World History and the Meaning of Being Human – Myths, Storytelling, and The Moon – by Der Yang. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Original art work from Der Yang]
Coming from many regions across South-East Asia, there is one of many myths that haunts my past today. This folktale is about a woman, with a name that I did not initially know of, who lived on the moon. According to an article by A Beginner’s Guide to Hmong Shamanism, it states that the Chinese society calls this woman Chang E, the goddess of the moon. The folklore of this woman dates back to as long as my ancestors can remember. Passed down onto my parents and my generation, I still remember the story today. The moon that everyone sees now at night, is the symbol of this myth. Although very short, I had an unforgettable experience.
Chang E was known as a vengeful spirit because she longed for her husband. When she lived as a human being, her husband was given a magical immortality potion as a reward for saving the world from the ten blazing suns. He took down nine and left one for the world to stay bright. However, as nearby civilians heard the news, they gained greed and selfishness for a long life, causing them to invade Chang E’s home. Without her husband present, her fear and impulsivity caused her to swallow the magic. She was then automatically sent to the sky, choosing the moon as her new home. Since then, Chang E has been known to punish any and everyone who points her way, a sign of attack.
From my experience, my parents have always told me from a very young age to never point at the moon. At the age of four, I never understood the reasons behind their story of the moon. They would tell me that if I looked long and hard enough, a woman sitting on the moon would wave to me. They would say that this woman was bound to cut my ears if I pointed her way. However, I thought to myself, “How could this person possibly come to earth and cut my ears off? How could this woman that mom and dad keep mentioning hurt me if she is so far away?”
A few days right after learning about this mysterious woman on the moon, I shared the cool news with my older cousins at a gathering. Unfortunately, it was right around 8-9 PM in the summer and the moon was starting to appear. Being the “wise and nice” cousins they were, they told me that if I pointed at the moon, then I would be able to go to the playground with them. I directly shot my tiny pointer finger towards the big, round moon. After a two second wait, everyone laughed at me and told me that I only told fibs. No one believed this myth, not even myself.
When I arrived home, I didn’t think much of the actions I completed. I bathed and got ready for bed, as usual. The only unusual thing was the skin area connecting my right earlobe to my head felt a bit sore. It felt as if someone was tugging on my earlobe for a very long time and wanted it off. That may sound exaggerated, but I remember the fine details of this incident.
The next day, I found my earlobe full of scab and discomfort. Tears ran down my eyes while I cluelessly ran to my mother. After I told my mother about my actions the night before, I remember her scolding me, “I told you to listen to me but you did not and this is what you deserve.” She then formed a small ball of spit in her mouth and spat on her fingers. Her hands moving closely to my right ear lobe, I moved in objection to her spit. Nonetheless, she firmly grabbed me by my ear and chanted, “Quav qaib, quav npua, quav nyuj, quav twm.” Which translates in English as chicken poop, pig poop, cow poop, buffalo poop. She chanted this phrase once while rubbing my ear with the spit. Surprisingly, it was soothing. I then asked my mother what she was doing and the reasons behind it. She explained, “It is our ritual to help your ear from getting worse, to heal it faster. However, it would have been preventable if you told me right after you did what you have done. That way, she will not come to get your ear as I have just spread all sorts of poop on your ear [figuratively].”
According to history book Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, by Robert Tignor and other authors, a myth can be found throughout the chapters but specifically on page 179. El Lanzón is an excellent art carving from the Chavín in the Andes. The example of El Lanzón portrays some of the similarities as my myth shared above. It is a large monument demonstrating the aspects of one of their deities. It shows features of snakes, cats, and human parts. Its whole picture conveys a hybrid supernatural figure, possessing powerful strengths. Tignor states, “Carved stone jaguars, serpents, and hawks, baring their large fangs and claws to remind believers and nature’s powers, dominated the spiritual landscape.”  Unlike the myth of Chang E, there seems to be no artistic representation in the Hmong culture, the culture that I identify with. Yet, in China or other south Asian countries, there are many drawings and video games based on the goddess of the moon.
Pertaining to class discussions, all human beings are contradictory and complex, multifaceted, and teachable [Professor Liang]. Just like all of the civilizations from the Tignor’s work, people from Ancient Voices, Modern World: The Amazon, and my own society, we are hard to understand, adaptable, and we have a mindset willing to expand. Artifacts have proven the different lives at different times all around the world. We as social creatures live off from traditions, folktales, and skills to survive. An example would be the legend of the Basarana river people, also known as the lost Amazonian. Their culture and belief system is so vastly different from ours, yet somewhat similar. When celebrations happen, there are many rituals to be done, ancestors are involved in one way or another, and cultural preservation is relevant. Such as the making of their bread, stitching of cultural hats, and preparation of hallucinogenic drinks. The bread is passed out at the end of the ceremony to represent completion and blessings. The hats, created from feathers, shells, beads, etc, are worn by mostly men of the river people to signify pride. Created from feathers, shells, beads, etc. Last but not least, their drinks are prepared with a type of drug to lighten their moods and dwell wholly in their ceremony. The Basarana people share sacred locations and activities just as us many Americans do.
Today, many of us as social creatures like to look into the world and search for a supernatural explanation of why things are the way they are. Personally, I think that myths and legends are universal features in the human existence. Their existence makes us human by allowing us to hold a history to our name. With histories, we are able to learn from them and utilize them as a guideline to life. Whether a history is true or false, it is a myth that has power over some individuals more than the others. Not everyone will believe in myths. Nonetheless, these imaginative stories give human beings a sense of energy to continue the human existence. Additionally, just as it has occurred within my life to the Basarana people, fables are meant to be shared through many generations.
[From Professor Liang’s Spring 2017 World History I class]
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