Origin of Pleiades and Pine

Long ago, when the world was new, there were seven boys who used to spend all their time down by the townhouse playing the gatayusti game, rolling a stone wheel along the ground and sliding a curved stick after it to strike it. Their mothers scolded, but it did no good.

One day, they collected some gatayusti stones and boiled them in the pot with the corn for dinner. When the boys came home hungry, their mothers dipped out the stones and said, “Since you like the gatayusti better than the corn field, take the stones now for your dinner.”

The boys were very angry. They went down to the townhouse saying, “As our mothers treat us this way, let us go where we shall never trouble them anymore.” They began a dance – some say it was the Feather Dance – and went round and round the townhouse, praying to the spirits to help them.

At last, their mothers were afraid something was wrong and went out to look for them. They saw the boys still dancing around the townhouse. As they watched, they noticed that their feet were off the earth; with every round, they rose higher and higher in the air. They ran to get their children, but it was too late. They were already above the roof of the townhouse, all but one, whose mother managed to pull him down with the gatayusti pole. He struck the ground with such force that the he sank into it and the earth closed over him.

The other six circled higher and higher until they went up to the sky where we see them now as the Pleaides, which the Cherokee still call the Anitsutsa (The Boys). The people grieved long after them, but the mother whose boy had gone into the ground came every morning and every evening to cry over the spot, until the earth was damp with her tears. At last a green shoot sprouted up and grew day by day until it became the tall tree that we now call the pine. The pine is of the same nature as the stars and holds in itself the same bright light.

It is obvious from the description in the above myth that the boys were playing the ancient game referred to as “Chunkie.” This name was given to the circular stones excavated by archaeologists. The game and the players are depicted many times on shell engravings of the Mississippian Mound culture. It is surprising that a myth surviving until today still talks about the ancient game played by the Mound People. Also, one can note that inside the pine tree is a “bright light.” This probably refers to the cured pine limb which contains a substance referred to as “fat lighter".