Beaded Cherokee purse by Martha Berry
Size: Approx. 7 ½” H x 7 ½” W x ½” D (excluding handle)
Completed: Spring 2016, 56 hours
Materials: Wool stroud cloth, European glass beads, cotton muslin, silk ribbon, synthetic pearl beads. To the extent possible, and with the exception of the synthetic pearl beads, all materials are period authentic to c.1820.
In late 2015, I received an email from my friend Jacquie’s husband. He told me that he and Jacquie had a very special anniversary coming up, their 30th. He asked if I could create a purse for her, and he requested it include pearls because the 30th is the “Pearl Anniversary”, and that it include strawberries.
I hesitated because I was in the midst of relocating to another city and planning our eldest daughter’s wedding. However, Jacquie is a valuable Cherokee woman whom I much admire and for whom I have great affection. Of course, I agreed.
The purse is made of materials period authentic to c. 1820. The only exception are the synthetic pearls. The design, featuring two strawberries, recalls the Cherokee story of the Origin of Strawberries, a wonderful love story.
Also incorporated into the design are the four Cherokee colors representing the four cardinal directions, always given in counter clockwise order beginning with East:
Red – East - war and birth
Blue – North – cold and trouble
Black – West – death
White – South – peace and prosperity
The Origin of Strawberries
In the beginning of the world, Creator made First Man, Kanati, and First Woman, Selu. Together Kanati and Selu built a lodge at the edge of a dense forest. They were very happy together; but like all humans do at times, they began to argue.
On one such occasion, Selu became so angry she said she was leaving and never coming back. At that moment Kanati really didn't care. Selu started walking westward down the path through the forest. She never looked back.
As the day passed, Kanati began to worry. At last he started down the same path in search of his wife. The Sun looked down on him and took pity on him. The Sun asked Kanati if he was still angry with Selu. He said he was not angry any more. The Sun asked if he would like to have Selu back. He readily agreed he did.
The Sun found Selu still angrily walking down the path. To entice her to stop, the Sun caused to grow beneath her feet lovely blueberries. The blueberries were large and ripe. Selu was still so angry she paid no attention but kept walking down the path toward the West.
Further down the path the Sun caused to grow some luscious blackberries. The blackberries were dark and very plump. Selu looked neither left nor right, but kept walking down the path toward the West.
The Sun tried once again to entice her to stop. Luscious raspberries grew beneath her feet. Selu never looked down but kept walking down the path toward the West.
Finally to attract Selu's attention, the Sun caused to grow a plant that had never grown on the earth before. The plant covered the ground in front of Selu. Suddenly she became aware of a fragrance she had never known. Stopping she looked down at her feet. Growing in the path was a plant with shiny green leaves, lovely white flowers, and the largest and most luscious red berries she had ever seen. Selu stopped to pick one. Hmmm...she had never tasted anything quite like it! It was so sweet! It was utterly delicious!
As she ate the strawberry, the anger she felt began to fade away. She thought again of Kanati and how they had parted in anger. Selu missed him and wanted to return home.
She began to gather some of the berries. When she had all she could carry, she turned toward the East and started back down the path. Soon she met Kanati. They shared the berries and, hand in hand, walked back to their lodge, happy in each other's company.