Mythology Part IV - Goddesses and Tricksters

Goddesses and Tricksters - A look at American Indian myths

And now it’s time to look at a culture of which we mainly know about through American unfocused, old, and dirty cinematic lenses. 

 

 

With American Indians we don’t have gods anymore. We are now in the realm of spirits, and the one that preside over the other spirits (in most tribes) is the Great Spirit. “The Cheyenne call the Great Spirit Heammawihio; the Shawnee, Finisher; and the Algonquin, Gitche Manitou.” (American Indian Myths)

 

As you can see, the myths and names and stories are as many as American Indian cultures exist. And there are a lot of them. To continue with the creation myth, for example the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo peoples believe that the first humans came from an underworld that exists beneath the Earth. Hopi Pueblo then tell the story of two goddesses Hard Being Woman (Huruing Wuhti) and Spider Woman who were the Sun and who created the human beings and everything else.

 

One thing that they all have in common is the fact that all the myths are somehow connected to the landscape they live in. For example, in the Arctic cultures (Coastal Alaska, northern Canada and Greenland) feature Anguta as the supreme being, who created the entire world, sea and heavenly body, whereas his daughter, Sedna, created the living beings. (Mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas)

 

And just like Norse mythology have their trickster god, Loki, so do the Native Americans. Coyote is a rather famous trickster spirit among the western and shares many traits with the Raven, who is mainly found in Pacific Northwest and southeastern Alaska tribes, most of all the fact that they can bring both good and evil. Coyote, however, had a hand in the creation of the world, and was also responsible for sorrow and death.

 

More than sharing traits with Loki, he also shares some with Prometheus because in one myth Coyote steals fire from the creatures that were keeping it to themselves and gives it to humans. He is also depicted as a mediator between animals, humans, and other spirits. So, really, Coyote is a spirit that has layers upon layers, and not one prevails over the others. This, I believe, is what makes such a character interesting, and what could serve as inspiration for one of your own.

 

Then there are the Animal Totems that are specific to some tribes. They believe that throughout one’s life, a person is guided by a spirit animal, even though they also believe that more than one spirit animal will guide a person depending on the path they took or the tasks that they need to accomplish. More than that, this Animal Totem will be with them both in this world and in the spirit world, so that they will be guided after death, too. 

 

But there are much more about American Indian myths than what I’ve talked about so far, so I invite you to go more in depth into any one that piques your curiosity. This culture, along with the others, is so rich in characters and symbolism!

 

May the muse be with you!

Yet another blog where you could take inspiration from for the Mythology writing competition.

 

Thanks to DeeundDrang for authoring this awesome blog post :)

 

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