The following story can be found in “Circle of Life–Traditional Teachings of Native American Elders” published in 2005 by James David Audlin (Distant Eagle).

In the long ago, it was very dark at night, even darker than it is now. The animal nations met together to discuss what to do. After much conversation they decided to lift the reflection of the Moon from the still pool in the middle of the forest, so they could each carry a little bit of it around with them.

When the night of the Full Moon came, each of the animal nations sent an emissary, one by one, out into the waters. Several sky dwellers—Eagle, Hawk, nimble-footed Owl—tried to pick up the shining disc, but when they approached the water’s surface, their shadows blotted out the moon’s reflection. Wise old Fish himself made several attempts, but he was not able to reach the surface from his watery home. The Spirit Beings floated as a group across the water, but even together their nature was too insubstantial to raise the shining silvery shield of the Moon. Some land dwellers also tried—Bear, wily Coyote, even agile Racoon—but all of them, no matter how gently they moved forward, broke through the waters and sent out little waves that shattered and splintered the shining light. Not one was able even to come near the radiant image on the waters before it was obliterated by their approach.

Only Grandmother Spider was left. She stepped out carefully onto the surface of the pool, causing not even the slightest ripple, seeming hardly to touch the surface with her delicate tiny feet. Watching as she approached, the other creatures were scarcely breathing, amazed to see the face of the Moon in the water remaining whole. Then they saw the silhouette of Spider step carefully onto the Moon’s reflection, just as if she were walking on the Moon herself—just as they had seen the Eagle or the Owl some-times soar in front of the Moon’s face, way up in the sky.

Once Grandmother Spider reached her destination, she wove a delicate web, put the light of the Moon in it and brought it back to land with her. Once on the shore, she placed a little bit of this light into the eyes of every creature to help them find their way through the darkness. But, even after her web was empty, some Moonlight stayed clung to its delicate strands. This is why to this day, spiderwebs shine at night with the dewy radiance of the Moon, even when She is not in the heavens above.

* * *

“Mashpee was all fields, paths and woods. If you talk about the ‘Garden of Eden,’ it was pretty close to that.…You could dip your hand in the river and take a drink. There was nature all around you.” (Elder Curtis Frye, 2002)

By the way, check around where you live and you may see the spirits; they are very real, like Grandmother Spider and others.

Joan Tavares Avant, M.Ed., is a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Wampanoag Deer Clan mother, and a former director of the Mashpee School District’s Indian Education Program. She can be reached at

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(1) comment

James David Audlin

Sa:agon kwe kwe, Joan! I am glad that you appreciate the story! It was given to me almost half a century ago. Much love to the Mashpee Nation and to you! One small thing - it appears that the copy you have of the book is the edition that was pirated by a company. One can tell because they left the "The" out of the title. They cut the book to 1/3 of its length, and they make money selling it and have never sent me a penny. So your readers - if they are interested - might be willing to do the author a small favor and get the complete and authorized edition. It has the "the" in the title - "THE Circle of Life", and it is published by Editores Volcán Barú. Nia:wen skennen go:wa, Inonthi:akweks (Distant Eagle)

(Edited by staff.)

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