The Transformative Power of the Wind
Have you noticed how the one thing people are always doing about the wind is complaining? They complain about the wind blowing rain into their faces, blowing their umbrellas inside out, spoiling their new hairdos, chilling their bones, causing a draft, blowing their newspapers away or their candles out etc., etc. The one thing they never seem to do is to acknowledge, how without it, life as we know it would probably cease to exist. The following Native American etiological tale touches on this subject, and reminds us of the folly of taking what we have been blessed with for granted.
Yaponcha, the Wind God
MANY years ago the Hopi were very much troubled by the wind. It blew and blew all the time. The sand drifted away from their fields, and they tried to plant their crops but the wind would sweep the soil away before the seeds would even start to germinate. Sadness and worry were upon everybody and they made prayer offerings of many pahos but there were no results.
Many councils were held by the old men in the kivas, where they smoked their pipes earnestly and asked one another why it was that their gods should turn such strong wind upon them. And after a while, they decided that they would ask the “little fellows” (the two little War Gods Po-okonghoya and Palongahoya, his younger brother) to help them. Now these “little fellows” were called in. When they came in they wanted to know why they were called. The Hopis said that they needed their help, something must be done to the wind. The “little fellows” said yes, they would see what they could do to help the people.
They told the men to stay in the kiva and make many pahos. Then the “little fellows” went to their wise old grandmother, the Spider Woman, and they asked her to make some sweet corn meal mush for them to take along on a journey. Of course they knew who Yaponcha (the Wind God) was and where he lived–over near the Sunset Mountain in the big cracks in the black rock.
When the corn meal mush was made they came back to the kiva and found the pahos were ready and also the ball which they always liked to take along to play with wherever they went, and the bows and arrows had been made for them, because it was much like going on the warpath for them. So the arrows were of bluebird feathers which were considered most powerful in those days.
The two “little fellows” set out toward the San Francisco Peaks. The old men went with them as far as the Little Colorado River and there they sat down and smoked their pipes.
The little warriors went on and on, playing with their ball. They reached the home of the Wind God, Yaponcha, on the fourth day. The Wind God lived at the foot of Sunset Crater in a great crack in the black rock, through which he is ever breathing and does so to this day. They threw the pahos into the crack and hurriedly took out their old grandmother’s sticky cornmeal mush, and they sealed up Yaponcha’s door with it. Now he was awfully angry, and he blew and blew, but he could not get out. The “little fellows” laughed and they went home, very pleased with themselves, indeed.
But bye and bye, the people in the villages began to feel that it was very hot. It was getting warmer and warmer every day. Down in the kivas it was so awfully hot that the men came out and the people came from their houses and they stood upon the housetops and looked and looked toward the San Francisco Peaks, to see if there were any clouds coming. But there wasn’t even the tiniest bit of a cloud to give a pleasant shadow, and not a breath of air, and the people thought that they would smother.
They thought they must do something right away, so the men made some more pahos and called the “little fellows” again and they begged them to go back to Yaponchaki (House of Yaponcha) right away and tell him that there must be peace, and then give him the pahos and let him out, because this heat was much worse even, than the wind. So the “little fellows” said that they would go and see what could be done to make things better.
On the fourth day they arrived at the house of Yaponcha and they talked together and decided that the best thing to do would be to let Yaponcha have just a little hole open, just enough to let him breathe through, but not large enough for him to come out through, altogether. So they took out some of the cornmeal mush and right away a nice cool wind came out, and a little white cloud appeared and went over across the desert toward the Hopi towns.
When the “little fellows” got home again to the villages, everybody was pleased and they have been very grateful ever since. Ever since that time the winds have been just right, and just enough to keep the people cool without blowing everything away.
Taken from Truth of a Hopi: Stories Relating to the Origin, Myths and Clan Histories of the Hopi by Edmund Nequatewa, Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin No. 8. . Scanned at sacred-texts.com, August 2003. J. B. Hare, redactor. This text is in the public domain because it was not renewed in a timely fashion at the US Copyright Office, as required by law at the time. These files may be used for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.
As to why we are always cursing the wind and blaming it for everything bad that happens to us, perhaps the answer lies in this next tale.
How Sun, Moon, and Wind went out to Dinner
One day Sun, Moon, and Wind went out to dine with their uncle and aunts Thunder and Lightning. Their mother (one of the most distant Stars you see far up in the sky) waited alone for her children’s return.
Now both Sun and Wind were greedy and selfish. They enjoyed the great feast that had been prepared for them, without a thought of saving any of it to take home to their mother–but the gentle Moon did not forget her. Of every dainty dish that was brought round, she placed a small portion under one of her beautiful long finger-nails, that Star might also have a share in the treat.
On their return their mother, who had kept watch for them all night long with her little bright eye, said, “Well, children, what have you brought home for me?” Then Sun (who was eldest) said, “I have brought nothing home for you. I went out to enjoy myself with my friends–not to fetch a dinner for my mother!” And Wind said, “Neither have I brought anything home for you, mother. You could hardly expect me to bring a collection of good things for you, when I merely went out for my own pleasure.” But Moon said, “Mother, fetch a plate, see what I. have brought you.” And shaking her hands she showered down such a choice dinner as never was seen before.
Then Star turned to Sun and spoke thus, “Because you went out to amuse yourself with your friends, and feasted and enjoyed yourself, without any thought of your mother at home–you shall be cursed. Henceforth, your rays shall ever be hot and scorching, and shall burn all that they touch. And men shall hate you, and cover their heads when you appear.”
(And that is why the Sun is so hot to this day.)
Then she turned to Wind and said, “You also who forgot your mother in the midst of your selfish pleasures–hear your doom. You shall always blow in the hot dry weather, and shall parch and shrivel all living things. And men shall detest and avoid you from this very time.”
(And that is why the Wind in the hot weather is still so disagreeable.)
But to Moon she said, “Daughter, because you remembered your mother, and kept for her a share in your own enjoyment, from henceforth, you shall be ever cool, and calm, and bright. No noxious glare shall accompany your pure rays, and men shall always call you ‘blessed.’ “
(And that is why the Moon’s light is so soft, and cool, and beautiful even to this day.)
Taken from Indian Fairy Tales selected and edited by Joseph Jacobs. Illustrated by John D. Batten, London: David Nutt, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons . Scanned and Redacted by Phillip Brown. Additional formatting and proofing by J. B. Hare at sacred-texts.com, April 2003. This text is in the public domain. These files may be reproduced for any non-commercial purpose, provided this notice of attribution is left intact.
Instead of constantly complaining about what is wrong with the world and about what we do not have, it would of course do us much more good to appreciate what we do have, and that is what this third tale about the wind and the other elements is really all about:
The Gypsy Woman and the Cave
Once upon a time, in the old days, Gypsy caravans travelled from village to village, from city to city, and the Gypsies would beg and tell fortunes for a piece of bread.
In one city there was a woman who didn’t like her neighbour – the two women were always arguing with each other. This woman called a Gypsy woman over to tell her fortune. “Come here. I’ll give you whatever you want if you can tell me what’s in my heart.”
Just at that moment the neighbour came out of her house and made an insulting gesture to the first woman. The Gypsy noticed this and said, “You live in a really bad neighbourhood and things aren’t going well for you in this house. Your neighbours are jealous of you because you’re a good housewife and all that.”
“Bravo! You found out everything! What do you want me to give you? I’d even give you my heart.” So she gave her bread, cheese, and money, and as the Gypsy was leaving for the camp the woman said, “Come tomorrow. I’ve got something for you to do.” The Gypsy promised to return.
At that time Gypsies were forbidden to camp for the night near the city so they had to set up their tents some distance away. The next day, as the Gypsy woman was walking back to the city, all of a sudden it started to rain very hard. It was the month of March. The Gypsy woman searched everywhere for shelter and finally found an entrance to a cave. She went inside and looked around carefully. In the depths of the cave she saw a small light. As she got closer, she saw it was a large fire. “Ah, I’ll warm up nicely here.”
She looked around and saw twelve young men in nice clothes and good shoes, and they said to her in unison, “Welcome. Tell us, grandmother, where are you going?”
“I’m on my way back to the city, my children, but I got caught in the downpour, and what could I do? I found this cave and came in through the entrance and found you, my golden children.”
“Do you know why it’s raining? It’s the month of March – and in March the cold is awful and the snow ….. what a terrible month it is!”
“Don’t say that, my children. The month of March is the best.”
“Because it brings us April, when spring comes. Without the month of March, we wouldn’t have any spring. And if there were no February, there would be no March.”
And so for each of the months she had something good to say.
“And now where are you going?” they asked her.
“I want to return to my tent to feed my hungry children.”
“Bring your sack over here,” they said, and filled it and sewed it up. “Take it, but don’t open it until you get home.”
The old woman returned to her tent and said to her children, “Well, today I didn’t go to any homes. But I found golden children, little angels, twelve handsome young men. And they gave me this – what is has inside I don’t know. Let’s see what’s inside.”
They opened it, and what do you think they found? All golden coins. The twelve young men were really the Twelve months, and the Gypsy woman, because she hadn’t insulted any of the months, got the treasure.
The next day the weather was perfectly clear. The Gypsy woman ran to the woman she’d promised to see. As much gold as she’d got, she still wanted to beg – that’s the Gypsy way, and that’s why people say Gypsies are never satisfied.
On the way she met the quarrelsome neighbour, who recognised her and said, “whatever she gives you, I’ll give you more. Now tell me what you want.”
“What can I say? I don’t want you to give me anything, for God has provided.”
“What did God give you?”
So she told her how she’d found the cave and gone in to get out of the rain.
“Where’s the entrance to this cave? I’ll go and see for myself.”
So she went on her way to the Twelve Months but without knowing who they were. She found the entrance just where the Gypsy had told her, and went into the cave, pretending to be cold.
“What month is it, old woman, that it’s so cold outside?”
“It’s March – the cruellest, worst month in the year.”
“ And what do you have to say about February?”
“That stupid February?” And she went on to curse all the months, without a good word to say about any of them.
“Give use your sack old woman.” They filled it and sewed it up and told her to open it only when she got home. It was so heavy she hoped to find gold inside. She thought it would be the same as the Gypsy’s. When she got back to the city and opened it, however, what do you think she found? Lots of snakes that came out and ate everything, including her.
Her neighbour said, “The Gypsy knew everything. My neighbour was truly a bad woman. So the Gypsy did her magic.”
That’s why since then people, even today, ten million years later, still say that Gypsies know everything, and believe me it’s true!
What the Wind means to me
Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it. ~ Winston Churchill
Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds. ~ Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.
For what is it to die, but to stand in the sun and melt into the wind? ~ Kahlil Gibran (Lebanese born American philosophical Essayist, Novelist and Poet. 1883-1931)
Absence weakens mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and kindles fires. ~ François de la Rochefoucauld (French classical author, and leading exponent of the Maxime, 1613-1680)
If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favourable to him. ~ Seneca
Which art the unseen similitude of God
The Spirit, His most meet and mightiest sign.
~ Philip James Baile
Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretches out the heavens like a curtain: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever. ~ Bible, Psalms (ch. CIV, v. 1-5)
A wailing, rushing sound, which shook the walls an though a giant’s hand were on them; then a hoarse roar, as if the sea had risen; then such a whirl and tumult, that the air seemed mad; and then, with a lengthened howl, the waves of wind swept on. ~ Charles Dickens
Seas are the fields of combat for the winds; but when they sweep along some flowery coast, their wings move mildly, and their rage is lost. ~ John Dryden
The winds are out of breath. ~ John Dryden
Perhaps the wind
Wails so in winter for the summer’s dead,
And all sad sounds are nature’s funeral cries
For what has been and is not.
– George Eliot, The Spanish Gypsy (bk. I)
The bitter-sweet, the haunting air
Creepeth, bloweth everywhere;
It preys on all, all prey on it,
Blooms in beauty, thinks in wit,
Stings the strong with enterprise,
Makes travellers long for Indian skies.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Madame, bear in mind
That princes govern all things–save the wind.
~ Victor Hugo, The Infanta’s Rose
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, A Day of Sunshine (st. 3)
It’s a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills,
And April’s in the West wind, and daffodils.
~ John Masefield, The West Wind
Loud wind, strong wind, sweeping o’er the mountains,
Fresh wind, free wind, blowing from the sea,
Pour forth thy vials like streams from airy mountains,
Draughts of life to me.
~ Dinah Maria Mulock, North Wind
When the wind is in the east,
Then the fishes bite the least;
When the wind is in the west,
Then the fishes bite the best;
When the wind is in the north,
Then the fishes do come forth;
When the wind is in the south,
It blows the bait in the fish’s mouth.
~ Old Rhyme, in J.O. Halliwell’s “Popular Rhymes”
Ill blows the wind that profits nobody.
~ William Shakespeare, King Henry the Sixth Part III (Son at II, v)
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind (pt. I)
I loved the Wind.
Whether it kissed my hair and pallid brow;
Whether with sweets my sense it fed, as now;
Whether it blew across the scudding main;
Whether it shrieked above a stretch of plain;
Whether, on autumn days, in solemn woods,
And barren solitudes,
Along the waste it whirled the withered leaves;
Whether it hummed around my cottage eaves,
And shook the rattling doors,
And died with long-drawn sighs, on bleak and dreary moors;
Whether in winter, when its trump did blow
Through desolate gorges dirges of despair,
It drove the snow-flakes slantly down the air,
And piled the drifts of snow;
Or whether it breathed soft in vernal hours,
And filled the trees with sap, and filled the grass with flowers.
~ Richard Henry Stoddard
We wait for thy coming, sweet wind of the south!
For the touch of thy light wings, the kiss of thy mouth;
For the yearly evangel thou bearest from God,
Resurrection and life to the graves of the sod!
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
…we went on to Douglas, Arizona, and … got in ahead of time. I asked the pilot the reason, and he told me we had a tail wind, which meant fast going. Right then it struck me that a tail wind was a mighty handy thing to have, in a lot of ways besides flying. I could look back over my life and think of quite a few times when a tail wind would have been right useful.
~ Sue Sanders, U.S. oil producer. Our Common Herd, ch. 28 (1940)
What if there’s nothing up there at the top?
Where are the captains that govern mankind?
What tears down a tree that has nothing within it?
A blast of wind, O a marching wind,
March wind, and any old tune,
March march and how does it run.
~ William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), taken from “Three Marching Songs.”)
Solomon! where is thy throne? It is gone in the wind.
Babylon! where is thy might? It is gone in the wind.
Happy in death are they only whose hearts have consigned
All Earth’s affections and longings and cares to the wind.
~ James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), Gone in the Wind (l. 25-28)
When the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
~ Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894), taken from Who has seen the wind? (Sing-Song) (l. 7-8).
A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache. ~ Catherine the Great
A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine. ~ Anne Bronte
A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long. ~ E. E. Cummings
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are. ~ Arthur Golden
America is a hurricane, and the only people who do not hear the sound are those fortunate if incredibly stupid and smug White Protestants who live in the center, in the serene eye of the big wind. ~ Norman Mailer
Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind. ~ Robert Green Ingersoll
Being a Jew is like walking in the wind or swimming: you are touched at all points and conscious everywhere. ~ Lionel Trilling
Blossoms are scattered by the wind and the wind cares nothing, but the blossoms of the heart no wind can touch. ~ Yoshida Kenko
Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! ~ William Butler Yeats