ow listen and attend, O Best Beloved, and I will tell you how the people of the far North came to have half a year of dark and half a year of light.
When the world was young, O Best Beloved, before the earth was all finished, the people of the far North lived in darkness all the year. How, you ask, did they see to move around? Shush my little one and listen.
In the far North the Inuit lived in almost total darkness. The stars gave a dim light some of the time in the velvet black sky. The moon rose and set, waxed and waned. When clouds covered the sky the stars and moon vanished and only the brilliant flashes of lightning lit the icy wastes. At times curtains of faint ghostly lights shimmered across the sky, but there was no sun or daylight. No trees grew, no crops flourished, all there was to eat was meat from the fish, seals, whales and bears they could catch. Inside their igloos the people sat and ate by the dim, guttering, light of whale fat lamps and told tales.
Vistors came seldom to that dark realm. Those that did brought new tales of other places and were welcomed by the Inuit. One such visitor was the old black crow, himself as dark as the night that surrounded them. The old crow told tales of far off lands that he flew through, where a bright light in the sky brought warmth and made hunting and gathering food much easier. The people laughed at his tall tales and the old crow grew annoyed. "The next time I fly away," he cawed "I will bring you back a piece of daylight, so you will believe me." The people laughed again but gave him some fish to eat in thanks.
The old crow flew south, guided by the stars, wondering how he would bring daylight to the north. He flew over ice, and mountains and the dark sea until he reached the lands where the sun shone and grass and flowers grew. He rested in the branches of a leafy tree, letting the sun warm his dark glossy feathers and thought.
Below him, in the valley, a young woman, in brightly coloured clothes, came to the lake to fetch water. As she poured it into her water jar the droplets sparkled in the sun. The crow flew down to her and tried to catch the droplets as they fell, they might hold their light until he reached the North. As he touched them they flew apart, making him wet. The old crow landed and preened his now sodden feathers. The woman, laughing at his antics, lifted her water jar onto her head and started off home. The old crow followed.
The people of this country lived in wooden houses, with windows to let in the light. In this house a large crystal hung in the window casting rainbows of light into the room, where a young child laughed at the patterns it made. The crow watched, thinking. The woman of the house was sweeping the wooden floor and dust motes floated, glistening, in the bright sunlight. The crow saw his chance.
Now, O Best Beloved, in those far off days the birds and animals were not fixed in their shape. They could change. The crow shrugged off his normal skin of feathers and became a speck of dust and drifted down toward the open door and landed on the womans's sleeve and went with her inside the house. The child sat in the middle of the floor, watching the rainbow coloured spots of light dancing round the room and giggling with glee. The smidgen of dust, that was the crow, floated off the mother's sleeve and landed on the child's ear.
Old Crow whispered into the child's ear. "You want the pretty light!". The little boy started to cry, worried by the strange voice, and the mother came to comfort him. Again and again the crow whispered into his ear until the boy reached for the crystal. The mother, seeing what he wanted, unhooked it from the window and gave it to him. The child stopped crying and the mother put him down to play with it on the floor then carried on with her cleaning. Seconds later the child started crying again as the crow resumed his normal shape, siezed the crystal in his beak and flew out of the open door.
The crow flew back over the sea, the mountains and the ice. Back towards the land where the Inuit lived. The crystal in his beak lighting the landscape below as he flew. Rainbows reflected from the sea, the snow on the mountains and the vast stretches of ice. Far below him he saw the igloos of the Inuit and the people looked up as the light from the crystal reached them. The crow circled down to the largest igloo in the village where the people met for dancing and stories and placed the crystal on the top of the roof where it could light the whole land. The crow was guest of honour at the meal they prepared to thank him and had the choicest pieces of fish and meat.
For that summer, as the Inuit now called it, the hunting and fishing was easier in the light and everyone was well fed. However, as time passed the light from the crystal faded and after six months it had almost gone. The elders and the crow met in the large igloo to discuss the problem. They decided the crystal needed to go back to the land of the sun to recharge.
And so, O Best Beloved, the crow carried the crystal south for the winter and returned each year in the spring to bring light for six months of the year. Many other birds from the land of the Inuit go with him to protect the light and you can see them each year flying south for the winter and returning north in the spring.