WYANDOT (HURON) CREATION MYTH
[THIS APPEARS TO REMEMBER THE TWO SEPARATE IMPACTS - EPG]
Recorded by W. E. Connelley, "Wyandot Folk-Lore," Twentieth Century Classics and School Readings, Topeka, Kansas, 1899, pp. 67 ff. Collected from various Wyandot informants at Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte reservation, Oklahoma, in the course of the last half century.
Passed on by C. M. Barbeau, "Huron and Wyandot Mythology With an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records", GEOLOGICAL SURVEY MEMOIR 80 I, No. 11, Anthropological Series, OTTAWA ,Government Printing Bureau, 1915, No. 1554 (page 303)
THE WOMAN WHO FELL FROM HEAVEN
The people lived in heaven. They were Wyandots. The Head Man's name was the Big Chief, or the Mighty Ruler. He had a very beautiful daughter.
She became sick. The medicine man came. She could not be cured by his "medicine."
He said, "Dig up the wild apple tree; what will cure her she can pluck from among its roots." This apple tree stood near the door of the Lodge of the Mighty Ruler.
The medicine man advised that while they were digging up the wild apple tree they should bring the young woman and lay her down upon the ground
under its branches, so that she might see down where the men were at work,* and the more quickly pluck away the "medicine" when it should be reached.
When they had dug there for awhile, the tree and the ground all about it suddenly sank down, fell through, and disappeared. The lap, or tree-top,
caught and carried down the young woman. Tree and woman disappeared, and the rent or broken world, and the rent earth was closed over both of them.
This point where the tree sank down through heaven is called in the Wyandot mythology, "the point of breaking through". In some versions of this account it is called the "Jumping-ofif Place"; for the woman is represented as jumping or springing from the sky. The same Wyandot term is used, Â«kough, in all versions.
Underneath, in the lower world, was only water the Great Water.
Two Swans were swimming about there. These Swans saw the young woman falling from heaven. Some accounts say that a mighty peal of thunder, the
first ever heard in these lower regions, broke over the waters, and startled all the Swimmers. On looking up, the Swans' beheld the woman standing in
the rent heavens, clad in flames of bright lightning. She was taller than the highest tree. Thus was she accompanied in her fall from heaven by Heh'-noh,
the Thunder God of the Wyandots.
One of the Swans said: "What shall we do with this Woman ?"
The other Swan replied: "We must receive her on our backs."
Then they threw their bodies together, side by side, and she fell upon them.
(Some versions say women were doing the digging; others use the word "people. W. E. Connelley.)
(The Wyandot word for swan is used in this place, but the description of the birds would teem to indicate gulls, or geese. They are described as "flat-backed birds," half-a-tree tall; i.e., very large W. E. Connelley.)
The Swan that had first spoken said: "What shall we do with this woman? We cannot forever bear her up.
To this question the other Swan replied: "We must call a Council of all the Swimmers and all the Water Tribes."
This they did. Each Animal came upon special invitation. The Big Turtle came by special invitation to preside over the Great Council.
Much discussion was had by the Great Council. But it seemed for a long time that the deliberations would be fruitless. No plan for the disposition of
the Woman could be agreed upon. When the Great Council was about to adjourn without coming to a conclusion, the Big Turtle said:
"If you can get a little of the Earth, which, with the Woman and the tree, fell down from heaven, I will hold it."
So the Animals took it by turns to try to get the Earth. They dived down into the deep where the tree had fallen. But they could get none of the
Earth, which, so the Wyandots claim, shone with a brilliant light to guide them. In this search many of the Animals were drowned, and came to the
When it seemed that none of the Earth could be obtained, the Toad volunteered to go down and try and see what success she might have. The Toad was gone a long time. The Great Council despaired of her coming back again. Finally she came up, with her mouth full of the Earth;
but she was dead when she reached the surface.
There was very little of the Earth, too little, it was supposed, and the Great Council was discouraged. But the Little Turtle urged that it be used.
She rubbed it carefully about the edges of the Big Turtle's shell, and from this small amount soon there was the Great Island upon the Big Turtle's back.
The Woman was removed from the backs of the Swans to the Great Island, which was, from that time, her home.
The Toad was the only Swimmer that could get the Earth. This is why the Toad has always been called Mah'-shooh-tah'-ah ”Our Grandmother”
by the Wyandots. The Toad is held in reverence by the Wyandots, and none of them will harm her, to this day.
THE GREAT ISLAND
The Island grew to be a Great Land, all of North America, which to the Wyandots was all the land of the earth. The Wyandot name for the Great
Island means, literally, "The land which stands up from the Great Water"; but it is correctly rendered "The Great Island." It rests yet on the back of
the Big Turtle. He stands deep down in the Great Water, in which the Swans were swimming when they saw the Woman fall from heaven. Sometimes
he becomes weary of remaining so long in one position. Then he shifts his weight and moves (changes) his feet. And then the Great Island trembles,
and the Wyandots cry out, "He moves the earth! He moves the earth!" Thus does the Wyandot account for the earthquake.
THE LITTLE TURTLE IN THE SKY, OR
THE CREATION OF THE SUN, MOON, AND STARS.
When the Great Island was made on the Big Turtle's back there was no sun, and no moon, and no stars. The Woman could not see well by the "Snow
Light." A Great Council was called to see what should be done for a light for the Woman.
After a long time spent in deliberation to no purpose, the Council was about to disperse and let the world continue in darkness. And now the Little
Turtle said: "Let me go up to the sky; I will put a light there for the Woman."
It was agreed that the Little Turtle might go into the sky. A great Cloud was called by the Council. The Cloud was full of Thunder and Lightning.
It rolled over the Great Water. When it came where the Council was in session, it was seen to be full of bushes, trees, streams, lakes, and ponds. The
Little Turtle got into these streams and was soon carried into the sky, which the Wyandots believed to be solid, and much like the earth at the present time.
Here the Little Turtle took some of the Lightning and kindled a great flame, which stood still in the sky. But it did not light all the Great Island, while
in that part of it where the Woman lived the heat was intolerable. The Sun as made by the Little Turtle was not satisfactory. Another
Council was called. The Little Turtle came in the Cloud. At this Council it was determined to give the Sun life and a spirit, so that it could "run about
the sky." The Mud Turtle was directed to dig a hole clear through the earth (the Great Island) so that the Sun could go through the sky by day, and
then, through the hole in the earth, back to the east by night. This the Mud Turtle successfully did. But it seems that the Sun often loitered in this
subterranean passage-way, and remained there for long periods. The world was left in total darkness at these times.
It was resolved to call a third Great Council to deliberate upon the matter, and to chide the Sun. To this third Council came the Sun, the Little Turtle, and the other Animals. The Council decreed that the Little Turtle should make the Sun a wife, and that she should shine while he was going back to the east through the subterranean passage-way made by the Mud Turtle. The Little Turtle made the Moon for a wife for the Sun. Many children were born to them, and
these are the Stars that "run about the sky," as the Wyandots call the stars that move like the sun and moon.
After a time the Sun was displeased with his wife, the Moon. He drew her into the subterranean passage-way, and would have destroyed her there if the Little Turtle had not come and rescued her. [The Sun] robbed her of all her heat and much of her light, and so maimed her that she could not keep pace with him in the sky.
The New Moon represents all that was left of the Sun's wife when the Little Turtle rescued her from her husband's wrath. The Little Turtle cured her to that degree that she regained gradually her original form; when, however, she had attained this, she immediately sickened from grief because of her husband's inattention and neglect, and pined away, diminishing daily until she altogether disappeared. When next seen she was again of the same size and form as when rescued by the Little Turtle; then she increased gradually, animated with the hope that when she had reached her former fullness she could recover her husband's favour. Failing in this, she again wasted away; and this has been repeated over and over to this day; and it always will be until the end of time.
To assist her in lighting the earth at night the Little Turtle made many lights and fastened them to the sky; these are the fixed stars that have no course, and which do not "run about the sky." Sometimes they fall off the sky; thus does the Wyandot account for the meteors or "shooting stars."
From her labours in the heavens and the important functions which the Little Turtle exercised, she was called Wah-trohn'-yoh-noh'-neh, "The Keeper of the Heavens," or "She who takes care of the Sky." This is still a name for women in the Little Turtle Clan of the Wyandots, and perhaps the oldest name belonging to this Clan. Mrs. Nancy Stannard, on the Wyandot Reservation, Indian Territory, is of the Little Turtle Clan, and is so named.
THE WYANDOTS BELIEVE THE COMET IS THE CLOUD IN WHICH THE LITTLE TURTLE WENT UP TO THE SKY, BURNISHED AND BRIGHTENED BY THE LITTLE TURTLE WITH RAYS TAKEN FROM THE MIDDAY SUN. IN THIS SHE RIDES THROUGH THE HEAVENS TO PERFORM HER DUTIES. ABOUT 1882 THERE WAS A LARGE COMET, VISIBLE IN KANSAS CITY, KANSAS. IT COULD BE SEEN ONLY IN THE EARLY MORNING. ON MY WAY TO MY OFFICE VERY EARLY ONE MORNING, LATE IN THE FALL, I MET MATTHIAS SPLITLOG. FROM WHERE WE STOOD WE HAD A SPLENDID VIEW OF THE COMET. "SEE!" SAID MR. SPLITLOG, "THERE IS THE CHARIOT OF OUR GRANDMOTHER, THE LITTLE TURTLE." THEN HE TOLD ME WHY IT WAS SO CALLED.
THE TWINS BORN
[THE GOOD CREATOR AND THE BAD CREATOR]
The Great Island was the Woman's home. It was not then so large as it afterwards was made. The Woman went all about the Great Island. She was
very sad. But in her wanderings she found a Lodge, and living in it an old woman. She called the old woman Shooh"-tah'ah, "her Grandmother".
In the Wyandot mythology the point where the Lodge of the old woman stood is called by a Wyandot word which means "The place where the Woman that
fell from heaven met (or found) her Grandmother."
The Woman lived with her Grandmother. She is well now, her sickness having disappeared. To her were born the Two Children, The Brothers,
The Twins. Of these Children, one was Good, the other Bad. Their Grandfather, the Mighty Ruler, directed how the Twins should be named. The Good One was named Tseh'-stah, "Made of Fire", or the "Man who was made of Fire". The Bad One was named Tah'-weh-skah'-reh, "Made of Flint", or "The Man who was made of Flint".
THE GREAT ISLAND ENLARGED
The Twins grew to manhood after awhile. The Bad Creator did evil continually. The Good Creator was unwilling to resist his brother continuously,
although when he chose to do so he could overcome him.
That all cause for the actions of The Bad Creator might be removed, the brothers agreed to enlarge the Great Island. They successfully did this. The land in the East was the land of The Good Creator; that in the West belonged to The Bad Creator.
(Whether the modern opinion that the land was divided into Eastern and Western divisions is correct or not, we cannot now tell. The descriptions of the divisions would seem to indicate that they were in fact North and South divisions. I have followed what the Wyandots told me. W. E. Coonelley.)
THE MODIFICATION OF THE GREAT ISLAND
But the land was desolate, a solitude. Beside the Woman and the Two Brothers, only the Animals lived upon it.
When the Twins had finished enlarging the Great Island they made a further agreement to prepare it for the habitation of man, and other animals
than those first found here. Each brother was to go through his own land. He was to make his realm to conform in surface, animals, birds, streams, lakes,
plants, etc., to his own conceptions of utility and beauty. The works of each were to be subject to the modification of the other, but neither was to absolutely
change the character of any work of the other, nor was he to totally destroy it.
Each brother now went his way, and did that which was proper in his own eyes. They were engaged in this work for untold ages. When their
works were finished, they met again as they had agreed.
When The Bad Creator inspected the works of The Good Creator he believed they were much too good. Accordingly, he diminished their good qualities
to the utmost of his power.
The animals, birds, and fishes good for food are the gifts of Thew Good Creator. They, and all other animals, were made gentle, harmless. Tooth nor claw
was ever made to be turned upon the Wyandot; no animal thirsted for his blood. In lieu of their gentle natures, The Bad Creator made them to
have wild and fierce dispositions. He frightened them until they fled from the light of day and only left their lairs at night.
The gentle undulations of the park-like woods were changed to rough hills and endless mountain ranges; and rocks, thorns, bushes, briers, and brambles were scattered broadcast to plague the peoples. He sprinkled his own blood over the land and each drop of it made a ragged flint-stone which lay in wait to rend and cut the peoples' feet.
Water would not drown, but The Bad Creator gave it an evil spirit to make it take the life of the people. Evil spirits were placed at many waterfalls to drag down and destroy Wyandots. The maple tree furnished a pure syrup, but The Bad Creator poured water over the tree and reduced its sweetness to what we find it at this day.
THe Good Creator made the corn plant. It grew without cultivation, and a hundred ears were found upon a single stalk. The Bad Creator made it difficult to raise, and but a few ears were permitted to grow on one stalk. The bean-pod grew upon a tree, and was as long as a person's arm; it was filled with beans as large as the turkey's egg, and which were richer than bear's fat. The tree was dwarfed to a helpless vine, and the pod was so reduced that it was no longer than a persons'finger.
[Reversal of the Teays River? - epg]
But the wrath of The Bad Creator rose into fury when he beheld the rivers as made by The Good Creator. They were made with two currents, flowing in opposite directions, one by each bank, so that the Indian could go either up or down the streams without the labour of paddling his canoe. The Bad Creator thrust his big hand into the river and gave the waters a great swish or splash and mixed them, forcing both currents into only one, and this he made to run always in but one direction.
The Good Creator found the works of The Bad Creator much too large and very bad. Bare mountains of rock pierced the sky. Endless swamps and quagmires were spread abroad. Huge beasts, reptiles, birds, and insects were at every point to terrify and destroy the people. The North Wind stood guardian of the land, and with snows and bitter blasts swept this western world. ICICLES MILES ANA MILES IN LENGTH hung from the ragged cliffs. Myriads and millions of mosquitoes, each as large as the pheasant, swarmed up from the fetid marshes of the South. Nothing was Good, everything was Bad.
All the works of The Bad Creator were modified and their evil qualities reduced to the utmost degree to which he could go by The Good Creator. But whatever of evil there is in this world comes from The Bad Creator and his wicked works.
PEOPLE BROUGHT TO THE GREAT ISLAND
When the Animals went into the sky, the world was in despair. The Mountains shrieked and the Earth groaned continually. The rivers and the
Great Water rocked to and fro in their beds, and all the beasts cried aloud for their Mothers, the Animals. The Trees wept tears of blood and the Four
Winds rent one another in madness and wrath.
The Good Creator and The Bad Creator met to devise a plan to people the Great Island. The place where this meeting was held (it is called a Council,
in the Wyandot) is called the Point of Separation; for the Wyandots say it was held on the line separating the land of the Good Brother from the land
of the Bad One.
(The Wyandots came afterwards to believe that the Mississippi River was this line. The descriptions given by the Wyandots would
seem to point to Northern and Southern divisions instead of Eastern and Western. I have followed the Wyandots in this matter, although it seems
that they were in error as to what the ancient belief actually was upon this subject. WEC)
The agreement as finally made between the Twins provided that they should bring people to the Great Island from the land of the Mighty Ruler
in heaven. Each was to people his own land, and rule over it without interference from the other.
The Good Creator brought to his land Wyandots only.
The Bad Creator brought with him many kinds of people, some good and some bad. Some accounts say that the Brothers created these people
The people of each Brother multiplied. In time they became many peoples.
THE FIRST WAR, AND
THE FIRST WORKS OF THE GREAT ISLAND DESTROYED
The ancient compact between the brothers was continually violated by The Bad Creator and his people.
The result was a war between the brothers and their respective peoples.
This war lasted many ages. So fierce and devastating was it that all the works made by the brothers, in the beginning, was destroyed. The Good
Brother was so closely pressed by the Bad Brother that he made the Little People to assist him in his warfare against The Bad Creator and his people.
By their aid The Good Creator overcame his wicked brother and his followers.
The Good Creator pursued The Bad Creator when he fled into his own dominions. The former was armed with the horns of a deer; the latter with the flowering branch which he had torn from the wild apple tree, which fell down from heaven with his Mother.
When The Bad Creator entered his own land in his flight from his victorious brother, he was bleeding from many wounds inflicted by the horns of the deer in his brother's hands. Where this blood fell upon the ground it was congealed into flint-stones as sharp as knives, to hinder the pursuit of The Good Creator. But all his resources availed The Bad Creator nothing. He was beaten down to the earth and slain with the horns by The Good Creator, his brother.
THE RE-CREATION BY THE GOOD CREATOR OF THE WORKS OF THE GREAT ISLAND
THE WAR HAD DESOLATED THE GREAT ISLAND. THIS DESTRUCTION WAS CAUSED
BY THE USE OF FIRE BY THE GOOD CREATOR AND OF THE USE OF THE NORTH WIND BY THE BAD CREATOR. NO MEANS OF SUBSISTENCE WERE LEFT.
To preserve his people until he could re-create the destroyed works of the Great Island, The Good Creator built the Yooh'-wah-tah'-yoh, or great underground City or subterranean Dwelling, far to the north of Montreal's present site. [These may be igloos.-epg]
Into this he led his people, and then went forth to his work of reconstruction.
Here the people were in a torpid state, like turtles and toads and snakes in winter. They were lying about the [Underground] City in all positions, and they retained only a partial conscious ness. THE WOMAN WHO FELL DOWN FROM HEAVEN RULED OVER THEM WITH HER FIERY TORCH GIVEN BY HEH-NOH, THE THUNDER GOD.
In making these things anew, The Good Creator could only reproduce them as they were before their destruction in the war, and as they had been left by the
modifications of himself and The Bad Creator. This work required an immense length of time. After ages had elapsed, The Good Creator came back to the
Yoh'-wah-tah'-yoh. He said the work was done, and that it was yet too new for use. They could not go out until the Earth was ripened by the Sun.
From the point in the Yooh'-wah-tah'-yoh where the Wyandots were, a glimmering of light could be seen, and Tseh'-stah often went to this small
opening to observe the progress of the process of ripening which the world was undergoing. His uniform report when he returned from these inspections was
that the world was yet too new for use.
After the Wyandots had waited many ages here, the world was ready for their use again. One day in spring The Good Creator went forth from the Yooh'-
wah-tah'-yoh by the small opening. He looked about the whole of the Great Island. He saw it was indeed ready to receive the people for whom it had been
created, and for whom all the work of Nature cried out both day and night.
HE RETURNED TO THE YOOH'-WAH-TAH'-YOH WHERE SAT THE WOMAN WHO FELL DOWN FROM HEAVEN WITH HER TORCH OF FIRE GIVEN BY HEH'-NOH, THE THUNDER GOD. He announced to his Mother that the world cried aloud for her children. She said to him: "My son, lead them forth in the Order of Precedence and Encampment. They shall come to me on their journey to the land of the Little People."
[This is the south, as will be seen. epg]
THEN THE GOOD CREATOR CAUSED THE EARTH TO QUAKE AND TO ROCK TO ITS FOUNDATION HEH'-NOH SHOOK THE HEAVENS AND ROLLED OVER THE GREAT WATERS WITH HIS THUNDER. ALL THE SKY FLAMED WITH HIS FIERY DARTS. THE GREAT YOOH'-WAH-TAH'-YOH WAS RENT ASUNDER.
A nation stood marshalled to go forth. They marched to the waiting world. The hills, the waters, the beasts, the trees, the birds, and
the fishes cried out with welcome to the nation born of the earth in a day. They found the earth decked with flowers, and songs of joy poured out from
the forests filled with happy birds.
They found some of the people of The Bad Creator still living on the Great Island. (Their preservation is not accounted for. WEC)
Here ends the Song of the Creation, as sung by Captain Bull-Head and William Big-Town.
Usually people believe what they want to believe until reality intrudes.