Here we go! This is the first real myth of Florida I wrote, and one I’ve long promised by now.
I wrote it by “listening” to the Land and Spirit, but also by translating factual information to ground the myth in reality. Not all myths take this approach, but I have decided that this cycle of myths should. We are no longer living in the context of a pre-scientific time. It is high time faith and science married and got on with improving life. At all times, I paused to “myth-check” with the Speaking Land, keeping myself completely open to any revisions or twists in the story. That said, I had some wiggle room in crafting the language of the story itself, so it bears my mark. I do not expect all myths, written by others, to follow the same pattern and verbiage.
THE MYTH: The Lady and the Moon
After the beginning, when Our Lady Florida rose up from the primordial waters of Mother Ocean, came the realization that the beautiful light she’d glimpsed through the coral shallows were not one but two gods. The fair and ever-loving Sun and his brother, the lifeless Moon, were the objects of her desire. They were equally handsome at times, and their light inspired her.
However, neither of them were perfect, she soon realized. The Sun could not refuse to share his love with the Ladies of the South—other lands beyond the horizon—whose homes he visited throughout his year of wandering. The Moon was ever constant, but cold and withdrawn. Every month he would hide his lovely face from the world. The Lady was disappointed. The torrid love she enjoyed with the solar twin awoke within her the first signs of life—the wind-blown sawgrass—and yet each blade of that grass was dipped in jealousy. When the Sun wandered, she consoled herself with the lunar twin, soothing her feelings in his embrace. But he, too, was jealous. Moon wanted her all to himself and yet still refused to let her see his entire face, hiding away for days at a time. Thus, the sawgrass grew dark and bitter, and learned the patterns of death and decomposition upon the Land of Many Waters.
It is hard to know how much time passed this way, all three parties caught between ecstasy and jealousy. Nevertheless, her paradise blossomed and grew wild and fertile. Her children with the Sun grew many and spread out everywhere. They learned to live with the seasons that plagued their Mother and made the best of these times. But not so the children of the Moon, for he could father none.
Over time, it became more than he could handle, his jealousy finally winning over the sweet comforts of the Lady’s embrace. So, to her lands he guided a new species who walked on two legs and had learned to count by his light. They were his foster children, for like his brother he had no limits upon this world and could bestow his blessings anywhere it pleased him.
The Lady noticed their hunting parties in the north, but knew little of them. They were newcomers to Turtle Island and had only just begun to establish themselves as the Ice retreated. They’d brought with them gods from the other world beyond the frozen north. Our Lady Florida welcomed them into the vast savannas and natural springs. She appeared to them in their ceremonies and imparted the wisdom of plants and game. She gave them knowledge of the secret paths to fly across her paradise, and made introductions with the native spirits that would be friends.
But these foster children of the Moon, these humans, brought with them something else. They had long learned the secrets of the Moon, and though bitter Moon wasn’t their only god, his lessons had been worth remembering. For him they’d fashioned spears and arrows, knives to slice and carve. They believed it was their right to claim a portion of the wildlife and the human life they brought along with them. For they were not a single people, but a multitude of different tribes and clans. Unlike the Lady’s other children, they fought against one another in numbers and for trivial reasons. They warred.
Imagine Florida’s dismay when she witnessed war: impassioned dispute between two competitors rising into the illogical slaughter of many. The horror of their cries and agony, the wounds inflicted by one brother to another. And the Moon’s laughter in the skies, his joy at receiving this due of blood and sacrifice. These were his children, if only when they followed in his teachings.
Our Lady Florida witnessed this, and wept, realizing how misplaced her affections for the Moon had been, how her jealousy of the Sun had made way for this discord. This was what the Moon hid from the land, when he turned his face away each month. This was the heart of his cold and distant love. She wanted nothing to do with it, but she could not let this stand within her domain. It was past time, she thought, she learned to heal herself.
On the next full moon, the humans held their ceremonies as they had for ages. Lord Moon sauntered through the sky, expecting the same loving embrace she had given a million nights before. This time, however, he found a goddess enraged staring back at him.
“You have brought sin to my lands,” she accused him.
He acted affronted, shocked. But the Moon smirked and said, “You have adopted them as our children. What did you expect? It is too late to rescind your welcome.”
This wounded her, to see him gloat over her failures. “True, you’ve won for now. Our human children may yet become a plague upon these lands, and the glorious bounty I have begotten with your brother may yet suffer.”
“He does not deserve your love or patience when he dallies in the south!”
Our Lady saw the flash of rage here, but also hurt and understood: everywhere the Moon went, every Lady he sought to woo, had only eyes for his brother. And what’s worse: he couldn’t father children of his own. Eons of this truth had crushed something good and vital within the Moon, turned him bitter, for there had to have been something sweet and gentle in him too, at first. She pitied him.
“Are you not tired of this jealousy? Is it not time to end this quarrel?”
Lord Moon did not respond, his face as cold and sullen as ever.
“Look below,” she said, trying a different approach. “There our children, the human tribes, sing your praises and dance in your honor. Listen! Even though they hate and slaughter each other in your name, they are united in love of you. Is that not reason enough to change?”
Lord Moon said nothing still. Our Lady Florida has never had a long-suffering disposition. Her temper turned, then, flared up with impatience and new rage.
“Fine, then!” She shouted, and every living and nonliving thing across her lands shuddered. “Our time has ended, Moon. I see you will not be moved by their human love and loyalty, but I am not such a parent to abandon my own. They are henceforth my children and your vitriol will not infect them further. I will teach them. I will nurture them. Through my guidance, they will know the right way of things: peace and harmony with this land.”
The bitter Moon chuckled, then, and said: “Don’t fool yourself, they will always be mine. Their minds have been with me for a long time now and they will not change just because you show them kindness. In the end, they’ll come to destroy this paradise. We will have this land!”
Standing now, wreathed in her true power, Our Lady Florida said: “None shall ever own this land but me. I am the bedrock and the porous limestone, which is the graveyard of eons past. I am the sands worn down from coral, shells and stone. I am the fertile soil that grows all things. I am the sawgrass and the live oak, the palmetto, the slash pine, and the cypress. I am the waters coursing through this land, my gift of life and promise of renewal. I am every living thing that crawls and slithers, flies and walks upon the earth. I am the moisture rising up, the clouds at midday, and the rain at every hour. And when my time is done, Mother Ocean will have my body while I slumber. But I shall rise again.”
So ended their exchange, and for millennia neither talked to the other. The Lady came to the bonfires and the ceremonies of the human tribes dotting the landscape and made herself known to them. They witnessed majesty and singular power and understood who truly fed and clothed and sheltered them. From her they learned to live in the Land of Many Waters and for thousands of years, there was peace and prosperity. But they also worshiped the Moon, whose rituals were too deeply ingrained in their spirits now, whose face was hidden with mystery and revealed in silver glory. Cold, remote, and exacting in the field of war, but it was Moon they came to when disputes arose and the Lady’s could not intercede.
Now that you know this tale, the question is this: