Hey everybody. I thought that you guys might like to read another small excerpt from The Age of Myths and Legends. Chapter Two of my book deals with the monsters that lurked just below the surface of the water; waiting to drag the unwary into the darkness below. Hope you guys enjoy.
Terrors of the Deep
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? Or hast thou walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed unto thee, Or hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death?
Man has always felt a certain affinity for the seas, lakes, rivers, and streams that cover most of the Earth. According to some tales from the elder days, the longing and loneliness that man feels for the waters are due to the fact that Man came from the primordial depths himself. The early people of North America acknowledged water as the bringer of life, and most tribes felt a certain sense of awe and wonderment for this powerful driving force of nature.
Like the great forest-cloaked hills and towering mountains, the waters of the old world held many mysteries to be both respected and, in some cases, feared. In those days, mysterious powers were ever-present in the wide seas and meandering rivers. Sinister spirits dwelt near roaring waterfalls and turbulent whirlpools. Even the quiet lakes and dark, stilled pools held nameless terrors lying in wait for the foolish or unwary.
One such fearsome terror of the deep waters was the dreaded horned serpent, the Uktena. These creatures haunted the lakes and streams of the Southeast and preyed upon all living things that wandered too close to their watery lairs. The Uktena were old, perhaps as old as the making of the world itself, and their strength was colossal. It was said that these mighty beasts were able to smash boulders and splinter trees with their powerful tails. It was also said that the Uktena could scar and rend the very mountains themselves with the great horns or antlers that grew from their scaly heads.
However, it was a flashing jewel embedded deep within these creatures' skulls that caught the attention of any mortal unlucky enough to encounter these monsters. This gem, called the Ulun’suti, was an item of great power and magic. In the hands of the Wise, the jewel was capable of wondrous miracles, such as the healing of the sick, the summoning of rain, the gift of fertility, and the power of prophecy. Acquiring the magical jewel from the wicked Uktena was another matter altogether. The malevolent eyes of the Uktena could paralyze its victims, and the creature possessed the ability to spit a corrosive poison over a great distance.
So infected with evil was this creature that even the environment in which it lived became barren. The vegetation near its lair turned brown and brittle, and the waterways turned black and deadly even to the touch. However, these monsters of the old world did have a weakness. Along these creatures’ sinuous bodies lay numerous bands of color. Behind the seventh band of color beat these creatures’ black hearts. If these organs could be pierced, the Uktena would die.
The Creek, Seminole, Yuchi and Choctaw of Southeastern Oklahoma once avoided certain springs and lakes, because they believed that the ever watchful Tie Snake lay in wait. Descriptions of these serpents varied. Some tales held that Tie Snakes were gigantic serpents of green hue. Other tales said that Tie Snakes were pitch black and not much larger than a normal snake. However, their strength was such that they could pull a horsed rider from his mount at full gallop.
Some tales even said that Tie Snakes were sentient and could speak with Man when it suited the serpents’ needs. To converse with a Tie Snake was a very dangerous thing, though. These ancient serpents were exceedingly clever, and they could trick the unwary into bad endings. Only once have the intelligent Tie Snakes been outwitted. That particular feat was accomplished by Master Rabbit, the eternal trickster.
With that said, there are some tales that speak of the Tie Snakes' kindness to lost children. In those tales, the Lord of the Tie Snakes always sent such children home laden with many gifts. In other tales, Tie Snakes were said to spirit children away to their underwater lairs, where these children would remain captive forever.
Most tales agreed that these underwater serpents bore one or two multicolored horns upon their heads. Like the Uktena’s flashing jewel, the horn of the Tie Snake was an item of great power coveted by holy men. With a piece of the Tie Snake’s horn, a medicine-man might heal the sick, drive away evil spirits, or become well-nigh impervious to knife, spear, axe or arrow. A mortal who possessed a Tie Snake’s horn could even exercise his will over the other creatures of the lakes and streams. Fish could be made to fill the fisherman’s nets. Otters and beavers could be compelled to surrender their lives for their valuable furs. Even water fowl could be made to stand still so that the hunter’s arrow would find its mark. These miracles were so enticing that some holy men hatched elaborate plans to subdue the Tie Snakes for their powerful horns. However, only the most powerful or foolish of hierophants would even dare to kill or capture these powerful serpents.
In a recent interview, I was asked about the artwork for my book, The Age of Myths and Legends. The interviewer asked why I thought that the art was so important to this particular work. Laughing, I explained that the art was integral to the book because I am a mediocre writer at best. The artwork also allowed me to display my love for the fantasy genre as well. But, more importantly, the artwork allowed me to express these old tales in a medium that is just as powerful as the spoken word. Even though I had placed captions beneath the illustrations in the book, my hope was that readers would immediately understand what was happening in each of the images. That is probably the aim of every artist, because in truth, artist are storytellers as well. We don't often think of visual artist as such because most visual artist aren't necessarily masters of the oratory arts. However, if we take a sincere look at the storytelling traditions of most Native American tribes, we will see that artwork was, and still is, an important aspect to the storytelling art itself.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been raised in Southwestern Oklahoma as this area has always been a hotbed for Native American talent. From an early age I was exposed to so many talented artist who had created works that captured the essence of what it is to be Native American. But even before Oklahoma was a state, the tribes of this area had already been telling their stories for a very long time.
The earliest Native American artists painted with natural color pigments mixed with fat, usually buffalo or bear fat. These Native Artists then applied their paints to animal hides such as shirts, robes, leggings and teepees. Usually, the images they created held personal meaning to the artists or the artists' family. Some images commemorated great battles or successful hunts. Other paintings were used in ceremonies and made use of sacred images.
The term ledger art comes from the accounting ledger books that were a source of paper for the tribes of the plains during the late 1800's. Most of these ledgers came from traders, government agents, missionaries, and military officers. The plains artists were also exposed to new tools such as ink fountain pens, crayons, and watercolor paints. Typically, male artist tended to create images of valor while women tended to create geometric patterns.
Flat-Style Southern Plains Art
Flat-Style Southern Plains Art is a style of painting that portrayed ceremonial and social scenes of Kiowa life and stories from the old oral traditions. The style is noted for its use of solid color fields, minimal backgrounds, a flat perspective, and emphasis on details of dance regalia. This style of painting was created, in part, by the Kiowa Six; Native American artists who had received formal artist training at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-1920's. All six went on to enjoy international acclaim.
The 1940's through the 1970's saw an explosion of artistic styles blossom in Southwestern Oklahoma. While many artists of this era continued to create images taken from the old oral traditions, they also began experimenting with a variety of mediums and techniques. Notable artists of this era included...
Bobby Hill (White Buffalo)
The Kiowa artist Bobby Hill (White Buffalo) was noted for his dramatic use of light and texture. Undoubtedly, his work as a technical illustrator, commercial artist, promotional director, scenic artist & set designer for Lawrence Welk provided Bobby with the ability to create kinetic energy in his paintings. His early work borrowed from the clean lines of the Kiowa Six, but in time, he developed his own unique style. Bobby exhibited his artwork at the American Indian Exposition (Anadarko, OK), where he won awards for his artwork three years in a row including the Grand Award in 1969. Bobby also exhibited at the Philbrook Museum of Art (Tulsa, OK) & the Peabody Museum of Salem, MA. Bobby was given a solo exhibition at the Southern Plains Indian Museum & Craft Center (Anadarko, OK) & participated in its Contemporary Southern Plains Indian Painting touring exhibit in 1972.
Bobby received commissions from the Southern Plains Indian Museum & Craft Center for exhibit projects, including a Ghost Dance shirt in 1967. In 1974, Bobby received a commission from the Oklahoma Indian Arts & Crafts Cooperative (Anadarko) for two Southern Plains Indian tipis.
Bobby's artwork is also featured in several private & public art collections, including the Carnegie (OK) High School, the Museum of Northern Arizona (Flagstaff), the U.S. Department of the Interior Indian Arts & Crafts Board (Washington, D.C.) and in various collections throughout Western Europe.
The Kiowa artist Robert Redbird was a grandson of Monroe Tsatoke, a member of the famed Kiowa Six.
With the encouragement of his grandfather, Robert went on to master oil, acrylics, watercolor, pencil, pastel, pen & ink, & prints. However, it was his use of an airbrush that cemented Robert into the pantheon of artistic greats. In 1967, Redbird designed the poster for the US International Open Polo Game tournament, which allowed him the opportunity to meet Prince Charles of Wales. Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry declared June 7, 2003 as "Robert Redbird Day" to celebrate the artist's many creative and humanitarian achievements. The Daily Oklahoman once wrote of his work, "Perhaps the best tribute to Redbird's unusual style is that his Indian figures seem massive and monolithic, yet at the same time somehow free-floating, dreamlike and surrealistic. Blankets unite pairs of figures creating one organic, earth-rooted whole, like a kind of human boulder, in such Redbird paintings as 'Ceremonial Time' and 'Kiowa Courtship.' " Robert's artwork can be found all over the world.
Doc Tate Nevaquayah
The Comanche artist, Doc Tate Nevaquayah, has been called the Leonardo Da Vinci of the Indian art world. A self-taught artist, flutist, composer, dancer, lecturer, and Methodist lay minister, Nevaquaya gave numerous flute and art workshops throughout the United States, including classes at Brigham Young University (1972) and Georgetown University (1974). He made more than twenty-five television appearances, on shows televised nationally and by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Among numerous recognitions that came to him were six Grand Awards and the Outstanding Indian Artists Award from Southwestern State College in Weatherford (1969); Indian of the Year award from Oscar Rose Junior College, Midwest City (1975); Outstanding Citizen of Diamond Jubilee Heritage Week from the Apache Chamber of Commerce (1982); the LaDonna Harris Award from Oklahomans for Indian Opportunity (1986); and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1986); and the Artist of the West Award at the American Indian and Cowboy Artists National Western Art Exhibition in San Dimas, California (1994). The Governor's Arts Award named him an Oklahoma Treasure in 1995. His artwork was noted for clear, crisp colors and almost all of his paintings possessed a dream-like quality to them.
Each and everyone of these artists deserves their own page and, in the future, I may do a spotlight on the amazing works of Mirac Creepingbear, Parker Boyiddle Jr., Cruz McDaniels, Sherman Chaddlesone, Quanah Parker Burgess, The Nevaquaya Brothers, Huzo Paddlety, Thomas Poolaw, Lee Tsatoke Jr., R.G. Geionty. I could go on and on about the many artists from the area who have accomplished extraordinary things in the artistic world while staying true to their culture. Each and everyone of these artists are superb storytellers and I am thankful that I have had the chance to experience their stories. The next time you see a work by a Native American artist don't just appreciate the art for its aesthetic appeal, try to see the story that the artist is telling. I promise that it will make your art experience that much more enjoyable.
What Reviewers are saying...
"The Age of Myths and Legends will take you on an exciting journey through Native American folklore. T.D. Hill artfully draws together characters from many indigenous traditions including his own, exposing both the uniqueness of each story and the commonalities across them. Hill’s beautiful paintings also give these fearsome creatures full visual effect. A valuable and thorough collection of the earliest folktales and teachings of Native American elders."
"Hill takes you on a mesmerizing journey through the tales of monsters and evil beings in Native American folklore. The similarities among the tales across peoples fascinated me and gave me goose bumps, especially when great distances separated the peoples! Hill's art masterfully adds a visual chill to the image his words paint, eliciting an extra shiver of delighted terror."
"Perfect for those who love mythology, and especially mythology of the First Americans. I’m definitely looking forward to the next in the series."