Spider Woman and Eagle Girl
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Disclaimer: Joss’s concept, my story.
Summary: A tale of a slayer long since dead.
This is said to be from the collection of Hannah Bingley-Driscoll, one of the first scholars to make an authoritative collection of legends and tales of Slayers in non-European settings. The book, A Miscellany of Alien Vampires, was first published in 1885, under the aegis of Naomi Giles-Beauclerc, whose interest in native populations led to a new understanding of the Slayer legacy and non-European cultures, which is most remarkable given that only one in three Slayers occurred in the Eastern Hemisphere, and only one in two was reliably found before 1650.
Most remarkable because we can date it to near the modern Albuquerque (New Mexico) area of 1275-1299 AD, as part of a series of disasters that caused the Pueblo of the area to relocate, Bingley-Driscoll said of “Spider Woman and Eagle Girl,” ‘it is a Remarkable Find…a web of Tale woven to speak Truth in Symbolic Form.’ I hope you also find it so.
–Dawn Summers, Editor, “Tales of the Slayers: North American Slayers 500BC-1650AD”
“Spider Woman and Eagle Girl” (Hopi/Pueblo, from the version written down by Hannah Bingley-Driscoll)
In days of a great drought, in the pueblos of the People, where the wind would tell tales of the Anasazi and the four worlds, a maiden of the pueblos gave birth to her first child, a daughter. She was in labor four days and four nights, and on the fifth morning, the child was born, small and wrinkled, and the wise women said she would not live. But Spider Woman, the wisest of the wise women, she read the ashes of her morning fire and laughed.
When her son asked why she laughed, Spider Woman pointed to the sky. “Eagle Girl will be the smallest warrior to find the sun, and her teacher will come from beyond the East to teach her to fly.” Then she burped and asked for her herb-drink, and Spider Woman’s son ran to the pueblo woman, who was his wife, to tell her that Spider Woman said that their daughter would live, and that her true name would be Eagle Girl.
Eagle Girl grew up fast and strong, running everywhere. It was said she never walked if she could run, that she could wield a stick at four years old, and when she was five, she could hunt better than boys of twelve and thirteen. This brought much talk around the pueblos, and Spider Woman was often brought to settle uneasy hearts about Eagle Girl.
“A day will come when Eagle Girl is needed to save the people,” she said. “You will know the day is come when Eagle Girl’s guardian comes from the west and calls it east, and a warrior falls dead in the corn and invisible death comes with him.”
This did not much settle the hearts of the people, and Spider Woman’s son was often much worried for his daughter, who was quick and clever, but small and not strong. He would often fret that one day, the boys would lure her out and beat her to prove she was no warrior, and Eagle Girl had better stay with her mother. But no such thing happened, and Eagle Girl grew older and wiser, listening to her mother and to Spider Woman, who told her every story a warrior girl would need to know, and more.
Spider Woman did not tell all she knew, for the morning dew told her that Eagle Girl could not know enough to fear invisible death, that it could not be destiny for her, but simple duty. So when Spider Woman’s son was found asleep in the fields at dawn during Eagle Girl’s thirteenth year, Spider Woman did not say that she had foreseen it. Nor when his body disappeared from its cave did Spider Woman say she knew it was coming as well. This was by the advice of the River God, who spoke in the deepest voice that no one could hear.
It was not six days after Spider Woman’s son’s body got up and walked away that Eagle Girl was sick with a fever, and all the herbs of Eagle Girl’s mother could do nothing. Eagle Girl was full of a desire to go walking in the night, for, she said, “I can hear my father calling me.”
On the tenth night, Eagle Girl walked the night, hearing her father, but it seemed to her that she had burnt up and changed with her fever. No longer was the night-world peaceful and quiet; the snakes and rabbits and birds whispered to each other, and their warnings were death.
“Do not seek your father,” the long-tailed mouse told Eagle Girl. “He is an owl, seeking prey at night. He lures you to die like a foolish mouse who does not know how to hide.”
Eagle Girl looked at the mouse with wonder. “You can speak,” she said.
“You can hear,” the mouse said. “Be wise like old Spider Woman, weaving her webs in the pueblos. Do not go out in the nights unless you are truly a warrior. Now run, Eagle Girl, run until you can hear the owl’s flight upon you.”
Eagle Girl ran, and she could hear, in the distance, the steps of her father, now as quiet as an owl, waiting for foolish mice. She ran and ran until she found Spider Woman, sitting by the fire across from a strange man with black hair, black eyes, and a wooden pipe fashioned from a reed.
Strangest of all, when she stopped to stare at Spider Woman and the newcomer, he threw a cloak of feather around her, heavy and so long it dragged upon the ground.
“Grandmother Spider,” Eagle Girl said. “My father has become an owl.”
The stranger laughed. “An owl?” and in this way, Eagle Girl quickly discovered the stranger was a teacher from a place so far west that it was east, and that he knew of the way by which Spider Woman’s son had died and become an owl. And by morning, Spider Woman had given him a new name, and from then on out, Eagle Girl’s teacher was Moon Warrior.
Moon Warrior had come just at the right time, for the next day, Corn Woman’s son disappeared at sunset and did not come home, and the day after that, another old man and two children disappeared. On the third night, Moon Warrior and Eagle Girl ran through the canyons, listening for owls, and by morning, Corn Woman’s son was dust and one of the two children as well.
Of Eagle Girl’s father, now called Owl by the people, there was no word, no knowledge at all. But Eagle Girl could hear him, dreamt of him, and her heart yearning after him.
“Come back to earth, Eagle Girl,” Moon Warrior called her from the canyons, from the night, back to the people. But he could not hear the call of owl-song, the silence of their feathers on air. All he had for her was his feather cloak, but she could not fly with it. The Owl promised she could fly.
Spider Woman could tell Eagle Girl’s dreams from the way the threads wove together on the women’s looms, from the coyotes’ howls, and she knew it would take a strong magic to fight the Owl. She and Moon Warrior put their heads together many nights, weaving and wondering as Eagle Girl ran through the canyons, returning the bodies of her people to the earth.
The Owl still flew past her, and Eagle Girl longed to fly. Every night, the Owl got bolder, and Eagle Girl feared she could not stop him from finding Spider Woman, or Moon Warrior, or his wife. The people wept at all the blood that fell to the ground, at daughters torn from mothers, mothers from sons, brothers from brothers, and Eagle Girl could not prevent the Owl from flying in.
“We must go to the Sun God,” Spider Woman said, spinning while Moon Warrior played his wood flute. “Eagle Girl must fly to him and plead to him to spy out the Owl.”
“I have given her feathers,” Moon Warrior said. “She must learn to fly.”
So Eagle Girl went to the top of the mesas at dawn one day, with Moon Warrior and Spider Woman chanting spells and enchantments, offering prayers of fire, corn, and water to the gods. And Eagle Girl’s feather cloak settled around her, and when she raised her arms, she had wings to fly.
Further and further up she flew, and all the while, Owl’s whispers were in her ears, til she could see and hear nothing but the sun, and then she saw the house of the Sun God, and the Sun God himself smoking a pipe in his yard. He greeted Eagle Girl with great welcome, because he was lonely, and tried to get Eagle Girl to stay in his house.
But Eagle Girl made a plea. Help her find and destroy Owl, she said, for he would destroy the people. And she pleaded for seven days, until the Sun God finally relented.
“I will help you, but the price is high. Will you pay it?”
Eagle Girl promised, and they flew down, down, down to the pueblo, heating the world, looking for Owl. And at last, when the Sun and Eagle Girl found Owl, he stared at her with the face of Spider Woman’s son.
“Eagle Girl flies at last,” he said, before burning into ash. And Eagle Girl wept for her father, but then turned to the Sun.
“Thank you,” Eagle Girl said. “Now…how may I repay you?”
“Fly with me,” the Sun God said. “I have never seen any I would rather accompany me on my travels.”
Eagle Girl looked at the scorched land, and knew if she returned, the land would not renew, because she was hot like flame, like the sun too close to the world.
“I will fly, then,” Eagle Girl said, shedding two tears before taking wing forever with the Sun. One for Spider Woman, and one for Moon Warrior, who ever after waited for Eagle Girl’s return at the dawn of the day of the full moon.
Someday, she may return, they say, if Owl comes again into the canyons, into the pueblos, ravaging the people. And if you wait at the dawn, you may see her dance in the air with her lover, the Sun, waiting.