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  • Years ago, I wrote about the oral storytelling tradition of the Inuit culture. I wrote about the Northern Lights as souls of the ancestors. It was then that I first learned the story of Raven and the Whale and now I share it with you.

    Raven made the world. Raven was both a God and a Bird, with Man inside. Even though Raven made the world, he did not know everything there was to know.

    One day, Raven paddled his kayak out into the sea. There he saw a whale. Raven wondered what it looked like inside the whale, so when the whale opened his mouth, Raven paddled his kayak inside the whale's mouth. Tying his kayak to one of the whale's teeth, Raven began to walk deeper into the belly of the whale. It was dark. He heard a sound like drumming or thunder. As Raven came closer, he could see a beautiful girl dancing to the sound of the drum. She had strings tied to her hands and feet.

    Raven watched her dance. He decided that he would marry her. Raven pulled back his Bird Mask and revealed his face. He asked the beautiful dancer to join him in the world, to be his wife. "I cannot leave here," the dancer said. "I am the heart and soul of the whale. But if you would stay here with me, I would be happy."

    Raven sat down and watched the girl as she danced. When the girl danced quickly, the whale sped through the water. When she danced slowly, the whale floated lazily. Soon she danced so slowly that she barely moved at all, and her eyes closed. Raven felt human desire and he forgot what the girl had told him. Raven decided then that he would take her away. He pulled his Bird Face back down and swept the girl into his arms. He heard the strings snap as he flew out of the whale and up into the sky.

    Raven saw the whale thrash and struggle. He watched as the whale's body was washed to the shore. The whale was dead. The girl in his arms grew smaller and smaller, until she finally disappeared.

    Raven then realized that everything that is alive in the world has a heart and soul. And everything alive in the world is born and dies. Raven was overcome with great sorrow. He landed on the sand next to the body of the whale. For weeks, Raven cried and cried. Then he danced. For weeks, Raven danced and danced. Then he sang. For weeks, he sang and sang, until finally, at last, his grieving heart was soothed. Raven flew back up to the sky. Before leaving, he promised the humans and animals that he would one day return as long as we remembered that everything that is alive has a heart and soul. Raven would return as long as we remembered that everything that is alive is born and will one day die.

    image source: american-art-frank.wiki.uml.edu
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