When the sun or moon is eclipsed it is because a great frog up in the sky is trying to swallow it. Everybody knows this, even the Creeks and the other tribes, and in the olden times, eighty or a hundred years ago, before the great medicine men were all dead, whenever they saw the sun grow dark the people would come together and fire guns and beat the drum, and in a little while this would frighten off the great frog and the sun would be all right again.
Extract from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology "The Moon and the Thunders: Myths of the Cherokee", James Mooney (1902)
In August 2017, when Melissa was 5 months pregnant with Kaya, we travelled to southern Maryland and greater Washington D.C. area for a summer gettawaway and to attend ceremony with Piscataway relatives. It is always a profound and sacred experience to be in the lands of my ancestors and birth of our nation. On this particular trip, at the invitation of one of my long lost cousins Sebi Medina-Tayac, decided to cancel our return flights, rent a car, and take a roadtrip to Cherokee, North Carolina to witness the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017.
In the video below shows the solar eclipse in it's totality. Shot on a Canon 5d with a special lens I made with solar eclipse glasses!
After experiencing the solar eclipse we took a trip out to Mingo Falls, on the Qualla Boundary, just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We learned that Mingo actually means “Big Bear” in the Cherokee language and Mingo Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains at 120 feet tall. As often happens when I commune with Nature, my inner chi has to manifest through a long standing practice of "Brae Chi Yo" ninja turtle mash up style arts-dance prayer! In the video below I am getting busy under the Mingo Falls when a photographer stopped in to snap a few shots (Image above)!
According to "The Moon and the Thunders" in Jame Mooney's "Myths of the Cherokee", it states that "the common people call both Sun and Moon Nûñdă, one being “Nûñdă that dwells in the day” and the other “Nûñdă that dwells in the night,” but the priests call the Sun Su′tălidihĭ′, “Six-killer,” and the Moon Ge′ʻyăgu′ga, though nobody knows now what this word means, or why they use these names." Diving deeper......
The great Thunder and his sons, the two Thunder boys, live far in the west above the sky vault. The lightning and the rainbow are their beautiful dress. The priests pray to the Thunder and call him the Red Man, because that is the brightest color of his dress. There are other Thunders that live lower down, in the cliffs and mountains, and under waterfalls, and travel on invisible bridges from one high peak to another where they have their town houses. The great Thunders above the sky are kind and helpful when we pray to them, but these others are always plotting mischief.
The video below is a moving and powerful rendition of the "Sun and the Great Frog", narrated by David Crawler "A Cherokee Eclipse Story in the Cherokee Language."
While you may think of these stories only in the realm of "myths" and "legends". For me... this is how the land and the ancestors speak to me, as well as how I upload information from the ether. I heard the Thunders under the waterfall, and saw for myself "the Nûñdă that dwells in the day" being eaten by the Great Frog. Before leaving we visited the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, all of which left a indelible impression on my consciousness. One that would ignite another long Alice in Wonderland-like Rabbit Hole 3 years study into the past and paths of my Underwood ancestors from Buncombe and Wilkes County, North Carolina, circa the late 1700's and early 1800's! I have been unable to conceptualize and articulate this story until now... Seeing the Sun Eat the Great Frog was an experience I will never forget!
To be continued...
More to come...
In my next blog I will deep dive into the paths of my ancestors; great x4 grandfather Jesse Underwood, born in Buncombe, North Carolina (1804) and died in Union County, Illinois (1851); and my great x5 grandfather William "Wedgebar" Underwood:
Who was William Wedgebar Underwood?
- Born in Buncombe, North Carolina (1759)
- Revolutionary War Soldier who spent three years and four months under the leadership of Major-General Baron Stueben of the Continental Army, and (after the surrender of Cornwallis), fell under the command of Brigadier-General Anthony Wayne, of Pennsylvania until 30 July 1783.
- Documented as "William Underwood", in Wilkes County, North Carolina as 1 of 9 "Free Persons of Color" in the 1800' census
- Listed in Cherokee Indian Claim for monies by grandson William S. Underwood, May 18, 1905.
- Had atleast 30 children with 3 different women (one being of the Stuart-Bushyhead lineage).
- Did William Underwood have Cherokee ancestors? Or did he participate or profit from Cherokee Removal?
- Why did William's son (my great grandfather x4) "Jesse Underwood" move from North Carolina to Roane County, Tennessee, during the time of Indian removal, and then on to Union County, Illinois?
** note this is the Northern- Cherokee route of the Trail of Tears**
- What was Jesse Underwood's involvement in founding Cedar Forks Baptist Church in Roane, Tennesse? and what relationship if any did these Northern Baptists have to anti-slavery sentiment and the Underground Railroad?
If you are a descendant of William Underwood please consider joining our group on Facebook:
The above image is of my great x3 grandfather John Asbury Underwood (1823-1878) and great x3 grandmother. John Asbury was the grandfather of my grandfather ("Walter Lee Underwood"), and he was the grandson of William Wedgebar Underwood. iWill connect the dots and dig more into this North Carolina/ Tennesse history in the next blog; "Who is William Wedgebar Underwood?" Coming soon!
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