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Sia And Hopi Cosmogonies

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

No Indians are more inveterate and accomplished tellers of tales than are the Pueblo dwellers. Their repertoire includes its full quota of coyote traditions and stories of ghosts, bugaboos, cannibals, ogres, and fairies, as well as legends of migration and clan accession, of cultural innovations and the founding of rites, the historical character of which is more or less clear. But for insight into fundamental beliefs the cosmogonic myths of these, as of other peoples, are the most valuable of all. To be sure, not all the beings who play leading rles in cosmogony are equally important in cult: many of them belong to that "elder generation" of traditionary powers which appear in every highly developed mythic system; and often the potencies for which there is a real religious veneration are symbolized in myth by more or less strange personifications as Spider Woman, in the SouthWest, appears to be only an image of the Earth Goddess, suggested by the uncannily huge earth-nesting spiders of that region. Nevertheless, it is to cosmogonies that we must look for the clearest definition of mythic powers.

In their general outlines the cosmogonies of the Pueblo dwellers are in accord with the Navaho Genesis, with which they clearly share a common origin. They differ from this, and among themselves, in the arrangement and emphasis of incidents, as well as in dramatic and conceptual imagination.

The cosmogony of the Sia is very near in form to that of the Navaho. The first being was Sussistinnako, Spider, who drew a cross in the lower world where he dwelt," placed magic parcels at the eastern and western points, and sang until two women came forth from these, Utset, the mother of Indians, and Nowutset, the parent of other men. Spider also created rain, thunder, lightning, and the rainbow, while the two women made sun and moon and stars. After this there was a contest of riddles between the sisters, and Nowutset, who, though stronger, was the duller of the two, losing the contest, was slain by Utset and her heart cut from her breast. This was the beginning of war in the world. For eight years the people dwelt happily in the lower world, but in the ninth a flood came and they were driven to the earth above, to which they ascended through a reed. Utset led the way, carrying the stars in a sack; the turkey was last of all, and the foaming waters touched his tail, which to this day bears their mark. The locust and the badger bored the passage by which the sky of the lower world was pierced, and all the creatures passed through. Utset put the beetle in charge of her star-sack, but he, out of curiosity, made a hole in it, and the stars escaped to form the chaotic field of heaven, although a few remained, which she managed to rescue and to establish as constellations. The First People, the Sia, gathered into camps beside the Shipapo, through which they had emerged, but they had no food. Utset, however, " had always known the name of corn," though the grain itself was not in existence; accordingly, she now planted bits of heart, and, as the cereal grew, she said, "This corn is my heart, and it shall be to my people as milk from my breasts." The people desired to find the Middle Place of the world, but the earth was too soft, and so Utset requested the four beasts of the quarters cougar, bear, wolf, and badger to harden it; but they could not, and it was a Spider Woman and a Snake Man who finally made a path upon which the people set forth on their journey. The quarrel of the men and women, their separation, and the birth of cannibal beings from the women events which the Navaho place in the Underworld now occur; a little while later the sexes reunite, and a virgin, embraced by the Sun, gives birth to Maasewe and Uyuuyewe, the diminutive twin Warriors, who visit their Sun Father, and are armed to slay the monsters, as in Navaho myth." After the departure of the Warrior Twins, the waters of the Underworld began to rise, and the people fled to the top of a mesa, the flood being placated only by the sacrifice of a youth and a maiden. When the earth was again hardened, the people resumed their search for the Middle Place, which they reached in four days and where they built their permanent home. Shortly afterward a virgin gave birth to a son, Poshaiyanne, who grew up, outcast and neglected, to become a great magician; gambling with the chief, he won all the towns and possessions of the tribe, and the people themselves, but he used his power beneficently and became a potent bringer of wealth and game. Finally, he departed, promising to return; but on the way he was attacked and slain by jealous enemies. A white, fluffy eagle feather fell and touched his body, and as it came in contact with him, it rose again, and he with it, once more alive. Somewhere he still lives, the Sia say, and sometime he will come back to his people. Here we meet a northern version of the famous legend of Quetzalcoati.

Hopi myths of the beginnings contain the same general incidents. In the Underworld there was nothing but water; two women,' Huruing Wuhti of the East and Huruing Wuhti of the West, lived in their east and west houses, and the Sun made his journey from one to the other, descending through an opening in the kiva of the West at night and emerging from a similar aperture in the kiva of the East at dawn. These deities decided to create land, and they divided the waters that the earth might appear. Then from clay they formed, first, birds, which belonged to the Sun, then animals, which were the property of the two Women, and finally men, whom the Women rubbed with their palms and so endowed with understanding. 70 At first the people lived in the Underworld in Paradisic bliss, but the sin of licentiousness appeared, and they were driven forth by the rising waters, escaping only under the leadership of Spider Woman, by means of a giant reed, sunflower, and two kinds of pine-tree. Mocking-Bird assigned them their tribes and languages as they came up, but his songs were exhausted before all emerged and the rest fell back into nether gloom. At this time death entered into the world, for a sorcerer caused the son of a chief to die. The father was at first determined to cast the guilty one back into the Sipapu, the hole of emergence, but relented when he was shown his dead son living in the realm below: "That is the way it will be," said the sorcerer, " if anyone dies he will go down there."

The earth upon which the First People had emerged was dark and sunless, and only one being dwelt there, Skeleton, who was very poor, although he had a little fire and some maize. The people determined to create Moon and Sun, such as they had had in the Underworld, and these they cast, with their carriers, up into the sky. They then set out to search for the sunrise, separating into three divisions the White People to the south, the Indians to the north, and the Pueblos in the centre. It was agreed that whenever one of the parties arrived at the sunrise, the others should stop where they stood. The whites, who created horses to aid them, were the first to attain their destination, and when they did so a great shower of stars informed the others that one of the parties had reached the goal, so both Indians and Pueblo dwellers settled where they now live. The legends of the flood and of the sacrifice of children are also known to the Hopi, while the Warrior Brothers Pookonghoya and Balongahoya perform the usual feats of monster-slaying. Additional incidents of a more wide-spread type are found in Hopi and other Pueblo mythologies : the killing of the man-devouring monster by being swallowed and cutting a way to light, thus liberating the imprisoned victims; the creation of life from the flesh of a slain animal; the freeing of the beasts from a cave, to people the world with game; 41 the adventures of young hunters with Circe-like women of the wilderness all of them myths which represent the detritus of varied cosmogonies.


Of all the Pueblo tales of the origin of the universe the Zui account is the most interesting, for it alone displays some power of metaphysical conceptualization. "In the beginning Awonawilona with the Sun Father and the Moon Mother existed above, and Shiwanni and Shiwanokia, his wife, below (Shiwanni and Shiwanokia labored not with hands but with hearts and minds; the Rain Priests of the Zui are called Ashiwanni and the Priestess of Fecundity Shiwanokia.) All was shipololo (fog), rising like steam. With breath from his heart Awonawilona created clouds and the great waters of the world. (He-She is the blue vault of the firmament. The breath-clouds of the gods are tinted with the yellow of the north, the blue-green of the west, the red of the south, and the silver of the east of Awonawilona. The smoke clouds of white and black become a part of Awonawilona; they are himself, as he is the air itself; and when the air takes on the form of a bird it is but a part of himself is himself. Through the light, clouds, and air he becomes the essence and creator of vegetation.). After Awonawilona created the clouds and the great waters of the world, Shiwanni said to Shiwanokia, `I, too, will make something beautiful, which will give light at night when the Moon Mother sleeps.' Spitting in the palm of his left hand, he patted the spittle with the palm of his right hand, and the spittle foamed like yucca suds and then formed into bubbles of many colors, which he blew upward; and thus he created the fixed stars and constellations. Then Shiwanokia said, `See what I can do,' and she spat into the palm of her left hand and slapped the saliva with the fingers of her right, and the spittle foamed like yucca suds, running over her hand and flowing everywhere; and thus she created Awitelin Tsita, the Earth Mother."

Light and heat and moisture and the seed of generation these are the forces personified in this thinly mythic veil. In the version rendered by Cushing there is a still more single beginning: "Awonawilona conceived within himself and thought outward in space, whereby mists of increase, steams potent of growth, were evolved and uplifted. Thus, by means of his innate knowledge, the All-container made himself in per-son and form of the Sun whom we hold to be our father and who thus came to exist and appear. With his appearance came the brightening of the spaces with light, and with the brightening of the spaces the great mist-clouds were thickened together and fell, whereby was evolved water in water; yea, and the world-holding sea. With his substance of flesh out-drawn from the surface of his person, the Sun-father formed the seed-stuff of twin worlds, impregnating therewith the great waters, and lo! in the heat of his light these waters of the sea grew green and scums rose upon them, waxing wide and weighty until, behold! they became Awitelin Tsita, the `Fourfold Containing Mother-earth,' and Apoyan Tachu, the `All-covering Father-sky.' From the lying together of these twain upon the great world-waters, so vitalizing, terrestrial life was conceived; whence began all beings of earth, men and the creatures, in the Four-fold womb of the World. Thereupon the Earth-mother repulsed the Sky-father, growing big and sinking deep into the embrace of the waters below, thus separating from the Sky-father in the embrace of the waters above.

"As a woman forebodes evil for her first-born ere born, even so did the Earth-mother forebode, long withholding from birth her myriad progeny and meantime seeking counsel with the Sky-father. `How,' said they to one another, `shall our children, when brought forth, know one place from another, even by the white light of the Sun-father?' . . . Now like all the surpassing beings the Earth-mother and the Sky-father were changeable, even as smoke in the wind; transmutable at thought, manifesting themselves in any form at will, like as dancers may by mask-making. Thus, as a man and woman, spake they, one to another.

"`Behold!' said the Earth-mother as a great terraced bowl appeared at hand and within it water, `this is as upon me the homes of my tiny children shall be. On the rim of each world-country they wander in, terraced mountains shall stand, making in one region many, whereby country shall be known from country, and within each, place from place. Behold, again!' said she as she spat on the water and rapidly smote and stirred it with her fingers. Foam formed, gathering about the terraced rim, mounting higher and higher. `Yea,' said she, `and from my bosom they shall draw nourishment, for in such as this shall they find the substance of life whence we were ourselves sustained, for see!' Then with her warm breath she blew across the terraces; white flecks of the foam broke away, and, floating over above the water, were shattered by the cold breath of the Sky-father attending, and forthwith shed down-ward abundantly fine mist and spray! `Even so, shall white clouds float up from the great waters at the borders of the world, and clustering about the mountain terraces of the horizons be borne aloft and abroad by the breaths of the surpassing soul-beings, and of the children, and shall hardened and broken be by thy cold, shedding downward, in rain spray, the water of life, even into the hollow places of my lap! For therein chiefly shall nestle our children, mankind and creature-kind, for warmth in thy coldness.' . . . Lo! even the trees on high mountains near the clouds and the Sky-father crouch low toward the Earth-mother for warmth and protection! Warm is the Earth-mother, cold the Sky-father, even as woman is the warm, man the cold being!

"`Even so,' said the Sky-father; `Yet not alone shalt thou helpful be unto our children, for behold!' and he spread his hand abroad with the palm downward and into all the wrinkles and crevices thereof he set the semblance of shining yellow corn-grains; in the dark of the early world-dawn they gleamed like sparks of fire, and moved as his hand was moved over the bowl, shining up from and also moving in the depths of the water therein. `See!' said he, pointing to the seven grains clasped by his thumb and four fingers, `by such shall our children be guided; for behold, when the Sun-father is not nigh, and thy terraces are as the dark itself (being all hidden therein), then shall our children be guided by lights like to these lights of all the six regions turning round the midmost one as in and around midmost place, where these our children shall abide, lie all the other regions of space! Yea! and even as these grains gleam up from the water, so shall seed-grains like to them, yet numberless, spring up from thy bosom when touched by my waters, to nourish our children.' Thus and in other ways many devised they for their offspring."

The Zui legend continues with events made familiar in other narratives. As in the Navaho Genesis, the First People pass through four underworlds before they finally emerge on earth: "the Ashiwi were queer beings when they came to this world; they had short depilous tails, long ears, and webbed feet and hands, and their bodies and heads were covered with moss, a lengthy tuft being on the fore part of the head, projecting like a horn"; they also gave forth a foul odour, like burning sulphur, but all these defects were removed by the Divine Ones, under whose guidance the emergence and early journeying of the First People took place. These gods, Kowwituma and Watsusi, are twins of the Sun and Foam, and are obviously doublets of the Twin Gods of War (whose Zui names are variants of those known to the Sia), by whom they are later replaced. Other incidents of the Zui story tell of the origins of institutions and cults near the place of emergence, of the hardening of the world, of the search for the Middle Place, and of the cities built and shrines discovered on the way. Incidents of the journey include the incest of a brother and sister, sent forward as scouts," to whom a sterile progeny was born, and who created Kothluwalawa, the mountain home of the ancestral gods; the accession and feats of the diminutive twins, the Gods of War; the coming of the Corn Maidens, already recounted; the flood" and the sacrifice of a youth and a maid, which caused the waters to recede; 29 the assignment of languages and the dispersal of tribes; stories of Poshaiyanki, the culture hero, and of the wanderings of Kiaklo, who visited Pautiwa, the lord of the dead, and re-turned to notify the Ashiwi of the coming of the gods to endow them with the breath of life "so that after death they might enter the dance house at Kothluwalawa before proceeding to the undermost world whence they came."

In the cosmogonies of the Pueblo dwellers, thus sketched, the events fall into two groups: gestation of life in the underworld and birth therefrom, and the journey to the Middle Place Emergence and Migration, Genesis and Exodus. The historical character of many of the allusions in the migration-stories has been made plausible by archaeological investigations, which trace the sources of Pueblo culture to the old cliff-dwellings in the north. Characteristically these abodes are in the faces of canyon walls, bordering the deep-lying streams whose strips of arable shore formed the ancient fields. May it not be that the tales of emergence refer to the abandonment of these ancient canyon-set homes, never capable of supporting a large population? Some of the tribes identify the Sipapu with the Grand Canyon surely a noble birthplace! and when in fancy we see the First People looking down from the sunny heights of the plateau into the depths whence they had emerged and beholding, as often happens in the canyons of the South-West, the trough of earth filled with iridescent mist, with rainbows forming bridgelike spans and the arched entrances to cloudy caverns, we can grasp with refreshened imagination many of the allusions of South-Western myth. Possibly a hint as to the reason which induced the First People to come forth from so fairylike an abode is contained in the Zui name for the place of emergence, which signifies "an opening in the earth filled with water which mysteriously disappeared, leaving a clear passage for the Ashiwi to ascend to the outer world."

One other point in South-Western myth is of suggestive interest. This is the moral implication which clearly appears and marks the advancement of the thought of these Indians over more primitive types. In the world below the First People dwelt long in Paradisic happiness; but sin (usually the sin of licentiousness) appeared among them, and the angry waters drove them forth, the wicked being imprisoned in the nether darkness. The events narrated might be ascribed to missionary influence, were it not that these same events have close analogues far and wide in North American myth, and for the further fact of the pagan conservatism of the Pueblos. That the people are capable of the moral understanding implied is indicated by the reiterated assertion of priest and story that "the prayer is not effective except the heart be good."

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