Manataka American Indian Council
ZUŅI STORIES V
Creation and the Origin of Corn
I once heard a Zuņi priest say: "Five things alone are
necessary to the sustenance and comfort of the 'dark ones' [Indians] among the
children of earth."
"The sun, who is the Father of all.
"The earth, who is the Mother of men.
"The water, who is the Grandfather.
"The fire, who is the Grandmother.
"Our brothers and sisters the Corn, and seeds of growing things."
This Indian philosopher explained himself somewhat after the following fashion: "Who among men and the creatures could live without the Sun-father? for his light brings day, warms and gladdens the Earth-mother with rain which flows forth in the water we drink and that causes the flesh of the Earth-mother to yield abundantly seeds, while these-are they not cooked by the brand of fire which warms us in winter?"
That he reasoned well, may be the better understood if we follow for a while the teachings which instructed his logic. These relate that:
First, there was sublime darkness, which vanished not until came the "Ancient Father of the Sun, revealing universal waters. These were, save him, all that were. The Sun-father thought to change the face of the waters and cause life to replace their desolation.
He rubbed the surface of his flesh, thus drawing forth yep'-na. [l]
The yep'-na he rolled into two balls. From his high and "ancient place among the spaces," (Te'-thlä-shi-na-kwin) he cast forth one of these balls and it fell upon the surface of the waters. There, as a drop of deer suet on hot broth, so this ball melted and spread far and wide like scum over the great waters, ever growing, until it sank into them.
Then the Sun-father cast forth the other ball, and it fell, spreading out and growing even larger than had the first, and dispelling so much of the waters that it rested upon the first. In time, the first became a great being--our Mother, the Earth; and the second became another great being--our Father, the Sky. Thus was divided the universal fluid into the "embracing waters of the World" below, and the "embracing waters of the Sky" above. Behold! this is why the Sky-father is blue as the ocean which is the home of the Earth-mother, blue even his flesh, as seem the far-away mountains--though they be the flesh of the Earth-mother.
Now while the Sky-father and the Earth-mother were together' the Earth-mother conceived in her ample wombs--which were the four great underworlds or caves-the first of men and creatures. Then the two entered into council that they might provide for the birth of their children.
"How shall it be?" said the one to the other. "How, when born forth, shall our children subsist, and who shall guide them?"
"Behold!" said the Sky-father. He spread his hand high and abroad with the hollow palm downward. Yellow grains like corn he stuck into all the lines and wrinkles of his palm and fingers. "Thus," said he, "shall I, as it were, hold my hand ever above thee and thy children, and the yellow grains shall represent so many shining points which shall guide and light these, our children, when the Sun-father is not nigh." Gaze on the sky at night-time! Is it not the palm of the Great Father, and are the stars not in many lines of his hand yet to be seen?
"Ah yes! " said the Earth-mother, "yet my tiny children may not wander over my lap and bosom without guidance, even in the light of the Sun-father; therefore, behold!"
She took a great terraced bowl into which she poured water; upon the water she spat, and whipping it rapidly with her fingers it was soon beaten into foam as froths the soap-weed, and the foam rose high up around the rim of the bowl. The Earth-mother blew the foam. Flake after flake broke off, and bursting, cast spray downward into the bowl.
"See," said she, "this bowl is, as it were, the world, the rim its farthest limits, and the foam-bounden terraces round about, my features, which they shall call mountains whereby they shall name countries and be guided from place to place, and whence white clouds shall rise, float away, and, bursting, shed spray, that my children may drink of the water of life, and from my substance add unto the flesh of their being. Thou has said thou wilt watch over them when the Sun-father is absent, but thou art the cold being; I am the warm. Therefore, at night, when thou watches, my children shall nestle in my bosom and find there warmth, strength and length of life from one day light to another."
Is not the bowl the emblem of the Earth, our mother? for from it we draw both food and drink, as a babe draws nourishment from the breast of its mother, and round, as is the rim of a bowl, so is the horizon, terraced with mountains, whence rise the clouds. Is not woman the warm, man the cold being? For while woman sits shivering as she cooks by the fire in the house-room, man goes forth little heeding the storms of winter, to hunt the feed and gather pine-faggots.
Yet alas! men and the creatures remained bounden in the lowermost womb of the Earth-mother, for she and the Sky-father feared to deliver them as a mother fears for the fate of her first offspring.
Then the Ancient Sun pitied the children of Earth. That they might speedily see his light, he cast a glance upon a foam cap floating abroad on the great waters. Forthwith the foam cap became instilled with life, and bore twin children, brothers one to the other, older and younger, for one was born before the other. To these he gave the k?ia'-al-lan, or "water-shield," that on it they might fly over the waters as the clouds--from which it was spun and woven--float over the ocean; that they might blind with its mists the sight of the enemy as the clouds darken the earth with rain-drops.
He gave them for their bow, the rainbow, that with it they might clear men's trails of enemies, as the rain-bow clears away the storm-shadows; and for their arrows gave he them the thunder-bolts, that they might rive open the mountains, as the lightning cleaves asunder the pine trees; and then he sent them abroad to deliver, guide and protect the children of earth and the Sky-father. With their bow they lifted from his embraces the Sky-father from the bosom of the Earth-mother, "for," said they, "if he remain near, his cold will cause men to be stunted and stooped with shivering and to grovel in the earth," as stunted trees in the mountains delve under the snow to hide from the cold of the Sky-father. With their thunder-bolts they broke open the mountain which gave entrance to the cave-wombs of the Earth-mother, and upon their water-shields they descended into the lowermost of the caves, where dwelt the children of earth--men and all creatures.
Alas! It was dark as had been the world before the coming
of the Sun, and the brothers found men and the beings sadly bewailing their lot.
When one moved it was but to jostle another, whose complaints wearied the ears
of yet others; hence the brothers called a council of the priest-chiefs--even
ere the coming forth of men such lived--and they made a ladder of tall canes
which they placed against the roof of the cavern. Up this rushed the children of
earth. Some, climbing out before of their own wills, found deliverance from the
caves above and, wandering away, became the ancestors of nations unknown to us;
but our fathers followed in the footsteps of the older and younger brothers.
Does not the cane grow jointed to-day, showing thus the notches which men
traversed to day-light?
In the second cave all was still dark, but like starlight through cloud rifts, through the cleft above showed the twilight. After a time the people murmured again, until the two delivered them into the third world where they found light like that of early dawn. Again they grew discontented, again were guided upward, this time into the open light of the Sun--which was the light of this world. But some remained behind, not escaping until afterward; and these were the fathers of the Western nations whom our ancients knew not.
Then indeed for a time the people complained bitterly, for it was then that they first saw the light of the Sun-father, which, in its brilliancy, smote them so that they fell grasping their eye-balls and moaning. But when they became used to the light they looked around in joy and wonderment; yet they saw that the earth seemed but small, for everywhere rolled about the great misty waters.
The two brothers spread open the limbs of the Earth-mother, and cleft the western mountains with their shafts of lightning and the waters flowed down and away from the bosom of the Earth-mother, cutting great caņons and valleys which remain to this day. Thus was widened the land, yet the earth remained damp. Then they guided the people eastward.
Already before men came forth from the lower worlds with the priest-chiefs, there were many gods and strange beings. The gods gave to the priests many treasures and instructions, but the people knew not yet the meaning of either. Thus were first taught our ancients incantations, rituals and sacred talks (prayer), each band of them according to its usefulness. These bands were the "Priesthood"--Shi'-wa-na-kwe; the "Hunter-band"--Sa'-ni-a-k?ia-kwe; the "Knife-band"--A'tchi-a-k?ia-kwe or Warrior, and the Ne'-we-kwe, or Band of Wise Medicine Men. The leaders of each band thus came to have wonderful knowledge and power--even as that of the gods! They summoned a great council of their children--for they were called the 'Fathers of the People'--and asked them to choose such things as they would have for special ownership or use. Some chose the macaw, the eagle, or the turkey; others chose the deer, bear, or coyote; others the seeds of earth, or a'-tâ-a, the spring vine, tobacco, and the plants of medicine, the yellow-wood and many other things.
Thus it came about that they and their brothers and
sisters and their children, even unto the present day, were named after the
things they chose in the days when all was new, and thus was divided our nation
into many clans, or gentes (A'-no-ti-we) of brothers and sisters who may not
marry one another but from one to the other. To some of the elders of these
bands and clans was given some thing which should be, above all other things,
precious. For instance, the clans of the Bear and Crane were given the
Mu'-et-ton-ne, or medicine seed of hail and snow. For does not the bear go into
his den, and appears not the crane when come storms of hail and snow?
When more than one clan possessed one of these magic medicines they formed a secret society--like the first four--for its keeping and use. Thus the Bear and Crane peoples became the "Holders of the Wand"--who bring the snow of winter and are potent to cure the diseases which come with them. In time they let into their secret council others, whom they had cured, that the precious secrets of their band might not be wasted. Thus it was that one after another were formed the rest of our medicine bands, who were and are called the finishers of men's trails, because, despite disease and evil, they guard and lengthen our lives; but in the "days of the new" there were only four bands. 
To the Eagle, Deer and Coyote peoples was given the Nal'-e-ton, or "Deer Medicine Seed," which the Hunter-band still guards; and to the Macaw, Sun and Frog peoples the Kia'-et-ton, or the "Medicine Seed of Water," which the priesthood and the Sacred Dance, or Kâ'-kâ, still hold-without the administration of which the world would dry up and even the insects of the mountains and hollows of earth grow thirsty and perish. Yet, not less precious was the gift to the "Seed-people," or Ta'-a-kwe. This was the Tchu'-et-ton, or the "Medicine Seed of Corn"--for from this came the parents of flesh and beauty, the solace of hunger, the emblems of birth, mortal life, death and immortality. To the Badger people was given the knowledge of Fire, for in the roots of all trees, great and little--which the badger best knows how to find--dwells the essence of fire. 
To all of these peoples it was told that they should wander for many generations toward the land whence the Sun brings the day-light (Eastward) until at last they would reach the "middle of the world," where their children should dwell forever over the heart of our Earth-mother until their days should be numbered and the light of Zuņi grow dark.
Toward this unknown country the "twin brothers of light" guided them. In those times a day meant a year, and a night another, so that four days and nights meant eight years. Many days the people wandered eastward, slaying game for their flesh-food, gathering seeds from grasses and weeds for their bread-food, and binding rushes about their loins for their clothing; they knew not until afterward, the flesh of the cotton and yucca-mothers.
The earth was still damp. Dig a hole in a hill-side, quickly it filled with water. Drop a seed on the highest table-land and it without waiting shot forth green sprouts. So moist, indeed, was the soil, that even foot-prints of men and all creatures might be traced whithersoever they tended. The beings and strange creatures increased with men, and spread over the world. Many monsters lived, by whose ferocity men perished.
Then said the twin brothers: "Men, our children, are poorer than the beasts, their enemies; for each creature has a special gift of strength or sagacity, while to men has been given only the power of guessing. Nor would we that our children be web-footed like the beings that live over the waters and damp places."
Therefore, they sent all men and harmless beings to a place of security; then laid their water shield on the ground. Upon it they placed four thunder-bolts, one pointed north, another west, another south, and the other eastward. When all was ready they let fly the thunder-bolts. Instantly the world was covered with lurid fire and shaken with rolling thunders, as is a forest to-day burned and blasted where the lightning has fallen. Thus as the clay of vessels is burned to rock, and the mud of the hearth crackled and reddened by fire, so the earth was mottled and crackled and hardened where now we see mountains and masses of rock. Many of the great monsters and prey-beings were changed in a twinkling to enduring rock or shriveled into twisted idols which the hunter and priest-warrior know best how to prize.
Behold, their forms along every mountain side and ravine, and in the far western valleys and plains, still endure the tracks of the fathers of men and beings, the children of earth. Yet some of the beings of prey were spared, that the world might not become over-filled with life, and starvation follow, and that men might breathe of their spirits and be inspired with the hearts of warriors and hunters. Often the people rested from their wanderings, building great houses of stone which may even now be seen, until the Conch of the Gods sounded, which lashed the ocean to fury and beat the earth to trembling. 
Then the people started up, and
gathering the few things they could, again commenced their wanderings; yet often
those who slept or lingered were buried beneath their own walls, where yet their
bones may sometimes be found.
Marvelous both of good and evil were the works of the ancients. Alas! there came forth with others, those impregnated with the seed of sorcery. Their evil works caused discord among men, and, through fear and anger, men were divided from one another. Born before our ancients, had been other men, and these our fathers sometimes overtook and looked not peacefully upon them, but challenged them--though were they not their older brothers? It thus happened when our ancients came to their fourth resting place on their eastward journey, that which they named Shi-po-lo-lon-K?ai-a, or "The Place of Misty Waters," there already dwelt a clan of people called the A'-ta-a, or Seed People, and the seed clan of our ancients challenged them to know by what right they assumed the name and attributes of their own clan.
"Behold," said these
stranger-beings, "we have power with the gods above yours, yet can we not exert
it without your aid. Try, therefore, your own power first, then we will show you
ours." At last, after much wrangling, the Seed clan agreed to this, and set
apart eight days for prayer and sacred labors. First they worked together
cutting sticks, to which they bound the plumes of summer birds which fly in the
clouds or sail over the waters. "Therefore," thought our fathers, "why should
not their plumes waft our beseechings to the waters and clouds?" These plumes,
with prayers and offerings, they planted in the valleys, and there, also, they
placed their Tchu'-e-ton-ne. Lo! for eight days and nights it rained and there
were thick mists; and the waters from the mountains poured down bringing new
soil and spreading it over the valleys where the plumed sticks had been planted.
"See! " said the fathers of the seed clan, "water and new earth bring we by our
"It is well," replied the strangers, "yet life ye did not bring. Behold!" and they too set apart eight days, during which they danced and sang a beautiful dance and prayer song, and at the end of that time they took the people of the seed clan to the valleys. Behold, indeed! Mere the plumes had been planted and the tchu'-e-ton placed grew seven corn-plants, their tassels waving in the wind, their stalks laden with ripened grain.
"These," said the strangers, "are the severed flesh of seven maidens, our own sisters and children. The eldest sister's is the yellow corn; the next, the blue; the next, the red; the next, the white; the next, the speckled; the next, the black, and the last and youngest is the sweet-corn, for see! even ripe, she is soft like the young of the others. The first is of the North-land, yellow like the light of winter; the second is of the West, blue like the great world of waters; the third is of the South, red like the Land of Everlasting Summer; the fourth is of the East, white like the land whence the sun brings the daylight; the fifth is of the upper regions, many-colored as are the clouds of morning and evening, and the sixth is of the lower regions, black as are the caves whence came we, your older, and ye, our younger brothers."
indeed be we, each one to the other," said the people to the strangers, "and may
we not journey together seeking the middle of the world?" "Aye, we may," replied
the strangers, "and of the flesh of our maidens ye may eat, no more seeking the
seeds of the grasses and of your water we may drink, no more wondering whither
we shall find it; thus shall
each help the other to life and contentment. Ye shall pray and cut
prayer-plumes, we shall sing, and dance shall our maidens that all may be
delighted and that it may be for the best. But beware! no mortal must approach
the persons of our maidens."
Thenceforward, many of the A'-ta-a and the seed clan journeyed together, until at last the Sun, Macaw, and some other clans-people found the middle of the world; while others yet wandered in search of it, not for many generations to join their brothers, over the heart of the Earth-mother, which is Shi-wi-na-kwin, or the "Land of the Zuņis."
Day after day, season after season, year after year, the
people of the seed clan and the A'-ta-a, who were named together the Corn-clan,
or people, prepared, and their maidens danced the dance of the thla-he-kwe,
 or "Beautiful Corn Wands," until their children grew
weary and yearned for other amusements.
Sometimes the people saw over Thunder-mountain thick mists floating and lowering. At such times, near the Cave of the Rainbow, a beautiful halo would spring forth, amidst which the many-colored garments of the rainbow himself could be seen, and soft, sweet music, stranger than that of the whistling winds in a mountain of pines, floated fitfully down the valley. At last the priests and elders gathered in council and determined to send their two chief warriors (Priests of the Bow) to the cavern of the rainbow, that it might be determined what strange people made the sights and sounds. "Mayhap it will prove some new dancers, who will throw the light of their favor on our weary hearts and come to cheer us and delight our children."
Thus said they to the warriors when they were departing.
No sooner had the warriors reached the cave-entrance than the mists
enshrouded them and the music ceased. They entered and were received by a
splendid group of beings, bearing long brightly-painted flutes, amongst whom the
leader was Pai'-a-tu-ma, the father of the Ne'-we band, and the God of Dew.
"Enter, my children," said he, "and sit. We have commanded our dancers to cease and our players to draw breath from their flutes, that we might listen to your messages; for 'not for nothing does one stranger visit the house of another.'"
"True," replied the warriors. "Our fathers have sent us that we might greet you, and the light of your favor ask for our children. Day after day the maidens of the corn-people dance one dance which, from oft repeating, has grown un-delightful, and our fathers thought you might come to vary this dance with your own, for that you knew one we were taught by your music, which we sometimes heard."
"Aha! " replied Pai'-a-tu-ma, "it is well! We will follow; but not in the day-time-in the night-time we will follow. My children," said he, turning to the flute-players, "show to the strangers our custom."
The drum sounded fill it shook the cavern; the music shrieked and pealed in softly surging unison, as the wind does in a wooded caņon after the storm is distant, and the mists played over the medicine bowl around which the musicians were gathered, until the rainbow fluttered his bright garments among the painted flutes. Maidens filed out brandishing wands whence issued tiny clouds white as the down of eagles, and as the sounds died away between the songs the two warriors in silent wonder and admiration departed for their home.
When they returned to their fathers in Zuņi, they told what they had seen and heard. Forthwith the fathers (priest-chiefs and elders) prepared the dance of the corn-maidens. A great bower was placed in the court of the pueblo, whither went the mothers and priests of the Seed-clan. The priests of the Macaw, Sun and Water clans were there. A terrace of sacred meal was marked on the ground, an altar set up over its base, and along its middle were placed the E'-ta-e or Medicine Seeds of corn and water. Along the outer edges were planted the sticks of prayer, plumed with the feathers of summer birds, and down in front of the altar and terrace were set basket-bowls covered with sacred mantles made of the flesh of the Cotton-mother (Goddess of Cotton), whose down grows from the earth and floats in the skies (cotton and the clouds are one in the Zuņi mythology). By the side of each basket-bowl sat a mother of the clan, silent in prayer and meditation. To the right were the singers, to the left the corn maidens. Night was coming on. The dance began and a fire was built in front of the bower beyond where the maidens danced. More beautiful than all human maidens were those maidens of the corn, but as are human maidens, so were they, irresistibly beautiful.
As the night deepened, the sound of music and flutes was
heard up the river, and then followed the players of the rainbow-cave with their
sisters, led by the God of Dew. When the players entered and saw the maidens
their music ceased and they were impassioned. And when their turn came for
leading the dance, they played their softest strains over their medicine
terraced bowl of the world--whence arose the rainbow. The people were delighted,
but the corn maidens were sad; for no sooner had the dancing ceased a little
than the flute players sought their hands and persons. In vain the corn maidens
pleaded they were immortal virgins and the mothers of men! The flute players
continually renewed their suits 'till the next day, and into the night which
followed, while the dance went on. At last the people grew weary. The guardian
warrior-priests nodded, and no longer wakened them. Silently the corn maidens
stole up between the basket-trays and the sleeping people. There, passing their
hands over their persons they placed something under the mantles, vanishing
instantly as do the spirits of the dying, leaving only their flesh behind. Still
the people slept, and ere long even the flute-players and dancers ceased. When
the sun came out the people awoke. Then every one cried to the others "Where are
our maiden mothers, our daughters?" Yet not even the warriors knew; for only of
the flesh of the maidens (corn) could be found a little in the trays under the
mantles. Then the place was filled with moaning among the women and upbraidings
among the men, each blaming every other loudly until the priests cried out to
silence their wranglings, and called a council.
Then said they:
"Alas, we have laden our hearts with guilt, and sad thoughts have we prepared to weigh down our minds. We must send to seek the maidens, that they desert us not. Who shall undertake the journey?"
"Send for the eagle," it was said. The two
warrior-priests were commanded to go and seek him.
Be it known that while yet the earth was young her children, both men and the creatures, spoke as men alone now speak, any one with any other. This the aged among all nations agree in saying, and are not those who grow not foolish with great age the wisest of men? Their words we speak!
Therefore, when the two warriors climbed the mountain whereon the eagle dwelt, and found only his eaglets at home, the little birds were frightened and tried to hide themselves in the hole where the nest was built. But when the warriors came nearer they screamed: "Oh do not pull our feathers; wait 'till we are older and we will drop them for you."
"Hush," said the warriors, "we seek your father."
But just then the old eagle, with a frown on his eyebrow, rushed in and asked why the warriors were frightening his "pinfeathers."
"We came for you, our father. Listen. Our mothers, the beautiful corn maidens, have vanished, leaving no trace save of their flesh. We come to beseech that you shall seek them for us."
"Go before! " said the eagle, smoothing his feathers, which meant that he would follow. So the warriors returned.
Then the eagle launched forth into the sky, circling higher and higher up, until he was smaller than a thistle-down in a whirlwind. At last he flew lower, then into the bower of the dancers where the council awaited him.
"Ah, thou comest! " exclaimed the people.
"Yes," replied the eagle. "Neither a blue-bird nor a wood-rat can escape my eye," said he, snapping his beak, "unless they hide under rocks or bushes. Send for my younger brother; he flies nearer the ground than I do."
So the warriors went to seek the sparrow-hawk. They found him sitting on an ant hill, but when he saw them he would have flown away had they not called out that they had words for him and meant him no harm.
"What is it? " said he. "For if you have any snare-strings with you I'll be off."
"No, no! we wish you to go and hunt for our maidens--the corn maidens," said the warriors,--"your old brother, the eagle, cannot find them."
"Oh, that's it; well, go before--of course he can't find them! He climbs up to the clouds and thinks he can see under every tree and shadow as the Sun, who sees not with eyes, does."
The sparrow-hawk flew away to the north and the east and the west, looking behind every cliff and copsewood, but he found no trace of the maidens, and returned, declaring as he flew into the bower, "they can not be found. They are hiding more snugly than I ever knew a sparrow to hide," said he, ruffling his feathers and gripping the stick he settled on as though it were feathers and blood.
"Oh, alas! alas! our beautiful maidens! " cried the old women; "we shall never see them again!"
"Hold your feet with patience, there's old heavy nose out there; go and see if he can hunt for them. He knows well enough to find their flesh, however so little that may be," said an old priest, pointing to a crow who was scratching an ash-heap sidewise with his beak, trying to find something for a morning meal. So the warriors ran down and accosted him.
"O caw! " exclaimed the crow, probing a fresh place, I am too hungry to go flying around for you stingy fellows. Here I've been ever since perching-time, trying to get a mouthful; but you pick your bones and bowls too clean, be sure for that!"
"Come in, then, grandfather, and we'll give you a smoke and something to eat," said the two warriors.
"Caw, haw!" said the old crow, ruffling up his collar and opening his mouth wide enough to swallow his own head. "Go before!" and he followed them into the dance-court.
"Come in, sit and smoke," said the chief priest, handing the crow a cigarette. At once the old crow took the cigarette and drew such a big whiff into his throat that the smoke completely filled his feathers, and ever since then crows have been black all over, although before that time they had white shoulder-bands and very blue beaks, which made them look quite fine.
Then the crow suddenly espied an ear of corn under one of the mantles, for this was all the maidens had left; so he made for the corn and flew off with it, saying as he skipped over the houses, I guess this is all you'll see of the maidens for many a day," and ever since then crows have been so fond of corn that they steal even that which is buried. But bye and bye the old crow came back, saying that he had a "sharp eye for the flesh of the maidens, but be could not find any trace of the maidens themselves."
Then the people were very sad with thought, when they suddenly heard Pai'-a-tu-ma joking  along the streets as though the whole pueblo were listening to him. "Call him," cried the priests to the warriors, and the warriors ran out to summon Pai'-a-tu-ma.
Pai'-a-tu-ma sat down on a heap of refuse, saying he was about to make a breakfast of it. The warriors greeted him.
"Why and wherefore do you two cowards come not after me?" inquired Pai'-a-tu-ma.
"We do come for you."
"No, you do not."
"Yes, we do."
"Well! I won't go with you," said he, forthwith following them to the dance-court.
"My little children," said he, to the gray-haired priests and mothers, "good evening;"--it was not yet mid-day--"you are all very happy, I see."
"Thou comest," said the chief priest.
"I do not," replied Pai'-a-tu-ma.
"Father," said the chief priest, "we are very sad and we have sought you that we might ask the light of your wisdom.
"Ah, quite as I had supposed; I am very glad to find you all so happy. Being thus you do not need my advice. What may I not do for you?"
"We would that you seek for the corn-maidens, our mothers, whom we have offended, and who have exchanged themselves for nothing in our gaze."
"Oh, that's all, is it? The corn maidens are not lost, and if they were I would not go to seek them, and if I went to seek for them I could not find them, and if I found them I would not bring them, but I would tell them you 'did not wish to see them' and leave them where they are not--in the Land of Everlasting Summer, which is not their home. Ha! you have no prayer-plumes here, I observe," said he, picking up one each of the yellow, blue and white kinds, and starting out with the remark-- "I come."
With rapid strides he set forth toward the south. When he came to the mouth of the "Caņon of the Woods," whence blows the wind of summer in spring-time, he planted the yellow-plumed stick. Then he knelt to watch the eagle down, and presently the down moved gently toward the north, as though some one were breathing on it. Then he went yet farther, and planted the blue stick.
Again the eagle down moved. So he went on planting the sticks, until very far away he placed the last one. Now the eagle plume waved constantly toward the north.
"Aha!" said Pai'-a-tu-ma to himself, "It is the breath of the corn maidens, and thus shall it ever be, for when they breathe toward the northland, thither shall warmth, showers, fertility and health be wafted, and the summer birds shall chase the butterfly out of Summer-land and summer itself, with my own beads and treasures shall follow after." Then he journeyed on, no longer a dirty clown, but an aged, grand god, with a colored flute, flying softly and swiftly as the wind he sought for.
Soon he came to the
home of the maidens, whom he greeted, bidding them, as he waved his flute over
them, to follow him to the home of their children. The maidens arose, and each
taking a tray covered with embroidered cotton, followed him as he strode with
folded arms, swiftly before them.
At last they reached the home of our fathers. Then Pai'-a-tu-ma gravely spoke to the council.
"Behold, I have returned with the lost maidens, yet may they not remain or come again, for you have not loved their beautiful custom--the source of your lives--and men would seek to change the blessings of their flesh itself into suffering humanity were they to remain amongst you.
"As a mother of her own blood and being gives life to her offspring, so have these given of their own flesh to you. Once more their flesh they give to you, as it were their children. From the beginning of the new Sun each year, ye shall treasure their gift, during the moon of the sacred fire, during the moon of the snow-broken boughs, during the moon of the great sand-driving winds, during the moon of the lesser sand-driving winds, ye shall treasure their flesh. Then, in the new soil which the winter winds and water have brought, ye shall bury their flesh as ye bury the flesh of the dead, and as the flesh of the dead decays so shall their flesh decay, and as from the flesh of the dead springs the other being (the soul), so from their flesh shall spring new being, like to the first, yet in eight-fold plenitude. Of this shall ye eat and be bereft of hunger.
Behold these maidens, beautiful and perfect are they,
and as this, their flesh, is derived from them, so shall it confer on those whom
it feeds perfection of person and beauty, as of those whence it was derived." He
lifted the tray from the head of the maiden nearest him. She smiled and was seen
no more; yet when the people
opened the tray it was filled with yellow seed-corn. And so Pai'-a-tu-ma lifted the trays, each in turn, from the heads of the other maidens, and, as he did so, each faded from view. In the second tray the people found blue corn; in the third, red; in the fourth, white; in the fifth, variegated; and in the sixth, black. These they saved, and in the springtime they carefully planted the seeds in separate places. The breaths of the corn maidens blew rain-clouds from their homes in Summer-land, and when the rains had passed away green corn plants grew everywhere the grains had been planted.
And when the plants had grown tall and blossomed, they were laden with ears of corn, yellow, blue, red, white, speckled and black. Thus to this day grows the corn, always eight-fold more than is planted, and of six colors, which our women preserve separately during the moons of the sacred fire, snow-broken boughs, great sand-driving winds and lesser sand-driving winds.
It was Pai'-a-tu-ma who found the corn maidens and
brought them back. He took the trays from their heads and gave them to the
people; hence, when in winter, during the moon of the sacred fire, the priests
gather to bless the seed-corn for the coming year, the chief-priest of the
Ne'-we-kwe hands the trays of corn-seed into the estufa.
Ever since these days, the beautiful corn maidens have dwelt in the Land of Everlasting Summer. This we know. For does not their sweet-smelling breath come from that flowery country, bringing life to their children, the corn-plants? It is the south wind which we feel in spring-time.
Thus was born Tâ-a, or the "Seed of Seeds."
1. Or the "substance of living flesh." This is exemplified as well as may be by the little cylinders of cuticle and fatty-matter that may be rubbed from
the person after bathing. [F.H.C.]
2. It may be seen that the Zuņis have here their own way of accounting for their primitive social organization into Gentes and Phratries--organizations well nigh universal in the ancient world, as with the society of the early Greeks and Romans, and still prevalent amongst savage tribes of today.
3. In ancient times when desirous of making fire, and even today when kindling the sacred flame, the Zuņis produced and still produce, the first spark by drilling with a hard stick like an arrow-shaft into a dry piece of soft root. An arrow-shaft is now used by preference, as it is the emblem of lightning. [F.H.C.]
4. Doubtless this refers to the earthquake. Ruins may sometimes be found in the Southwest, buried like Pompeii beneath the ashes and lava of ancient eruptions, thus pointing either to a remote origin of the Pueblo or a recent cessation of volcanic action in New Mexico and Arizona. [F.H.C.]
5. Unexceptionably this is one of the most beautiful of the native ceremonials, and is one of the few sacred dances of the Zuņis in which women assume the leading part. it is still performed with untiring zeal, usually during each summer, although accompanied by exhausting fasts and abstinences from sleep. Curiously enough, it was observed and admirably, though too briefly described, by Coronado . . . nearly three hundred and fifty years
It was with this ceremonial that the delighted nation welcomed the water which my party brought in 1882 from the "Ocean of Sunrise." As I was then compelled to join the watch of the priests and elders, I had ample leisure during two sleepless days and nights to gather the above and following story from the song which celebrates the origin of the custom, but which both in length and poetic beauty far surpasses the limits and style of the present paper. [F.H.C.]
6. The Ne'-we-kwe, of whom the God of Dew, or Pai'-a-tu-ma, was the first Great Father, are a band of medicine priests belonging, as explained heretofore, to one of the most ancient organizations of the Zuņis. Their medical skill is supposed to be very great--in many cases--and their traditional wisdom is counted even greater. Yet they are clowns whose grotesque and quick-witted remarks amuse most public assemblies of the Pueblo holiday. One of their customs is to speak the opposite of their meaning; hence too, their assumptions of the clown's part at public ceremonials, when really their office and powers are to be reversed. Their grotesque costuming and face-painting are quite in keeping with their assumed characters, and would, were it possible, justify the belief that our own circus clowns were their lineal descendants or copyists. Often so like are human things, though geographically widely severed. [F.H.C.]
From "Zuņi Breadstuff," Millstone 9, no. 1 (1884): 1-3.
Submitted by Blue Panther Keeper of Stories.
EMAIL | HOME | INDEX | TRADING POST