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The Rabbit Moon

by Ann C.K. Nickell 12 months ago in Short Story
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A Mayan Folktale

Image by Robert Karkowski from Pixabay

I love astronomy, the beauty and mystery of space. I am mesmerized by the night sky and can stargaze for hours. That love blossomed as a child when I received my first pair of glasses. The optometrist knew I wasn’t looking forward to the new nickname of “four eyes”, so he asked me to find one good thing about wearing glasses. He told me go outside after dark and look up at the night sky, promising I would be amazed. He was right. There were so many twinkling stars, and they were no longer a blur. And the moon was bigger, brighter, and more detailed than I had imagined. I was hooked. It was then that I heard my favorite story, The Rabbit Moon.

The Rabbit Moon is not a bedtime story or a children’s book, but a fabled tale from Mayan folklore. We studied Mayan history and culture in elementary school, and I found it fascinating. I loved learning about the people; where and how they lived, what they wore and ate, and what they believed. The Mayans were deeply connected to the sky and studied the sun, moon, and stars, becoming known as some of history’s best “naked eye” astronomers. They worshiped the sun and moon, and this is where the tale begins, with my version of The Rabbit Moon.

The tribe assembled in the plaza, at the base of the great pyramid, preparing for the upcoming ceremony. They gathered around Cadmael, their chief, as he prepared to speak.

“My people, we follow the sky, as it provides for us and protects us. Kinich Ahau uses his power to give us light, and Ix Chel watches over us as we rest at night. Still, our enemies attack at night, and we must give Ix Chel a companion, a warrior from our tribe, to protect us from our enemies. In three days, Eloy, our greatest warrior, will offer himself to Ix Chel by walking through the ceremonial fire. Together, they will protect us forever.”

Eloy stepped forward, and the people cheered for their champion, for his strength and his sacrifice. Akna, Eloy’s mother and Cadmael’s wife, stood by them, and the people bowed to the noble family. Izel, the most beautiful girl in the village, smiled up at Eloy, admiration gleaming in her deep brown eyes. But Eloy hid a deep secret; he feared the fire.

Eloy buried his fear, and his battle cry started the three-day festival in his honor. The tribe celebrated their mighty warrior and hero with a feast of food and drink, lively music, and dancing. All the girls vied for Eloy’s attention, but he only had eyes for Izel. Her beauty, strength, and kindness bound his heart to hers, and he wanted to be with her forever.

On the second day of the festival, Eloy approached his father, seeking his counsel. In a private chamber, Eloy knelt before Cadmael and told him of his desire to be with Izel. “I rescind my title of champion. I wish to remain mortal.”

His father, distressed with this news, called in the high priest, Aapo. He chanted over Eloy and then announced, “Your brave warrior fears the fire. We must appoint a new champion.”

Eloy, unable to look at his father, fled to the edge of the city to hide his shame. That evening, Cadmael and Aapo gathered their people in the plaza.

“Eloy refuses to walk through the fire to become your eternal defender,” Aapo announced. “We seek a new champion, a warrior brave enough to fight alongside Ix Chel.”

The crowd grew silent as Gabor, Eloy’s close friend, stepped forward. “I would be honored to be your champion and defender.”

Aapo nodded, and Gabor joined him and Cadmael on the stone steps of the pyramid. Aapo anointed him and then turned back to the crowd. “Let us honor our true champion, the bravest warrior of our people.”

The festival continued, and the great fire was lit. Gabor danced while the girls plied him with food and drink and the older women prepared his ceremonial robe and headdress.

Eloy, hiding in the shadows, watched as Gabor took Izel in his arms, and his sadness, anger, and shame became more than he could bear. He realized that living as a coward among his people would hurt more than the scorching heat of the flames, so he formulated a plan to regain his honor in the eyes of the tribe.

The flames burned brighter as the moon appeared above the horizon. Two warriors, one in light and one in shadow, raised their arms to the sky, assailing Ix Chel with tales of their greatness, and pleading with her to bless their sacrifice and union.

As the full moon rose above the city, Gabor took his place in front of the fire, and the people started chanting his name. Eloy knew that was the time to act. He stepped out of the shadows, took a deep breath, and ran towards the fire. He let out a battle cry, and the stunned crowd retreated, creating a path for him. Gabor, hearing the commotion, turned to see Eloy running towards him, and he instinctively stepped aside. With one last cry, Eloy ran into the fire, and the flames sparked and rose high above the crowd. The villagers screamed as the moon turned blood red and lightning lit up the sky, striking the top of the pyramid. Rain and hail fell in torrents, extinguishing the fire and leaving them in darkness.

Cadmael called out to the tribe from the steps of the pyramid, attempting to bring some order to the chaos. “My people, do not panic. Ix Chel is angry, but we can appease her by honoring Eloy’s sacrifice and completing the ceremony.”

Gabor relit the fire, and the villagers resumed their dancing and chanting, calling out to Ix Chel and Eloy, and pleading with Ix Chel to bless Eloy’s sacrifice and accept him as her companion. Finally, at dawn, as light peeked through the darkness, the sky calmed and the moon turned bright gold.

The people stopped dancing and chanting and looked to the sky. They gasped when they saw the image on the moon. Ix Chel had reluctantly accepted Eloy as her companion, but he would not be remembered as a brave warrior. Instead, he would be immortalized as a cowardly rabbit who feared his destiny.

The next time you are stargazing and stare up at the full moon, look for the rabbit, with his ears pointed slightly towards earth, longing to be with Izel and his tribe. You won’t look at the moon the same way ever again.

Short Story

About the author

Ann C.K. Nickell

Ann C.K. Nickell is an Author and Life Story Transformation Coach who uses her stories to motivate, inspire, and help other women overcome their obstacles, follow their dreams, and rewrite their stories so they can live beautiful lives.

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