There is an old story our Elders teach us about a Water Snake who lived in a pond up high at the base of a sacred mountain. He was a very healthy, wealthy, strong, and handsome man. He was on top of the world, you might say.
He had the whole pond to himself and he had everything a person could ask for in life: plenty of natural resources, open space, lots of food, good weather, ample shelter, protection, a number of wives whenever he needed a woman, and a lot of free time to reflect on the meaning of life. Yes, the Great Creator had been very good to him.
But for some strange reason it just wasn't enough for him. He didn't know what to do with all that free time. Instead of using it for prayer, ritual, ceremony, and spirituality, he began to use it for mischief. Instead of using the free time to give thanks for his prosperity and as a way to help and share with others in his community, he began to use it in trying to impress others with how important he was.
It Still Just Wasn't Enough...
In his search for meaning in life, he forgot how to make life more meaningful. After all, he reasoned, he already had everything a person could ask for but it still just wasn't enough.
One day he began to notice that he was starting to age. He wasn't as strong and fast as he used to be. He had gotten too fat from overeating and from being lazy, and he had eaten all the food within his immediate range without practicing some form of conservation. So on this one morning he got up, surveyed his surroundings, and tried to figure out a way to find some food. There was no food in sight and he started to panic. "Now what am I going to do?" he said to himself.
He crawled from his house into the water and started a search. At first he looked close by, and then with a weaving pattern he went back and forth until he found that he was farther out, almost into the middle of the pond. He felt his strength leaving and got scared, so he headed straight back to shore, just barely making it before landing.
For four days he tried this, all the time getting weaker from lack of food, age, and fear. Sometimes during the day he would cry and holler out to his neighbors for help but nobody would come. He had not been good to his neighbors all these years. He had not cared about them, so now the circle was going back; they did not care for him.
The Snake Charmer
On the fifth day he devised a plan. He would find somebody stupid enough to help him. After all, he thought to himself, I am a very wise and important man here.
He noticed a small group of Frogs sitting out on a large lily pad in the very middle of the pond. He knew they were probably the last of their bunch but he didn't care; he was awful hungry. Thus, with the last bit of his strength he silently swam out to them.
Just as he was about to sneak up and grab one, the village headman of the Frog people saw the Snake and started to send out a warning, but the Water Snake had power; he managed to charm the Frog. Then he said, "My brother, the Great Creator has sent me to help you. But in helping you I will also be helping myself."
"No!" the Frog reacted, "I don't trust you. Nobody can trust you. You lie too much and you are a very greedy person. Just look at what you have done to this sacred pond. There is nothing left anymore."
The Water Snake pleaded with the Frog. "Look at me, brother, I am an old man now. I am weak and tired. I have nothing left. I must redeem myself. That is why I have come out here to help you. I realize that I have been eating your people all my life and I never gave anything back. I realize now, after all these years that I have been greedy and I did wrong. So I had a vision. The Great Creator told me that in order to make my record straight I would have to come out here and use the last of my wisdom and strength to help you, to give something back."
The Frog was just about ready to leap into the water and run off but he saw the tears in the old Snake's eyes and hesitated. The Snake said, "I know where the biggest and best bugs are. There are still some left on the other side of the pond, hidden in a secret place. So if you and your family will hop onto my back I will carry you all there with the last of my strength."
The Great Deception
The Frog people had a big discussion and argument. Some wanted to go but others were apprehensive. They didn't trust their enemy. But finally it was decided. The older and bigger Frog said, "Look at that pitiful old Snake. He can't really hurt anyone anymore. Besides, we need food to live and survive and to continue our work here in the water for the pond and the rest of the community."
So reluctantly they all climbed on the Snake's long back. One by one they filed on in a row. They were so heavy that they caused the Snake to sink somewhat into the water, which in turn made it look like he was indeed weak. Then toward the other side of the pond they went. Slowly the Water Snake went, weaving in and out of the tules and marsh reeds.
Slowly he sang his song, telling the Frogs that it was his death song. But as his long body weaved through the reeds he would sneak his head around to the back, and one by one he would snatch up and eat another Frog. Finally there was only one left, the large village headman Frog who had been so busy eating all kinds of the new bugs that he hadn't really noticed what was happening to his family. Then before he knew it, the Snake opened up his large mouth and grabbed the last Frog, all the while laughing to himself.
But the Frog fought back. Around they thrashed, causing the currents to move them farther away from shore. They made such a ruckus that the Wind came up, and it too pushed against the water, moving them both farther from shore. In time the Snake had devoured the very last Frog in the pond, and feeling proud of himself decided to swim back home.
The Great Creator
Laughing and bragging to himself he swam, but slower and slower he swam, and then he noticed that he was beginning to sink. His strength was running out. He had gotten too fat from eating too many Frogs, and panic overcame him. He cried, begged, and pleaded with someone to help him. He cried and pleaded with the Great Creator to help him. He didn't want to die this way, by drowning. After all, he was a Water Snake, and drowning would not be an honorable way to die.
He told the Great Creator he would do anything to redeem himself, he made all kinds of promises, pleading for his life. He could hardly keep his nose above water while the rest of his body was sinking and beginning to pull him down.
It seemed as though it took forever for him to reach the other side of the pond. He was constantly fighting fear and impending death. With his last bit of breath and strength he finally made it, barely pulling himself up out of the water onto the mud and plants. "Whew, I did it, I actually did it!" he hollered and bragged to himself. "I knew I really had more power than anyone. I don't have to follow the spiritual laws. Those laws are archaic. I can live by my own laws. See, I really didn't need the Great Creator or anyone because I am so powerful and wise that I can do anything. Now I will just lie here for a while, eat my herbs, rest, and renew myself."
The Natural Laws of the Universe
Just when he thought he was safe, lying there in the warm sun, gloating, thinking that he could live a long time not needing anyone, or anything, and that he was even beyond the laws of Nature, he heard the most terrifying scream. His body froze in fear as the shadow of wings crossed over him. He knew what it was and wanted to hide as fast as he could but it was too late. He was just too stuffed, too tired, too weak, and too old, and before he knew it the Hawk swooped down and carried him off to his death, into her nest and into the mouths of newborn babes.
Nobody can escape the Natural Laws of the Universe, no matter how important they think they are.
Reprinted with permission of Bear & Co.,
an imprint of Inner Traditions Intl.
Call of the Great Spirit: The Shamanic Life and Teachings of Medicine Grizzly Bear
by Bobby Lake-Thom.
This redemption story of Native American healer Bobby Lake-Thom invites the reader to enter a world of authentic indigenous traditions and ceremonies. Bobby, also known as Medicine Grizzly Bear, didn't recognize his shamanic calling at first. He didn't know that his vivid dreams, psychic abilities, and visitations by wild animals and ghostly figures were calls from the Great Spirit. In the age-old shamanic tradition, it took a near-death experience for the message to get through to him.
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About the Author
Bobby Lake-Thom (Medicine Grizzly Bear) is a traditional Native healer and spiritual teacher of Karuk, Seneca, Cherokee, and Caucasian descent. He lectures, conducts workshops, and has doctored hundreds of different people from all walks of life. He has also served as Professor for Native American Studies at Humboldt State University and as an Indian affairs specialist for numerous Indian tribes, organizations and academic institutions in the United States. Visit his website at http://www.nativehealer.net
Books by this Author