February 18, 2008

The Two-Headed Serpent and the Serpent Slayer

In the valley along the Squamish River, there was a large two-headed serpent called Sinulhkay which terrorized the people, eating them and making a loud screeching noise.[3][4] In the village of Sta7mes, a young man named Xwechtáal had recently become married and was enjoying the days after the big feast, when his father told him, "You must go kill that serpent." Xwechtáal protested that he had only recently been married, and wanted to enjoy his time with his new wife, start a family, and live his life. He told his father he would not go. The next morning, his father came to his bed and threw glacier cold water on him, waking him up. He told his son again, "You will go kill that two-headed serpent" and this time, Xwechtáal agreed. He told his wife he would only be gone four days, and that she should wait for him until his return.

Following the tracks of Sinulhkay, Xwechtáal could not follow its trail directly because of the power and energy emitted by the serpent wherever it slithered. Seeing where the trail lead, he came to the rock face of the Stawamus Chief Mountain. Xwechtáal saw the serpent's path as it went straight up the face of the cliff, leaving a black line of destruction. The man continued through the mountain pass, following the serpent from lake to lake, and creek to creek. While following the serpent, Xwechtáal would train spiritually by taking morning baths in the creeks, lakes and rivers to cleanse himself and become stronger. Day by day, he would sacrifice more of himself, eating a bit less, and sleeping with less blankets and clothes. All of this was part of his training to kill the serpent.

Finally, he followed the serpent to lake in the mountains. He watched and saw that, while one of the serpents two heads would be awake during daylight, the other would sleep. Then during night, they would switch and the other would stay awake. Training and sacrificing more, Xwechtáal prayed for the answer to defeat the dreaded two-headed serpent. Then one night he had a vision.

In his vision, a woman came to him and told him, "You will make four sharp spears, two for each head, and apply pitch to each spear. You will make a raft and go across the lake. You will spear one head with two of the spears, as that one falls, the other will awake and you must quickly raft across the lake and spear the other head with the two remaining spears. That is how you will kill the serpent."

When he woke up, Xwechtáal followed the instructions and made the spears and the raft. He moved the raft out onto the lake and paddled across with his spears. Grabbing two spears, he attacked the daytime head. As the head began to die and fall, the opposite head woke from its slumber, angry and distressed. Quickly paddling across to the other head, he speared this head with one spear. Then the serpent dove underwater towards a tunnel deep in the lake to escape, but Xwechtáal took the last spear and nailed the serpent head before he got away.

When the serpent fled, part of its body made it into the underwater tunnel. It blocked the passage, and the water began to rise. Xwechtáal passed out, and when he awoke, he was atop a mountain and the water was everywhere. He waited until the water receded, then climbed down the mountain. Following the mountain to the lake, the found the old corpse of the serpent, but it was just bones. Xwechtáal then took one of the vertebrae of the serpent and acquired magical supernatural powers with it.

On his journey back home, Xwechtáal encountered some mountain goats. He waved his serpent-bone one way and said magical words. As he did this, the mountain goats all fell dead. Cleaning and skinning what he needed, the fed himself and gathered the skins. He then took the bone and waved it the other way, reviving the dead mountain goats and bringing them back to life.

Xwechtáal continued on his journey until he hit a village on the furthest part of Sḵwxwú7mesh territory. As he approached, the people came to see who the man was. The people watched as used his magical powers once again, killing all the villagers. He then revived them like had done before, bringing them back to life. Seeing his magical powers and abilities, they welcomed him. The siyam or leader of the village then gave Xwechtáal his daughter as a wife.

He continued on, encountering village after village, doing as he had done before and he was given a wife every time. Xwechtáal received wives from all the Sḵwxwú7mesh until he finally returned home to Sta7mes. Just as before, the village came forward and watched as he used his magical powers. But this time was different. Xwechtáal had noticed that his first wife, from before he left on his journey, had re-married. He also realized he was not gone four days like he expected, but 10 years had passed. Instead of reviving the entire village, he left his ex-wife and her husband dead. Telling his people of his journey to kill the serpent, the people gave him the name 'Xwupúkinem, meaning "Two-Headed Serpent Slayer Warrior."

The two names were passed down to others through the generations, including Andy Paull.


Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)