Star People


In a nice balance of motif, Younger Brother enters a new world, the sky, as Older Brother and his sister earlier entered a new world, the underworld, via a dramatic sexual symbolism. But instead of a nature world of flowers and songbirds, we now have a sky world very highly charged with danger and peopled with hostile birds of prey and infinitely powerful Star People. The focus of this world is on two concentric circles of long hogans in the sacred colors. The inner circle is inhabited by the Star People. In the black hogan of the Black Star People lives Sontso, the Great Black Star, who becomes the teacher of Younger Brother. And now begins a long apprenticeship in ceremonial learning.


At first Younger Brother makes a false start. He disregards warnings and revisits the hole by which he entered the sky. He feels lonely. Perhaps at this moment there is the danger that he will try to abandon his arduous enterprise. Suddenly he is pinned down by a great rock. He has been trapped by the Tse-nul-tsosi. Only the efforts of his friends, the Star People, can persuade the Wren to let him go, and then only on condition that he learn certain ritual songs to be used in future ceremonials.
But after this adventure, Younger Brother moves to a higher plane of learning than the mistake-punishment-lesson sequence followed by Older Brother. In four dramatic episodes, he learns the power of bees, wasps, the rock wren and the left-turning wind by observation and the intervention of his own power. Though he is warned of danger in each case by his friends, the Star People, he insists on accompanying the eagles and hawks on raids against the four powers named above. Even the unfriendly birds warn him of extreme danger, indeed certain death, and refuse to allow him on their war parties. But each time, Younger Brother follows the raiders, observes the power of the bees, wasps, the Rock Wren and Left-turning wind as they defeat the eagles and hawks, and then by magic or medicine, conquers these powers after the birds have fled. He restores the slain birds by the same means and then shows the warring factions that there is no need for conflict between them.
In most cases he finds a beneficent use for the conquered power. The bees, with their deadly stings removed, are dropped down to earth and bee medicine is bequeathed to the world. So also are wasp medicine and rock medicine. From the restored eagles and hawks he takes prized downey feathers which are to be used in later ceremonials. And all of this time, back on earth, his nephew, Earth Boy, knows what is happening and knows why Younger Brother disregards warnings and has these adventures. The Star People are testing him, so as to prepare him for initiation into their wisdom. The Spirit Wind (symbol of inspiration), all unknown to Younger Brother is prompting him to seek out these experiences.
Now Sontso, the Great Star, is revealed in his role as medicine man and teacher. He instructs Younger Brother in the ceremonial use of the various plants used in the encounters with the four powers and teaches him the additional properties and rites which comprise the Great Star Chant.
He tells Younger Brother that when he returns to earth the Spirit Wind will enter his body and speak to him in dreams. He will also receive warnings to pay attention and wait for council by means of certain symptoms such as nervous twitchings and hiccups. In dreams the Spirit Wind can make us hear, but when we are awake our own thoughts get in the way so that we require these warnings. Then for four years Younger Brother helps in the performance of the Great Star Chant given for the sick Bird People, first by the Black Star, then the Blue Star, then the Yellow Star, and finally by the White Star. In each case the apprenticeship lasts for a full year.

Younger Brother Returns to Earth

Younger Brother's return to earth is a portrayal of rebirth enacted amidst impressive manifestations of the powers of nature. The Star People give him clouds of the sacred colors, lightnings, sacred fat for ceremonial use and stars for use in divination. Dressed in their flint armor, all the stars assemble for Younger Brother's departure from the sky. Sontso lets fall a black cloud which hovers just below the hole in the sky. Then Blue Star, Yellow Star and White Star drop clouds of blue yellow and white. These clouds constitute four stages reaching from the sky to the earth. Younger Brother leaves the sky and travels from stage to stage on three kinds of lightning and the rainbow while all the stars shake down powder to form a mist and conceal Younger Brother's arrival from the people of the earth.