I’ve been feeling a bit lost recently. I’m in a transition from one phase of life to another and traveling, traveling on my journey into my Muscogee identity and heritage. Not quite sure where I am going. Wanting to know my destination before I arrive, to be there and forgetting about the importance of the journey. I remembered that my artwork carries me and helps me to make sense of where I am.
In last Monday’s art class, made a boat, perro in Muscogee, pronounced /pithlo/.
I made a river, hvcce /hachi/ to carry it.
Interestingly, a Water Panther, Oi-kåtca /we-katcha/ came to be in the river. This water being was a major component of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of the Mississippian culture in the prehistoric American Southeast. It is related to the Tie Snake, which is a figure in the mythos of the Southeastern tribes.
In Native American mythologies of the Great Lakes, underwater panthers are described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderers, masters of the powers of the air who live in the Upper World. Underwater Panthers, who inhabit the Lower World are seen as an opposing yet complementary force to the Thunderers, and they are engaged in eternal conflict. In the Muscogee world view, people, animals, birds an all other creatures live in This World. Harmony comes when the tensions and conflict of the Upper and Lower Worlds are held in balance.
Underwater panther was an amalgam of features from many animals: the body of a wild feline, often a mountain lion or lynx; the horns of deer or bison; upright scales on its back; occasionally bird feathers; and parts from other animals as well, depending on the particular myth.
Underwater panthers are represented with exceptionally long tails, occasionally with serpentine properties. The creatures are thought to roar or hiss in the sounds of storms or rushing rapids.
Some traditions believed the underwater panthers to be helpful, protective creatures, but more often they were viewed as malevolent beasts that brought death and misfortune. They often need to be placated for safe passage across a lake. Whoever Oi-kåtca turns out to be, helpful and protective or malevolent, she is certainly a powerful companion to have on my river journey.