Two cherokee hunters were in the forest one evening, hunting. And each of them was under a taboo.
Sometimes, individual Cherokee took on temporary taboos, to cleanse their spirit, or because they knew, from communicating with the spirit world, that the taboo was important. Some taboos were general. Some were particular to a certain person. But one thing was certain, they were not to be broken.
One of the two hunters in the forest that evening wasn’t supposed to eat deer meat. The other hunter wasn’t supposed to eat squirrel meat. They had both been warned. So they were out hunting in the woods all day. The only things they caught were squirrels. At night they settled down in a little clearing, made a little cooking fire and made camp, and the guy who could eat squirrel meat started cooking it over the fire. The second hunter, who wasn’t supposed to eat squirrel meat, he was starving. He was really hungry so he just sat there clutching his stomach while his friend ate.
Finally the first hunter started feeling guilty. “Please go ahead, there’s plenty of meat. You’re hungry, you don’t have to be. Have some meat.”
But the second hunter resisted. “It’s taboo for me. I’ll get in serious trouble. I’ll might turn into a snake.”
The first hunter laughed. “No you wouldn’t. Nothing will happen to you just because you ate it once, besides you can go back to avoiding squirrel meat tomorrow.”
The second hunter knew he shouldn’t, but he was hungry so he ate some of the meat eventually. Just enough to quell the hunger pangs. Now satisfied, he lay down and slept…
But then in the middle of the night, the second hunter woke up screaming in pain. The first hunter ran over to see what was wrong. He threw off his friend’s covers and saw that his friend’s legs had fused together in a leathery tail. As he watched in shock, snakeskin crept up his friend’s body. The poor hunter wept and apologized to the spirits and cried in fear, but there was nothing to be done. He had broken the taboo, and now he had to face the consequence. The first hunter stayed by his side and tried to comfort him until the unfortunate hunter fully transformed into a giant snake and slithered away. Leaving his friend bereft. He was never seen again.
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