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A Bear Tribe Story for Midwinter


By Eva Greenslade


I wrote this last year. This story is based on research and recreation of Palaeolithic Animistic Midwinter Ceremony and belief by Kate Fletcher and Corwen Broch. The songs and prayers within the story are traditional poems written down by Kate and Corwen http://www.ancientmusic.co.uk/bear_tribe/index.html

It's also my imagination and flows from my experiences at the bear feast midwinter camps.


Before you hear or read this story, I’d like to invite you to make yourself comfortable, wrap a blanket around yourself, sip a warm cocoa and light a candle or if you have a fireplace, light your fire.


Allow your gaze to soften into the flames, allow the light to warm your soul, the warmth of the cup in your hands to warm your heart and blanket wrapped around you to warm your body.


As your gaze softens, take your mind’s eye to a place on earth long before your birth, a time when fire was the fuel of life. A time when our people knew the land, when they knew the stars, the cycles, and knew they were part of earths fabric. A time when our people knew where they came from, and knew where they would return to when they left life’s stage.


It was at this time a great story of origin was held deeply, with love and honour, in the hearts of our distant family.


This story was that of a cave dweller, a honey paw, a snub tail, a brown furred being that died in winter and returned each spring. This cave dwelling being, went each winter into the depths of the caves of our people’s ancestors.

This huge fur covered being emerged each spring with unspoken tales of their time with death in the cave with our people’s ancestors.


To our people this being must have held an untouched wisdom of the earth, of the mystery of life. This being also returned in spring, emerging from the death of winter with small cave dweller cubs. Emerging as if gifts from their ancestors perhaps.


There is a memory held in the hearts, souls, and bones of our people from this time before you and I had this opportunity to walk earths stage. A memory and knowing that they were all children of the big furry cave dweller who could stand high on hind legs just as they could, and as you and i can.


The cave dwelling being was the distant father of the people of these lands. Great Utzo once an orphaned cub brought back from the tribes first hunt, and thereafter all were descended from him.


As we sit here feeling this story so far, visualising the cave dwelling being as we know them, imagining life as it was for our people, we can see and feel deep within our bones the thread of this story too.


Let's allow these woven threads to reveal themselves further within the story as it unfolds next.

The frosts lay heavy on the earths sleeping ground that hold the slumbering trees, the moon is high in the sky on this night, the stars of old hang in the tapestry of their stories in the deep blue night sky. An owl hoots to its mate, twit twoo. There is a stillness in the air.

A smell of woodsmoke and light from the fires of the village round houses stains the stillness of the air. A man of many seasons dressed in warm furs, furs from the cave dwellers of the past. He enters the nights stillness from the warmth of his home. He looks up the north to see the familiar stars of the great Ursa major watching him. Then from the north, a dancing green light appears ebbing and flowing on the horizon, it disappears and another flows out towards him, dancing gracefully. He never tires of this beautiful dance of light, it takes his breath away. He feels in this moment in his heart the ancestors are call to him. This is the light from their world during the nights of frosts covering the ground. This is the light of the celebrations, the reminder to trust in the ancestors, and feel the wisdom of the earth to carry his tribe through this season of the stars and frosts.


To us this light is the aurora borealis.


The man of many seasons calls to his friends and family in a sound of the night. The sound so clear blending in with the night time sounds, not even the trees would know he made it, but his family know. The men emerge from their dwellings all dressed in furs from cave dweller. They hold drums and repeat the noises of night back to him.


They begin to softly beat their drums, a heartbeat to draw up the wisdom of the earth. As they do this they begin to hum and sing.

The man of many seasons pulls the fur hood, a head of the fur being, over his head to become and be at one with the cave dweller. He feels the spirit of the cave dweller flow through his veins and he roars as if he were the great Utso. As the spirit of cave dweller takes hold of him he begins his dance. A dance that allows him to connect with all cave dweller spirits, a dance that allows the connection to show the man where a cave dwelling spirit might be who would be willing to give up his life for the tribes survival during this time of frost.


As he dances his visions, his tribe sings their songs.


Then the drumming and dancing slows to a stop, the old man of many seasons, stand still, huge and tall in his cave dweller skins.


A younger man steps out from the crowd that has gathered around him, and approaches the man of many seasons, he asks.

Where was Bruin born

the honey-paw turned over?

The old man answers:

There Bruin was born

the honey-paw turned over

In the upper air

upon the Great Bear's shoulders

The young man asks:

Where was Bruin given birth

the bear's cub brought up?

The old man answers: in a little woolen box

in a little iron box.

On the peg of a small cloud.


The young man asks:

How was he let down to earth?

The old man says:

in a sling he was let down

in a silver sling

a golden cradle

On a nameless, quite untouchable string

Then a group of men stepped forward from the crowd around the old man, and a few more emerged from their dwellings in furs, with spears in hand. The hunters.

The tribe begin to sing another song, the Hunter’s Song:

Forge a spear of magic metal,

Forge a lancet triple-pointed,

That I may awake great Otso,

Forge a lancet triple-pointed,

Forge the handle out of copper,

That I may awake great Otso,

Hide thy claws within thy mittens,

"Otso, O thou Forest-apple,

That they may not harm the hunter

"Otso, O thou Forest-apple,

Let thy teeth remain in darkness,

That they may not harm the hunter


The singing ceased and the community of people who weren’t in the hunting party went back into their homes to prepare for the hunters return.


Each hunter in turn picked up their spears, and approached the old man.


The old man looked from under the great cave dwellers face which covered his head, his eyes different, deep, and filled with the spirit of the cave king.

He looked into each hunters’ eyes and spoke aloud this prayer:

Guide the skier by the sleeve

direct him by the coat-skirt