The Woman who fell from the Sky

In the regions above there used dwell manlike beings who knew not what it is to experience sorrow, what it is to see a loved one die. Sorrow and death were yet unknown to them. The lodges belonging to their matrilineal families were large and very long.

Now within one of these there were dwelling, at that time, a little brother and sister who were down-fended, which is to say because of their sacred natures they were kept in seclusion and the ground about sprinkled carefully with cat-tail down, so that any intrusive visit would be immediately betrayed. Midwifes were alert at the birth for any sign that marked a child out as being possessed of an extraordinary orenda. The birth of a child with a caul was sufficient grounds for it being set apart until the onset of puberty with no contact with the outside world except through an appointed guardian. The custom was old and remained in observance among the Iroquois up until the nineteenth century.

The lodges of that region all faced the rising sun and extended length ways toward its setting. Of the inhabitants it was the custom, after eating their morning meal, to go forth to their several duties. The abode of the down-fended sister was an added room on the south side of the lodge; that of her down-fended brother, an added room on the north side. Every morning, when everyone had gone out, the sister habitually took advantage of the opportunity to come through her doorway, cross the large room and enter, on the opposite side, the down-fended abode of her brother. There, habitually, she dressed his hair, and when she had finished, it was her custom to cross back to her own abiding place. And it was in this manner that she daily devoted her attention to her brother, dressing and arranging his hair.

After a time it came to pass that she to whom this young female person belonged perceived that she was in delicate health; indeed, one might think that she had the appearance of one about to give birth to a child. Convinced that an act contrary to sacred taboo had taken place, they questioned the girl, inquiring: To whom, of the male-beings dwelling within the precincts of this village, art thou about to deliver a child? But she answered not a word. The sacrilege could not be overlooked and so, time and again, they questioned her repeatedly, but in response to their queries, she spoke not a word.