Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": ZUNI GENESIS

THE CREATION AND EMERGENCE OF MAN


A myth from the Zuni Indians of New Mexico

Before the beginning of the new-making, Awonawilona (the Maker and container of All, the All-father Father), solely had being. There was nothing else whatsoever throughout the great space of the ages save everywhere black darkness in it, and everywhere void desolation
In the beginning of the new-made, 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 person 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 outdrawn from the surface of his person, the Sun-father formed the seed-stuff of twain 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 'Four-fold Containing Mother-earth,' and Apoyan Ta'chu, the 'All-covering Father-sky.'

The Genesis of Men and the Creatures:

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 Skyfather were 'hlimna (changeable), even as smoke in the wind; transmutable at thought, manifesting themselves in any form at wild, like as dancers may by mask-making.

Thus, as a man and woman, spake they, one to the other. '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 I' 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 downward 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 of soul-beings, and of the children, and shall hardened and broken be by the 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 Skyfather crouch low towards 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 I' 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 the 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.

Anon in the nethermost of the four cave-wombs of the world, the seed of men and the creatures took form and increased; even as within ,eggs in warm places worms speedily appear, which growing, presently burst their shells and become as may happen, birds, tadpoles or serpents, so did men and all creatures grow manifoldly and multiply "in many kinds. [But these are still imperfect beings: heaped and .crowded together in the darkness, they crawl over one another like reptiles, grumbling, lamenting, spitting, and using indecent and insulting language. A few among them try to escape, however. One above all, distinguished from all the others as the most intelligent is the all-sacred master, Poshaiyankya, who somehow participates in the divine condition. He emerges all alone into the light after having 'traversed all the four telluric cave-wombs one after another. He arrives on the surface of the Earth, which has the appearance of a vast island, wet and unstable; and he makes his way towards the Sun-father to implore him to deliver mankind and the creatures there below. The 'Sun then repeats the process of the creation, but this time it is creation of another order. The Sun wishes to produce intelligent, free and powerful beings. He again impregnates the foam of the Earth-mother, and from this foam twins are born. The Sun endows them with every kind of magical power and orders them to be the ancestors and lords of men.] Well instructed of the Sun-father, they lifted the Sky-father with their great cloud-bow into the vault of the high zenith, that the earth might become warm and thus fitter for their children, men and the creatures. Then along the trail of the sun-seeking Poshaiyankya they sped backward swiftly on their floating fog-shield, westward to the Mountain of Generation. With the magic knives of the thunderbolt they spread open the uncleft depths of the mountain, and still on 'their cloud-shield-even as a spider in her web descendeth-so descend they, unerringly, into the dark of the under-world. There they abode with men and the creatures, attending them, coming to know them, and becoming known of them as masters and fathers, thus seeking the ways for leading them forth.

The Birth and Delivery of Men and the Creatures:

Now there were growing things in the depths, like grasses and crawling vines. So now the Beloved Twain breathed on the stems of these grasses (growing tall, as grass is wont to do toward the light, under the opening they had cleft and whereby they had descended), causing them to increase vastly and rapidly by grasping and walking round and round them, twisting them upward until lo! they reach forth even into the light. And where successively they grasped the stems ridges were formed and thumb-marks whence sprang branching leaf-stems. Therewith the two formed a great ladder whereon men and the creatures might ascend to the second cave-floor, and thus not he violently ejected in after-time by the throes of the Earth-mother, and thereby be made demoniac and deformed. Up this ladder, into the second cave-world, men and the beings crowded, following closely the Two Little but Mighty Ones. Yet many fell back and, lost in the darkness, peopled the under-world, whence they were delivered in after-time amid terrible earth shakings, becoming the monsters and fearfully strange beings of olden time. Lo! in this second womb it was dark as is the night of a stormy season, but larger of space and higher than had been the first, because it was nearer the navel of the Earth-mother, hence named K'olin tebuli (the Umbilical-womb, or the Place of Gestation). Here again men and the beings increased, and the clamour of their complainings grew loud and beseeching. Again the Two, augmenting the growth of the great ladder, guided them upward, this time not all at once, but in successive bands to become in time the fathers of the six kinds of men (the yellow, the tawny grey, the red, the white, the mingled, and the black races), and with them the gods and creatures of them all. Yet this time also, as before, multitudes were lost or left behind. The third great cave-world, where unto men and the creatures had now ascended, being larger than the second and higher, was lighter, like a valley in starlight, and named Awisho tehuli-the Vaginal-womb, or the Place of Sex-generation or Gestation. For here the various peoples and beings began to multiply apart in kind one from another, and as the nations and tribes of men and the creatures thus waxed numerous as before, here, too, it became overfilled. As before, generations of nations now were led out successively (yet many lost, also as hitherto) into the next and last world-cave, Tepahaian tehuli, the Ultimate-uncoverable, or the Womb of Parturition.

Here it was light like the dawning, and men began to perceive and to learn variously according to their natures, wherefore the Twain taught them to seek first of all our Sun-father, who would, they said, reveal to them wisdom and knowledge of the ways of life-wherein also they were instructing them as we do little children. Yet like the other cave worlds, this too became, after long time, filled with progeny, and finally, at periods, the Two led forth the nations of men and the kinds of being, into this great upper world, which is called Tek'ohaian ulahnane, or the World of Disseminated Light and Knowledge or Seeing.


F, H. Cushing Outlines Of Zuni Creation Myths, in Thirteenth Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology (Washington D.C. 1896 pp. 325-447; Quotation from pp. 379-83)

Bibliography for this page:

Books by Mircea Eliade:

Myths of Creation and Origin | Main Menu | Keyword Search