The Legend of Hidriya

The elks tell the story of the elk bull Hidriya, the thunder God. When he came of age, his mother Ilka, the Goddess of Wisdom, licked a tree until it was the shape of a great crown and put it on his head. Throughout the summer Hidriya chased the cows and paraded around with his great crown. It was the most impressive crown they’d ever seen and they granted him the right to impregnate them. After a while Hidriya had covered almost all the cows in the great forest and thought himself the greatest elk that ever lived. Ilka then came to him and saw all the cows carrying calves. What’s the meaning of this, she demanded and thought she’d take her son down a peg or two. She saw him at the pond where he stood watching his own reflection and asked if she could behold her beautiful son a bit closer. Hidriya bowed down to Ilka so she could admire the crown much closer and then she licked the crown and it disappeared. So, the whole of the winter, Hidriya walks alone in the cold and as he gets weaker and thinner his pride melts away. When spring comes, he returns to his mother asked her forgiveness for his behaviour, whereupon she blesses his head with a new crown, even grander than the year before. His mother explained that he’d get a new crown each summer, but she’d take it away again in the winter so he wouldn’t forget where it came from and that this would repeat itself until the day he died, and then his children would do the same, and their children.

In their society still today, when the young bulls and heifers come of age, they have a festival which starts with the retelling of this story. Then the young bulls dance a ritualistic dance, where they put on tree branches on their heads and all the females stand in a circle and admire and encourage the young bulls. At the end of the dance their branches are taken away by their mothers and they’re  kicked out of the village. They aren’t allowed back before the mothers accept their pledge of allegiance to the village, which includes reciting a line that goes like this: “I was given the gift of life from my mother, now I will pass that gift onto my lover and cherish her”. The fathers whisper it to them before the ritual starts. Once the mothers have given their approval, each young bull is let loose to find himself a heifer.


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