Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Ring Around The Moon: She Makes A Fire

A ring of light, or halo, appears around the moon. The planet Jupiter is visible within the arc of light. 
Wíačhéič’ithi: She Makes A Fire
A Ring Around The Moon
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS – It’s a clear cold night on the Northern Plains, following a cloudless icy day. A blanket of snow on the driveway had become compacted into crunchy ice over the past week. The sun bathed the land in silent golden light then he slipped over the horizon. The stars gradually blinked into their places in the vesper dusk. The full moon slid into the night sky and glided higher and higher. A vast gently glowing halo encircled the moon and altogether her milky white light spilled into the heavens.

I was standing beside my car one minute taking in the serene brisk scene. I imagine for a moment that another man stood here beside his horse in long ago days, outside the glow of his wife’s lodge, standing in the same snow, under the same sky, perhaps even breathing in the same air.

The part of my mind that has been educated and westernized says that the ring around the moon is probably caused by a light refracting through moisture in the atmosphere, and a quick internet search says pretty much the same thing. Science is beautiful in its own way as it questions and sometimes reveals the mystery of creation, but this explanation doesn’t endear me to the majesty of what I see above.

The Lakȟóta saw the natural world, the natural heavens and concluded that what happens here happens above. The thípi glowing in the evenings, filled with the smell of sweet cedar, earthy sage, or rich tobacco, and a mother or grandmother stirring her kettle of tȟaníǧa soup over the fire, now and then adding handfuls of shelled corn and dried thíŋpsiŋla. The way she stirred her kettle reminded the Lakȟóta of the phases of the moon.

A column of moonlight reflected on a body of water is called a "moonglade." The Lakȟóta call this "Mníyata Ožáŋžaŋ."

Kevin Locke, enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, recalled a meeting long ago with Mrs. Holding Eagle at her home on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, “She said the phases of the moon were caused by how hard she stirred her kettle.” Mrs. Holding Eagle referred to the moon, in this sense, not as Haŋwí, but as Hokhémi, an old woman bundled in layers of clothing. The phases of the moon are described as though she were standing at times, dipping, or lying down, and at the full moon she is at her kettle.

When a ring of light appears around the moon, it is Hokhémi building a fire. Wíačhéič’ithi, “She Makes A Fire.”

Mrs. Amanda Grass on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation explained that as the moon wanes, as the moon loses light, the moon itself is the lodge of Haŋwí, and a large mouse with a pointed nose would nibble at the edge of her lodge, going back and forth, gradually, until there was nothing left. When the moon waxed, it was Haŋwí patiently and persistently rebuilding her lodge until it shown full once more. Then the cycle continued.

The cold shakes me from my reverie and I walk across the compacted snow to my home. The horse beside me a moment ago, replaced now by a little silver car. The windows warmly aglow, smells of supper adrift from the door, different smells and different light but homey all the same.