Friday, December 3, 2010

Yunwi Tsundi and a Drawing!

I'm recycling two older posts and having a drawing today. Read on . . .

This gorgeous boulder lies at the edge of our orchard and things live under it. Possibly a groundhog or two, maybe some rabbits or there could be snakes. But whenever I see that long dark opening, I think of Little People -- not the Munchkins of Oz but the really little people - Shakespeare's English fairies small enough to use a shed snake-skin as a wrap and his elves who make jackets of bats' wings. Or maybe the Yunwi Tsunsdi.

It was the Cherokees who once hunted in this area that told of the Yunwi Tsunsdi - a race of Little People living in caves of rock here in the mountains. Handsome and well-formed, with flowing hair reaching almost to the ground, they were reckoned to be kind, helping lost people and especially children to find the way home. But, the old legends warn, the Little People value their privacy and if any traveler attempts to follow the sounds of their drumming to their dwelling-place, the Little People will cast a spell that will send the wanderer even further astray, turning him around and around and bewildering him forever.



Fairy crosses or fairy stones are formed from staurolite, a combination of iron, silica, and aluminum that often crystallizes into cross-like shapes. Traditionally carried for luck, fairy crosses are said to protect against witchcraft, disease, and disaster.

Cherokee legend says that the Little People, the Yunwi Tsunsdi - a race of tiny reclusive beings known for their ability to find lost people -- were dancing and drumming and singing at a location near today's Brasstown, NC when a messenger arrived, bringing news of the Crucifixion. The terrible story made the Little People cry and when their tears hit the earth, they turned into the tiny crosses that can still be found in the area today.
 
The fairy crosses in the picture are very small -- about the size of my little fingernail. (No, I didn't find them myself -- they came from the Silver Armadillo in Asheville.)  And come Monday,  I'll draw two names from all the comments on this post to receive one of these little treasures.

The section below in italics is from THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS -- where Least is given a fairy cross.


She was like a half-tamed woods creature -- poked her head out the bushes a little ways and waited. Big blue eyes in a dirty sun-brown face, hair a greasy snarl, and a dress no better than a feed sack with holes in it.

I can do something about that, I thought and I felt in my skirt pocket for my charm.

'Come up here, honey,' I called and she inched out of the bushes and up the steps, her feet a-dragging.

But when she got close, she looked me in the eyes even afore she looked to see what was in my hand and that was when I knew.

'Oh, honey,' I said, feeling as if I might bust out crying, 'they's so many things I have to teach you and likely not much time. But we'll make a beginning with the story of the fairy crosses and how they came to be.'

When I put the little cross in her hand, she studied it close, running her finger up and down over its ridges. Then she looked up and whispered, 'This is from the little things, ain't it?'

Law, they was a catch in my heart at them words.

 
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43 comments:

estaminet said...

Something in me loves a fairy cross. Thanks for the stories, and the offer, Vicki.

joanny said...

Oh those 'little people' are mischievous and powerful, I can see Tatiana, the fairy queen dancing and playing with her sprites and fairies while the snake who has been charmed by the Queen 'wraps his enameled skin weed wide enough to wrap a wee one in.'

Enchanting ----

joanny

Joan said...

Oh I love this post Vicki. In Aotearoa, we have fairies: the Puta-paiarehe are fairy creatures of the forest and mountain tops. Their hair is dull golden or reddish colour and they live on forest food.
We lived for thirty years at the foot of Pirongis Mountain and I was told the Puta-paiarehe definitely lived there.
love your rock. I would have played there by the hour as a child, enchanted by such a place.

Joan said...

Pirongia - is the name of our mountain! My typing is crazy!

joanny said...

Oops
I forgot to credit Tatiana is the name of a character in William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, she is the queen of the fairies, and that was a quote from the scene 'wraps his enameled skin weed wide . . ."


Beautiful story you weave in your book Vicki,

joanny

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed The Day of Small Things and reading of the Little People.
I love little people and fully believed in them when growing up, my parents used to give fabulous books with delightful illustrations of wee people.
Beautiful photo.

Martin H. said...

What a rich post, Vicki. This is really what blogging should always aim to do...lead us by the hand into a different world. Wonderful!

Pat in east TN said...

It's always a treat to read your stories Vicki.

I love your huge rock. We have many in our woods and I love to walk around them and explore and wonder who lives amongst them.

The fairy crosses are lovely!

Elora said...

If I recall correctly, there was a program on PBS recently which featured a locale in Virginia where one could find them. They're so tiny! And so beautiful! Thank you for this post, Vicki!

Elora

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

I'd never heard of fairy crosses until I read The Day Of Small Things. Silver Armadillo? Do they have a web site? My favorite little folk are hobbits, which I am afraid are not as tiny as your little ones...I would love to learn more about Yunwi Tsunsdi folk.

Friko said...

I love learning new things that are not about the world we live in today, things that tug at the heartstrings and telll us about a world that was real rather than virtual.

I am glad you recycled this post.

KarenB said...

Stories of the Little People are fascinating, a little shiver-inducing even. I've heard of the fairy crosses before but have never seen one.

Your rock is lovely. The pattern of the mosses on top is beautiful.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Vicki: Oh lovely fairy crosses! I'd love to get my pinkie fingernail on one of those! Love the excerpt as well, very curious! Love these ancient tales! Tall tales from the wee Yunwi Tsunsdi little people under the orchard border!

Helen T in SC said...

I agree with another post, I had never heard of the fairy crosses until DAY OF SMALL THINGS. A beautiful story and good to hear of American stories and legends.

Mel said...

Well, I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this post. I see every nook and cranny and hole in a log as a fairy home, gnome house and home to forest critters. My Dad was full of mischief and magic and he took us to Cherokee many times to hunt for fairy crosses and other treasures. Gemming and rock polishing was his life long hobby. We found quite a few crosses behind a gas station one trip after asking the owner where the best place to look might be. He pointed us around back and we all found a few and have them still. I didn't know this version of the legend, which I like better than the one I learned - that these were the tears the Cherokee cried on the trail of tears. I love the passage from your book, which I have just begun to read. Thanks for this lovely post.

Brian Miller said...

fairy stones are so cool...and what a neat history about the little people as well...

Nicole212 said...

Vicki--thanks for the wonderful story and the great giveaway! Have a blessed day!

Vicki Lane said...

The Silver Armadillo has a website http://www.silverarmadillo.com/servlet/StoreFront

but they don't list the fairy crosses. You could just try Googling fairy crosses.

I think almost every culture must have a tradition of Little People --- I wonder if it's a memory of those who were in the land before.

I'm glad so many of you all enjoyed this -- I'm going to be selectively recycling posts from my first year of blogging when very few were reading this blog.

Be sure to check in Monday and I'll post the two winners!

Witch of Stitches said...

Wonderful post Vicki - I love stones and stories of fairies. Your boulder is magical.

Darla said...

I had no idea that the Cherokee had their own tribe of wee folk! Don't know why it should have surprised me, but it did. :-) When my young niece visited last year, we had such fun building little homes for the fairies on our walks in the woods.

Jill said...

I have been to Fairy Stone State Park in Va. It is a beautiful place. I loved your post and will think of the little people the next time that I am out in the woods!

Liz said...

There's just something about spending lots of time in the woods as a child that lends itself to becoming a believer in the little people of the forests. When you are surrounded by nature it makes you realize that you are never alone - there's always something (someone??) near by - watching. Love the fairy crosses, Vicki - count me in.

Mama-Bug said...

What a wonderful post Vicki. I've never heard of fairy crosses before. The rock is so interesting and gets your imagination running wild. Have a great weekend!

Canyon Girl said...

I didn't know that Little People can be found in Cherokee legends. I come from a country full of them, tomtar, troll, fairies, giants, and also boulders like yours. It was interesting for me to learn about the legend of the Cherokee. Thanks you.--Inger

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Vicki -- Elora pointed out to me that your fairies could do their wash in the drinking cups on my post of yesterday. I agree. Great legend -- barbara

BB said...

What a great rock! I have always been intrigued by rocks like that, the crevices and caves and mysteries they contain. I peer in, wondering "what lives in there?" I guess I would have been one of the ones that got hit with a spell, sent away bewildered and wandering round and round.

Joan said...

I have been researching groundhogs Vicki. Now I also understand what Grounghog Day is.. and learning about fairy crosses too. I am learning so much from your blog. Thank you.

Star said...

I love fairy stories (who doesn't) and your rock is just perfect as a home for the little people. Please include me in the draw for a fairy cross.
Blessings, Star

Tipper said...

Earlier in the school year-my girls went on a field trip to find those famous fairy crosses of Brasstown. They came home with several-but none as shined up as yours.

There is a Jack Tale about Jack following the little people down into the crack of the earth where they live-it's very popular around here.

Louise said...

No little people around here, but, when I was a child, I used to pretend that I saw the spirit of a little Indian girl, who lived on the land in the time before. Or, maybe I did see her.

Misty said...

I like to read of old legends. It adds a bit of mystery to things.
Misty

Suz said...

Oh I am a believer
just loved this post and am going to google fairy crosses

Bouncin' Barb said...

What a great legend! I can imagine little children believing in these little people. Adorable.

Anonymous said...

Didn't know about the fairy crosses until I read "Small Things" I was very sure I saw the 'tooth fairy' flying about when I was about 6 years old, though she did look suspiciously like Tinker Bell in the Peter Pan movies.

Lynne in GA

NCmountainwoman said...

I posted a comment before, but it apparently got lost in cyberspace.

At any rate, don't include me in the drawing since I already won the marvelous cookbook. I've tried several of the recipes and loved every one.

I had a fairy stone when I was a child. Somehow it got lost when I went off to college. After we were married, I mentioned the fairy stone to by husband. And he got me another one! They are fascinating, and I loved your story about them.

R. Burnett Baker said...

Another lesson in life's myriad ways. "I'll hold their secrets: The spirit of the yunwi will adorn my breast and guide my heart in kindness."

Rick

Victoria said...

Wonderful post! Thanks for offering the Yunwi Tsundi crosses for a drawing, Vicki. Since I'm one half Cherokee, you know I'll be keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that I win one!

Vicki Lane said...

Once I learned about the Little People of the Cherokee, I was hooked. Which is, of course, why they ended up in THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS.

Thanks for all the comments and remember, I'll announce the winners in Monday's post.

Reader Wil said...

Ah yes, I remember that part when Least or Birdie, as she later was called met her grandmother for the first time.
This is a very nice post, Vicky! I like stories about elves, gnomes and fairies. Every country has them. In Australia they are the thin creatures that dance near the waterholes to keep them clean. There is a painting in Roy's book on page 66. They are called Dunggans and they are very friendly.

pat said...

oh I had one of hose many years ago and lost it..i think thats when my luck ran out and I sure coule use one now! Interesting story, thanks!

Ruth Gonzalez said...

I am so glad that that you imagine fairies in there too! When I was a kid we called green moss "Fairy Grass" and pictured the fairies gathered there (well, I still call it that). But I never knew why those crosses are called fairy crosses.

Kath said...

How interesting that the Cherokee have a myth so like the Sidhe of Britain. Hmmm.

Margaret Bednar said...

Your last few posts are fascinating! I can't wait to find the time to truly do them justice... Such a busy holiday season as my girls are in a Christmas play with a local Greensboro community theatre. Amongst other things... I am almost done with your first book - I usually fall asleep after 15 minutes of reading each night... So you put me to sleep (LOL).