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The Tale of the Mountain Ash Tree

As told to Wolf-Walker Conley by C. Blue-Wolf: It is common amongst many indigenous peoples to have methods of forecasting weather and other natural events.  many years ago, a friend of Ojibwa decent told me a tale his people used for predicting the coming Winter’s severity. They would monitor the berry production of the Mountain ash tree during the late Fall. If it were abundant, they believed the Winter would be very harsh and long. In honor of this teaching, I planted a beautiful mountain ash tree for my daughter when she was nothing but a sapling herself. Now it is over twenty-five feet tall and a valued provider of shade, shelter and food for the local wildlife.  (and my daughter has grown to young womanhood.) This year there are many berry clusters, so be prepared; firewood, good shelter and food at the ready.

Long ago, a great winter storm announced the arrival of a most cold and terrible winter. The snow piled high amongst the trees, keeping people inside their homes. The cold was unending and food supplies were used up quickly as people fought off the bone chilling winds of Winter. In one village the brave young men gathered to form a hunting party to bring home much needed food. The survival of their people depended upon their success, travel was difficult, but onward they went through the ever-increasing snow drifts. As they approached a clearing in the woods, they were amazed to find the ground covered with dead birds and an eerie silence. The birds were so numerous that even the bravest of the hunters started whispering of a great evil that must be invading their land.

That night as they gathered around their fire, it was agreed that prayers should be offered to the Creator asking for guidance. Long into the cold night their song could be heard breaking the wintery silence. The Creator heard and told them of the illness visiting their land and how to bring the world back into balance. He told them that they needed to pay respect to the trees which provides what is needed to survive. The hunters selected the Mountain Ash to honor because it provided wood for their tools, baskets and fire.  Creator was pleased and instructed them to take the blood of the fallen birds and shake it onto the ash trees as an offering of thanks.

They completed the task and gathered around their fire for much needed sleep. Upon waking the next morning, they were greeted by the sounds of birds busy feeding on bright red berries which now covered the ash trees. The clusters of berries had been formed from the blood offering and the trees were returning the gift. The hunters gave thanks to the Creator and in return Creator offered to have the Mountain Ash produce many berries each year before the long winter. To this day the Ash carries out this ceremony and if a large crop is seen forming, you can rest assured that it is a sign of a very cold, long winter and the Creator is providing extra food for the months ahead.

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