The Gift of Fire to Mankind: A Mythical Study on the Spiritual Significance of Coal, Part 7
Introduction: According to native myths and legends found the world over, there was a time when man did not possess fire. In these legends fire is remembered and celebrated as a divine gift. It is given by the respective gods of the peoples to lift them from their primitive state.
But within the myths, there is also great hostility and opposition to fire and the prosperity it brought to mankind. Sometimes it had to be stolen from vain or hoarding Spirits.
In our modern times there is a great hostility towards the combustion of hydrocarbons, and in particular towards coal, which burns much more efficiently and hotter than wood. European countries have committed to carbon dioxide emissions reductions agreements which legally bind them to get 80% of their electricity from renewables by 2050. Many of the so-called “renewables” never overtly use combustion – while behind the scenes they are intermittent, and require an uninterrupted power source like a coal or gas power plant. Should the people of the world be convinced that fire is now harmful for the planet, and must be regulated and taken from them? Or is fire a divine blessing which is foundational to all cultures? And isn’t it interesting that so many of the wise stories of old included the warning that some of the powers wished to suppress or deny this sacred gift of fire, and prevent it from benefitting mankind?
We have looked at myths from several continents, and are now surveying the legends of the North American Indians.
The Theft of Fire
“Long ago, in the beginning, people had only stones for fire. In the beginning everyone only had that sort of firestone. ‘Do you hear? There is fire over there. Where Pain lives, there is fire.’ So Coyote went, and came to the house where Pain lived. The children were at home, but all the old people were away, driving game with fire. They told their children, ‘If anyone comes, it will be Coyote.’
Coyote went into the house. ‘Oh you poor children! Are you all alone here?’ said he.
‘Yes we are all alone. They told us they were all going hunting. If anyone comes it will be Coyote. I think you are Coyote,’ they said.
‘I am not Coyote,’ he said. ‘Look…way back there is Coyote country. There are none here.’ Coyote stretched his feet out towards the fire, with his long blanket in which he had run away. ‘No, you smell like Coyote,’ said the children. ‘No, there are none about here,’ he said.
Now, his blanket began to burn, and he was ready to run. He cried to Chicken-Hawk, ‘You stand there! I will run there with the fire. I will give it to you, and then you run on. Eagle, do you stand there! Grouse, do you stand there! Quail, do you stand there!’ Turtle alone did not know about it. He was walking along by the river. Now, Coyote ran out of the house; he stole Pain’s fire. He seized it and ran with it. Pain’s children ran after him…[A chase ensues in which the fire changes hands between many creatures, and then is given to Turtle, who is shot at by the Pains and dives deep in the water with it. The Pains gave up, and Coyote was very angry because he thought the fire was extinguished. Turtle in the end emerged, telling Coyote, “You keep quiet!” – and “threw the fire all about.”]
Now everybody came and got fire. Now we have got fire. Coyote was the first to get it, at Pain’s that way. That is all. That is one story.”
~Edited and Compiled by Jarold Ramsey
How Coyote Stole Fire, additional story: http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/How_Coyote_Stole_Fire-Shasta.html