Myths of the Black Bear

There are many legends and myths that include symbols and imagery that helped shape one of the ways men understand and illuminate the world we reside in,including the world just beyond the veil; the world of supernatural that exists just outside our understanding.

The natural desire to see behind that veil has been prominent in many people, which draws them into unknown territory on a spiritual quest to see some kind of other side.  When people begin to peek behind the veil, they come through an intangible door and brave their way to a grander enlightenment with what is sometimes called a divination spirit.

Black BearPicking out the right doorway happens to be very difficult.  Some have found exciting and fascinating frontiers they didn’t know about, while others have found themselves to be lost instead of found.  For the people who walk the high path, these doorways have brought them more knowledge of an artistic, abstract land that is actually parallel to natural reality.  It shows them there can be stranger things throughout nirvana in contrast to on earth.

There are several ways that can be used to achieve entrance to this supernatural area past what’s possible be stated.  The most usual way of reaching these doorways to what lies behind the veil are prayer and patience.  The other ways, which are said to be impatient and often corrupt, is researching the occult and using that to coerce unnatural results. In the first way, you can receive a no-expectation result.  The other way demands a debt that requires tribute in payment for the coerced will.

Those of all different cultures and religions have differences in symbolism, and yet they might not be completely different in their separate aspects.  Instead of wasting time comparing faiths, it is preferable to use your own intimate belief system as a prime example.  For example, for one faith might teach them to believe in broken bodies, and the shedding of blood and a name that’s sacred of a personal sacrificial savor, will unblock the veil which allows them to come through the doorway of nirvana. Some cultures and individuals might find this idea to be completely ludicrous while some others find it completely acceptable and even understandable.

Because of the way some take faith’s legends and myths as facts, they choose to comprehend without holding onto preconceived prejudice that the faiths, legends, and myths of others are their own personal choice and fall in line with their own specific culture.  Most of these people also choose to believe that despite the varying differences, everyone should live in harmony and peace and allow others the innate right to walk their own path with whatever Great Creator they choose to worship.

We occasionally find ourselves strolling along a narrow line between natural and supernatural. We often are unable to tell or even explain the differences between them.  All the same, supernatural and the obvious natural have been linked since the start of time as we believe it to be.  They are simply kept apart by an invisible, thin veil, that can leave us speechless.

Different civilizations all over the world have struggled with the difficulty of deciding on a good medium of sharing their belief system with the others in this world; a simple answer or a complex explanation can be very simple to those on the inside while proving difficult to understand for those who aren’t part of that culture or faith.

The best way to try and tell about an abstract idea and even a journey has been around for ages; symbolism.  You simplify the abstract so that other people can understand what is not always seen by those in the natural world.  Legends and myths are exactly that; they are not necessarily a free license to insist upon a story that can’t be proved with facts, but rather an opportunity to explain what most consider unexplainable.

Looking into the Cherokee’s idea of creation is a fascinating topic, even if you view creation as something completely different. It is not anyone’s place to reject their symbolic theories as to how the world we live in was formed. Instead, enjoy the myths while simply embracing your own ideas about creation.

An example of a Native American myth that is popular to study is the supernatural symbolic idea that has to do with the mystical force of waterfalls.  They believe that the water flows along, connected to a natural world. It is believed that when the water comes down from its great heights and gathers into a pool, a liquid veil is created that separates the two worlds.

We are especially blessed that in this country we have the power and rights to our own belief systems and choices.  We are one large collection of people;  it is only the differences in cultural understanding prevent us from becoming even more united than we already are. We must learn to embrace other cultures’ right and ability to believe in their own idea of their origins, even if disagree or understand their symbolism.

Black Bears and they’re Connection to Native Americans

The Native Americans were the first people to admire, respect, and even revere the black bears. The Cherokee was a nation that covered the mountains before Europeans arrived.  Some historians even claim the that the Cherokee people have lived in the higher lands for only five hundred years; after moving away from the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley region.  The the Cherokee did, in fact, live in the upper West, their legends, traditions, and myths have placed their beginnings in the heart of the Smoky Mountains that date back thousands of years.

Archaeological studies at a historical Native American earth mound that was found to be man made has uncovered evidence that confirms the Cherokee are actually descendants of the Tsalagi people.  They originated here more than ten thousand years ago.  This important site lies just along the southern border of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  The villages is found along the banks of the Tuskasegee River in Swain County.  It sits between the towns of Bryson City and Cherokee.  The access location to the site is on the northern end along US 19/74.

The old mound village is named Kituwah, or as the Cherokee call it, “Mother City”, site of the Sacred Fire of Keetoowah.  The Cherokee consider it to this day to be a very sacred spot.  The site has a mound surrounded by level fields and enclosed on all sides by tall mountains and foothills.  Nobody lives there now.   The mound is available for the public to view by those who are respectful of ancient sites and the native culture.  To this day, the Cherokee still use the village ground for tribal events.  It is considered very disrespectful when geusts try to stand on it, or allow their children to jump on or around the mound, even if they’re just playing.  The grounds aren’t used for gathering by the people unless they have permission from the Tribal Council.

It’s believed that the Cherokee started to return to their mountainous homelands sometime around 1400 AD.  The migration back to here was probably prompted by fights with other northern tribes.  The Cherokee were there when DeSoto and his army of conquistadors stepped foot on the land in the 1550s.  At the height of the Cherokee Nation’s main occupancy, around 1650 AD, they occupied parts of seven states in America, and had at least 200 towns.  

The Cherokee definitely would have been aware of the black bear in the northeastern North America as well as the southern regions.  The Black Bear, known quite commonly as the “American Bear” has a past that spans all across the continent.  This includes sightings in both Alaska and Florida.  Nowadays, black bears are most often associated with mountainous terrain due to the fact that it’s the last remaining wilderness untouched by humans around the nation.

The Cherokee, alongside with other native tribes, were quite happy to live alongside the black bears. Yet, it is the mountains of the southern Blue Ridge, in particular, the mountains that ‘Smoked’ that have been the platform for Cherokee myths and legends about the black bears.

Though the Cherokees believed in one God only, they were quite often taken with the idea of seeing representations of the Great Spirit through nature and in wildlife.  Figuratively, all religions contain some certain symbolisms that provide the necessary relationship that exists between the physical world and the important spirit world.  There are things that reflect a negative, dark world such as serpents and weeds.  In contrast, things such as olive branches and doves are more representative of love and peace. Lions represent courage and lambs represent innocence.

The White Bear (it was very rare, but sometimes a black bear would come to this world with whitish colored fur) was a very important part of the Cherokee religious practice.  It was theorized  that were a personal sense of kinship to the black bear regarding Native Americans.  This could be due to the black bear’s physical attributes.  They stand upright, offering moans, groans, grunts, and blowing, and their arms are quite similar in movement to humans when they wear large mittens.

The Cherokee Nation has seven clans. These include the Blue Clan, Long Hair Clan, Bird Clan, Paint Clan, Deer Clan, Wolf Clan, and Wild Potato Clan.  The Wild Potato clan has several other names that it goes by including the Raccoon Clan, Blind Savannah Clan, and, of course, the Bear Clan.  The idea is that the alias of the Bear Clan comes from the idea of the Native Americans who foraged for a living.  They were known to pick wild potato plants in the swamps, and along the streams that they then used to make breads and flours.  Black bears are omnivorous and happen to be quite good at finding plants, nuts, and berries.  This included meat and fish; something else they shared with the Cherokee people – their specific dietary needs.

Cherokee stories of the black bear are quite prominent in the mountainous areas.  These tales could be based on facts or spirituality.  The specific black bear legends are shared with others in order to keep up a native tradition – giving this knowledge to other people so they won’t be lost.  How the Cherokee people believed and felt about the black bears add to the overall identity of who the Cherokee were as a people and their connection with this world, and as the individual tribe members to the spirit world itself.

The Cherokee people have quite frequently seen the black bear of the “Smoking” Blue Mountains as a spirit guide, an ally, and an elder to the people who live in the clans.  Tales are spoken that reveal the intimate relation with these bears in the physical and spiritual world.  The Cherokee respected the black bear as a personal totem, but it was also a great source for bedding, food, clothing, oil and grease, tools made from bones and even special jewerly adornments. A bear skull laid over with hide was frequently used as a headdress whereas other parts of the bear like robes or claws would be worn during ceremonies.  They were usually worn by those who were considered great warriors or brave hunters.

With everything that’s been been going on in the north American world with the first arrival of the Europeans, it’s the Cherokee and the revered black bear who have withstood the trials and tribulations and have bravely remained in the mountains, even when the odds were stacked against them. It is a pure bond that has been united in the companionship between beast and man; a legacy that combines legends, myths, and fact that remain a great treasure for everyone to cherish.

So when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and you see a black bear, keep in mind all that this special animal represents. It’s not just a common animal that was used for food, though it was hunted, but it stood as a spiritual guide and symbol of bravery against adversity.  So bear (no pun intended) in mind that you should leave these majestic creatures to their lives, because for all you know, they are the link between the physical world and the spiritual world, and they should live their lives untouched by human hands.