Stories remain the same but meanings change…

NOW
The midwinter’s celebrations are always the same, the pigs are killed and gutted and washed and then stuffed with mint and breadcrumbs and the sacred berries that our ancestors brought here from the land of their ancestors. We place some of the berries in small boats and set them on fire before pushing them out onto the lake, as a sacrifice to the gods. As we sit around the fires watching as the pigs roast on the spit we hear the stories of how our ancestors travelled across the land, carrying the sacred berries, trying to find a safe place to practice their beliefs and how the gods led them here. The older ones sit on chairs closest to the fires; one of the old ladies starts to talk, we gather closer, to hear the story we hear every year.
“Our ancestors were guided here by the gods who provided a fertile land for our ancestors to feed the pigs and to grow the berries, safe from those who would attack us and take our pigs but our ancestors were selfish. They saw the island in the lake and they thought that if they grew their berries on that island no-one else would be able to eat them, and so they made boats and planted the berries on the island and tended to them and watched them grow. When the berries were ripe they went to collect them and one of the children ate some of the berries but before he was able to travel back to the mainland he was struck with sickness, for the berries were poisoned. The good berries from the land of their ancestors had been contaminated by the poison of selfishness. And even though our ancestors moved the berries to the mainland the curse of the gods remained on them and the sacred berries were poisoned.
“Our ancestors begged the gods for absolution, promising not to be selfish again and the gods heard and sent them to Mother Spirit, who guards the forests of the mountain. Our ancestors went to her to ask if she could remove the curse from the land and from the berries. Mother Spirit gave our ancestors the magic words which bind up the evil in the land and she told them to build a small hut in the middle of the island, using only the wood found on the island and to sacrifice ten pigs on the island and bind the curse into the hut. Our ancestors followed her instructions carefully and the curse took the form of a woman, trapped inside the hut in the middle of the island. She is evil and if she looks our of the windows of the huts and sees people taking her berries she will curse them and they will die; only those who know the binding words can go safely onto the island to collect the berries. The selfishness of our ancestors has not gone away, it never will and we will never be able to freely gather berries because of it. We must remember, when we eat the pigs and the berries that selfishness has cursed the perfect land that the gods led us to and we must never be selfish again.”
The old lady sat back in her chair, her story told, the tradition complete. We will eat the pig and the berries and we will remember not to be selfish. The witch on the island is our reminder to never be selfish.
BEFORE
The midwinter’s celebrations are always the same, the pigs are killed and gutted and washed and then stuffed with mint and breadcrumbs and the sacred berries that our ancestors brought here from the land of their ancestors. We place some of the berries in small boats and set them on fire before pushing them out onto the lake, to remember those who died. As we sit around the fires watching as the pigs roast on the spit we hear the stories of how our ancestors travelled across the land, carrying the sacred berries, trying to find a safe place to practice their beliefs and how the gods led them here. The older ones sit on chairs closest to the fires; one of the old ladies starts to talk, we gather closer, to hear the story we hear every year.
“Our ancestors were guided here by the gods who provided a fertile land for our ancestors to feed the pigs and grow berries, safe from those who could attack us and take our pigs but our ancestors were greedy. They saw the island in the lake that belonged to another people, who served a different god, who cared for their sheep on that island, away from the predators but our ancestors wanted that island for their own. They thought it would a good place to grow the sacred berries. They attacked the island but there was a protective fairy who guarded the sheep and the island and so our ancestors couldn’t get close to the island while they had evil thoughts but this did not stop them with their greedy plans.
They found an old witch who lived in the mountain forest and they begged her to put a curse on the fairy so that they could take over the island. The old witch asked for ten children, under the age of five and she ordered them to be sacrificed on the shore opposite the island, one by one and their bodies sent over to the island on boats. The last child was to be left alive and taken in the attacking boat. Our ancestors said magic words over the last child and the protective fairy was trapped within the child’s body. The child was left on the island after our ancestors had removed all the sheep and planted the berries.
When the time came for the harvest they found that the ground was cursed and the berries were poisoned and so they returned to the witch of the forest who told them new magic words that would force the protective fairy to bless the berries that had been collected so that anyone who ate them wouldn’t get sick. The fairy only had a small amount of power left and so we can only collect two boxes of berries three times a year. We must remember, when we eat the pigs and the berries that greed has cursed the perfect land that the gods led us to and we must never be greedy again.”
The old lady sat back in her chair, her story told, the tradition complete. We will eat the pig and the berries and we will remember not to be greedy. The fairy on the island is our reminder to never be greedy.
FIRST
The midwinter’s celebrations are always the same, the pigs are killed and gutted and washed and then stuffed with mint and breadcrumbs and the sacred berries that our ancestors brought here from the land of their ancestors. As we sit around the fires watching as the pigs roast on the spit we hear the stories of how our ancestors travelled across the land, carrying the sacred berries, trying to find a safe place to practice their beliefs and how the gods led them here. The older ones sit on chairs closest to the fires; one of the old ladies starts to talk, we gather closer, to hear the story we hear every year.
Then we hear the drum beat and the singing floating over from the island of non-believers. They look after sheep and let them eat our sacred berries. They dance around fires trying to attract the attention of demons and evil spirits. They do not understand the importance of the mint and the berries, they do not eat pigs. They let their sheep wander on the fertile grounds where we want to grow our berries. The old lady speaks louder against the drum beat.
“We were guided here by the gods who provided a fertile land for us to feed the pigs and grow berries, safe from those who could attack us and take our pigs because our ancestors were holy and celebrated the midwinter festival quietly with pigs and berries. Our ancestors moved away from the non-believers because they were offending the gods with their noise but now the gods have given us a land, a land of peace and of quiet and we will honour the gods by making it perfect.”
And so we made boats and we cleansed the island from the non-believers and we dedicated it to our gods by planting the sacred berries there.
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