Cherokee mythology

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This article concerns itself with the mythology of the Cherokee, Native Americans indigenous to the Appalachias, and today are enrolled in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation, and United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians.


Creation myth

The Cherokee creation myth describes the earth as a great floating island surrounded by seawater. It hangs from the sky by cords attached at the four cardinal points. The story tells that the first earth came to be when Dâyuni'sï (Beaver's Grandchild), the little Water beetle came from Gälûñ'lätï, the sky realm, to see what was below the water. He scurried over the surface of the water, but found no solid place to rest. He dived to the bottom of the water and brought up some soft mud. This mud expanded in every direction and became the earth. According to the account recorded in 1900 by the Bureau of American Ethnology, how the earth came to be fastened to the sky has been forgotten.

The other animals in Gälûñ'lätï were eager to come down to the new earth, and first birds were sent to see if the mud was dry. Buzzard was sent ahead to make preparations for the others, but the earth was still soft. When he grew tired, his wings dipped very low and brushed the soft mud, gouging mountains and valleys in the smooth surface, and the animals were forced to wait again. When it was finally dry they all came down. It was dark, so they took the sun and set it in a track to run east to west, at first setting it too low and the red crawfish was scorched. They elevated the sun several times in order to reduce its heat.

The story also tells how plants and animals acquired certain characteristics, and is related one of their medicine rituals. They all were told to stay awake for seven nights, but only a few animals such as owl and panther succeeded and they were given the power to see and prey upon the others at night. Only a few trees succeeded as well, cedar, pine, spruce and laurel, so the rest were forced to shed their leaves in the winter.

The first people were a brother and sister. Once the brother hit his sister with a fish and told her to multiply. Following this, she gave birth to a child every seven days and soon there were too many people, so women were then forced to have just one child every year.[2]


The Cherokee revered the Great Spirit, said by some sources to be called the Yowa but in the ancient legends simply referred to as "the Apportioner,"[citation needed] who presided over all things and created the Earth.

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