THE STAR FEATHERS
A long time ago a warrior of roving disposition went down into the white
settlements toward the east, where for the first time he saw a peacock. The
beautiful long feathers surprised and delighted him, and trading some
valuable Indian possession of his own he managed to buy a few of them, which
he took with him to the mountains and hid, until he was ready to use them, in an
old beaver lodge under the river bank. To get into the beaver lodge he had to
dive under the water.
Then he set to work secretly and made himself a headdress, with the long
peacock feathers in the front and trailing out behind and the shorter ones at the
sides. At the next dance he wore the new headdress, and asserted that he had
been up to the sky and that these were star feathers (see number 9, “What the
stars are like”). He made a long speech also, which he pretended was a message
he had received from the star spirits to deliver to the people.
Everyone wondered at the beautiful feathers, so different from any they had ever
seen before. They made no doubt that he had been up to the sky and talked with
spirits. He became a great prophet, and used to keep himself hidden all day in
the beaver hole, and whenever there was a night gathering for a dance or a
council he would suddenly appear among them wearing his feather headdress
and give the people a new message from the sky. Then he would leave them
again, pretending that he went up to heaven.
He grew famous and powerful among all the medicine men, until at last it
happened that another Cherokee went down among the white settlements and
saw there another peacock, and knew at once that the prophet was a fraud. On
his return he quietly told some of his friends, and they decided to investigate.his return he quietly told some of his friends, and they decided to investigate.
When the next night dance came around the prophet was on hand as usual with a
new message fresh from the stars. The people listened reverently, and promised
to do all that he commanded. Then he left them, saying that he must return at
once to the sky, but as he went out from the circle the spies followed him in the
darkness, and saw him go down to the river and dive under the water. They
waited, but he did not come up again, and they went back and told the people.
The next morning a party went to the spot and discovered the beaver lodge under
the bank. One man dived and came up inside, and there he found the prophet
sitting with the peacock feathers his side.
Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney