Mineral Point Myth: Brother Christmas and the Knocker

I took a class on Indigenous religions the fall of 2021. For our final project, we had to explain the mythographic landscape of our home using depth psychology and motifs from Indigenous storytelling. My mythos centered on Brewing Mother–a name that I gave to Brewery Creek–and her son, Brother Christmas–aka, Merry Christmas Mine.

Native Americans had mined Merry Christmas for surface minerals since at least the 1600s. When the Cornish settled the area in the 1800s, they brought with them more invasive mining practices. The Cornish dug deep into the hill to find lead and zinc, and they cleared Merry Christmas of all its trees, using them as fuel for the mineral refineries. The valley became filled with a soot-laden haze for decades, and the creek, the wildlife, and the human settlers all suffered from the conditions.

Like many displaced peoples, the Cornish brought with them their traditional folklore. A large amount of these stories had to deal with the dangers of mining and the wild adventures on the Cornish moors. Chief among the spirits who dotted the Cornish mythographic landscape were the knockers and the bucca. The knockers lived underground and would help miners find ore by knocking on rich deposits. The bucca was of a dual nature. A hobgoblin-like creature, it wandered both the seas and the mines of Cornwall.

In the mythology of Mineral Point, the Knocker appears as a foreign source of ego-driven industry which poisons Brother Christmas and the valley. Bucca, acting as the Trickster, ever minds the balance of human industry and landscape. He is appalled by what he sees happening to Brother Christmas, and he uses Brother Christmas’ fallen hair—that is, trees cleared by mining—to awake the wrath of Brewing Mother.

Brother Christmas and the Knocker

One day in the not-too-distant past, a small creature appeared from the east. This hobbit-sized man, with features gnarled and contorted, wore a red cap and carried a long pipe. He approached Brother Christmas and introduced himself.

“I am the Knocker,” the creature spoke. “I have drunk the clean water from your mother and gazed upon the beauty that is your sister. Your valley is the finest I have seen in my many journeys, and I would like to make my home in it.”

“And what is it that you have to offer?” asked Brother Christmas. “The deer give us fertilizer for the grain which give us flowers for the bees who are food for the badgers. But you, what do you have to give?

”The Knocker pondered Brother Christmas’ question. Then he cracked a crooked smile and responded: “I have my pipe, filled with the finest herbs from my journeys. I would happily share it with you. Smoke it and you will taste my world, a world of industry and the wealth.”

Brother Christmas considered the Knocker’s offer. Industry and wealth were novel to Brother Christmas, and he wanted a taste. Without so much as a word, Brother Christmas grabbed the Knocker’s pipe and took a long, slow drag.

Immediately emotions of grandeur filled Brother Christmas, and he puffed harder and longer on the Knocker’s pipe. He puffed and puffed, filling himself with a sense of false purpose and losing sight of all that was around him. Soon great holes opened in his fiery lungs. Still, he cried for more of the Knocker’s sweet herbs, even as his fair fell out and his raspy coughs spilled blood into the valley.

Not long after came Bucca, who was an old acquaintance of the Knocker. Bucca had no sooner laid eyes on Brother Christmas than he realized the familiar complexion of pockmarked skin, a balding head, and raspy breathing. Bucca knew that the Knocker’s pipe was poisoning Brother Christmas, just as that damned herb of industry had poisoned Bucca birthplace. Bucca knew that he had to stop the foul affair, but by now both the Knocker and Brother Christmas would be too far gone with giddiness to listen to Bucca’s counsel.

“What to do? What to do?” wondered Bucca. Then an idea flashed into his mind. Bucca gathered up Brother Christmas’ fallen hairs until he had a great, giant, fistful of hair. Bucca took this hairball down the valley to the mouth of Brewing Mother. As Brewing Mother lay sleeping with her mouth agape, Bucca slammed the hairs down Brewing Mother’s throat.

Brewing Mother woke abruptly. She could taste the singed filaments of her son’s scalp sliding down her gullet. She knew Brother Christmas had been abused, and she roared in her rage. Brewing Mother threw her hands and kicked her feet, sending all the valley into disarray. She hurled boulders at the Knocker, who fled in fright, but not before grabbing his pipe from Brother Christmas’ lips. Brewing Mother fell upon Brother Christmas, holding him in her tender storm of love; and his lungs began to heal and his hair to regrow, though scars still remained.

Bucca was touched by the sight of Brewing Mother and Brother Christmas. He made himself home in a hovel in the valley. Bucca swore to protect Brother Christmas should the Knocker or some other foul beast ever trespass in the valley again.

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