*Alternate* First Reading: “Skywoman Falling” from the oral traditions of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Nations

In the beginning, there was the Skyworld. Skywoman fell like a maple seed, pirouetting on an autumn breeze. A bundle clutched in her hand, Skywoman fell from Skyworld, a column of light marking her path. She saw only dark waters as she hurtled downward. But in that emptiness, many eyes gazed up at the sudden shaft of light and the small object. As it grew closer, they could see that it was a woman.

The geese rose from the water, flying beneath her to break her fall. The geese could not hold the woman for long, so they called a council to decide what to do. Resting on their wings, Skywoman saw them gather: loons, otters, swans, beavers, fish of all kinds. A great turtle floated in their midst and offered his back for her to rest upon. Gratefully, she stepped from the goose wings to the dome of his shell.

The others understood Skywoman needed land for her home. The deep divers offered to bring up mud from the bottom of the waters. One by one, they dove, bringing up mud and placing it on the turtle’s shell. Skywoman sang and danced in Thanksgiving for the gifts of the animals, and from the mud on Turtle’s back, the land began to grow beneath her dancing feet. Soon the whole earth was made.

When Skywoman fell, she had grabbed branches, fruits, and seeds of all kinds from the Tree of Life. As she carefully scattered them on the earth, they flourished. The flourishing was not from Skywoman alone but from the alchemy of all the animals’ gifts coupled with her deep gratitude. Together they formed what today we know as Turtle Island, our home.

A reading from the oral traditions of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe Nations.