Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": GOD AND THE FIVE WOMEN:

A MYTH OF THE ORIGIN OF EARTH, FIRE, WATER AND WOMAN, FROM THE THOMPSON INDIANS OF NORTH PACIFIC COAST


Old 0ne or Chief came down from the upper world on a cloud to the surface of the great lake or watery waste which was all that existed. The cloud rested on the lake. Old One pulled five hairs from his head and threw them down: they became five Perfectly formed young women. He asked each in turn what she wished to be.

The first replied, 'A woman to bear children. I shall be bad and foolish, and seek after my own pleasure. My descendants will fight, steal, kill, and commit adultery.' The Chief answered that he was sorry, for because of her choice death and trouble would come into the world.

The second replied, 'A woman to bear children. I shall be good and virtuous. My descendants will be wise, peaceful, honest, truthful, and chaste.' The Chief commended her, and said that her way would triumph in the end.

The third chose to become Earth. From her, Old One said, everything would grow, and to her would return at death.

The fourth chose to be Fire, in grass, trees, and all wood, for the good of man. The fifth became Water, to 'cleanse and make wise' the people. 'I will assist all things on earth to maintain life.'

Then the Chief transformed them: first Earth, then Water, then Fire. He placed the two women (good and bad) upon the earth, and impregnated them. He told them they would be the parents of all the people. The evil would be more numerous at first, but the good would prevail eventually, he promised. Then the end will come: all the dead and living will be gathered together, Earth, Fire, and Water will resume their original forms, and all will be transformed and made new.


Condensed and paraphrased from James A. Teit, Mythology of the Thompson Indians (Publications of the Jessup North Pacific Expedition, vol. 8, Pt. 2 322-4 d New York: Brill and Stechert.)

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