Once a man went out in the fall just before the first snow to hunt for a bear. The weather was cold. He found a bear hole at last, killing the bear and skinning it. Then because it was so cold he crawled into the bear hole which seemed like a nice place to stay overnight. He piled grass over the opening to keep out the air and went to sleep. When he woke up from time to time, he turned over. At last he woke up, but he felt strange. The flesh of his face was drawn tightly over his cheekbones. He listened for a moment and could hear flies at the door. It was spring.
“Did I sleep all winter” he asked himself.
Then he went out. He found the remnants of his bear meat with flies all over it. He felt very weak and it took him a long time to walk home. The people were surprised to see him. They had hunted for him all winter. Someone asked, “Didn’t your father tell you not to sleep in a bear hole?”
That is why people do not go into bear holes.
Osgood, Ingalik Mental Culture
The end of the year is coming, already the cycle of seasons took us to winter and Kuterevo is once again cover with snow, showing another face of the village quiet beauty. And in the silent valley, we do not hear birds anymore, we meet less and less people in the streets, and very soon the bears will as well “disappear” from our daily life, entering in their winter sleep.
From immemorial times, and in many different cultures from all around the world, the bear has been a symbol of the seasons. As the days are getting shorter, as the nights are getting colder, as food is getting more and more difficult to find, the bear is looking for a place where to sleep. This mysterious disappearance of the large and strong animal has always been fascinating people, and numerous myths and beliefs were born, often linking this long sleep to the idea of life and death, resurrection or simply cycle of life.
The bear, master of the seasons, symbol of renewable and annunciator of the spring (see previous article), has been seen as a guide, an ancestral figure telling us how to live with nature. In the coming weeks, when the bears will be in their winter dens, we could as well take some time to take a breath and try to remember how once our relationship was one of mutual respect. Through myths, tales and legends, we have the chance, if we want to, to see the world with other eyes, looking for the lost knowledge hidden behind these stories.
With these stories…
… we can try to hear what the bear has to tell us,
… we can learn from people who knew how to live in peace and harmony with nature,
… we can think, question ourselves, (re)discover connections,
… we can search for some inner peace,
… we can hope that when the spring will come, we will, like the bear, open our eyes and reborn in the blossoming world, aware of its natural beauty and ready to stand for it.