The Integration of Ew’ah, & ‘The Wampus Cat’ Origins

I entered an art show–my first ever! We pulled our character/creature out of a hat and I pulled… “The Wampus Cat”. The predominant information at the top of google’s food-chain was a) an Appalachian tale of a vicious, large and oddly shaped cat–(ranging from mountain lion, panther, to bobcat, depending on who is talking)–that terrorized towns, drained livestock of blood, attacked and lunged at hunters and children at play. Then b) the origin story being a myth where a woman gets punished for spying on her husband’s pre-hunting rituals, cursed to be an angry cat of the woods that terrorizes people for the rest of time.

Neither of these satiated the lit teacher in me, and the brief and retold version of a woman being left out of rituals and punished for being nosy, felt very fishy and Christianized. I wanted the newspaper clippings of the sightings and encounters with the huge cat of the woods, and I wanted to get as close as I could, with just the web at my fingertips as a source, to the Cherokee folklore origins. In this write-up is what I discovered (sources included at end), however I am open to any corrections, add-ons and edits you may have or know of! Please comment and share them if ya got em!

Ew’ah & Running Deer

When Europeans colonized the Americas, they were introduced to Native American legends, tales, and folklore stories, which were orally shared. Many of these stories were altered, shortened, morphed and edited by a western, Puritan lens, and often retold in a way that shed negative light on people and ideas they deemed as inferior or “sinful”. If you study folklore around the world, (not to mention the Holy texts in major religions of today, but that is another blogpost), you will find a common theme is that any warrior woman of the tale–sensual, ferocious, angry, wild, undomesticated–is downplayed, made out to be evil and scapegoated in the version retold by the oppressor of that time and place. I do believe that is the case with this one.

The story I found online with the most texture, detail, and cultural accuracy (in that the woman was not excluded from the men’s rituals or practices–Cherokee culture is Matrilineal aka woman are not subordinate, docile or powerless–very much the opposite, holding positions of leadership, healing and council) is the story where a woman is the victor and protector. This is the story of Ew’ah and Running Deer as an accumulation of what I found:

Ew’ah was a dream-eating, spirit-demon lurking and living in the shadows, that caused it’s victims to become lifeless, and zombified from the inside. When anyone looked into the eyes of the Ew’ah, it created such madness and distress for the onlooker that there was no return. This creature was getting out of hand when leaders and tribespeople decided to send their best warrior out to defeat it. That warrior was Standing Bear. Gone for weeks on end, he stumbled back into the village petrified, limp in spirit and stature, and only able to pick berries and play amongst children. His wife Running Deer was heartbroken, and filled with a red rage rooted in justice. Her red energy, combined with a mask of a mountain lion held by the shamans of the community were seen to be a perfect match for the Ew’ah. She was sent out with the cloak-skin and mask of a mountain lion, her body painted in a black paste that hid her scent as well as her body.

Running Deer knew the woods like her own palms, and easily survived on it’s offerings, as she patiently roamed the woods, in a steady awareness, in search of the Ew’ah. One day as the sun was lowering it’s light, she heard a creature near the creek and started her way closer, when the snap of a twig behind her startled her, causing her to break her powerful stance as she swiftly turned her gaze. It was only a fox, but she knew that if it had been the Ew’ah, she would have been another victim, for her fear and haste caused her to rest her own eyes upon the scene. Taking the lesson with her, she continued in power toward the creek, and there she saw footprints of what could have only been the Ew’ah. Using all senses other than her eyes, she inched closer from behind the Ew’ah until deciding all at once to pounce. The eyes of the Ew’ah gazed upon the talisman eyes of the mountain lion’s, and all power of the Ew’ah was drawn into the talisman and Running Deer, to be used for good forever more.

Running Deer became the protector of the village, and is said to still roam the woods in the form of a cat, protecting innocence and communicating with spirits dark and light.

The Wampus Cat

“Catawampus”, “Wampus” and “Wampus Cat” are names still used today, predominantly in the south and Appalachian states, for any figure or cat that is odd or spooky in nature. There are several schools that have The Wampus Cat as their mascot. This stems from unsolved mysterious sightings and encounters of a large cat that terrorized towns and livestock during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Headlines in the news during that period of time include “Reign of Terror Caused by Raids of ‘Wampus’ in the Virginia Swamps” and “Vampire Charges Woman”, and there are towns where men gathered in the woods in hunt of the Wampus Cat. The sightings turned into tall tales and remains a name flown around in reference to anything peculiar, mysterious, or deviating from the norm. It was also used to scare children away from staying out late or doing anything they weren’t supposed to do, similar to the way “the boogie man” is used.

In Summary:

I was very drawn to the story of Running Deer defeating the Ew’ah in the way that she did–eyes closed and other intuitive senses fine-tuned, non-destructive but more alchemizing in prowess. When I started sketching without knowing where I was going, this is what came out. I adore the way the fox in the story serves as a lesson of caution for her moving forward–thinking of all things “Fox Medicine”–a loving, trickster, jester-like being. (I was going to include a fox in the background but the cat wanted more space, and who am I to crowd her?)

The Ew’ah not being destroyed, but taken in and made anew, is a very alchemical-like process of dealing with a shadow or demon. I believe this is how we integrate and triumph over our own individual shadows–a firm and boundary-filled compassion that creates with what is. I also believe this is also how we protect one another best–not by shaming, outcasting, or demonizing, but by using our instinctual and heart-led wisdom to communicate, lead, embody and hold. Deer Woman is led by a rage rooted in justice for the love of her husband and entire community, seeking not to join the Ew’ah in taking the spirit out of the living–but to bring the spirit back into itself–it’s true self, where power and prowess is used for good.

This piece is at ADX Portland as part of The Monster Mash where I and 150 other artist’s pieces are displayed. It is $444 and $222 will be donated to The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

Sources:

https://www.themoonlitroad.com/the-wampas-mask/

https://www.austincc.edu/pgoines/maryleigh.html

https://www.greenevillesun.com/news/local_news/did-a-wampus-cat-stalk-greene-county-in-1918/article_85c990b5-a00d-5137-a760-c25b1bf24eff.html

http://demonhunterscompendium.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-wampus-cat.html

The Last Day of Venus Post

This is a draft that has been sitting! *emoji of monkey putting hands over eyes* Since returning home I have been diving head-first into juicy artistic endeavors, and part of them pertain to what I was about to share with you all when I started writing THIS:

Over the last 6 months I have posted a weekly ‘Day of Venus’ entry, with the intention of a) keeping my water flowing/my faucet turned ON, and b) overcoming any hesitancy to be unapologetic and raw and as _____ as I am channeling. I am now going to be posting more articles, poetry and creative non-fiction pieces, many of them drawing from lines, stanzas and entries on this site, as well as from journals on my shelves and in my lap and the tiny ones I kept in my fannie-pack for the in-between trances. I am tremendously grateful for your readership and so excited about the future. Here is one last unhinged and unedited free-flow (or poetry? line? song?) before I do a makeover on my entire blog/website over the next chapter of being. Cheers! I love you!


I am a witness of the nest 
shared by two eagles, 
about 9 miles from our apartment. A river is heard
collecting mineral, wing, song, seed.
I am of this concoction of creative matter, 
onlooker and looked-upon, 
where "active" and "still" become one, the longer you see.
A lover alongside my lover,
a lover alongside love itself. 

When your moon-world is beckoning and knowing and feeding you visions, I hope you choose her over the promises you made, the good girl you were told to be, the routine you got used to. Choose the swell of the ocean when it comes to your yard, and the rich soil running black into the earth, for this is to live. And to love is to want all beings of the world to live while they’re alive. To reside in the sun-moon lit caves of your towering spine, is to allow yourself to really settle into your bones to be able to listen. Are they asking for a dance? Can you feel your rib’s vibration when you speak? What is the story being told by the sound of your feet against the ground each day? What are you excited about draping over your shoulders? What are you willing to put down?



The last hour of sun was behind you, 
teal and gold from my bedside curtain cradling your face,
and I had just seen your collarbones
for the first time. 

The language-less animal knew--
that choir of singing cells that is my body--
how many songs, how much poetry,  
how much bowing was to come 
beside the constellations on your skin.



It Is Here

Learning the technicalities, where to balance the scales, and where to add a passageway on the earth for water to dance itself into. “All in perfect timing” soothes the angel in my spirit, speaking from The Quiet Place. Tension builds when I am away from pen and paper, melody and the vibration of my voice in time and space. It feels like release, like long-awaited-for ecstasy flowing through my being, when I am an outlet for all of this love and this coming-to love that is unending and one and the same. The “coming-to” as well as the “to” both ache like, pull like, hold and release, and breathe in and breathe out like love. I could just write about, explore, express, research, live in, talk to, befriend-again love all day and you know what? I’m doing that right now and `I did that yesterday too. I harness the energy and lay down the stones for river-ways to flow, give life, and to be in union with The Ocean of It All.

I spent Lion’s Gate Portal beneath trees looking into faces walking by, and singing from the basin of me
By Jane Hirshfield
the biggest, most delicious, most beautiful fig I ever met

Poems and Their Pieces

(Pulled Into The Sky By My Feet)

~


make room for your desire,

to dance and be danced,

by dancing.


~


For Lift Off

I loosen my grip on the rope of things.

I pull my shoulder blades together,
curtains drawn for morning sun.

I rest my eyes where earth meets sky,

and sing all of it a love song.




Also For Lift Off


Unwind the thread with your fingertips,
as you sit by the edge of water.

Dance it down to it's finest
and foremost strand.

May your orbit be as light as this
for my body to hold.



All is forgiven and nothing is lost.



~



Let there be a lovingness

in the symbols you speak,
the shapes your limbs make,
through time and space,

in your steps to the sink,
in the way that you leave,
and in the ways that you choose to stay.


~


There are poems that want to become, their presence in the bowl of my hips.

I carry them like green fruit. I cradle their clean faces.

I ask what only they have answers to.

They respond in a series of trade winds, or I'm pulled into the sky by my feet.

They ask for water, a nap under that tree I saw,

for me to dance in the dark with my eyes closed,

and then to stare at the sphere,

of web and dust,

just a little longer.


~


What I Do

I dance with the shadows I make on the walls,
my reflection and I two playing children.
I paint stars on fish scales,
give water to what wants watering.
I stretch when I feel like stretching,
where I feel like stretching,
and I spend a lot of time pondering
the history and validity of social norms and taboos. Like,
why is it so odd to stretch, to dance,
to sing, or praise in public spaces? The very things that keep us alive.
I don’t like following a standard curriculum,
an itinerary, or the news.
I listen to the spirit of things, and follow breadcrumbs–
what invigorates the curious and playing child in me?
I love knowing that play is good for us,
and playing helps the mind learn and retain information,
and it is an act of rebellion to do it,
and it is what adds the aliveness to being alive.


Question any sudden strong emotions as they come–
get to know the messages they long to send. Where is the contrast and where is the resonance? Accept it and be as selective as you need to be about what you attune to. Life is meant to be lived with everything we’ve got.