First Shaman and the Winter Solstice
~Nicholas Noble Wolf
.... Grandfather Fire placed some of himself into Eagle and sent Eagle forth. In a second, less than a second, Eagle Brother flew through the gates of death into the land of the dead that the two-legged refer to as life. There, as his talons touched the ground, Eagle Brother turned into a man, the man we refer to as First Shaman/Way Bringer, bringer of the Ways such that each person who avails himself of the Ways in his seeking, might find and fulfill his own unique path of return to Grandfather Fire/Creator.
Eventually, First Shaman/Eagle Brother's time here came to an end, so he went up into the sky, there to watch over and be of service to the People in their continuing journey of return to Grandfather Fire/Creator. Even today, we can see him in the sky, for he is the little fire that is the pole star. This is why that star is referred to as the Eagle.
Each winter solstice since that time, when the sun has returned after it's longest night of sleep, First Shaman too returns to the people riding his winged or spirit horse. He returns bringing the People blessings into their lives for the coming year, that they should have warm shelter, plenty of food and other things they might need. In honor and acknowledgement of the gifts from First Shaman, the People offer gifts also. Maybe they offer tobacco to the Sun Father and water to the Earth Mother--maybe they offer other things to them and to the plant and animal peoples as well. They also gift each other with blessings and presents.
One of the things First Shaman taught us was to care take the Sun Father on the winter solstice. This is done by the men under the watchful eyes of the women. He taught us that if we did not care take the Sun when the Sun went on his longest journey away, he might never return. Therefore, the men light a fire before the Sun's journey away begins, and a man of knowledge calls the spirit of the Sun down into the fire. All night long, the men guard and serve the Fire/Sun. Then in the morning, the spirit of the Sun is sent back into the sky and the fire is extinguished. A new fire, one of blessing for the people is then lit and all the people take coals from it and rekindle their own fires, knowing that they have done something good.
When we do this thing, First Shaman returns in acknowledgement of the responsibility we have kept, bestowing his gifts upon us.