Native American mythology
The mythology of Native Americans
The Abenaki (also Wabanaki) are a Native American tribe located in the northeastern United States. Religious ceremonies are led by shamans, called Medeoulin (Mdawinno).
The history of the Abenaki people is divided into three time periods. In the first, the Ancient Age, humanity and animal-life are the undifferentiated. In the second, the Golden Age, animals are still humans, but quantitatively different. In the third, the Present Age, animals and humanity are totally differentiated.
Beings of the Ancient Age
- Ato-sees (also Atosis) - a Medeoulin who is both snake and human, forces people to find a stick so that he can cook them with it, was blinded by Moosbas
- Az-ban (also Azeban) - raccoon or wolverine trickster spirit
- Kee-wakw - a gigantic, forest-dwelling cannibal
- Kee-zos-en - the solar deity, an eagle whose wings opened to create the day, and closed to cause the night-time
- Keeta-skog (also Peeta-skog) - a snake-spirit who fights the Pa-don-gi-ak
- K-tsee Awa-soos - the first four stars of the Big Dipper are the Great Bear, who is chased every night by four hunters; he is killed every fall and his blood drips to earth turning the leaves brown while the constellation turns upside down; it is righted, and he is reborn, every spring
- Mat-gwas - a rabbit spirit, first (one of magic) the rabbit, the very first Medeoulin (shaman), legendary founded of the Meda Society of Magic
- Metee-kolen-ol - a race of evil wizards with hearts of ice
- Nanom-keea-po-da - subterranean spirit who causes earthquakes
- Nee-ben - a woman whose stunning beauty forces Pe-ben to retreat to the north; she represents summer
- P-mol-a (also Bmola, Pomola) - a bird and night spirit who takes prisoners to Alomkik, near Mt. Katahdin and causes cold weather
- P-son-en - an eagle-spirit that makes snow by opening his wings
- Pa-don-gi-ak - seven white-skinned, golden-haired brothers, half-human and half-bird, former inhabitants of Lake Champlain, war-like (battles Keeta-skog), thunder and lightning spirits.
- Pe-ben - (also Pebon) a powerful sorcerer who puts his audience to sleep when he tells stories, spirit of winter
- See-gwen - a young male who loved the season of summer, and brought her to the north every spring
- Tabal-dak (also Tabaldak) - the androgynous creator of existence
- Wa-won-dee-a-megw - a snail spirit that can live in trees, on land or in the water, as well as change size and appearance to look like a huge snake, alligator or scaly man; has horns which can be ground into a magical powder
- Wad-zoos-en - the eagle that flaps his wings to create wind
- Wassan-mon-ganeehla-ak - a race of people who play games with a ball of light, causing the Aurora Borealis
Beings of the Golden Age
- Oodzee-hozo - ("the man who created himself") a man who lived before he invention of legs. He dragged his body around, creating mountains, valleys and rivers (in this early form, he is referred to as Bemee-geedzin-pobi-zeed), as well as Lake Champlain, which is holy to the Abenaki. Odzihozo turned himself into a stone in the middle of the lake and is said to inhabit Rock Dunder (west of Burlington, Vermont).
- Tool-ba - foolish turtle spirit, uncle of Gluskab
- Pla-ween-noo - turtle spirit, mother of Gluskab, patron spirit of the Sokwakis
- A-gaskw (also Nokemis) - woodchuck spirit, grandmother of Gluskab, very wise
- Moos-bas - mink spirit, adopted son on Gluskab, powerful fletcher, sometimes fulfills wishes
- Mool-sem - one of Gluskab's dogs, the white one, could shrink or enlarge himself
- M-da-weelh-ak - a loon spirit in the form of a dog, Gluskab's messenger, one of his dogs, the black one, could shrink or enlarge himself
- A-senee-ki-wakw - a race of stone giants, the first people Gluskab created but then destroyed because they crushed other animals and injured the earth with their great size
Gluskab and Malsumis
Tabaldak, the creator god, made humans and then Gluskab (and Gluskabe, Glooscap, Glooskap, Nanabozho, Glooscap, Klooskomba) and Malsumis sprang from the dust on his hand. They both had the power to create a good world, but only Gluskab did so. Malsumis still seeks evil to this day.
Gluskab founded the Golden Age of the Earth by rendering the evil spirits of the Ancient Age smaller and safer, as well as teaching humanity how to hunt and fish, build shelter and all of the Abenaki's knowledge of art, invention and science. Gluskab's departure ended the Golden Age, though he is prophesied to return and renew it again.
Me-koom-wee-soo was Gluskab's assistant and wields an ivory bow. He has a fierce temper and gains weight as he gets more angry; eventually, it is said, he sinks into stone. Gluskab and Me-koom-wee-soo had an archery contest once; Me-koom-wee-soo fired an arrow into the top of Mt. Washington, creating a pond, while Gluskab's arrow created a hole in the sky that was then called msatawa (the Evening Star)
Gluskab realized the strain hunters can cause on an ecosystem. He asked a woodchuck spirit for help, and she gave him all the hairs off her belly, woven into a magical sac. This is why woodchucks have bald bellies. Gluskab then went to a mountain, where Tabaldak had placed a huge eagle (Pomola) that made bad weather by flapping its wings. After binding it, Gluskab realized some wind was necessary and loosened them slightly. Gluskab saved the world from a frog monster that swallowed all the planet's water. When Gluskab cut open the monster's belly, some animals jumped into the water and became fish. Some modern Wabanaki believe that Gluskab is angry at white people for not obeying his rules.
Beings of the Present Age
- Alom-bag-winno-sis a mischievous, aquatic creature that upsets canoes
- Alom-begwi-no-sis - an aquatic dwarfish race of men that can increase or decrease body size at will; they also own a pot which can transform a few kernels of maize into a huge quantity; seeing one supposedly foretells a death by drowning
- Ask-wee-da-eed - a fire-elemental, identified as a will o' the wisp, that brings bad luck and death, also connected with comets and meteors
- Atsolowas - a trickster.
- Awa-hon-do z- inspect spirits that bite humans
- Awes-kon-wa - a small, flying sprite, associated with the Mohawk tribe
- Batsolowanagwes - a benign trickster
- Bedig-wajo (western Abenaki) or Ktaden (eastern Abenaki) - a culture hero
- Chibaiskweda - marsh gas, supposedly caused by the ghost of an improperly buried corpse
- Do-gakw-ho-wad - small men who prop the jaws of animals open with sticks in order to avoid being eaten
- Dzee-dzee-bon-da - a monster, so ugly that even he is terrified of his own appearance
- Ko-gok - another monster
- Lo-lol - a frightening monster
- [[M-ska-gwe-demoos- a swamp-dwelling woman, dressed in moss with moss for hair; she cries alone in the forest and is potentially dangerous
- Maski-mon-gwe-zo-os - a toad creature, seduces men and children and kills them, appears either as a partridge or a woman dressed in moss, with a belt made of arborvitae bark
- Meek-moos-ak - a pair of short twins who seduce women, who are then cursed to never desire marriage, kills hunters during the winter, possibly a personification of the Mi'kmaq tribe
- N-dam-keno-wet - a half-fish, half-human creature with a small face and long hair, molests bathing women
- P-skig-demo-os - a female creature, P-skig-demo-os slays men and children
- Pak-zin-skwa - an ugly, old woman
- Pim-skwa-wagen-owad - small, aquatic, pinching creatures
- Pok-wejee-men - small creatures, created from the bark of the ash tree
- Tsa-tsamolee-as - the noisy, clownish fool
- Tsi-noo - a person whose heart is made of ice and has no soul; he eats the souls of others for sustenance and strength
- Wana-games-ak - river-dwelling creatures with faces so narrow, they are essentially two-dimensional, friendly creatures that warned the Abenaki of coming attacks
The Aztec civilization recognized many gods and supernatural creatures.
- Acolmiztli god of the underworld Mictlan.
- Acolnahuacatl god of the underworld Mictlan.
- Acuecucyoticihuati -> Chalchiuhtlicue
- Amimitl god of lakes and fishermen.
- Atl god of water.
- Atlacamani goddess of oceanic storms such as hurricanes.
- Atlacoya goddess of drought.
- Atlatonin goddess of the coast.
- Atlaua water god.
- Ayauhteotl goddess of crepuscular fog, vanity and fame.
- Camaxtli god of hunting, war, fate and fire.
- Centeotl god of maize.
- Centzonuitznaua southern stars.
- Chalchiuhtlatonal water.
- Chalchiuhtlicue goddess of lakes, streams and all water, as well as beauty.
- Chalchiutotolin disease.
- Chalmecacihuilt the underworld: Mictlan, north.
- Chalmecatl the underworld: Mictlan, north.
- Chantico fires.
- Chicomecoatl maize and fertility.
- Chicomexochtli artists.
- Chiconahui domestic fertility goddess.
- Chiconahuiehecatl creation of the world.
- Citlalatonac created the stars.
- Citlalicue created the stars.
- Cochimetl commerce and merchants.
- Coyolxauhqui moon goddess.
- Ehecatl god of wind.
- Huitzilopochtli god of war and a sun god.
- Huixtocihuatl fertility goddess who presided over salt and salt water.
- Itzlacoliuhque god of darkness, disasters, temperature and obsidian.
- Itzli god of stone.
- Itzpapalotl skeletal goddess - ruled over the paradise world of Tomoanchan.
- Ixtlilton god of healing, maize, feasts and festivals.
- Macuilxochitl god of love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, maize, and song.
- Malinalxochi orceress and goddess of snakes, scorpions and insects of the desert.
- Metztli moon, the night, and farmer.
- Mextli god of war and storms.
- Nanauatzin sun god.
- Omacatl god of feasting, holidays and happiness.
- Omecihuatl creator of all life on Earth.
- Ometecuhtli god of fire; creator of all life on Earth.
- Ometeotl hermaphroditic god/dess.
- Opochtli god of hunting and fishing.
- Patecatl god of healing and fertility.
- Teoyaomqui god of dead warriors.
- Tepeyollotl god of earthquakes, echoes and jaguars.
- Teteoinnan mother of the gods.
- Tezcatlipoca god of the night, the north and temptation.
- Titlacauan --"--.
- Tlaloc god of rain and fertility.
- Tlazolteotl earth, sex, childbirth and a mother goddess.
- Tloquenahuaque creator god or ruler.
- Tonacatecuhtli fertility god.
- Tonantzin mother goddess.
- Tonatiuh sun god and war.
- Ueuecoyotl god of promiscuity and wildness.
- Xilonen maize and fertility.
- Xipe Totec life-death-rebirth deity, god of agriculture, the west, disease, spring, goldsmiths and the seasons.
- Xiuhtecuhtli -> Huehueteotl.
- Xochipilli god of love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, maize, and song.
- Xochiquetzal goddess of flowers, fertility, games, dancing and agriculture, as well as craftsmen, prostitutes and pregnant women.
- Xocotl stellar god who presided over fire.
- Xolotl god of lightning and the one who aided the dead on their journey to Mictlan.
- Yacatecuhtli god of travelers, especially merchant travelers.
Gods - snaky
- Cihuacoatl fertility goddess.
- Coatlicue fire and fertility.
- Mixcoatl god of the hunt, the north star and war.
- Centzon Totochtin
- Tzitzimime star gods or demons.
Supernatural creatures - Monster, angels...
- Cipactli source of the Earth.
- Mictlan underworld.
- Talocan first paradise.
- Tlillan-Tlapallan middle realm of the heaven (middle paradise).
- Tonatiuhichan highest paradise.
The Blackfoot are a tribe of Native Americans from Montana.
Apikunni is the inventor of tobacco and made the first war-time killing with an aspen stick.
The Sta-au are a type of ghost, specifically the ghost of cruel men and women.
The Buffalo Dance
One of the primary sources of food and other needs was the American bison. The typical hunting method was drive a herd off a cliff and butcher them after they died at the bottom of the cliff. Similar methods were used in ancient Europe.
The night before, the shaman ceremonially smokes tobacco and prays to the sun. His wives are not allowed to leave their home, nor even look outside, until he returns; they were to pray to the sun and continually burn sweet grass. Fasting and dressed in a bison headdress, the shaman led a group of people at the head of a V formation. He attracted the herd's attention and brought them near the cliff; they were then scared by other men hiding behind them, who waved their robes and shouted. The bison ran off the cliff and died at the rocks below.
According to legend, at one point the bison refused to go over the cliff. A woman walking underneath the cliff saw a herd right on the edge and pledged to marry one which jumped down. One did so and survived, turning into many dead buffalo at the bottom of the cliff. The woman's people ate the meat and the young woman left wth the buffalo. Her father went in search of her. When he stopped to rest, he told a magpie to search for his daughter and tell her where he was. The magpie found the woman and told her where her father was located. The woman met her father but refused to go home, frightened that the bison would kill her and her father; she said to wait until they were all asleep and would not miss her for some time. When she returned to the bison, her husband smelled another person and, gathering his herd, found the father and trampled him to death. The woman cried and her husband said that if she could bring her father back to life, they could both return to their tribe. The woman asked the magpie to find a piece of her father's body; he found a piece of his spine. The woman covered the bone with her robe and sang a song. She was successful and her father was reincarnated. Impressed, the woman's husband taught them a dance which would attract the bison and ensure success in the hunt and which would restore the dead bison to life, just as the woman had restored her father to life. The father and daughter returned to their tribe and taught a small group of men, eventually known as I-kun-uh'-kah-tsi ("all compatriots"), the dances.
The Chippewa (also Ojibwa, Anishaabe) are a tribe of Native Americans located in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
Chippewa mythology is known from oral legends such as the Atisokan, which are told only in winter in order to preserve their transformative powers.
The Midewin are the spiritual leaders of the tribe. A particularly well-respected male spiritual leader was called Tcisaki.
Nanabozho, (also known as Wenabozho), is the trickster, who sometimes takes the form of a hare. Aniwye is a skunk spirit and was involved in the creation of skunks.
Bagucks is a mischievous spirit, a skeletal bird. He is a skeleton because he has starved himself out of obstinance. Wemicus is a trickster god.
The Creek are a tribe of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The shaman was called an Alektca.
Originally, the world was entirely underwater. The only land was a hill, called Nunne Chaha, and on the hill was a house, wherein lived Esaugetuh Emissee ("master of breath"). He created humanity from the clay on the hill.
The Creek also venerated the horned serpent Sint Holo, who appeared to suitably wise young men.
Hisagita-imisi (meaning "preserver of breath"; also Hisakitaimisi) was the supreme god, a solar deity. He is also called Ibofanga ("the one who is sitting above (us)").
The Crow Tribe of Native Americans live in the Great Plains area of the United States. The shaman of the tribe was known as an Akbaalia ("healer").
The Mannegishi are bald humanoids with large eyes and tiny bodies. They were tricksters and may be similar to fairies. They have supposedly been sighted in Massachusetts and are known there as Dover Demons.
Cirapé ("younger brother") is a companion of the old coyote trickster spirit. Awakkule is also a trickster spirit, but occasionally helps people instead.
Baaxpee is a spiritual power that can cause a person to mature, as well as unusual events or circumstances that force maturation. After transmogrification, the changed are known as Xapaaliia.
Andiciopec is a warrior hero who is invincible to bullets.
The Guarani are a tribe of South American Native Americans, located in Paraguay and Peru.
Jurupari was a very important deity whom only men could worship. Women who somehow learned anything of his rituals were killed.
Abaangui was a god who cut off his nose, which became the moon.
The Hopi are a tribe of Native Americans located in the southwestern United States.
Kokopelli is a god worshipped by many southeastern tribes. He is a humpbacked flautist. Among the Hopi, he brought the fetuses to pregnant women, and took part in many rituals relating to marriage.
Muyingwa is the god of germination.
Taiowa is the creator god. He made Sotuknang and ordered him to make the universe. The first world was called Topela and had land, water and air, as well as Koyangwuti (spider woman), who then created twins, Poqanghoya and Palongawhoya. They made rivers, oceans and mountains. Koyangwuti then made all organisms, but most of the men did not obey the gods, so Sotuknang killed them with a flood. Two more bad worlds were created and destroyed. The fourth world, the modern world, is Tuwaqachi.
Tokpela was the endless, primordial space before creation.
Kachinas are masked dolls, symbolizing the spirits of deceased persons. Good people go west and become kachinas, but there is no absolute connection between the former soul and the kachina (i.e. each doll does not represent a particular deceased person). See kachina for more information on the different kinds of kachinas.
Inuit mythology is unlike the common conception of what the term "mythology" refers to. Unlike Greek mythology, for example, people have believed in it, without interruption, up to and including the present time. While there are few believers left when compared to Christianity, for example, many Inuit do still hold to their ancestral religious beliefs; there are also neopagans who have integrated some or all of the Inuit beliefs into their own belief structures. Many Inuit have merged those beliefs to a greater or lesser degree with Christianity or other religions, and may hold varying degrees of literal belief in what is described below. This occurs in any set of religious beliefs--a section believes all the stories and ideas contained within are the literal truth (see fundamentalism) and the rest believe in the ideas to a lesser degree of literal truth.
Some basic beliefs
All people, animals and plants have souls (anua). The anerneq was the part of a soul that went to the underworld, while the tarneq (taren-raq) was the physical embodiment of the soul.
Taboos exist in order to ensure monetary prosperity, health and that animals will be available to hunters. Ritual ceremonies performed before, during and after hunting trips help to accomplish this.
Each species of animal has a deity, called a "Keeper" or a "Master." An example is Sedna, who is in charge of sea mammals (such as whales and walruses, both staples of the Inuit culture). Sedna ensures that the Inuit follow taboos regarding her domain; if the taboos are not followed, she will withdraw her animals.
The Angakut is the shaman of his tribe. He remembers the taboos and guides his people in the following of them. He interprets omens, causes of illness or lack of success in hunting or other ventures. Interpreting these signs indicates which taboo an individual, family or entire tribe has violated. Often, the shaman will enter a trance state using drum beating, chanting or other methods and thereby astrally travel to alternate realms of awareness to determine the causes of the negative event or circumstance.
The Wyandot (also called Huron) are a tribe of Native Americans originally from Ontario, Canada, and surrounding areas.
The shamans of a Wyandot tribe were called Arendiwane (or Arendi wane, Orendi wane).
According to Wyandot mythology, Iosheka created the first man and woman and taught them many skills, including all their religious ceremonies and rituals, the ability to fight evil spirits, healing, and the use of the sacrament of tobacco.
The Kwakiutl are a tribe of Native Americans in the northwestern United States.
Tsonoqwa (Tsonokwa) is a type of cannibal giant called Geekumhl and comes in both male and female forms. The female for is the most common; she eats children and cries "hu-hu!" to attract them, as well as offering candy and treasure. Children frequently outwit her and take her treasures without being eaten. The female form is also a
Kewkwaxa'we is the raven spirit, who brought the Kawkiutl people the moon, fire, salmon, the sun and the tides.
Of particular importance in Kwakiutl culture is the secret society called Hamatsa. During the winter, there is a four-day, complex dance that serves to iniate new members of Hamatsa. Some of the dancers represent various spirits, including Bakbakwalanooksiwae ("cannibal at the north end of the world"; he is actually invisible and each dancer represents a mouth). The initiates are possessed by Bakbakwalanooksiwae on the first day of the ceremony and wanders into the woods until the end. When the initiate returns, he enacts a cannibalistic experience symbolically. Kwakwakalanooksiwae is the most prestigious role in the ceremony; he is a cannibalistic raven monster. Galokwudzuwis ("crooked beak of heaven") and Hokhokw (cannibalistic bird who crushes skulls) are other participants.
Evidence of the Maya civilization's religious beliefs is extensive.
Some gods had different aspects based on four directions. There were thirteen gods of thirteen heavens and nine gods of nine underworlds. Natural elements, stars and planets, numbers, crops, days of the calendar and periods of time all had their own gods.
The Quiché Maya creation story is the Popol Vuh. This has the world created from nothing by the will of the gods. Man was made unsuccessfully out of mud and then wood before being made out of maize and being assigned tasks which praised the gods - silversmith, gem cutter, stone carver, potter, etc. Some argue that the Maya did not believe in art per se; all of their works were for the exaultation of the gods. The Popul Vuh then tells of the Hero Twins and their adventures in defeating the lords of Xibalba, the underworld.
The Navajo are a tribe of Native Americans who live in the southwestern United States.
Yolkai Estasan (or Yolkai Estsan meaning "white-shell woman") is a lunar deity associated with the seasons. Her sister is Estanatlehi. Her name comes from her creation; she was made from abalone. She ruled the ocean, the sunrise, fire, and maize.
Yolkai Estasan's sister, Estanatelhi (or Estsanatlehi), was a sky goddess who was very respected among the Navaho. She was a goddess of change, particularly the maturation of women. She endlessly grows from a young maiden to an adult woman to an old crone, then beginning the cycle again without dying. She created the first humans and now rules over the underworld.
The first man and woman saw a black cloud on a mountain, and after investigating, discovered an infant Estanatlehi who became a woman in eighteen days. She created more people out of small pieces of her skin because she was lonely and wanted companions.
Ahsonnutli was a very important deity, the creator of heaven and earth. S/he was called the "turquoise hermaphrodite."
Hastshehogan is a domestic deity, patron of homes. Hasteoltoi is a goddess of the hunt. Glispa invented medicine and taught it to the Navaho. Bikeh Hozho represents the personified power of speech. Tonenili ("water sprinkler") was a trickster rain god. Tsohanoai ("sun bearer") is a solar deity who carries the sun across the sky on his back and stores it in the west side of his house during the night. The Diyin dine was a group of mortals with great power; they were culture-heroes.
The Pawnee are a tribe of Native Americans originally located in Nebraska, United States.
Tirawa (also Atius Tirawa) was the creator god and taught the Pawnee people tattooing, fire-building, hunting, agriculture, speech and clothing, religious rituals (including the use of tobacco) and sacrifices. He was associated with most natural phenomena, including stars and planets, wind, lightning, rain and thunder.
The solar and lunar deities were Shakuru and Pah, respectively.
The Seneca Tribe was one of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy from the northeastern United States.
Eagentci ("ancient one") is the earth mother.
Dijien was a man-sized spider who survived most attacks because its heart was buried underground. Othegwenhda stabbed the heart under the earth with a tree limb.
Dagwanoenyent is a vicious northern witch who is depicted as a whirlwind. Her child's father killed her.
Witiko are a race of cannibals.
Hagondes is a cannibalistic trickster and clown spirit.
Kaakwha (also Kanawha) is the solar deity and god of light and truth, subordinate to Hawenniyo, a fertility god.
The Dahdahwat are animals who appear in dreams and visions.
Gagqa is the crow spirit.
Awaeh Tegendji is an old woman who lives with her three beautiful daughters.
The Winnebago are a tribe of Native Americans.
Kokopelli is a god worshipped in many tribes. He is a humpbacked flautist. Among the Winnebago, he has a penis which he detached and placed in a river in order to have sex with the girls who bathed in the river.
A Menominee chief saw a vision on the beach of Lake Michigan. A huge flock of ravens flew past him, shining brightly with color, unlike ordinary ravens. One landed and turned into a naked man. The chief ordered his people to give him clothing, for he deduced that he was a great chieftain. The rest of the ravens also turned into people and became the Winnebago.