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.


The Power of Being Aware of Your Power feat. A Freedom Field Meditation

Wanaka Lavender Farm, South Island, New Zealand

We all have an inherent composition of the divine components that make up God, then we experience the world and absorb a collection of Less-Thans, leaving us forgetful. The purity of a childlike spirit who remembers this connection, then becomes a threat, a fear, a symbol of what they think they themselves do not possess.

There are people who mistake gold for worthiness, marble floors for validation, a picture next to the captured as proof they are above. Their very nature then becomes a game of conquer and claim. Having forgotten their blood runs sovereign and complete, they gather temporary moments of reign, by way of meddling with your pretty thoughts, making you question the sun radiating from your insides. They become addicted to placing you into the illusion that you need them, that you are less than, that your very existence is a lie, that you have no business beaming the way you do.

In the same way coconut husk smoke and citronella keep mosquitoes away, we are able to repel and neutralize the occasional encounter we have with what we will call “forgetfuls”, and this is by engaging with and staying in close communication with that seed-like ball of energy that lives, that beckons, that remembers. The Knowing, and the very awareness that this spirit-dwelling ember can never be taken away from you, is at the core of your sovereignty. This presence with yourself, this idea of basking in the company of your very own aliveness, is at the core of refraining from giving in to the illusion that you lack anything, or need something external to make you feel complete.

Awareness of your inherent power is what neutralizes and redirects the forgetfuls that appear within and around us.

Awareness of your inherent power is what neutralizes and redirects the forgetfuls that appear within and around us. Practiced enough, this daily choosing yourself, and this consistent awareness of invitations to leave, becomes a dance you do by default, an automatic deflection of what doesn’t pair up to what you are emitting. Your existence becomes so blinding, and so sure, that it causes any internal or external forgetful, to remember how unnecessary it is to spend time in pursuit of what never left them in the first place.

…for if they knew they were inherently worthy, they would not be trying to “take” what they already have.

The external encounters are mirrors, as everything is, whether we like it or not. Everything is either energy, or potential energy–but it is all energy. Energy is able to be transferred, manipulated, and dissolved into it’s core component(s). The source of any forgetful’s need to “take”, “prove”, or “dismantle” is that they have not taken the time to remember their inherent worthiness, for if they knew they were inherently worthy, they would not be trying to “take” what they already have.

These forgetful mosquitoes are within, just as much as they are outside of us. This is because our own thoughts about ourselves, others and the world around us, can be just as, if not more life-draining than an external vacuum of energy. Left to their own devices and going unchecked, the ideas we absorb from our external worlds can morph into ideas we allow to stay swimming in our minds for sometimes years on end. Awareness is the key–if you can learn to observe where and when this is happening, you are able to study the pattern and it’s origins, in order to turn it on it’s head for the lie it is.

When in the midst of The Great Pressure–an idea that promotes lack is either coming from within or without–(sometimes you can’t be sure which came first, eh?), as if you see a yellow light in the distance, practice telling yourself to slow down, your foot gently moving the break-pedal close to the floor. Speak, move, and even think in slow motion, as if you are watching your thoughts like subtitles along a screen, like they are detached from your soul-body, and belong to a slow-moving commercial. What are you being sold by way of this message? What is asking you to leave yourself? Where is the source of the offer to forget how wondrous your very existence is? Are you able to see far enough into it’s origins–the way every hurt was birthed from another hurt? You have the power to transform this into an energy that is in everyone’s best interest, leaving you lightweight and free to move in the world in accordance with the highest version of yourself.

At some point in our lives, we were sold an idea of being “less-than” something or another. When we evaluate what these purchases were–when they happened, from whom they were bought from—studying the pattern’s lineage, we come to the point where we open the closet door, and look under the bed, to see nothing actually there–all of the invitations to leave ourselves just empty fearful signals.

Once upon a time, these amnesiac ideas of lack, were transferred, and in a vulnerable disposition, The Less-Than Cloak was draped over your shoulders, and you kept it on. Your wings, your scales, your voice, and your bones as mighty as mountains–hushed, hidden, told to keep silent..

If you feel you have absorbed limitations placed on you by way of family, society, or somewhere else, or perhaps you just need a quick tune-up for remembering how perfect and incredible you are, as you are, give yourself permission to shed what doesn’t belong, and return to yourself:

Meditation (Script):

Come on an experience with me now.. Close your eyes if you are able to. Imagine what your Cloak of Less-Than’s might look like. Where do the pieces of cloth that made it come from? What colors, textures, and components would it have? How is it tied around you and what is that tie made of?

Imagine it is enveloping you, grazing your forearms, the fabric touching your skin when you lean back into your chair. Is there a hood attached that you keep over your head–eyes low and watchful, feeling unseen and small? Maybe there are words on it that were said directly to you, or maybe they are the labels, categories, and assumptions you’ve taken on from society. Holding the image in your mind of your Less-Than Cloak, sit with it, in all it’s heaviness. Know that right now, acknowledging that it exists, and you have been wearing it, is the key to being able to take it off. Do not run away from the feelings. Do not speed through. Feel all of it’s weight around you. Imagine the way it has been training you to move in the world–walk a certain way, stumbling and cautiously stepping in a fashion that accommodates for it’s placement.

Now acknowledge that it is a removable item, disposable and irrelevant. Recognize that you have been wearing it, with the capability of removing it at any time. Say out loud: “You are a cloak and I can take you off. You do not belong to me. I was not born with you.” Say it as many times as feels good–repeat until you really feel it.

Now, lift your right hand to the tie that keeps the cloak in place. Pull on the string that binds it to your body. Feel the soft tug of it’s unfastening. Lift the hood up off of over your head, to feel your forehead greeting the sky. If it sits on your sweet shoulder blades, shrug it to the floor. Look at it now, beside your feet–a thing, a pile, a once-was-worn. Now take notice of your bare shoulders, the tint of your skin changing in different lighting–every spot, crinkle and hair like the flowers, trees and fruits of the earth–free to grow and reach and twirl in the wind.

Imagine yourself moving freely through a Freedom Field all your own–grass soft and cool under your feet, the horizon of the earth all around you, the sky a splendor of colors that are easy on your eyes. What plants are around you? Are there trees in the distance? A row of valley towering beside you? Envision yourself leaping over and away from the cloak on the ground, the sky now able to kiss your skin, your feet able to move in a rhythm you remember as your own–without stumbling or reducing your prances to mere shuffles. You can dive into the air in front of you, swirling and swaying and playful, your head looking up and around and in front of you with ease and gentle strength.

Now take a moment to picture yourself resting in that Freedom Field you have created–notice the way you are able to sit or lay without altering or adjusting anything–you simply decide you’d like to rest, and so you do it. Your body is welcomed by the earth beneath you, the ground a bed that knows your body like it knows itself. Feel the expansiveness there is in simply resting when you feel called to rest, wherever you are. Imagine you are in the safest place on earth. Now let us stay here a moment.

Move your hands to be palm-down over your belly-button, one hand placed over the other, and then move about 1-2 inches down, your hands resting in that space between your navel and your pelvic area. Notice the way that space in your body feels below your hands–simply notice without any judgment. Is there a surge of electricity? Does it feel like a knot? No matter what it feels like, simply observe and accept that that is what it feels like.

Now visualize the clean air of your Freedom Field, is being swallowed on your next intake of breath, those very particles from that open field of skipping and rejoicing, is being led straight into that place at the base of your spine, deep beneath your hands. With every intake of breath, the lightness of that sky is filling itself into your stomach, those loving air particles snuggling up against your bones, veins, muscles, organs. Visualize the tiny crystallized elements in Freedom Field Air making their way through your body and swirling through the halls of your inner palace, decorating it with petal, forest and sunlight.

Imagine that as it sweeps through your body, on every single inhale, it works it’s way in deeper, that each time there is an intake, a river way is cleared of debris, more water is let in, more space is made for it’s flowing. Slowly and surely, even if it is millimeter by millimeter, then maybe sometimes it is by inches–space is made, more is let in, and more stays there for longer, before making it’s way back up.. And as you ease yourself out of this meditation, may you remember that you can return to this field as many times as you need to.

You can take off any Cloak of Less-Than’s, and prance into your Freedom Field to be who you truly are, daily. It is a daily practice, a daily decision, and in the process of recovery, consistently returning to yourself in your Freedom Field allows for this to become the default state you live in. Return, and return and return, and stay. Forgive yourself for wearing the cloak as long as you did before you were aware. Then forgive yourself for sometimes placing it on again absent-mindedly, out of a pattern you abided by before you remembered yourself. But always return to your Freedom Field. This is your home, and you can guide yourself back, anytime, all on your own.

Aligning Ourselves In Love (an ode to the balancing scales of Libra)

Have you ever tried slack-lining or walking on a high-rope? If you have you know there is a certain core-strength involved and meditative-like focus, combined with a surrender to deep and slow breaths. There is both a pressure and an ease involved, which is parallel to the energy Libra season brings. If there was ever a theme song for this season, amidst 6 planets being in retrograde and being that the planet of war (Mars) is currently being stuffed in Libra’s love blanket, it’s ‘I Walk The Line’ by Johnny Cash. (Just hear me out here.) He finds it “very, very easy to be true” (he is in love after all, and Libra, which is ruled by the planet of love, embodies the Golden Ratio, which creates all of existence, therefore loving is easy peasy for Mr. Cash) *elbow nudges you*, and his love is as sure as “night is dark and day is light” ( I mean do I even need to point out how Libra that line is?) All silliness and songs aside, we are in a season asking us to wrangle and reason with anything that keeps us from the simplicity of operating from a place of love, which involves mindful and deliberate action, as well as rest.

Like it’s justice-centered predecessor that is Virgo, here we are in Libra-scale season being further pushed (really I think cornered is a better word choice at this point) to align our walk with our talk, our innermost desires and beliefs with the life we live, and to find balance on that fine center between the night and day dwelling within us.

‘Themis’ by Natalia Socolnicova

Ruled by Venus, Libra is the only constellation in the zodiac that is not an animal or person. Libra was given it’s classification of all things “balance” at a time when, at this point in the year, night and day were of equal proportion. The scale used to determine truth and virtue is held by goddess Themis, the androgynous oracle who does not know wrath, yet does see things simply for what they are–both the dark and the light. Blindfolded, Themis navigates and feels her way to her final judgments by way of Love, the dance of Venus and Earth around the Sun, which is the Golden Ratio 1.618, and in divine order with seeds growing in the earth, and the blood that flows in our bodies. For this reason she is trusted by the gods to make decisions, for there is no discrimination–you are either aligned with the cycle of Venus in your intentions and actions, or you are not. Libra embodies both the cut-throat and harsh, and the liberating, lightweight, and flowing.

The Dance of Venus and Earth Around the Sun (Golden Ratio 1.618)

I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately, and the way the balancing theme of Libra comes into play when it comes to making changes in one’s life. Being that Libra is in the center of the zodiac, it is a transitory time that symbolizes the mark between your relationship to yourself, and how you relate with others. The second half of the zodiac asks us to look at our dealings, commitments and interactions, and Libra is right at the middle of this turning point. Editing your story requires dismantling what once was, reconstructing, putting things into order, blindly making something new out of what is apparent and before you. This requires taking a close look at the people we engage with, and inviting others, or setting boundaries with them in order to actively create the environment most supportive of who you are and who you are blossoming into.

Right now I am walking on a line existing between shadow and light. I am in a vulnerable, yet also empowering place of saying goodbye to the roles I have filled, scrapping a career I have built around teaching, into being able to express myself freely and artistically, and move in the world authentically in alignment with my bliss, my beliefs, my passions. As I feel my way through, I have the option to choose to submit to shadows, give in to voices that critique, downplay, and shush what expressions want to come out. If I choose to I could fall into that pit and allow my limbs to be pulled by self-pity, shame and despair, but I know better. I am choosing to acknowledge, observe and dance with those masks, as if they are twirling in the mirror reflected back at me, tantalizing and seductive I give a playful smirk and sway where I am, which is on this golden twine just out of their reach. I choose not to demonize them, or keep them locked in a box I pretend doesn’t exist, but to use their existence to fine-tune myself into grace, humility and keep my feet on the earth to be of service in my own way. I love them all, but I see them for what they are, and I have boundaries. When they lash out in front of me, I bend accordingly and am in return grateful for the opportunity to rise, to beat my drum until they are dancing with me.

There is also the beaming light of day on the other side, where if I stay for too long, I may lose momentum in taking the strides necessary to dance with all of my relations. It is by stepping off of this chord in the middle, then overstaying my welcome in the sun glaze-coated bakery of bliss, that it then becomes a certain willful ignorance. Darkness inevitably emerges and has the power to startle me into a reaction that is off-centered and unaligned–it has the potential to catch me so off-guard that I have to spend a longer amount of time trying to get back into center. It is by embracing the dark we are able to stay above it. There is no righteousness in denying the wild, the untamed, the out-of-line mischievous fire-starter within you. It is right here on this line between chaos and purity that my sight is most clear. It is by welcoming everyone to my fire that I am able to move in ways I have never moved before. It is in being acquainted with death time and time again, that I am able to live. It is because of performing duets with my demons, that they know I am the director of the show.

As we negotiate, decide upon and show up to spaces during this season, let us strive to make our lives as simple as we possibly can (especially being that Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are all in retrograde). The easiest way to ensure we are making the right decision is to check in with the reasoning behind the choices we make. (Hint: operate from a place of love–this is no time for revenge, performative acts, or desperate pleads for love to come in from outside of ourselves.)

Questions to ask yourself as you operate over these next couple of weeks:

  • Am I longing to/choosing to do this because I sincerely enjoy doing it?
  • After I send this message/email how will I feel about myself? How will these words make the other party feel about themselves?
  • Where in my life do I speed-through just to get-through? Where in my life can I slow down? What can I afford to sacrifice?
  • What am I working for/toward? Are those things in alignment with what will bring me peace?
  • What activities/past times/hobbies do I regularly engage in? How does my body feel (special attention to heart-rate/mind/eyes/gut) as I engage in these activities?
  • Who are the people I regularly show my affection and intimacy toward? Do they share the same beliefs, actions and attitudes that I do toward life and what I value in mine?

As we embark down the paths our transitions lead us to, let us remember it requires both tension and surrender to walk in alignment with love this way, and before you get frustrated with the ever-evolving choices life presents us with–choices to speak up, edit, or stay silent; stay or go; follow a rule, break a rule, or create new ones—remember that being alive is a gift, one with love and heartache, closed doors and new terminals, memories and experiences we have yet to meet. As you maneuver your words and actions in your relations, forget wrong vs. right, you vs. them, and return to where your heart rests along the middle plane. There are no sides after all–it is only by gazing into the intersection where they meet in the middle that we gain stride into living in harmony with ourselves, and with others.