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59. The Smaller Reptiles--fishes And Insects

There are several varieties of frogs and toads, each with a different name, but there is very little folklore in connection with them. The common green frog is called walâ'sï, and among the Cherokee, as among uneducated whites, the handling of it is thought to cause warts, which for this reason are called by the same name, walâ'sï. A solar eclipse is believed to be caused by the attempt of a great frog to swallow the sun, and in former times it was customary on such occasions to fire guns and make other loud noises to frighten away the frog. The smaller varieties are sometimes eaten, and on rare occasions the bullfrog also, but the meat is tabued to ball players while in training, for fear that the brittleness of the frog's bones would be imparted to those of the player.

The land tortoise (tûksï') is prominent in the animal myths, and is reputed to have been a great warrior in the old times. On account of the stoutness of its legs ball players rub their limbs with them before going into the contest. The common water turtle (säligu'gï), which occupies so important a place in the mythology of the northern tribes, is not mentioned in Cherokee myth or folklore, and the same is true of the soft-shelled turtle (u`länä'wä), perhaps for the reason that both are rare in the cold mountain streams of the Cherokee country.

There are perhaps half a dozen varieties of lizard, each with a different name. The gray road lizard, or diyâ'hälï (alligator lizard, Sceloporus undulatus), is the most common. On account of its habit of alternately puffing out and drawing in its throat as though sucking, when basking in the sun, it is invoked in the formulas for drawing out the poison from snake bites. If one catches the first diyâ'hälï seen in the spring, and, holding it between his fingers, scratches his legs downward with its claws, he will see no dangerous snakes all summer. Also, if one be caught alive at any time and rubbed over the bead and throat of an infant, scratching the skin very slightly at the same time with the claws, the child will never be fretful, but will sleep quietly without complaining, even when sick or exposed to the rain. This is a somewhat risky experiment, however, as the child is liable thereafter to go to sleep wherever it may be laid down for a moment, so that the mother is in constant danger of losing it. According to some authorities this sleep lizard is not the diyâ'hälï, but a larger variety akin to the next described.

The gigä-tsuha'`lï ("bloody mouth," Pleistodon?) is described as a

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very large lizard, nearly as large as a water dog, with the throat and corners of the mouth red, as though from drinking blood. It is believed to be not a true lizard but a transformed ugûñste'lï fish (described below) on account of the similarity of coloring and the fact that the fish disappears about the time the gigä-tsuha'`lï begins to come out. It is ferocious and a hard biter, and pursues other lizards. In dry weather it cries or makes a noise like a cicada, raising itself up as it cries. It has a habit of approaching near to where some person is sitting or standing, then halting and looking fixedly at him, and constantly puffing out its throat until its head assumes a bright red color. It is thought then to be sticking the blood of its victim, and is dreaded and shunned accordingly. The small scorpion lizard (tsâne'nï) is sometimes called also "blood taker" It is a striped lizard which frequents sandy beaches and resemble the diyâ'hälï, but is of a brown color. It is believed also to be sucking blood in some mysterious way whenever it nods its head, and if its heart be eaten by a dog that animal will be able to extract all the nutrient properties from food by simply looking at those who are eating.

The small spring lizard (duwë'`gâ), which lives in springs, is supposed to cause rain whenever it crawls out of the spring. It is frequently invoked in the formulas. Another spring (?) lizard, red, with black spots, is called dägan'`tû' or aniganti'skï "the rain maker," because its cry is said to bring rain. The water dog (tsuwä' mud puppy, Menopoma or Protonopsis) is a very large lizard, or rather salamander, frequenting muddy water. It is rarely eaten, from an unexplained belief that if one who has eaten its meat goes into the field immediately afterward the crop will be ruined. There are names for one or two other varieties of lizard as well as for the alligator (tsula'skï), but no folklore in connection with them.

Although the Cherokee country abounds in swift-flowing streams well stocked with fish, of which the Indians make free use, there is but little fish lore. A number of "dream" diseases, really due to indigestion, are ascribed to revengeful fish ghosts, and the doctor usually tries to effect the cure by invoking some larger fish or fish-eating bird to drive out the ghost.

Toco creek, in Monroe county, Tennessee, derives its name from a mythic monster fish, the Däkwä', considered the father of all the fish tribe, which is said to have lived formerly in Little Tennessee river at that point (see story, "The Hunter and the Däkwä'). A fish called ugûñste'lï, "having horns," which appears only in spring, is believed to be transformed later into the giga-tsuha'`lï lizard, already mentioned. The fish is described as having horns or projections upon its nose and beautiful red spots upon its head, and as being attended or accompanied by many smaller red fish, all of which, including the ugûñste'lï, are accustomed to pile up small stories in the water. As the season

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advances it disappears and is believed then to have turned into a giga-tsuha'`lï lizard, the change beginning at the head and finishing with the tail. It is probably the Campostoma or stone roller, which is conspicuous for its bright coloring in early spring, but loses its tints after spawning. The meat of the sluggish hog-sticker is tabued to the ball player, who must necessarily be active in movement. The fresh-water mussel is called dägû'nä, and the same name is applied to certain pimples upon the face, on account of a fancied resemblance. The ball player rubs himself with an eel skin to make himself slippery and hard to hold, and, according to the Wahnenauhi manuscript, women formerly tied up their hair with the dried skin of an eel to make it grow long. A large red crawfish called tsiska'gïlï much resembling a lobster, is used to scratch young children in order to give them a strong grip, each band of the child being lightly scratched once with the pincer of the living animal. A mother whose grown son had been thus treated when an infant claimed that he could hold anything with his thumb and finger. It is said, however, to render the child quarrelsome and disposed to bite.

Of insects there is more to be said. The generic name for all sorts of small insects and worms is tsgâya, and according to the doctors, who had anticipated the microbe theory by several centuries, these tsgâya are to blame for nearly every human ailment not directly traceable to the asgina of the larger animals, or to witchcraft. The reason is plain. There are such myriads of them everywhere on the earth and in the air that mankind is constantly destroying them by wholesale, without mercy and almost without knowledge, and this is their method of taking revenge.

Beetles are classed together under a name which signifies "insects with shells." The little water-beetle or mellow-bug (Dineutes discolor) is called dâyuni'sï, "beaver's grandmother," and according to the genesis tradition it brought up the first earth from under the water. A certain green-headed beetle with horns (Phanæus carnifex) is spoken of as the dog of the Thunder boys, and the metallic-green luster upon its forehead is said to have been caused by striking at the celebrated mythic gamblers Ûñtsaiyï', "Brass" (see the story). The June-bug (Allorhina nitida), another green beetle, is tag , but is frequently called by the curious name of tu'ya-dï'skalaw`sti'skï "one who keeps fire tinder the beans." Its larva is the grubworm which presided at the meeting held by the insects to compass the destruction of the human race (see the story, "Origin of Disease and Medicine"). The large horned beetle (Dynastes tityus?) is called tsistû'na, "crawfish," a`wï', "deer," or gälägi'na, "buck," on account of its branching horns. The snapping beetle (Alaus oculatus?) is called tûlsku'wa, "one that snaps with his head."

When the lâlû or jar-fly (Cicada auletes) begins to sing in midsummer

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they say: "The jar-fly has brought the beans," his song being taken as the signal that beans are ripe and that green corn is not far behind. When the katydid (tsïkïkï') is heard a little later they say, "Katydid has brought the roasting-ear bread." The cricket (täla'tü') is often called "the barber" (ditastaye'skï), on account of its habit of gnawing hair from furs, and when the Cherokee meet a man with his hair clipped unevenly they sometimes ask playfully, "Did the cricket cut your hair?" (see story, "Why the Possum's Tail is Bare"). Certain persons are said to drink tea made of crickets in order to become good singers.

The mole cricket (Gryllotalpa), so called because it tunnels in the earth and has hand-like claws fitted for digging, is known to the Cherokee as gûl`kwâgï, a word which literally means "seven," but is probably an onomatope. It is reputed among them to be alert, hard to catch, and an excellent singer, who "never makes mistakes." Like the crawfish and the cricket, it plays an important part in preparing people for the duties of life. Infants slow in learning to speak have their tongues scratched with the claw of a gûl`kwâgï, the living insect being held in the hand during the operation, in order that they may soon learn to speak distinctly and be eloquent, wise, and shrewd of speech as they grow older, and of such quick intelligence as to remember without effort anything once heard. The same desirable result may be accomplished with a grown person, but with much more difficulty, as in that case it is necessary to scratch the inside of the throat for four successive mornings, the insect being pushed down with the fingers and again withdrawn, while the regular tabus must be strictly observed for the same period, or the operation will be without effect. In some cases the insect is put into a small bowl of water overnight, and if still alive in the morning it is taken out and the water given to the patient to drink, after which the gûl`kwâgï is set at liberty.

Bees are kept by many of the Cherokee, in addition to the wild bees which are hunted in the woods. Although they are said to have come originally from the whites, the Cherokee have no tradition of a time when they did not know them; there seems, however, to be no folklore connected with them. The cow-ant (Myrmica?), a large, red, stinging ant, is called properly dasûñ'tälï, "stinging ant," but, on account of its hard body-ease, is frequently called nûñ'yunu'wï, "stone-dress," after a celebrated mythic monster. Strange as it may seem, there appears to be no folklore connected with either the firefly or the glowworm, while the spider, so prominent in other tribal mythologies, appears in but a single Cherokee myth, where it brings back the fire from across the water. In the formulas it is frequently invoked to entangle in its threads the soul of a victim whom the conjurer desires to bring under his evil spells. From a fancied resemblance in appearance the name for spider, kä'näne'skï, is applied also

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to a watch or clock. A small yellowish moth which flies about the fire at night is called tûñ'täwû, a name implying that it goes into and out of the fire, and when at last it flits too near and falls into the blaze the Cherokee say, "Tûñ'täwû is going to bed." On account of its affinity for the fire it is invoked by the doctor in all "fire diseases," including sore eyes and frostbite.

Next: 60. Why The Bullfrog's Head Is Striped