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Umbriel is a character in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock. (Moon of Uranus.)

Creation Myths

Hopi Creation Story

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

The dominance of Spider Woman, the female creative principle, befits a culture that remains to this day matrilineal. 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.


In the beginning there was only one water and the water animals that lived in it.

Then a woman fell from a torn place in the sky. She was a divine woman, full of power. Two loons flying over the water saw her falling. They flew under her, close together, making a pillow for her to sit on.

The loons held her up and cried for help. They could be heard for a long way as they called for other animals to come.

The snapping turtle called all the other animals to aid in saving the divine woman's life.

The animals decided the woman needed earth to live on.

Turtle said, "Dive down in the water and bring up some earth."

So they did that, those animals. A beaver went down. A muskrat went down. Others stayed down too long, and they died.

Each time, Turtle looked inside their mouths when they came up, but there was no earth to be found.

Toad went under the water. He stayed too long, and he nearly died. But when Turtle looked inside Toad's mouth, he found a little earth. The woman took it and put it all around on Turtle's shell. That was the start of the earth.

Dry land grew until it formed a country, then another country, and all the earth.. To this day, Turtle holds up the earth.

Time passed, and the divine woman had twin boys. They were opposites, her sons. One was good, and one was bad. One was born as children are usually born, in a normal way. But the other one broke out of his mother's side, and she died.

When the divine woman was buried, all of the plants needed for life on earth sprang from the ground above her. From her head came the pumpkin vine. Maize came from her chest. Pole beans grew from her legs.

The divine woman's sons grew up. The evil one was Tawis-karong. The good one was Tijus-kaha. They were to prepare the earth so that humans could live on it. But they found they could not live together. And so they separated, with each one taking his own portion of the earth to prepare.

The bad brother, Tawis-karong, made monstrous animals, fierce and terrifying. He made wolves and bears, and snakes of giant size. He made mosquitoes huge, the size of wild turkeys. And he made an enormous toad. It drank up the fresh water that was on the earth. All of it.

The good brother, Tijus-kaha, made proper animals that were of use to human beings. He made the dove, and the mockingbird, and the partridge. And one day, the partridge flew toward the land of Tawis-karong.

"Why do you go there?" Tijus-kaha asked the partridge.

"I go because there is no water. And I hear there is some in your brother's land," said the partridge.

Tijus-kaha didn't believe the bird. So he followed, and finally he came to his evil brother's land. He saw all of the outlandish, giant animals his brother had made. Tijus-kaha didn't beat them down.

And then he saw the giant toad. He cut it open. Out came the earth's fresh water. Tijus-kaha didn't kill any [more] of his brother's creations. But he made them smaller, of normal size so that human beings could be leaders over them.

His mother's spirit came to Tijus-kaha in a dream. She warned him about his evil brother. And sure enough, one day, the two brothers had to come face to face. They decided they could not share the earth. They would have a duel to see who would be master of the world.

Each had to overcome the other with a single weapon. Tijus-kaha, the good, could only be killing if beaten to death with a bag full of corn or beans. The evil brother could be killed only by using the horn of a deer or other wild animal. then the brothers fixed the fighting ground where the battle would begin.

The first turn went to the evil brother, Tawis-karong. He pounded his brother with a bag of beans. He beat him until Tijus-kaha was nearly dead. But not quite. He got his strength back, and he chased Tawis-karong. Now it was his turn.

He beat his evil brother with a deer horn. Finally, Tijus-kaha took his brother's life away. But still the evil brother wasn't completely destroyed. "I have gone to the far west," he said. "All the races of men will follow me to the west when they die."

It is the belief of the Hurons to this day. When they die, their spirits go to the far west, where they will dwell forever.

In the Beginning: Creation Stories From Around the World by Virginia Hamilton


It is said that Raven made the world. He is a man with a raven's beak. When the waters forced the ground up from the deep Raven stabbed it with his beak and fixed it into place. This first land was just big enough for the house that was on it. There were three people in the house. This was a family with a man, his wife and their little son Raven who had fixed the land. The father had a bladder hanging over his bed. After much pleading by Raven the father allowed the boy to play with it. While playing Raven damaged the bladder and light appeared. The father not wanting to have light always shining took the bladder from the boy before he could damage it further. And that is how day and night started over the land.


In the beginning, heaven and earth were not divided. Then, from the ocean of chaos, a reed arose, and that was the eternal land ruler, Kunitokotatchi.

Then came the female God, Izanami, and the male, Izanagi. They stood on the floating bridge of heaven and stirred the ocean with a jewelled spear until it curdled, and so created the first island, Onokoro. They built a house on this island, with a central stone pillar that is the backbone of the world. Izanami walked one way around the pillar, and Izanagi walked the other. When they met face to face, they united in marriage.

Their first child was named Hiruko, but he did not thrive, so when he was three, they placed him in a reed boat and set him adrift, he became Ebisu, God of fishermen.

Then Izanami gave birth to the eight islands of Japan. And finally Izanami began to give birth to the Gods who would fashion and rule the world -- Gods of the sea and Gods of the land, Gods of wind and rain. But when Izanami gave birth to the God of fire, she was badly burned and died.

Izanagi was furious with the fire God and cut him into three pieces. Then he set out to search for Izanami. He went right down into the Land of Gloom looking for her. He called her, saying, "Come back, my love. The lands we are making are not yet finished!"

She came to him, saying, "You are too late. I have already eaten the food of this land, But I would like to return. Wait here for me, and I will ask permission from the spirits of the underworld. But do not try to look at me."

At length, Izanagi got tired of waiting, so he broke off a tooth from the comb he wore in his hair to use as a torch and followed her. When he found her, he saw that she was already rotting and maggots were swarming over her body. She was giving birth to the eight Gods of thunder.

Izanagi drew back, revolted. Izanami called after him, "Shame on you." She commanded the foul spirits of the Land of Gloom to slay him.

The spirits pursued Izanagi, but he managed to escape. He threw down his headdress and it turned into grapes, which the spirits stopped to eat. Then he threw down his comb, which turned into bamboo shoots, and once again the spirits stopped to eat.

By the time Izanagi reached the pass between the land of the dead and the land of the living, Izanami herself had nearly caught up with him. But Izanagi saw her coming and quickly blocked the pass with a huge boulder that it would take a thousand men to lift, so making a permanent barrier between life and death.

Standing on the other side of the boulder, Izanami shouted, "Every day I will kill a thousand people, and bring them to this land!"

Izanagi replied, "Every day I will cause one thousand five hundred babies to be born."

Then Izanagi left Izanami to rule the Land of Gloom, and returned to the land of the living.

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