Great Mother

Mother did not know that what the men did to her made her have children.

In the beginning I had no name. Mother had no name until I gave her one. Mother would turn when she heard the sound of her name. She heard the sound but not the name.


Mother showed me how to drink the River, making a cup with my hand. She showed me what was good to eat and what was bad.


A Tree that grew by the River. Fruit grew on the Tree. But no one ate the fruit. Once I tried to eat the fruit. Mother knocked the fruit from my hand. Later I came back to the Tree. I saw birds sitting in the branches. The birds were eating the fruit. I saw monkeys eating the fruit. Lizards were eating the fruit that was lying on the ground.


I took the fruit and ate it. The fruit was good. This was the first thing I named. I called the Tree “Esh”—the sound the wind makes in its branches.


Sometimes Mother put me aside. She put me aside when the men came. Once a man came to Mother as she drank. Mother hissed—issh!—and put me aside. The man put his hands on her. He held her. He put his body on top of her. He opened her legs. The other men laughed. I watched the man and Mother, what they did.


Mother did not know that what the men did to her made her have children. She did not know that the men were our fathers. Sometimes the men came to me. Mother and the other mothers drove the men away. The mothers bared their teeth and took up stones. I knew someday they would not drive the men away. A man would come to me. He would lie on top of me. He would open my legs. Later a child would come. I understood this. It was the man who put the child in your belly.


After a time, men came to me. Mother did nothing. I had children. I gave names to the children. My children were like me. They understood the names. When the children grew, they spoke the names to each other. I told my children my names for Tree and Night and River. Names for Wind and Fire. Names for Birth and Life and Death. When my children had children, they repeated the names I had given to the things in the World, which I also named. The World was all the unnamed and named things as far as the place where the land meets the sky.


Monkeymen did not understand names. Monkeymen had no use for names They began to live apart. We quarreled over food. We quarreled over women. Brothers fought their brothers. Sons fought their fathers. One day we took up stones and drove the Monkeymen away. We drove them from the River. They lived apart from us on the Plain. The land was dry. Living was hard. We would come upon them. They would cry out and flee from us, as the Antelope flees from the Cougar. Someone said: Why do Monkeymen flee from us? They are our blood.


I said:  You take their food. You take their women. You kill them and eat their flesh. That is why they flee from us. No one listened to my words. They cried out in anger. They said: Our Dead Father is angry with us. We have wronged Our Dead Father. We remember the Dead Father. But we have turned away from him. We make names. The Snake and the Cougar come to us at Night and put names in our heads—the names of Sorrow and Worry and Death. The Dead Father will not protect us from the Snake and the Cougar. Someone has angered the Dead Father. Someone has turned Our Dead Father against us.


They looked one to the other. They remembered the story I had told them of the Tree I called Esh. They remembered the fruit of that Tree. They said: Great Mother was the first to make names. She angered the Dead Father by eating the forbidden fruit of Esh. The Snake and the Cougar came to her in the Night. Our Dead Father let them put their names into her head.


They all cried out. They kept saying: Now the Our Dead Father has turned away from us. Now we will all die. They took up stones. They wanted to kill me as they had killed all Monkeymen until there were no more. But someone said: We cannot kill Great Mother or we will kill ourselves. She is Hava, she is Life. Someday the Our Dead Father will come back. He will show us the way to the Country where we once lived. Where he lived among us and we had no use for names.


And so they drew away from me, and I grew old. I grew old until there was no more life to live. I went to sit by the fire. I was alone. The children of my belly and all the children of the children waited. Their eyes were as watchful as the dead eyes of beasts. They were afraid of the Wind and the Night and Our Dead Father. They longed for the time before names.  They were waiting for me to die. Then they could say: Now the names will go away, now no one will ever die again.