Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter Song

Indian Nativity

In 1642 the Jesuit Missionary Jean de Brebeuf at St. Marie Among the Hurons. Brebeuf had been a missionary among the Hurons for a few years by then and had mastered the language so he wrote a hymn in Huron for his new converts. The music he used was an old French folk tune Une Jeune Pucelle.1

Brebeuf and his brethern’s efforts to missionize among the Hurons did prove to be extremely disruptive to Huron society.2 Also the resulting disease epidemics and social dislocation did not help matters. To say nothing of the war with the Iroquois Confederacy. In 1648 – 1650 a series of devastating Iroquois attacks destroyed the Huron nation and dispersed its survivors over a wide area. Brebeuf and his missionary colleagues were captured and tortured to death by the victorious Iroquois.3

The lyrics blend traditional Christian motifs with Huron ideas. The version popular today has only a loose association to the original in terms of meaning.

Here is the Huron original:

Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa 'ndasqua entai
ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa 'ndi yaun rashata
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh 'ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Asheh kaunnta horraskwa deh ha tirri gwames
Tishyaun ayau ha'ndeh ta aun hwa ashya a ha trreh
aundata:kwa Tishyaun yayaun yaun n-dehta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Dau yishyeh sta atyaun errdautau 'ndi Yisus
avwa tateh dn-deh Tishyaun stanshi teya wennyau
aha yaunna torrehntehn yataun katsyaun skehnn
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

Eyeh kwata tehnaunnte aheh kwashyehn ayehn
kiyeh kwanaun aukwayaun dehtsaun we 'ndeh adeh
tarrya diskwann aunkwe yishyehr eya ke naun sta
Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.4

A translation of the above:

Have courage, you who are human beings: Jesus, he is born
The okie spirit who enslaved us has fled
Don't listen to him for he corrupts the spirits of our thoughts
Jesus, he is born

The okie spirits who live in the sky are coming with a message
They're coming to say, "Rejoice!
Mary has given birth. Rejoice!"
Jesus, he is born

Three men of great authority have left for the place of his birth
Tiscient, the star appearing over the horizon leads them there
That star will walk first on the bath to guide them
Jesus, he is born

The star stopped not far from where Jesus was born
Having found the place it said,
"Come this way"
Jesus, he is born

As they entered and saw Jesus they praised his name
They oiled his scalp many times, anointing his head
with the oil of the sunflower
Jesus, he is born

They say, "Let us place his name in a position of honour
Let us act reverently towards him for he comes to show us mercy
It is the will of the spirits that you love us, Jesus,
and we wish that we may be adopted into your family
Jesus, he is born5

The more commonly known lyrics were written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926 go has follows:

'Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunter heard the hymn:
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp'd His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high...
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
"Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria."6

Aside from being longer the original version is quite different from the version we know today. Still it is a simple song of great beauty. 

Here is Bruce Cockburn doing the original song.

1. Huron Carol, Wikipedia Here.

2. Trigger, Bruce G., Children of Attaentsic, McGill-Queens University Press, Kingston ON, 1976, pp. 498-602, Natives and Newcomers, McGill-Queens University Press, Kingston ON, 1986, pp. 251-259.

3. Trigger, 1976, pp. 751-788, 1986, pp. 259-273.

4. Huron Carol, The Cockburn Project Here.

5. IBID.

6. Huron Carol.

Pierre Cloutier

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