This is the time of year when many different cultures celebrate a holiday related to light and hope for the future. There is a good reason for these celebrations. Today the sun rose at 7:19 A.M. and it will set at 4:39 P.M. Tomorrow will be the shortest day of the year. My favorite story for this time of the year comes to us from the Pueblo People of the American Southwest. I will share my version of their story.
Long, long ago there was no Sun in the heavens, just the Moon and stars to give light for the creatures that lived on this earth. In this time there were no humans on Earth, just animals. Among the animals there lived Eagle and Coyote. Now Eagle had sharp eyes and powerful wings. He could see better than Coyote in the dark, but still they both suffered hunger because there was little to catch and eat.
Coyote called to Eagle and said, “High above the mountains there live the Kachina Spirit People and they have light. If you carry me to their mountain home, we will find a way to steal some of their light to bring to our home.” Now Eagle knew that Coyote was a trickster, but he agreed to use his powerful wings to carry them high above the mountain tops.
When Eagle and Coyote arrived in the land of Kachina Spirit People, they found them dancing around the box that held the light. Clever Coyote whispered “We will wait until they grow tired. When they lie down to sleep, then we will steal their light.” So the two thieves stole the box with the light and on Eagle’s strong wings they returned to their home on Earth.
Now Eagle was exhausted from carrying the box and Coyote. He needed to rest. When Eagle fell asleep, Coyote could not contain his curiosity. He wanted to see the light. Coyote opened the box and watched as a great ball of fire rose out the box and started to fly away to the south. Coyote cried out “EAGLE, EAGLE, WAKE UP! HURRY! HURRY! YOU MUST BRING BACK THE LIGHT!
So among the Pueblo Peoples of the American Southwest they tell the story every winter about Coyote who has opened the box again and allowed the sun to escape to the south. Then they perform a sacred dance to encourage Eagle who must follow the Sun to the south, turn it around, and return it to the north for the coming of spring.
For nearly thirty years I performed a school assembly program called A Festival of Light. This program shared stories of light from different cultures around the Earth. I love all of the stories of light, but there is something special about the story of Eagle and Coyote. I love the simplicity of it. As the sunlight turns yellow-red outside my window I imagine Eagle is just about to catch the Sun and turn it around for the return of our spring. It is the season for hope!