Seneca Indian Creation Myth
The Seneca Indians believed that, in the beginning, another world existed beyond the sky. In this world lived a great chief and his people, the celestial beings. This chief had a wife who was very aged in body, having survived many seasons. This world floated like a great cloud and journeyed where the great chief wished it to go.
In the center of that world there grew a great tree which bore flowers and fruits, and all the people happily lived from the fruits of the tree. The tree also bore a great blossom at its top. The blossom was luminous and lighted the world above. It filled the air with a wonderful perfume. The roots of the tree were white and ran in four directions, deep through the earth, giving firm support to the tree. The Great Chief built his lodge around the tree, and the people gathered daily around it. Now, in a dream he was given a desire to take as his wife a fair maiden. Thus, he took her as his wife. When he took his new wife to his lodge, he found to his great surprise that she was with child. This caused him great anger and he felt himself deceived, but the woman loved the child, which had been conceived by the potent breath of her lover.
The chief fell into a troubled sleep and a dream commanded him to have the celestial tree uprooted as a punishment to his wife and as a relief to his troubled spirit. So, the next day, he announced to his wife his plans for uprooting the tree. His wife saw that there was trouble ahead for the sky world, but she agreed to her husbandís plans since she wanted to know what was beneath it.
The chief called all his people together and they tried to uproot the tree, despite warnings of disaster. Frustrated by the fact that his people could not budge the tree, the chief uprooted the tree himself. While uprooting the tree, he shook down fruits and leaves. The chief led his wife to the hole made by uprooting the tree, to allow her to look inside it.
She sat by herself on the edge of the hole and peered downward. However, the chief grew angry when his wife did nothing to indicate her satisfaction. Finally, the chief in his rage pushed her with his foot, trying to kick her through the hole, and be rid of her.
As he did this she grasped the earth at her side and gathered in her fingers all manner of seeds that had fallen from the shaken tree. In her right hand she held the leaves of the plant. Again the chief pushed the woman, whose curiosity had caused the destruction of the greatest blessing of the up-above-world. Despite her hold upon the plant and upon the ground, his wife fell into the hole.
As the wife fell through this hole, which led her out of the celestial world and into the world below it, she beheld a beast that emitted fire from its head whom she called Gaas'iondie't'ha.
As she passed by him, he gave her out a small pot, a corn mortar, a pestle, a marrow bone, and an ear of corn, saying, "Because thou hast thus done, thou shalt eat by these things, for there is nothing below, and all who eat shall see me once, and it will be the last.
Hovering over the troubled waters below were other creatures like the spirits of the Wind, the Defending Face, the Thunder, and the Heavy Night. The creature-beings knew that a new body was coming to them and that she would not be able to survive in their world. They took council together and sought a way to provide for her.
It was agreed that the duck-creatures that lived in that world should receive her on their interknit wings and lower her gently to the surface below. The great turtle from the underworld was to arise and make his broad back a resting place. They put their plan into action and the woman came down upon the floating island.
Then the creatures sought to make a world for the woman. One by one, they dove to the bottom of the water seeking to find earth to put upon the turtle's back. A duck dived but went so far that it breathed the water and came up dead. A pickerel went down and came back dead. Many creatures sought to find the bottom of the water but could not. At last the creature called Muskrat made the attempt and only succeeded in touching the bottom with his nose, but this was sufficient for he was enabled to smear it upon the shell of the turtle. The earth immediately grew, and as the dirt increased so did the size of the turtle.
After a time the woman aroused herself and released the seeds she had grasped in her hands while attempting to keep out of the hole. Likewise she spread out the earth from the heaven world which she had grasped. The seeds sprouted immediately. The root of the tree which she had grasped sunk into the soil where she had fallen and this too began to grow until it formed a tree, much like the one that had been uprooted in the celestial world.
Now in due season the woman, who became known as the Sky-Woman, lay beneath the tree and gave birth to a daughter. She was then happy, for she had a companion. Rapidly the girl child grew until very soon she could run about. Day by day the girl ran around the island, and each time it became larger, making her trips longer and longer. She observed that the earth was carpeted with grass and that shrubs and trees were springing up everywhere. This she reported to her mother, who sat beneath the centrally situated great tree.
In one part of the island there was a tree on which grew a long vine, and upon this vine the girl was accustomed to swing for amusement, and her body moved to and fro giving her great delight.
Then did her mother say, "My daughter, you laugh as if being embraced by a lover. Have you seen a man?"
"I have seen no one but you, my mother," answered the girl, "but when I swing I know someone is close to me, and I feel my body embraced as if with strong arms. I feel thrilled, and I tingle, which causes me to laugh."
Then did the Sky-Woman look sad, and she said, "My daughter, I know not now what will befall us. You are married to Ga'ha', and he will be the father of your children. There will be two boys."
In due season, the voices of two boys were heard speaking. The words of one were kind, but the words of the other were harsh, and he desired to kill his mother. His skin was covered with warts and boils, and he was inclined to cause great pain.
When the two boys were born Elder One made his mother happy, but when Warty One was born he pierced her through the armpit and stood upon her dead body. So did the mother perish, and because of this the Sky-Woman wept.
The boys required little care but instantly became able to care for themselves. After the mother's body bad been arranged for burial, the Sky-Woman saw the Elder One whom she called Good-Mind, approach, and he said, "Grandmother, I wish to help you prepare the grave." So he helped his grandmother who continually wept, and deposited the body of his mother in a grave.
Thereupon did the grandmother speak to her daughter, "Oh, my daughter," she said, "you have departed and made the first path to the world from which I came bringing your life. When you reach that homeland make ready to receive many beings from this place below, for I think the path will be trodden by many." Good-Mind watched at the grave of his mother and watered the earth above it until the grass grew. He continued to watch until he saw strange buds coming out of the ground.
Where the feet were the earth sprouted with a plant that became the stringed-potato, where her fingers lay sprang the beans, where her abdomen lay sprang the squash, where her breasts lay sprang the corn plant, and from the spot above her forehead sprang the tobacco plant. Now the warty one was named Evil-Mind, and he neglected his mother's grave and spent his time tearing up the land and seeking to do evil.
When the grandmother saw the plants springing from the grave of her daughter and cared for by Good-Mind she was thankful and said, "By these things we shall hereafter live, and they shall be cooked in pots with fire, and the corn shall be your milk and sustain you. You shall make the corn grow in hills."
Then Sky-Woman took Good-Mind about the island and taught him how to grow plants and trees. Using this knowledge, he called all the useful trees of the world to him. With a jealous stomach the Evil-Mind followed behind and sought to destroy the good things but could not, so he spoke to the earth and said, "Briars come forth," and they came forth. Likewise he created poisonous plants and thorns upon bushes.
One day, Good-Mind went to seek his father. He endured my trials and hardships but finally found his father, the chieftain of the sky. His father blessed him and the taught his son many things. When Good-Mind decided to leave the company of his father, the chief gave Good-Mind several bags and offered a few last words of wisdom. In course of time Good-Mind went down the mountain and he waded the sea, taking with him the bags with which he had been presented. As he drew near the shore he became curious to know what was within, and he pinched one bag hoping to feel its contents. He felt a movement inside, which increased until it became violent. The bag began to roll about on his back until he could scarcely hold it, and a portion of the mouth of the bag slipped from his hand.
Immediately the things inside began to jump out and fall into the water with a great splash, and they were water animals of different kinds. The other bag began to roll around on his back, but he held on very tight, but it slipped and fell into the water, and many kinds of swimming creatures rushed forth.The fourth bag then began to roll about, but he held on until he reached the land when he threw it down, and out rushed all the good land animals, of kinds he did not know. From the bird bag had come good insects, and from the fish bag had also come little turtles and clams.
When Good-Mind came to his grandmother beneath the tree she asked what he had brought, for she heard music in the trees and saw creatures scampering about. Thereupon Good-Mind related what had happened, and Sky-Woman said, "We must now call all the animals and discover their names, and moreover we must so treat them that they will have fat."
So then she spoke, "Cavity be in the ground and be filled with oil." The pool of oil came, for Sky-Woman had the power of creating what she desired. Good-Mind then caught the animals one by one and brought them to his grandmother. She took a large furry animal and cast it into the pool and it swam very slowly across, licking up much oil. "This animal shall hereafter be known as bear, and you shall be very fat." And thus, the different animals of the world were created and named.
The Dawn and Dusk of Man is a Thinkquest Mythology Project by Sheila, Min, Ana and Tencia of Montgomery Blair High School.