Hopi Creation Myth

January 5, 2011

Post image for Hopi Creation Myth

Hopi Creation Myth

The world at first was endless space in which existed only the Creator, Taiowa. This world had no time, no shape, and no life, except in the mind of the Creator. Eventually the infinite creator created the finite in Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew and whom he created as his agent to establish nine universes. Sotuknang gathered together matter from the endless space to make the nine solid worlds.
Then the Creator instructed him to gather together the waters from the endless space and place them on these worlds to make land and sea. When Sotuknang had done that, the Creator instructed him to gather together air to make winds and breezes on these worlds.
The fourth act of creation with which the Creator charged Sotuknang was the creation of life. Sotuknang went to the world that was to first host life and there he created Spider Woman, and he gave her the power to create life. First Spider Woman took some earth and mixed it with saliva to make two beings. Over them she sang the Creation Song, and they came to life. She instructed one of them, Poqanghoya, to go across the earth and solidify it. She instructed the other, Palongawhoya, to send out sound to resonate through the earth, so that the earth vibrated with the energy of the Creator. Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya were dispatched to the poles of the earth to keep it rotating.

Then Spider Woman made all the plants, the flowers, the bushes, and the trees. Likewise she made the birds and animals, again using earth and singing the Creation Song. When all this was done, she made human beings, using yellow, red, white, and black earth mixed with her saliva. Singing the Creation Song, she made four men, and then in her own form she made four women. At first they had a soft spot in their foreheads, and although it solidified, it left a space through which they could hear the voice of Sotuknang and their Creator. Because these people could not speak, Spider Woman called on Sotuknang, who gave them four languages. His only instructions were for them to respect their Creator and to live in harmony with him.

These people spread across the earth and multiplied. Despite their four languages, in those days they could understand each other’s thoughts anyway, and for many years they and the animals lived together as one. Eventually, however, they began to divide, both the people from the animals and the people from each other, as they focused on their differences rather than their similarities. As division and suspicion became more widespread, only a few people from each of the four groups still remembered their Creator. Sotuknang appeared before these few and told them that he and the Creator would have to destroy this world, and that these few who remembered the Creator must travel across the land, following a cloud and a star, to find refuge.

These people began their treks from the places where they lived, and when they finally converged Sotuknang appeared again. He opened a huge ant mound and told these people to go down in it to live with the ants while he destroyed the world with fire, and he told them to learn from the ants while they were there. The people went down and lived with the ants, who had storerooms of food that they had gathered in the summer, as well as chambers in which the people could live. This went on for quite a while, because after Sotuknang cleansed the world with fire it took a long time for the world to cool off. As the ants’ food ran low, the people refused the food, but the ants kept feeding them and only tightened their own belts, which is why ants have such tiny waists today.
Finally Sotuknang was done making the second world, which was not quite as beautiful as the first. Again he admonished the people to remember their Creator as they and the ants that had hosted them spread across the earth. The people multiplied rapidly and soon covered the entire earth. They did not live with the animals, however, because the animals in this second world were wild and unfriendly. Instead the people lived in villages and built roads between these, so that trade sprang up. They stored goods and traded those for goods from elsewhere, and soon they were trading for things they did not need.
As their desire to have more and more grew, they began to forget their Creator, and soon wars over resources and trade were breaking out between villages. Finally Sotuknang appeared before the few people who still remembered the Creator, and again he sent them to live with the ants while he destroyed this corrupt world. This time he ordered Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya to abandon their posts at the poles, and soon the world spun out of control and rolled over. Mountains slid and fell, and lakes and rivers splashed across the land as the earth tumbled, and finally the earth froze over into nothing but ice.
This went on for years, and again the people lived with the ants. Finally Sotuknang sent Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya back to the poles to resume the normal rotation of the earth, and soon the ice melted and life returned. Sotuknang called the people up from their refuge, and he introduced them to the third world that he had made. Again he admonished the people to remember their Creator as they spread across the land. As they did so, they multiplied quickly, even more quickly than before, and soon they were living in large cities and developing into separate nations.
With so many people and so many nations, soon there was war, and some of the nations made huge shields on which they could fly, and from these flying shields they attacked other cities. When Sotuknang saw all this war and destruction, he resolved to destroy this world quickly before it corrupted the few people who still remembered the Creator. He called on Spider Woman to gather those few and, along the shore, she placed each person with a little food in the hollow stem of a reed. When she had done this, Sotuknang let loose a flood that destroyed the warring cities and the world on which they lived.
Once the rocking of the waves ceased, Spider Woman unsealed the reeds so the people could see. They floated on the water for many days, looking for land, until finally they drifted to an island. On the island they built little reed boats and set sail again to the east. After drifting many days, they came to a larger island, and after many more days to an even larger island. They hoped that this would be the fourth world that Sótuknang had made for them, but Spider Woman assured them that they still had a long and hard journey ahead. They walked across this island and built rafts on the far side, and set sail to the east again.
They came to a fourth and still larger island, but again they had to cross it on foot and then build more rafts to continue east. From this island, Spider Woman sent them on alone, and after many days they encountered a vast land. Its shores were so high that they could not find a place to land, and only by opening the doors in their heads did they know where to go to land.
When they finally got ashore, Sotuknang was there waiting for them. As they watched to the west, he made the islands that they had used like stepping stones disappear into the sea. He welcomed them to the fourth world, but he warned them that it was not as beautiful as the previous ones, and that life here would be harder, with heat and cold, and tall mountains and deep valleys. He sent them on their way to migrate across the wild new land in search of the homes for their respective clans.
The clans were to migrate across the land to learn its ways, although some grew weak and stopped in the warm climates or rich lands along the way. The Hopi trekked and far and wide, and went through the cold and icy country to the north before finally settling in the arid lands between the Colorado River and Rio Grande River. They chose that place so that the hardship of their life would always remind them of their dependence on, and link to, their Creator.

The world at first was endless space in which existed only the Creator, Taiowa. This world had no time, no shape, and no life, except in the mind of the Creator. Eventually the infinite creator created the finite in Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew and whom he created as his agent to establish nine universes. Sotuknang gathered together matter from the endless space to make the nine solid worlds. Then the Creator instructed him to gather together the waters from the endless space and place them on these worlds to make land and sea. When Sotuknang had done that, the Creator instructed him to gather together air to make winds and breezes on these worlds.
The fourth act of creation with which the Creator charged Sotuknang was the creation of life. Sotuknang went to the world that was to first host life and there he created Spider Woman, and he gave her the power to create life. First Spider Woman took some earth and mixed it with saliva to make two beings. Over them she sang the Creation Song, and they came to life. She instructed one of them, Poqanghoya, to go across the earth and solidify it. She instructed the other, Palongawhoya, to send out sound to resonate through the earth, so that the earth vibrated with the energy of the Creator. Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya were dispatched to the poles of the earth to keep it rotating.
Then Spider Woman made all the plants, the flowers, the bushes, and the trees. Likewise she made the birds and animals, again using earth and singing the Creation Song. When all this was done, she made human beings, using yellow, red, white, and black earth mixed with her saliva. Singing the Creation Song, she made four men, and then in her own form she made four women. At first they had a soft spot in their foreheads, and although it solidified, it left a space through which they could hear the voice of Sotuknang and their Creator. Because these people could not speak, Spider Woman called on Sotuknang, who gave them four languages. His only instructions were for them to respect their Creator and to live in harmony with him.
These people spread across the earth and multiplied. Despite their four languages, in those days they could understand each other’s thoughts anyway, and for many years they and the animals lived together as one. Eventually, however, they began to divide, both the people from the animals and the people from each other, as they focused on their differences rather than their similarities. As division and suspicion became more widespread, only a few people from each of the four groups still remembered their Creator. Sotuknang appeared before these few and told them that he and the Creator would have to destroy this world, and that these few who remembered the Creator must travel across the land, following a cloud and a star, to find refuge.
These people began their treks from the places where they lived, and when they finally converged Sotuknang appeared again. He opened a huge ant mound and told these people to go down in it to live with the ants while he destroyed the world with fire, and he told them to learn from the ants while they were there. The people went down and lived with the ants, who had storerooms of food that they had gathered in the summer, as well as chambers in which the people could live. This went on for quite a while, because after Sotuknang cleansed the world with fire it took a long time for the world to cool off. As the ants’ food ran low, the people refused the food, but the ants kept feeding them and only tightened their own belts, which is why ants have such tiny waists today.
Finally Sotuknang was done making the second world, which was not quite as beautiful as the first. Again he admonished the people to remember their Creator as they and the ants that had hosted them spread across the earth. The people multiplied rapidly and soon covered the entire earth. They did not live with the animals, however, because the animals in this second world were wild and unfriendly. Instead the people lived in villages and built roads between these, so that trade sprang up. They stored goods and traded those for goods from elsewhere, and soon they were trading for things they did not need.
As their desire to have more and more grew, they began to forget their Creator, and soon wars over resources and trade were breaking out between villages. Finally Sotuknang appeared before the few people who still remembered the Creator, and again he sent them to live with the ants while he destroyed this corrupt world. This time he ordered Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya to abandon their posts at the poles, and soon the world spun out of control and rolled over. Mountains slid and fell, and lakes and rivers splashed across the land as the earth tumbled, and finally the earth froze over into nothing but ice.
This went on for years, and again the people lived with the ants. Finally Sotuknang sent Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya back to the poles to resume the normal rotation of the earth, and soon the ice melted and life returned. Sotuknang called the people up from their refuge, and he introduced them to the third world that he had made. Again he admonished the people to remember their Creator as they spread across the land. As they did so, they multiplied quickly, even more quickly than before, and soon they were living in large cities and developing into separate nations.
With so many people and so many nations, soon there was war, and some of the nations made huge shields on which they could fly, and from these flying shields they attacked other cities. When Sotuknang saw all this war and destruction, he resolved to destroy this world quickly before it corrupted the few people who still remembered the Creator. He called on Spider Woman to gather those few and, along the shore, she placed each person with a little food in the hollow stem of a reed. When she had done this, Sotuknang let loose a flood that destroyed the warring cities and the world on which they lived.
Once the rocking of the waves ceased, Spider Woman unsealed the reeds so the people could see. They floated on the water for many days, looking for land, until finally they drifted to an island. On the island they built little reed boats and set sail again to the east. After drifting many days, they came to a larger island, and after many more days to an even larger island. They hoped that this would be the fourth world that Sótuknang had made for them, but Spider Woman assured them that they still had a long and hard journey ahead. They walked across this island and built rafts on the far side, and set sail to the east again.
They came to a fourth and still larger island, but again they had to cross it on foot and then build more rafts to continue east. From this island, Spider Woman sent them on alone, and after many days they encountered a vast land. Its shores were so high that they could not find a place to land, and only by opening the doors in their heads did they know where to go to land.
When they finally got ashore, Sotuknang was there waiting for them. As they watched to the west, he made the islands that they had used like stepping stones disappear into the sea. He welcomed them to the fourth world, but he warned them that it was not as beautiful as the previous ones, and that life here would be harder, with heat and cold, and tall mountains and deep valleys. He sent them on their way to migrate across the wild new land in search of the homes for their respective clans.
The clans were to migrate across the land to learn its ways, although some grew weak and stopped in the warm climates or rich lands along the way. The Hopi trekked and far and wide, and went through the cold and icy country to the north before finally settling in the arid lands between the Colorado River and Rio Grande River. They chose that place so that the hardship of their life would always remind them of their dependence on, and link to, their Creator.

Hopi Creation Myth

[From: The World of Myth by David Adams Leeming.]

The Hopi creation myth uses many familiar motifs: the creative female principle itself, associated with the Earth; the more mysterious divine spirit, the sun god Tawa; the division of the divine parents into new creative forms; and creation by thought, a motif common to many Native American mythologies. An interesting development is the notion of creation by song, an innovation that seems to owe something to Anasazi-Hopi ritual song-dances. Most important, the Spider Woman story is an example of an emergence myth, a type of creation myth popular among Native American tribes. The emergence story stresses the idea of the Earth as a womb from which the people emerge gradually, as in childbirth. At each stage they grow in knowledge and ability, and only when fully born are they bathed by the light of the Sun God’s power, the power of Logos, the principle that allows for proper social ordering.

First Tale

In the beginning there were only two: Tawa, the Sun God, and Spider Woman, the Earth Goddess. All the mysteries and power in the Above belonged to Tawa, while Spider Woman controlled the magic of the Below. In the Underworld, abode of the Gods, they dwelt and they were All. There was neither man nor woman, bird nor beast, no living thing until these Two willed it to be.

In time it came to them that there should be other Gods to share their labors. So Tawa divided himself and there came Muiyinwuh, God of All Life Germs; Spider Woman also divide herself so that there was Huzruiwuhti, Woman of the Hard Substances, the Goddess of all hard ornaments of wealth such as coral, turquoise, silver and shell. Huzruiwuhti became the always-bride of Tawa. They were the First Lovers and of their union there came into being those marvelous ones the Magic Twins — Puukonhoya, the Youth, and Palunhoya, the Echo. As time unrolled there followed Hicanavaiya, Ancient of Six (the Four World Quarters, the Above and Below), Man-Eagle, the Great Plumed Serpent and many others. But Masauwhu, the Death God, did not come of these Two but was bad magic, who appeared only after the making of creatures.

And then it came about that these Two had one Thought and it was a might Thought — that they would make the Earth to be between the Above and the Below where now lay shimmering only the Endless Waters. So they sat them side by side, swaying their beautiful bronze bodies to the pulsing music of their own great voices, making the First Magic Song, a song of rushing winds and flowing waters, a song of light and sound and life.

“I am Tawa,” sang the Sun God. “I am Light. I am Life. I am Father of all that shall ever come.”

“I am Kokyanwuhti,” the Spider Woman crooned. “I receive Light and nourish Life. I am Mother of all that shall ever come.”

“Many strange thoughts are forming in my mind — beautiful forms of birds to float in the Above, of beasts to move upon the Earth and fish to swim in the Waters,” intoned Tawa.

“Now let these things that move in the Though of Tawa appear,” chanted Spider Woman, while with her slender fingers she caught up clay from beside her and made the Thoughts of Tawa take form. One by one she shaped them and laid them aside — but they breathed not nor moved.

“We must do something about this,” said Tawa. “It is not good that they lie thus still and quiet. Each thing that has a form must also have a spirit. So now, my beloved, we must make a mighty Magic.”

They laid a white blanket over the many figures, a cunningly woven woolen blanket, fleecy as a cloud, and made a mighty incantation over it, and soon the figures stirred and breathed.

“Now, let us make ones like unto you and me, so that they may rule over and enjoy these lesser creatures,” sang Tawa, and Spider Woman shaped the Thoughts into woman and man figures like unto their own. But after the blanket magic had been made, the figures remained inert. So Spider Woman gathered them all in her arms and cradled them, while Tawa bent his glowing eyes upon them. The two now sang the magic Song of Life over them, and at last each human figure breathed and lived.

“Now that was a good thing and a mighty thing,” said Tawa. “So now all this is finished, and there shall be no new things made by us. Those things we have made shall multiply. I will make a journey across the Above each day to shed my light upon them and return each night to Huzruiwuhti. And now I shall go to turn my blazing shield upon the Endless Waters, so that the Dry Land may appear. And this day will be the first day upon Earth.”

“Now I shall lead all these created beings to the land that you shall cause to appear above the waters,” said Spider Woman. Then Tawa took down his burnished shield from the turquoise wall of the kiva and swiftly mounted his glorious was to the Above. After Spider Woman had bent her wise, all-seeing eyes upon the thronging creatures about her, she wound her way among them, separating them into groups.

“Thus and thus shall you be and thus shall you remain, each one in her own tribe forever. You are Zunis, you are Kohoninos, you are Pah-Utes…” The Hopis, all, all people were named by Kokyanwuhti then.

Placing her Magic Twins beside her, Spider Woman called all the people to follow where she led. Through all the Four Great Caverns of the Underworld she led them until they finally came to an opening, a sipapu, which led above. This came out at the lowest depth of the Pisisbaiya (the Colorado River) and was the place where the people were to come to gather salt. So lately had the Endless Waters gone down that the Turkey, Koyona, pushing early ahead, dragged its tail feathers in the black mud where the dark bands were to remain forever.

Mourning Dove flew overhead, calling to some to follow, and those who followed where his sharp eyes had spied out springs and built beside them were called “Huwinyamu” after him. So Spider Woman chose a creature to lead each clan to a place to build their house. The Puma, the Snake, the Antelope, the Deer, and other Horn creatures, each led a clan to a place to build their house. Each clan henceforth bore the name of the creature who had led them.

The Spider Woman spoke to them thus: “The woman of the clan shall build the house, and the family name shall descend through her. She shall be house builder and homemaker. She shall mold the jars for the storing of food and water. She shall grind the grain for food and tenderly rear and teach the young. The man of the clan shall build kivas of stone under the ground. In these kivas the man shall make sand pictures as altars. Of colored sand shall he make them, and they shall be called ‘ponya.’ The man too shall weave the clan blankets with their proper symbols. The man shall fashion himself weapons and furnish his family with game.”

Stooping down, she gathered some sand in her hand, letting it run out in a thin, continuous stream. “See the movement of the sand? That is the life that will cause all things therein to grow. The Great Plumed Serpent, Lightning, will rear and strike the earth to fertilize it; Rain Cloud will pour down waters, and Tawa will smile upon it so that green things will spring up to feed my children.”

Her eyes now sought the Above where Tawa was descending toward his western kiva in all the glory of red and gold. “I go now, but have no fear, for we Two will be watching over you. Look upon me now, my children, ere I leave. Obey the words I have given you, and all will be well. If you are in need of help, call upon me, and I will send my sons to your aid.”

The people gazed wide-eyed upon her shining beauty. Her woven upper garment of soft white wool hung tunic-wise over a blue skirt. On its left side was woven a band bearing the Butterfly and Squash Blossom, in designs of red and yellow and green with bands of black appearing in between. Her neck was hung with heavy necklaces of turquoise, shell and coral, and pendants of the same hung from her ears. Her face was fair, with warm eyes and tender lips, and her form most graceful. Upon her feet were skin boots of gleaming white, and they now turned toward where the sand spun about in whirlpool fashion. She held up her right hand and smiled upon them, then stepped upon the whirling sand. Wonder of wonders, before their eyes the sands seemed to suck her swiftly down until she disappeared entirely from their sight.

Hopi Creation Myth 2

In the beginning there were only two: Tawa, the Sun God, and Spider Woman (Kokyanwuhti), the Earth Goddess. All the mysteries and the powers in the Above belonged to Tawa, while Spider Woman controlled the magic of the Below.

There was neither man nor woman, bird nor beast, no living thing until these Two willed it to be.

In time they decided there should be other gods to share their labors, so Tawa divided himself and there came Muiyinwuh, God of All Life Germs and Spider Woman divided herself and there came Huzruiwuhti, Woman of the Hard Substances (turquoise, silver, coral, shell,etc.).

Huzruiwuhti became the wife of Tawa and with him produced Puukonhoya, the Youth, and Palunhoya, the Echo, and later, Hicanavaiya, Man-Eagle, Plumed Serpent and many others.

Then did Tawa and Spider Woman have the Great Thought, they would make the Earth to be between the Above and the Below. As Tawa thought the features of the Earth, Spider women formed them from clay.

Then did Tawa think of animals and beasts and plants, all the while Spider Woman formed them from the clay. At last they decided they had enough, then they made great magic and breathed life into their creatures. Now Tawa decided they should make creatures in their image to lord over all the rest. Spider Woman again formed them from clay. Again the Two breathed life into their creations. Spider Woman called all the people so created to follow where she led.

Through all the Four Great Caverns of the Underworld she led them, until they finally came to an opening, a sipapu, which led to the earth above.

How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun

Once upon a time, when our people first came up from the villages of the underworld, there was no sun. There was no moon. They saw only dreary darkness and felt the coldness. They looked hard for firewood, but in the darkness they found little.

One day as they stumbled around, they saw a light in the distance. The Chief sent a messenger to see what caused the light. As the messenger approached it, he saw a small field containing corn, beans, squash, watermelons, and other foods. All around the field a great fire was burning. Nearby stood a straight, handsome man wearing around his neck a turquoise necklace of four strands. Turquoise pendants hung from his ears.

“Who are you?” the owner of the field asked the messenger.

“My people and I have come from the cave world below,” the messenger replied. “And we suffer from the lack of light and the lack of food.”

“My name is Skeleton,” said the owner of the field. He showed the stranger the terrible mask he often wore and then gave him some food. “Now return to your people and guide them to my field.”

When all the people had arrived, Skeleton began to give them food from his field. They marvelled that, although the crops seemed so small, there was enough food for everyone. He gave them ears of corn for roasting; he gave them beans, squashes, and watermelons. The people built fires for themselves and were happy.

Later, Skeleton helped them prepare fields of their own and to make fires around them. There they planted corn and soon harvested a good crop.

“Now we should move on,” the people said. “We want to find the place where we will live always.”

Away from the fires it was still dark. The Great Chiefs, at a council with Skeleton, decided to make a moon like the one they had enjoyed in the underworld.

They took a piece of well-prepared buffalo hide and cut from it a great circle. They stretched the circle tightly over a wooden hoop and then painted it carefully with white paint. When it was entirely dry, they mixed some black paint and painted, all around its edge, completing the picture of the moon. When all of this was done, they attached a stick to the disk and placed it on a large square of white cloth. Thus they made a symbol of the moon.

Then the Great Chiefs selected one of the young men and bade him

to stand on top of the moon symbol. They took up the cloth by its corners and began to swing it back and forth, higher and higher. As they were swinging it, they sang a magic song. Finally, with a mighty heave, they threw the moon disk upward. It continued to fly swiftly, upward and eastward.

As the people watched, they suddenly saw light in the eastern sky. The light became brighter and brighter. Surely something was burning there, they thought. Then something bright with light rose in the east. That was the moon!

Although the moon made it possible for the people to move around with less stumbling, its light was so dim that frequently the workers in the fields would cut up their food plants instead of the weeds. It was so cold that fires had to be kept burning around the fields all the time.

Again the Great Chiefs held a council with Skeleton, and again they decided that something better must be done.

This time, instead of taking a piece of buffalo hide, they took a piece of warm cloth that they themselves had woven while they were still in the underworld. They fashioned this as they had fashioned the disk of buffalo hide, except that this time they painted the face of the circle with a copper-coloured paint.

They painted eyes and a mouth on the disk and decorated the forehead with colours that the Great Chiefs decided upon according to their desires. Around the circle, they then wove a ring of corn husks, arranged in a zig zag design. Around the circle of corn husks, they threaded a string of red hair from some animal. To the back of the disk, they fastened a small ring of corn husks. Through that ring they poked a circle of eagle feathers.

To the top of each eagle feather, the old Chief tied a few little red feathers taken from the top of the head of a small bird. On the forehead of the circle, he attached an abalone shell. Then the sun disk was completed.

Again the Great Chiefs chose a young man to stand on top of the disk, which they had placed on a large sheet. As they had done with the moon disk, they raised the cloth by holding its corners. Then they swung the sun disk back and forth, back and forth, again and again. With a mighty thrust, they threw the man and the disk far into the air. It travelled fast into the eastern sky and disappeared.

All the people watched it carefully. In a short time, they saw light in the east as if a great fire were burning. Soon the new sun rose and warmed the earth with its kindly rays.

Now with the moon to light the earth at night and the sun to light and warm it by day, all the people decided to pick up their provisions and go on. As they started, the White people took a trail that led them far to the south. The Hopis took one to the north, and the Pueblos took one midway between the two. Thus they wandered on to the places where they were to live.

The Hopis wandered a long time, building houses and planting crops until they reached the mesas where they now live. The ruins of the ancient villages are scattered to the very beginnings of the great river of the canyon–the Colorado.

How the Hopi Reached Their World

When the world was new, the ancient people and the ancient creatures did not live on the top of the earth. They lived under it. All was darkness, all was blackness, above the earth as well as below it.

There were four worlds: this one on top of the earth, and below it three cave worlds, one below the other. None of the cave worlds was large enough for all the people and the creatures.

They increased so fast in the lowest cave world that they crowded it. They were poor and did not know where to turn in the blackness. When they moved, they jostled one another. The cave was filled with the filth of the people who lived in it. No one could turn to spit without spitting on another. No one could cast slime from his nose without its falling on someone else. The people filled the place with their complaints and with their expressions of disgust.

Some people said, “It is not good for us to live in this way.”

“How can it be made better?” one man asked.

“Let it be tried and seen!” answered another.

Two Brothers, one older and one younger, spoke to the priest- chiefs of the people in the cave world, “Yes, let it be tried and seen. Then it shall be well. By our wills it shall be well.”

The Two Brothers pierced the roofs of the caves and descended to the lowest world, where people lived. The Two Brothers sowed one plant after another, hoping that one of them would grow up to the opening through which they themselves had descended and yet would have the strength to bear the weight of men and creatures. These, the Two Brothers hoped, might climb up the plant into the second cave world. One of these plants was a cane.

At last, after many trials, the cane became so tall that it grew through the opening in the roof, and it was so strong that men could climb to its top. It was jointed so that it was like a ladder, easily ascended. Ever since then, the cane has grown in joints as we see it today along the Colorado River.

Up this cane many people and beings climbed to the second cave world. When a part of them had climbed out, they feared that that cave also would be too small. It was so dark that they could not see how large it was. So they shook the ladder and caused those who were coming up it to fall back. Then they pulled the ladder out. It is said that those who were left came out of the lowest cave later. They are our brothers west of us.

After a long time the second cave became filled with men and beings, as the first had been. Complaining and wrangling were heard as in the beginning. Again the cane was placed under the roof vent, and once more men and beings entered the upper cave world. Again, those who were slow to climb out were shaken back or left behind. Though larger, the third cave was as dark as the first and second. The Two Brothers found fire. Torches were set ablaze, and by their light men built their huts and kivas, or travelled from place to place.

While people and the beings lived in this third cave world, times of evil came to them. Women became so crazed that they neglected all things for the dance. They even forgot their babies. Wives became mixed with wives, so that husbands did not know their own from others. At that time there was no day, only night, black night. Throughout this night, women danced in the kivas (men’s “clubhouses”), ceasing only to sleep. So the fathers had to be the mothers of the little ones. When these little ones cried from hunger, the fathers carried them to the kivas, where the women were dancing. Hearing their cries, the mothers came and nursed them, and then went back to their dancing. Again the fathers took care of the children.

These troubles caused people to long for the light and to seek again an escape from darkness. They climbed to the fourth world, which was this world. But it too was in darkness, for the earth was closed in by the sky, just as the cave worlds had been closed in by their roofs. Men went from their lodges and worked by the light of torches and fires. They found the tracks of only one being, the single ruler of the unpeopled world, the tracks of Corpse Demon or Death. The people tried to follow these tracks, which led eastward. But the world was damp and dark, and people did not know what to do in the darkness. The waters seemed to surround them, and the tracks seemed to lead out into the waters.

With the people were five beings that had come forth with them from the cave worlds: Spider, Vulture, Swallow, Coyote, and Locust. The people and these beings consulted together, trying to think of some way of making light. Many, many attempts were made, but without success. Spider was asked to try first. She spun a mantle of pure white cotton. It gave some light but not enough. Spider therefore became our grandmother.

Then the people obtained and prepared a very white deerskin that had not been pierced in any spot. From this they made a shield case, which they painted with turquoise paint. It shed forth such brilliant light that it lighted the whole world. It made the light from the cotton mantle look faded. So the people sent the shield-light to the east, where it became the moon.

Down in the cave world Coyote had stolen a jar that was very heavy, so very heavy that he grew weary of carrying it. He decided to leave it behind, but he was curious to see what it contained. Now that light had taken the place of darkness, he opened the jar. From it many shining fragments and sparks flew out and upward, singeing his face as they passed him. That is why the coyote has a black face to this day. The shining fragments and sparks flew up to the sky and became stars.

By these lights the people found that the world was indeed very small and surrounded by waters, which made it damp. The people appealed to Vulture for help. He spread his wings and fanned the waters, which flowed away to the east and to the west until mountains began to appear.

Across the mountains the Two Brothers cut channels. Water rushed through the channels, and wore their courses deeper and deeper. Thus the great canyons and valleys of the world were formed. The waters have kept on flowing and flowing for ages. The world has grown drier, and continues to grow drier and drier.

Now that there was light, the people easily followed the tracks of Death eastward over the new land that was appearing. Hence Death is our greatest father and master. We followed his tracks when we left the cave worlds, and he was the only being that awaited us on the great world of waters where this world is now.

Although all the water had flowed away, the people found the earth soft and damp. That is why we can see today the tracks of men and of many strange creatures between the place toward the west and the place where we came from the cave world.

Since the days of the first people, the earth has been changed to stone, and all the tracks have been preserved as they were when they were first made.

When people had followed in the tracks of Corpse Demon but a short distance, they overtook him. Among them were two little girls. One was the beautiful daughter of a great priest. The other was the child of somebody-or-other She was not beautiful, and she was jealous of the little beauty. With the aid of Corpse Demon the jealous girl caused the death of the other child. This was the first death.

When people saw that the girl slept and could not be awakened, that she grew cold and that her heart had stopped beating, her father, the great priest, grew angry.

“Who has caused my daughter to die?” he cried loudly.

But the people only looked at each other.

“I will make a ball of sacred meal,” said the priest. “I will throw it into the air, and when it falls it will strike someone on the head. The one it will strike I shall know as the one whose magic and evil art have brought my tragedy upon me.”

The priest made a ball of sacred flour and pollen and threw it into the air. When it fell, it struck the head of the jealous little girl, the daughter of somebody-or-other. Then the priest exclaimed, “So you have caused this thing! You have caused the death of my daughter.”

He called a council of the people, and they tried the girl. They would have killed her if she had not cried for mercy and a little time. Then she begged the priest and his people to return to the hole they had all come out of and look down it.

“If you still wish to destroy me, after you have looked into the hole,” she said, “I will die willingly.”

So the people were persuaded to return to the hole leading from the cave world. When they looked down, they saw plains of beautiful flowers in a land of everlasting summer and fruitfulness. And they saw the beautiful little girl, the priest’s daughter, wandering among the flowers. She was so happy that she paid no attention to the people. She seemed to have no desire to return to this world.

“Look!” said the girl who had caused her death. “Thus it shall be with all the children of men.”

“When we die,” the people said to each other, “we will return to the world we have come from. There we shall be happy. Why should we fear to die? Why should we resent death?”

So they did not kill the little girl. Her children became the powerful wizards and witches of the world, who increased in numbers as people increased. Her children still live and still have wonderful and dreadful powers.

Then the people journeyed still farther eastward. As they went, they discovered Locust in their midst.

“Where did you come from?” they asked.

“I came out with you and the other beings,” he replied.

“Why did you come with us on our journey?” they asked.

“So that I might be useful,” replied Locust.

But the people, thinking that he could not be useful, said to him, “You must return to the place you came from.”

But Locust would not obey them. Then the people became so angry at him that they ran arrows through him, even through his heart. All the blood oozed out of his body and he died. After a long time he came to life again and ran about, looking as he had looked before, except that he was black.

The people said to one another, “Locust lives again, although we have pierced him through and through. Now he shall indeed be useful and shall journey with us. Who besides Locust has this wonderful power of renewing his life? He must possess the medicine for the renewal of the lives of others. He shall become the medicine of mortal wounds and of war.”

So today the locust is at first white, as was the first locust that came forth with the ancients. Like him, the locust dies, and after he has been dead a long time, he comes to life again– black. He is our father, too. Having his medicine, we are the greatest of men. The locust medicine still heals mortal wounds.

After the ancient people had journeyed a long distance, they became very hungry. In their hurry to get away from the lower cave world, they had forgotten to bring seed. After they had done much lamenting, the Spirit of Dew sent the Swallow back to bring the seed of corn and of other foods. When Swallow returned, the Spirit of Dew planted the seed in the ground and chanted prayers to it. Through the power of these prayers, the corn grew and ripened in a single day.

So for a long time, as the people continued their journey, they carried only enough seed for a day’s planting. They depended upon the Spirit of Dew to raise for them in a single day an abundance of corn and other foods. To the Corn Clan, he gave this seed, and for a long time they were able to raise enough corn for their needs in a very short time.

But the powers of the witches and wizards made the time for raising foods grow longer and longer. Now, sometimes, our corn does not have time to grow old and ripen in the ear, and our other foods do not ripen. If it had not been for the children of the little girl whom the ancient people let live, even now we would not need to watch our cornfields whole summers through, and we would not have to carry heavy packs of food on our journeys.

As the ancient people travelled on, the children of the little girl tried their powers and caused other troubles. These mischief-makers stirred up people who had come out of the cave worlds before our ancients had come. They made war upon our ancients. The wars made it necessary for the people to build houses whenever they stopped travelling. They built their houses on high mountains reached by only one trail, or in caves with but one path leading to them, or in the sides of deep canyons. Only in such places could they sleep in peace.

Only a small number of people were able to climb up from their secret hiding places and emerge into the Fourth World. Legends reveal the Grand Canyon is where these people emerged. From there they began their search for the homes the Two Brothers intended for them.

These few were the Hopi Indians that now live on the Three Mesas of northeastern Arizona.

Sacred Hopi Tablets

Hopi tradition tells of sacred tablets which were imparted to the Hopi by various deities. Like most of Hopi mythology, accounts differ as to when the tablets were given and in precisely what manner.

Perhaps the most important was said to be in the possession of the Fire Clan, and is related to the return of the Pahana. In one version, an elder of the Fire Clan worried that his people would not recognize the Pahana when he returned from the east. He therefore etched various designs including a human figure into a stone, and then broke off the section of the stone which included the figure’s head. This section was given to Pahana and he was told to bring it back with him so that the Hopi would not be deceived by a witch or sorcerer.  This one is Truth, the stone has an Indian face of black, white and grey with black feathers, and it is not etched but looks more like ink that soaked into the stone.

Another version has it that the Fire Clan was given a sacred tablet by Masauwu, who as the giver of fire was their chief deity. In this version the human figure was purposely drawn without a head, and a corner of the stone was broken off. Masauwu told them that eventually the Pahana would return bringing the broken-off corner of the stone, but if in the meantime a Hopi leader accepted a false religion, he must assent to having his head cut off as drawn on the stone.

This same story holds that three other sacred tablets were also given to the Hopi. These were given to the Bear Clan by their patron deity Söqömhonaw, and essentially constituted a divine title to the lands where the Hopi settled after their migrations. The Hopi had a Universal Snake Dance. The third of these was etched with designs including the sun, moon, stars, clouds, etc. on one side with six human figures on the other.

Author Frank Waters claims that he was shown this third tablet in Oraibi in 1960. He describes the stone as “approximately 10 inches long, 8 inches wide, and 1½ inches thick. The stone resembled a dull gray marble with intrusive blotches of rose.”  The physical existence of such a stone is substantiated by a few other sources. For instance, in the late 19th century, several Mormon missionaries were visiting a Hopi named Tuba in Oraibi. Tuba took his visitors inside the village kiva and once there, he produced what appeared to be a marble slab about 15″x18″. This was covered in “hieroglyphic” markings including clouds and stars.  As well, the later Ethnological Report No. 4 produced by the US government seems to uphold the existence of such a stone, based on the testimony of John W. Young and Andrew S. Gibbons. This describes the stone as made of “red-clouded marble, entirely different from anything found in the region.”

Waters writes that these tablets again rose to great importance around the turn of the twentieth century as a result of trouble at Oraibi. This trouble involved a split between those called the Friendlies, who supported the efforts of the US government, and the Hostiles who opposed these efforts. The split was further exacerbated by old clan rivalries. The Bear Clan led the Friendly faction, and was strenuously opposed by the Spider and the Fire Clans, which led the Hostile faction. Finally, in 1906, there was a “push war” at Oraibi wherein the Friendlies pushed the Hostiles over a line which had been drawn on the ground. The Hostiles were thereafter banished from Oraibi and created the village of Hotevilla. The tablets were seen as important in that the Bear Clan tablets determined the traditional settlement pattern of the clans and the boundaries of Hopi lands as well as investing the clan with symbolic authority. However, the Fire Clan tablet was intimately connected with the return of Pahana and gave the Fire Clan claim to great importance. The tablets were also studied as prophetic and were believed to hold answers for the Hopi in the midst of their great dilemma. Waters claims that during the infighting, one of the Bear Clan tablets were stolen by another clan, and that for the time being all have been hidden. However, he maintains that they still exist, as evidenced by the tablet which he was shown in 1960. A letter from the Hopi to the President of the United States in 1949 also declared that “the Stone Tablets, upon which are written the boundaries of the Hopi Empire, are still in the hands of the Chiefs of Oraibi and Hotevilla pueblos.

Hopi vs.  Sumerian Creation Story

By Robert Morningside

The Hopi believe the Creator of Man is a woman.
The Sumerians believed the Creator of Man was a woman.

The Hopi believe the Father Creator is KA.
The Sumerians believed the Father Essence was KA.

The Hopi believe Taiowa, the Sun God, is the Creator of the Earth.
The Sumerians believe TA.EA was the Creator.

The Hopi believe two brothers had guardianship of the Earth.
The Sumerians believed two brothers had dominion over the Earth.

The Hopi believe Alo to be spiritual guides.
The Sumerians believed AL.U to be beings of Heaven.

The Hopi believe Kachinas (Kat’sinas) are the spirits of nature
and the messengers and teachers sent by the Great Spirit.
The Sumerians believed KAT.SI.NA were righteous ones sent of God.

The Hopi believe Eototo is the Father of Katsinas.
The Sumerians believed EA.TA was the Father of all beings.

The Hopi believe Chakwaina is the Chief of Warriors.
The Sumerians believed TAK.AN.U was the Heavenly Destroyer.

The Hopi believe Nan-ga-Sohu is the Chasing Star Katsina.
The Sumerians believed NIN.GIR.SU to be the Master of Starships.

The Hopi believe Akush to be the Dawn Katsina.
The Sumerians believed AK.U to be Beings of light.

The Hopi believe Danik to be Guardians in the Clouds.
The Sumerians believed DAK.AN to be Sky Warriors.

The Hopi believe Sotunangu is a Sky Katsina.
The Sumerians believed TAK.AN.IKU were Sky Warriors.

The Hopi name for the Pleaides is ChooChookam.
The Sumerians believed SHU. SHU.KHEM were the supreme Stars.

The Hopi believe Tapuat is the name of Earth.
The Sumerians believed Tiamat was the name of Earth.

The Hopi call a snake Chu’a.
The Sumerians called a snake SHU.

The Hopi word for “dead” is Mokee.
The Sumerians used KI. MAH to mean “dead.”

The Hopi use Omiq to mean above, up.
The Sumerians used AM.IK to mean looking to Heaven.

The Hopi believe Tuawta is One Who Sees Magic.
The Sumerians believed TUAT.U was One from the Other World.

The Hopi believe Pahana was the Lost Brother who would
one day return to assist the Hopi and humankind.

The Sumerians would recognize PA.HA.NA
as an Ancestor from heaven who would return.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

GonzoDon February 22, 2013 at 10:22 am

Fascinating stuff. However I find it curious, and so very culture-centric of those of us in the United States, that we casually refer to the Hopi Creation ‘Myth’, as opposed to the Biblical Creation ‘Story’.

Obviously, there is no qualitative difference between the two … they are both creation myths that have no basis in actual empirical, scientific fact, but they both relay important allegorical truths and cultural lessons. Yet — gasp! — woe to anyone in the U.S. who refers to the Biblical creation story as a “myth”! Simply unacceptable!

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