Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cherokee rise from water - creation story

Creation - Spring & Easter
You do not know the extent of waters you haven't been to. (Zanzibar)

Cherokee flag

To the Cherokee, the world began with water and sky. The animals lived above the sky, and no people existed. When the animals decided they needed space to expand, the water beetle volunteered to see what he could find under the water. He dived deep down, right to the bottom, and all he found was mud. As he brought the mud to the surface of the water, the mud started to get larger and larger. The earth was formed, but it was soft and soggy. The animals therefore attached it to the sky by four ropes, in the hope that the land would become dry.

A bird went down to check on the land, and came back to say it was still too muddy and too flat. By the time great buzzard flew over the land, he could see it had become solid. He flew in to look more closely – some say he was just tired – and the wind from his wings created mountains and valleys. The Cherokee say that is why their territory is so mountainous.

The animals climbed down to earth on a rainbow, and pulled the sun from behind the rainbow to give them light. However, the sun was in one spot, and it burnt some of the animals because it was just too hot and bright. So the animals put the sun in the sky, and made a path for it to travel to so everyone could share the light.

The Creator-God put plants on the earth, and told the plants and animals to stay awake for seven days and seven nights. Some animals, like the owl, managed to follow the instruction, and they received the gift of being able to see in the dark. Among the plants, those that stayed awake, like the pines, were able to keep their leaves during the winter.

People were made last of all. The first man hit the first woman with a fish and told her to multiply. At first new babies were born after just seven days. Later, because people feared multiplying too fast, women could have only one child in a year.

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at