An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Pacifica Graduate Institute
Common Themes, East & West:
Creation Myths &
Sacred Narratives of Creation
from North and Meso America
NOTE:Creation myths are also mentioned elsewhere on my website. You might wish to use the site's Search Engine to track down such references. Please also check the "Multi Cultural" section at the end of Creation Myths I -- it includes links relevant to the traditions on this page.
SACRED CREATION NARRATIVES
FROM NORTH AMERICA
http://www.lapahie.com/Creation.html[URL updated 10/15/99]
This is where Navajo creation was sung into being in the first hogan
and where Changing Woman lived and had her puberty ceremony
Huerfano Mesa (Dzil Na’oodilii), in northern New Mexico
(Photo by Harrison Todychini Lapahie Jr.: see directly below)
In Western theology, a deity's logos, or Word, plays a major role in creation. Among many peoples of the New World, the emphasis on logos is replaced by singing. Here, for example, is the sacred creation narrative of the Navajo wherein creation emerges out of sacred chants sung by the Holy People in the First Hogan.http://www.artsmia.org/mythology/slide17.html#top
The page covers Changing Woman, Spider Woman, the journey up the giant reed to reach the Fourth World, and much more. Click on the hypertext, and you'll find wonderful photos (clickable for enlargements), especially of the mountains, that play major roles in this story; in addition to photos, you'll find more rich data and lore. The family of the website's author, Harrison Todychini Lapahie Jr., comes from this region and at least one photo of his grandmother is included. (I appreciate the personal touches that Lapahie gives his site.)
[Added 10/15/99]: This link focuses on the portion of the Navajo creation narrative in which the Holy People journey up through a giant hollow reed from the original First World to the Fourth World. This page from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts comes from a great collection of four creation myths designed for use in school curricula (K-12). These are divided into the following sections: an opening image (featuring elements of the myth and clickable for an enlargement), "Key Ideas" found in the myth, the "Story," the "Background" (including data on the people, their arts, artistic techniques, and symbols), and excellent "Discussion Questions."http://www.artsmia.org/mythology/slide19.html#top
[Added 10/15/99]:This link, again from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (see above), offers a Lakota myth in which the Creating Power "sings" a great flood into existence in order to destroy an unsatisfactory first creation; then, when a turtle brings mud back from the depths of the waters, the Creating Power "sings" an entire new world into existence. Music, thus, creates as well as destroys.http://www.potawatomi.org/hownikan/9708/creation.htm
(Lacquer box courtesy of Russian Sunbirds)
Here again is the motif of singing -- this time, a woman's song -- in the story of the creation of a people. This is the Potawatomi Creation Story, as related by Potawatomi Nation Chairman, John Barrett. In this sacred narrative, set in the Great Lakes region of North America, Anishnabe, the First Man, is lonely until he hears a woman singing from across the waters. Falling in love with her beautiful voice, he follows the sound for a long time until he discovers the daughter of Firekeeper. They wed, have four sons, who in turn travel, each son to one of the four directions. Barrett's sacred narrative has wonderful details on the sons' travels, the wives they find, the wives' gifts of sacred plants (sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, and sage), color symbolism, and why the eagle feather is used to fan the smoke of cedar and sage to assuage the Creator's anger with disrespectful humans. From these original couples come the Potawatomi people.http://home.ici.net/customers/jbm2/Creation%20Story.htm[2/13/01: dead link -- if anyone finds it elsewhere, please let me know -- thanks!]
This is a lengthy sacred narrative from the Mohawk Nation -- it is filled with rich, intriguing details, including a woman who births a Wind-daughter, who, in turn, has two sons, one "good," one a trickster. Like so many myths, there is a strong focus on the importance of gratitude:http://www.best.com/~submit/Storyplace/vault/bridge/title9/HTML/title9.html. . .Man must never take the good things of the earth for granted, he was told, or else they would be taken away. Man must always be thankful. But men forgot these words of the Creator, and they lost respect for the earth and for each other. Because of this the Creator returned to earth, and instituted the four ceremonies of thanksgiving. These four thanks-giving ceremonies would bring the people together at harvests, mid-winter, when the maple runs from the trees, and at the time of green corn. Human beings were told that they had forgotten to be thankful, and so they were ruining the earth. These four ceremonies helped them to remember. Even with the four ceremonies, however, there was fighting amongst the people. . . .(10/15/99: Note: I can't get through to this link so it may be broken. Hopefully, it's only temporary....12/23/99: it's still broken....Ditto 2/13/01, so I'm finally giving up on this one. I'll leave the annotation intact, however, since I value the excerpt from this now-lost site.)
[Added 2/14/01]: This is a narrative about how the Chinook Indians of the Pacific Northwest were created from the eggs of the Thunderbird. A key character is an old giantress whose advice wasn't headed by Old Man South Wind. An important theme deals with respect for other species:http://www.cougartracks.com/creation.htm[2/13/01: dead link -- if anyone finds it elsewhere, please let me know -- thanks!]...That is how the Chinook were created. And that is why Indians never cut the first salmon across the back. They know that if they should cut the fish the wrong way, the salmon would cease to run. Always, even to this day, they slit the first salmon down the back, lengthwise.
This is a very brief but handsome page with a Chinook creation narrative from the Pacific Northwest's Columbia River region.http://www.worldandi.com/public/1998/cljul98.htm[URL updated 2/14/01]
From the Washington Times' monthly online educational publication, World & I, comes this intelligent, well crafted article on Native American creation narratives. The author, Terry J. Andrews, writes eloquently on the significance of these myths and weaves in wonderful stories from the Cherokee (how creation began); Mojave (about a hummingbird and a primal woman); Eskimo and Haida (raven stories); Crow and Nez Percé (coyote tales); Iroquois (Sky Woman); and Navajo (Changing Woman). (Note: Andrews is well qualified -- she's the publisher of The Good Red Road, a bimonthly Native American newsletter and home study guide.)http://homepages.go.com/~neon101/legends/0CreationStories.html
This is a compilation of 4 creation stories collected by Taliszanna White Crow. There is an Inuit story on the raven as the creator, and two intriguing narratives from the Huron and Seneca-Iroquois on a woman as the creator. (The link to an Algonquian tale was broken when I tried it, but hopefully it'll be up again soon......10/15/99: 6 weeks have now passed & it's still broken. 12/23/99:fixed now and well worth a look -- many thanks, Taliszanna!)http://www.indians.org/welker/legend.htm
This is Glenn Welker's wide-ranging website on "Indigenous Peoples' Literature"; it focuses specifically on creation/origin/migration narratives from North and Meso America. Welker has close to 60 rich, profound, troubling, beautiful, sometimes violent, always thought-provoking sacred stories here (see below for more on Meso America).
http://www.jaguar-sun.com/popolvuh.html[URL updated 2/13/01]
Mudmen from the Popol Vuh
Illustration by Jeeni Criscenzo (see directly below) -- used with permission.
This site by Jeeni Criscenzo offers an eloquent excerpt from the Mayans' Popol Vuh based on Dennis Tedlock's classic translation. Criscenzo's original goal was to produce an illustrated CD ROM on this work -- the site's two evocative illustrations bode well for the project (see one of them above). When I contacted her for an update, she wrote:The way the capabilities of the Web have advanced since I started that project, I will probably recreate the whole CD as a Flash annimation and make it available on the Web as my "gift". It's such a wonderful tale -- you should hear it spoken in Chol with the Mayan cadence!May this project comes to fruition soon!
Myths of weaving exist around the world as metaphors for creation. The spindle is often an axis mundi and its whirling whorls serve a cosmogonic function. For the present-day descendants of the Maya living in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico, weaving restores harmony and the axis mundi is the woman herself who wears a sacred huipi. When I discovered this site by the late Paula Geise, it was falling apart -- every link but one was broken. Since her data is too unique to be lost, I decided to restore it. In the West we tend to think of art in terms of oils, watercolors, stone and fine metals; it is good to be reminded that the spirit of beauty that infuses great art also manifests through threads spun of hand-harvested cotton and dyed with natural plants.
CREATION MYTHS, page 1
CREATION MYTHS, page 2
(Page includes Hindu, Japanese, Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman, and Norse creation myths.)
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Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
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Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues(includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education
Menu of Common Themes, East & West:
Animal Deaths in Europe: Of Cows & Madness
Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse
Creation Myths I
Creation Myths II
Creation Myths III
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Food: Sacrality & Lore
THE FOUR ELEMENTSEARTH:Green Men
Land: Sacrality & Lore (mountains, caves, labyrinths, spiral mounds, crop & stone circles, FengShui)
Earth Day & Environmental Issues
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Air: Sacrality & Lore (air, wind, sky, storms, clouds, weather lore)
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Fire: Sacrality & Lore (fire, northern lights, green-flashes, Elmo's Fire)
Fire Goddesses & Gods
Water: Sacrality & Lore (water, wells, springs, pools, lakes)
Floods & Rainbows: Mythologies & Science
Water Goddesses & Gods
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Birthing [forthcoming]
Rituals of Death & Dying [forthcoming]
Rituals of Puberty
Rituals of Weather-Working: An experimental, on-going ritual in cyberspace
Sacred Theatre & Dance
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Wars, Weapns & Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)
Down to Geographical Regions: Africa
This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design:
Copyrighted © 1998-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved unless otherwise noted by copyright.
1 August 1999; 3 September 1999; 15 & 18 October 1999; 23 December 1999;
13 & 14 February 2001 (updated all links; added new links & images);
21 February 2001 (added new on-site reference menu); 2 July 2001 (Ned.3.0);
30 September 2001: split North & Meso America off from opening page & created p.3.
4 April 2007: added small Native American culture ad for a year.
...Native American culture has had many influences on modern society. There are also many people who are into ancient Native American life and mythology. Learning about Native American tribes, myths and culture can be a great educational experience.