Fall of Brother Moon
Lie back Granddaughter, and I’ll tell you a story before you sleep.
There was a time long ago, when the Earth was much different than it is today. It was before the time of the wolf, eagle or bear. There were no seas or mountains. The Earth was flat and the rivers wandered across the land. The first ones walked the Earth. Some among them stood as tall as the lodge pine. When they walked, the Earth shook.
The Earth still remembers. You can ask her if you like.
All things worked for these, the first ones. The floods came in the spring each year. Tall grasses grew and became feed for the herd beasts. The herd beasts brought many young and covered the fields. These herd beasts were food for the tearing beasts, but because the Earth was so fruitful the herds did not decrease.
Above the Earth were two watchers that guarded and kept the balance for the Earth and her creatures: Brother and Sister Moon.
Brother and Sister Moon helped the Earth to spin. They drew the Sun’s light by day and gave it back for the night wanderers. They locked the Earth waters in cisterns, and gently moved the fresh surface water, so that the rivers ran with life.
They made music in the passing of the night. Brother Moon sang to Sister the songs of the stars, and Sister Moon played for Brother the music of the wind. Even the tearing beasts paused from their feeding to hear the music. They knew, as did all creatures, that the music of Brother and Sister Moon was the music of life.
The white snake did not love Brother and Sister Moon. His prey could see him in the moonlight, and escape. Their music was not life to him. Instead, it was a reminder of his empty belly. Though he cursed the Moons, the power of his curse was feeble, for all other creatures blessed Brother and Sister Moon. Brother and Sister Moon prospered and were happy.
The white snake knew that his spirit did not have the power to change the way things were.
So he used his wits.
One night, Brother Moon was singing the song of a new star. The star was not really new. It was very far away and its birthing song had traveled long to reach him. The song of birth burst from Brother Moon, a song both eternal and new.
The snake spoke to Brother Moon.
“Why should this new star be so much greater than you?”
Brother Moon laughed. “I would not think to hear such a question from you, White Snake. You hide in your hole in the Earth. Why should you care about the greatness of those so far above you?”
It was not polite for Brother Moon to belittle the white snake so. Brother Moon knew he was being rude, but he did not like the snake.
“From my hole in the ground,” said the white snake, “I hear your songs each night and listen as your sister plays the winds. You may think you are great to make the music of life, but I don’t agree.”
“And why is that, little crawler?”
“Because, Brother Moon, the music is not your own.”
Brother Moon pondered these words. The white snake was hateful to him, but Brother Moon wondered if the words might be true. Brother Moon did not send his own light to the Earth; he only reflected the light of the Sun. The waters he stirred were not his waters, but the Earth’s. The songs he sang to Sister Moon were not his own, but what he heard from stars so far away.
He had looked down on the white snake as a weak creature that hid in holes in the ground. Compared to the first ones that stood as tall as the lodge pine, the white snake was little indeed.
Was he not little compared to the Sun, the stars, and the Earth?
Brother Moon stopped his singing.
“My brother,” said Sister Moon, “the west wind blows across the plain. I send it through the trees and across the waters. Will you not sing your song?”
“I have no song,” said Brother Moon. “That music is the glory of others, and not my own. I am small and weak like the white snake. I am too ashamed to sing.”
“You are not small,” Sister Moon replied. “Though the Sun and stars and even the Earth stand greater, that does not make us less. We must serve our purpose. The earth creatures wait for us to stir their waters and to sing life to them.”
“They can get their life from the Sun,” said Brother Moon. “He has far more to give than I.”
No matter what Sister Moon said, Brother Moon would not sing. Without the songs of Brother and Sister Moon, the Earth’s water grew stale. There was drought in one place, and flood in another. Grasses failed, and feed fell short for the herd beasts. The tearing beasts searched for prey to hunt, and found none.
The white snake was not satisfied. He spoke to Brother Moon.
“You think withholding your song hides your shame? You are still small. The light you shine does not compare to the Sun. If you shone in the day, the Earth would not notice your light.”
Brother Moon considered the snake’s words. His borrowed light was weak. It could not compare to the light of the Sun.
Brother Moon wrapped himself in darkness.
“My brother,” said Sister Moon. “The Earth is in darkness. It is your phase to shine. Will you not shine your light?”
“I will not shine,” said Brother Moon. “It is a weak light and a humiliation to me. I have darkened my surface, and I will hide here.”
So the Earth’s night was very dark. Beasts could not find their nests and lairs, leaving their young hungry, unprotected, and comfortless. There was chaos across the Earth, and much sorrow.
Though his surface was dark, the Sun’s light still shone on Brother Moon. He stored the light, and grew hot.
The white snake hunted and became fat in the darkness, but still, he was not satisfied. He spoke again to Brother Moon.
“Brother Moon,” he said. “You stand so far away from the Earth to keep the Earth waters in their cisterns. The Earth creatures see you as small. The Sun, though much farther away than you, looks as great in the sky.”
Brother Moon brooded about the white snake’s words. “I am too small,” he thought. “I will approach the Earth and appear larger, so that the creatures of the Earth will not suspect how small I am.”
Brother Moon drew closer to the Earth.
“My brother,” said Sister Moon. “You stand too close to the Earth. You draw the Earth waters, and the heat you have gathered warms the Earth’s ice. You must move back with me.”
“No,” said Brother Moon. “I am through with my shame. I am small, but to those upon the Earth I will appear great. Now with my heat, I can burn like a star. I’ll make the night so bright, the Sun’s light will seem weak before me.”
And filled with heat, Brother Moon began to burn. The sky was full of fire. The white snake hid in his hole and the tortoise in his shell. The crocodile hid beneath the waters, and the lizard beneath the rock. But the first ones began to perish, for they were too big to find hiding places from the fire.
Seeing that he was now a star to the Earth, Brother Moon came closer. The embrace between Earth and Moon became too great.
Brother Moon fell.
As he fell, he burned brighter still. “Now, I am the greatest star of all,” he cried.
He crashed into the Earth.
Brother Moon fell so deep within the Earth that he ceased to be himself, and was lost. The Earth’s cisterns burst, and the polar ice melted. Water poured across the Earth. Land separated from land, drifted apart, and crashed together again. Mountains stood where herd beasts once grazed. The fire of Brother Moon drove deep within the Earth. Fountains of burning rock rose in a circle, marking his grave. Waters, now free, covered Brother Moon.
The Earth, in its turmoil, saw calamity birth calamity. The waves of heat that scorched the land sent billows of smoke that blocked the Sun. The surface of the land cooled, and mountains of ice moved across the Earth, crushing everything in their path.
Sister Moon, in her grief, did not play the winds. She did not reflect the Sun. She did not direct the Earth’s waters.
She wept for an age and half an age upon the grave of her Brother. The waters that covered Brother Moon became filled with salt from her tears.
The tortoise, though small among the creatures, was the wisest. He spoke to Sister Moon.
“Sister Moon,” he said. “The Earth needs you to play the winds, and to move away this smoke. The Earth needs you to stir the waters, and to make them fit for life. The Earth needs you to move in your dance, to balance the land and the new seas.”
“I am small,” said Sister Moon, “I am not the Sun, or a star, or the Earth to do such things as you say. It is too late, anyway. Leave me. The first ones are gone. I cannot bring them back.”
“You are Sister Moon,” said the tortoise. “It is your purpose to do that which you were created to do. You are neither greater nor less than you need to be. Though the first ones will not return, new life will come to the earth.”
“I grieve,” said Sister Moon. “I watched my brother fall from the sky. He lies beneath a sea of my tears.”
“You are right to grieve,” said the tortoise. “Your pain is great. Still, you are needed.”
There was nothing in Sister Moon’s heart that wished to shine. There was no desire to bring life from the waters. There was no song for her to play on the winds.
But she was needed.
And so, Sister Moon danced to balance the Earth. The great ice found its place to settle. She played the winds and moved the smoke away. She stirred the waters. New life joined with the tortoise, snake, crocodile and lizard. There were no creatures as tall as the lodge pine, but many different creatures. Each creature suited to an area of the Earth’s surface.
The Sun’s rays now warmed the day and Sister Moon’s gentle light helped the creatures find their nests and lairs at night.
Still, one day each month, Sister Moon mourns her brother. The sky remains dark. You can hear her sighing in the west wind.
So, my granddaughter, sleep has come for you, and I speak to your dreams, so you will remember long after I am gone. Remember that you are, as you are, for a purpose. Never let the jealous and bitter make you ashamed or feel small. The Earth needs you. Though times of mourning will come, do not fear them. Sing your song. Join with Sister Moon, and all creatures, in the music of life.