Unlike the other myths written here before, I cannot really place this one in a definite time frame beyond saying it happened after The Making of Peace. It is only really possible after the “cessation of hostilities” between the Divine Beings of earth and sky, and the People themselves.
THE MYTH: The Faces of the Moon
It was many years before the People felt safe enough to approach the Moon openly again, though many rumored there were those hidden in the deep marshes and swamps who prayed to the former spirit of war. The memories of carnage and starvation, and the sacrifices required by each clan, before peace could be made were enduring. So, when it became known that a beautiful woman of the western shores had wed the Moon, many were shocked.
Oracles of spirit and the dead were consulted and soon it was known that she was pregnant with his children. Worry gripped the People, now separated in their many corners of the Land. Wise, old ones from each tribe came together at the Heart of the Mother, the life-giving lake of gatherings and remembrance, to pray like they had done for generations. Here they could hear the heartbeat of Mother Florida most clearly, even if she was ever-present in every blade of sawgrass and every prowling panther. Here, they could beg for an answer to their questions, so deeply rooted in fear.
With a ripple of wind spreading across the waters, bending the green and whipping the clouds in the sky, the Lady came to where they prayed and embraced them in her warmth and love. “What do you seek to know, my children?” she asked.
They were hesitant to speak, at first, but before long they said: “This maiden from the West carries the Children of the Moon, and we well remember his warlike ways. Shall his offspring bring more of the same? How can her love be so misguided?”
“Misguided?” She mused and laughed. “It was I who brought them together. It was I who told her tales of his loveliness, when I knew him well, before the People came.”
The wise ones didn’t know whether to be shocked or reassured. After all, the Lady valued peace above all things, and in this time since it had come, she’d flourished like never before. At last, they spoke once more: “But what of the children of such a coupling? Will they not be mighty and upset the peace we cherish? Will they not bring back the path of war and death?”
Lady Florida howled with the wind and the stalkers in the grass, somewhere between impatience and laughter. “The children will be what they are raised to be… and that is your charge for coming here with questions. Go now and see you do not break the peace!”
This is how the children of woman and Moon came to be raised by a different uncle from a nearby tribe. She did not protest, and neither did the Moon, who now began to talk with the people as the children grew. But she grew lonely, seeing each only after long voyages across the Land’s changing face, and sought refuge in her lover’s arms and wisdom in the Lady’s house, which was the floors of rich earth, the walls of slash pines and palmettos, and the ceiling of the open skies.
It had always been this way, after all. No one but the wise man who raised her knew of her parents, though he’d quickly driven the notion of being anything like the hero, Bird of Many Feathers, once an orphan youth. The elegant plumed spirit had been her childhood crush, and she’d hunted for a glimpse of his return in spring and departure every autumn. But soon enough she matured, and the Mother of the Land had started speaking of the gallant and mysterious Moon. Of course, she’d known the stories of his war on the Land and the pain it caused, still remembered all these many centuries after. But he’d changed, the Lady said, and long ago he’d been a kind and attentive lover.
When she first approached him, nerves nearly broke her resolve and nothing else mattered but the icy fear in her veins. And yet, he had been gentle and kind, just as promised, and very attentive. Every night since then he’d made her glow with his light and she learned to love him for this. But this gift of grace attracted attention from the men of her clan she did not want, so Moon told her to jump into the sea and he would transform her into any fish she wished, scales gleaming in the moonlight.
Before long, there were stories of the fish maiden that swam by the shores on moonlit nights, of her leaping in the skies in glowing beauty. Many desired to see her, but many others desired to catch her in their nets. Moon made her powerful and fast and sleek by turns and she evaded all nets, slipping from one form into another. Then, the fishers brought spears. When they were hurled, they sunk into the sand and became strange trees with raised roots above the water, forming a barrier along the shallow waters to keep the fisher folks away for good.
Knowing herself protected in the Moon’s light and love, she conceived her first-born children and gave birth to each on lonely shores. By the time her people learned of this, she already had two newborns at her breast and two more in her belly. They were shocked when she told them who the father was, for she no longer feared. Her children would be fierce and clever, born of an improbable and unlikely union. To each, she decided, she would give the gift of a different animal in the Land–something the Lady approved of when they spoke.
She had many children in this way and never objected when they were grown enough to be taken away by the wise ones of the People. She knew they would raise them well, like her adoptive father had raised her, and that they were just as protected as she was. Their father watched over the whole Land and nothing could be hidden from his eye in the night or daytime.
“You were born to lead and serve,” she told each of them when they old enough to understand and remember her words. “Never forget that.”
Old she was by the time they returned to her modest home by the sea, at the mouth of canals now being dug between the homes of the people. They came one by one as grown men and women, some even with their own children. She was a grandmother now, and saw in each of her descendants her likeness and the Moon’s. Many of her children were now chiefs, weaving a network of blood across the Land stronger than the ones brought about by the Making of the Peace. Some were married to chiefs. Others were sought for their wise counsel and insight. All of them were hers, and each had imparted the gift she’d given them from each of the animals of the Land on to their adoptive families and clans.
They stayed with her only for a season, for she was old, and when she passed it was surrounded by all those she loved in the light of a full Moon. All but two of her children scattered again, returning to their new homes. The eldest remained, and built a mound of shells where their mother’s dwelling had once stood, amid the waters of the bay. Through generations they stayed, and mingled with their original clan, and taught them the mystery of the Moon’s phases, so that they need not be afraid again.
For, there is power in these mysteries that first taught all the People how to count and roam, that taught them the music of owls and the howl of wolves, deceit and magic. Cold, perhaps, was the Moon’s light and his faces often vanished from the sky. Nothing at all like the constant but wandering Sun, but its twin nonetheless. Old was he a friend of all.
“But what of the wars, the starvation and all that?” The People asked.
The children smiled, and said: “All who wax and wane, grow old and die, can lose their way in life. But, when love and promises are kept, each wound may be healed in time and be reborn.”