The Goddess and the Redbird

A long, long time ago when the Earth was young, she would play all day long with the sun. The Sun was young too, you see, and they had lots of energy, probably like many of you young ones here.

The Earth had many names: some called her Goddess, the Maiden, or Sister. Nobody called her Grandmother yet; she was too young for that. The Sun was bold, hardly ever sleeping, rising so early and warming the Earth day after day after day, and they played together with wild, rollicking joy. But of course, as the Goddess Earth grew up she knew there was work to do, so she would get up early with the Sun and go about her work—blooming flowers, helping the trees grow big and strong, helping weave nests and dig burrows for all the animal friends. One of the Goddess’s best friends was a cardinal—a bright red bird who loved to play with the Goddess and the Sun, joining their games and helping with their work.

A brilliant red cardinal perches on a tree branch.

The cardinal loved to sing. He would sing his heart out when the Sun God got up in the morning, and again when the Sun God was settling down for bed at night. But as the Goddess Earth and the Sun God grew older, the cardinal noticed that they were settling down a bit. Slowing down a bit, you might say, and the cardinal realized that he, too, wanted to settle down, and maybe find someone to love and cherish.

So he sang his song, and sometimes the Goddess would hold him on her finger and sing back to him. The Earth and the Sun fell in love, and soon, so did the red bird, with another cardinal, whose color was not a brilliant as his bright red plumage, but to his eyes, she was brighter than the Sun himself.

The cardinal and his mate sang together, they created a nest together, and soon, eggs appeared in the nest followed not long after by little hatchlings… the baby birds were so cute! The Goddess Earth came to admire them, and she brought gifts of a juice caterpillar for each little open beak. The trees were lush with leaves, the air was warm with the sun’s light, and all was well.

But the cardinal began to realize that the Goddess seemed more tired. Her belly was growing bigger, and he soon realized that she was going to have a baby! But the Sun God, though he loved the Earth, was also slowing down—it seemed he had aged many years over night!

The cardinal began to worry about his beloved friends. He would sing to them, like before, in the morning and again in the evening, but with the Sun getting more and more tired it seemed his songs were getting closer and closer together and the dark sky with Grandmother Moon was lasting longer and longer.

Cardinal would bring gifts to the Goddess, who sometimes rested on piles of leaves that had begun to fall from the trees. He would bring a nut or some seeds, a fluffy flower, or red feather from his wing, trying to encourage her to run and play and work all day like she did in the early days…

“Don’t worry little friend,” the Goddess said to the cardinal as she snuggled herself deeper in a blanket of mossy leaves. “There’s nothing wrong. We can’t run and frolic and play and work non-stop. It can’t possibly last forever, without a break. Sometimes, we have to just let go—and rest.”

You might pause the story here to weave in worship elements, before Part 2.
And so we return to our story, with the concerned cardinal and the tired Goddess, and the oh-so-quickly aging Sun, who can’t stay up in the sky for very long any more…

“Don’t worry little friend,” the Goddess said to the cardinal as she snuggled herself deeper in a blanket of mossy leaves. “There’s nothing wrong. We can’t run and frolic and play and work non-stop. It can’t possibly last forever, without a break. Sometimes, we have to just let go—and rest.”

Despite her reassurance, the cardinal was a little worried. It was all fine and good for the Goddess Earth and the Sun God to rest all day, but the air was getting cold, the leaves were falling off the trees… the bugs and nuts and fruits were becoming scarce.

As he flitted around, worrying and hoping, gathering whatever he could find to eat and stay warm as the sky grew darker and darker, the Goddess came to him and his partner. His babies had all flown off on their own by now but they still shared a life together, he and his beautiful brown love… The Goddess’s arms were full of fluffy green piles, you almost couldn’t see the top of her head!

“These are for you.” She set them down into the ground and to his surprise, the cardinal realized they were trees! Big ones! How had she carried them? Who knows, she’s a goddess after all. And while all the other trees had lost their large flat leaves, these trees were full of lush green needles. “We call them evergreens—they’ll stay green for you, and help keep you warm when the Sun God cannot provide his light for a while. Just nestle in their branches and remember the promise that the green will return.”

She smiled… a sort of sad smile. The Sun God was aging rapidly now, the cardinal knew this, and the rumor throughout the forest was that he was dying. “How will the green return? I know it’s hard to talk about Mother Earth, but we all know the truth, the Sun is dying, isn’t he?”

This time the goddess smiled again, a sweeter smile, more filled with a kind of gentle joy, and she rubbed her belly. “Yes, little bird, he is. But that is the sacred cycle of life. He will die, and return to the earth and then again the Sun will be reborn… It will take the new baby Sun time to grow and bring back the warmth and the green, but he will. He will grow and play and frolic and work and you’ll see, little friend… you’ll see.”

And so as the forest was blanketed with thick snow, the cardinal and his partner nestled deep in the branches of the evergreen trees, and they ate what they could find, and they fluffed up their feathers for warmth and stayed very still in the long winter night… remembering the busy, hectic, playful days gone by and realizing that it felt nice to just… slow down, to see the stars, to sing, and to snuggle.

When it seemed like it couldn’t get any darker, word spread throughout the forest… “The Sun God has died.” The cardinal was sad, but he trusted what the Goddess Earth had said: it was all a part of the cycle. He decided to go and pay a visit to his friend the Goddess, and so he left the safety and warmth of his evergreen tree and flew to her home, where he found her resting under piles of silvery blankets (were they furs? Clouds? Who knows… she’s a goddess after all).

Her eyes were closed, but he knew something was changing, she was breathing deeply, in a way he had never seen before. He offered his help, but she shook her head, “It’s okay little friend, it’s all a part of the cycle.”

And so he sang to her… and he brought her pine cones and snowflakes and he and his partner flew to the sky and brought back starlight and wrapped the trees around her home with glittering, sparkling lights, and then, when they had waited, and waited… they heard the sound, of a baby’s cry. And they knew the Sun had returned.

Rev. Christina offers thanks to Qira Clarenbach, Christine Dance, AJ Van Tine, and Heather Westley for serving as readers to improve the neo-pagan theological consistency.