the constellation) have often been characterized as a lopsided trapezoid or diamond), and came straight at his enemy, but the magician, turning quickly, ran at full speed down the mountain, cleared the circle of fire and the trench at one bound, and lay down on the ground inside.
He is now in a position to mark, capture, catch, ascertain and/or observe the constellation from a fixed reference point inside his prepared circle. The Uktena tried to follow, but the arrow was through his heart(Marduk), and in another moment he rolled over in his death struggle, spitting poison over all the mountain side (Jormungand spewing poison over the sky, as the head of the constellation (the diamond) comes back to the year in his annual sojurn). But the poison drops could not pass the circle of fire, but only hissed and sputtered in the blaze, and the magician on the inside was untouched except by one small drop which struck upon his head as he lay close to the ground; but he did not know it. (He has been ‘touched’ by the experience. It will have its impact.) The blood, too, as poisonous as the froth, poured from the Uktena’s wound and down the slope in a dark stream, but it ran into the trench and left him ‘Unharmed. The dying monster rolled over and over down the mountain, breaking down large trees in its path (storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons flatten those in its path, those ‘children’ the Dragon mythologically commands) until it reached the bottom. Then Âgän-uni’tsï called every bird in all the woods to come to the feast, and so many came that when they were done not even the bones were left. (The bones of the celestial serpent have always been etherial.
Having successfully used the knowledge to his advantage, a great feast was obtained, and a good time had by all. These events are taking place in the sky, so there’s nothing left to be seen on Earth after it’s all over. After seven days he went by night to the spot. The body and the bones of the snake were gone, all eaten by the birds, but he saw a bright light shining in the darkness, and going over to it he found, resting on a low-hanging branch (Here is our Tree, with the ‘magical spot’ marked by low hanging branches, close to the horizon), where a raven had dropped it, the diamond from the head of the Uktena. He wrapped it up carefully and took it with him, and from that time he became the greatest medicine-man in the whole tribe.
It is believed that those who know how to read the will of the sky can predict things. They become medicine-men, wisdom keepers, in touch with celestial motion. When Âgän-uni’tsï came down again to the settlement the people noticed a small snake hanging from his head where the single drop of poison from the Uktena had struck; but so long as he lived he himself never knew that it was there.
This is the image of the flame spitting cobra worn over the third eye, protecting the life of the pharaoh. It is the quetzal and the serpent, crawling over the third eye, it is Maylasian images of the goddess, with the serpent coiled over the forehead.
They were reflecting Heaven over Earth, Sky over Ground, serpent near the summit of the spinal axis. Where the blood of the Uktena had filled the trench a lake formed afterwards, and the water was black and in this water the women used to dye the cane splits for their baskets. Are the cane spits the framework of the basket? Do they form the structure around which the webbing is wound? Does the stain toughen the cane?
This medicine man knows how to channel the energy so that he does not die, with certain advantages thereafter gained. Cadmus and his wife are said to have lived a blessed life after his encounter with the Dragon.
We find variations on a theme in myth, because certain key images need to be communicated in the fabric of the story, each time it is told.
Blessings to all-