Saturday, January 15, 2011

Déviat sets the sun - A tale from the Ilyun


One day, Núkiam, having decided that he was tired of the world and did not want to be spoken to any longer, shut himself in a dark cave*. He placed a heavy boulder there at its mouth which was covered with moss to make it seem as though it had been there for a long while. And the rock was so thick and heavy that no man could move it, and no sounds from inside could be heard. Núkiam lay quietly on the stones, and, pleased with the silence and darkness, closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

But outside, everything grew dark and dry, to the point of where the women could not find their children, and many scared voices cried out. Déviat, who had been knitting while watching his flock, heard their cries and set aside his work, determining to seek out his husband to find out what was the matter. But try as he might, he could not find him.

So he went to the people themselves, and taking on gently by the arm, he asked what was the matter, and why the darkness should so suddenly have come upon the land. And the old man he had grabbed confessed to not knowing, for even one so wise in the world as he had no knowledge of this phenomenon nor what had caused it.

Déviat again took up his search, but again found nothing, nor any clue as to where Núkiam had gone. Overnight the crops dried and died out in the fields and then even the cows and the horses were groaning with hunger and laying down where they stood, ready for endless sleep.

And the people cried loudly, creating such a cacophony in the mind of Déviat that he could not think clearly- so Déviat, determined to bring an end to all of this, stood at the forge of the Great God Núkiam, and brought forth a great fire, which he placed in the sky**.

But the sun was too bright, and it scorched the dead plants on the ground and many things were flame and burnt. So Déviat extinguished the flames, and, returning the failed sun to the forge, fashioned from it a smaller sun.

And he placed this one in the sky, but it was lopsided because the voices and the cries of the people were too loud for him to concentrate. This sun was too dim because of its lopsidedness: only half of the light of it shone upon the land, and again the people cried out against the darkness.

Déviat tried to adjust the sun so that it would be right for the people, but each time he reached out towards it, the brightness of it and the heat of it scorched his hands so that he had to pull back. The people cried out a little louder, and then suddenly there came from the ground a great rustling.

Núkiam, who had been woken from his slumber by the noise of the people, burst forth from his sleeping place within the rock, and looked about in annoyance.

“What is this noise you are making, and what is the meaning of it?” Thundered the great god, then spied Déviat trying to turn the sun and burning himself. Without so much as the effort of shooing a fly, Núkiam gestured and the sun was set right again in the sky, and Déviat turned to him in happiness and was healed instantly of his burns, and the people were saved.


* - Núkiam is known for having episodes of apathy such as these, and many tales in the Ilyun describe him leaving and some catastrophe befalling the land, which is then fixed by the much-beloved Déviat. This tale in particular is important to understanding some of the celebrations among the people who share the culture of the tréi kémani. For example, when there are solar eclipses, the people wail and make as much noise as possible, banging on pots and pans, shaking rattles, and chanting loudly in an attempt to rouse the slumbering god so that he lend his help to fixing the sun properly. (Legend holds that if the greater god is not awakened, the people will either spend the rest of their eternities in semidarkness, or the sun will grow in strength continually, until there is nothing left of the earth but ash.)
This tale is also one of the main which is reflected upon during the three-day festival called kajamohn, during which the people first have a great party, then spend a day in absolute silence and do not work, instead contemplating and thanking Déviat for his interventions on their behalf.

** - Though Déviat is understood to be the lesser of the two gods, he proves in this tale and in many others that he is capable of at least temporarily matching Núkiam in power. It is said that only Núkiam can use his own tools and that anyone else who tries will be burnt to ash, but here Déviat manages to do so with (relatively little) difficulty. It doesn't appear as though Núkiam is too terribly bothered by this, either.

*** Image found here.

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