Hopi mythology

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The Hopi maintain a complex religious and mythological tradition stretching back over centuries. However, it is difficult to definitively state what all Hopis as a group believe. Like the oral traditions of many other societies, Hopi mythology is not always told consistently and each Hopi mesa, or even each village, may have its own version of a particular story. But, "in essence the variants of the Hopi myth bear marked similarity to one another."[1] It is also not clear that those stories which are told to non-Hopis, such as anthropologists and ethnographers, represent genuine Hopi beliefs or are merely stories told to the curious while keeping safe the Hopi's more sacred doctrines. As folklorist Harold Courlander states, "there is a Hopi reticence about discussing matters that could be considered ritual secrets or religion-oriented traditions."[2] David Roberts continues that "the secrecy that lies at the heart of Puebloan [including Hopi] life...long predates European contact, forming an intrinsic feature of the culture."[3] In addition, the Hopis have always been willing to assimilate foreign ideas into their cosmology if they are proven effective for such practical necessities as bringing rain.[4] As such, the Hopi had at least some contact with Europeans beginning the 16th century, and some believe that European Christian traditions may have entered into Hopi cosmology at some point. Indeed, Spanish missions were built in several Hopi villages starting in 1629 and were in operation until the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. However, after the revolt, it was the Hopi alone of all the Pueblo tribes who kept the Spanish out of their villages permanently, and regular contact with whites did not begin again until nearly two centuries later. The Hopi mesas have therefore been seen as "relatively unacculturated" at least through the early twentieth century, and it may be posited that the European influence on the core themes of Hopi mythology was slight.[5]

Contents

Major deities

Most Hopi accounts of creation center around Tawa, the Sun Spirit. Tawa is the Creator, and it was he who formed the First World out of Tokpella, or Endless Space, as well as its original inhabitants.[6] It is still traditional for Hopi mothers to seek a blessing from the Sun for their newborn children.[7] However, other accounts have it that Tawa, or Taiowa, first created Sotuknang, whom he called his nephew. Taiowa then sent Sotuknang to create the nine universes according to his plan, and it was Sotuknang who created Spider Woman, or Spider Grandmother.[8] Spider Woman served as a messenger for the Creator and was an intercessorary between deity and the people. In some versions of the Hopi creation myth, it is she who creates all life under the direction of Sotuknang.[8] Yet other stories tell that life was created by Hard Being Woman of the West and Hard Being Woman of the East, while the Sun merely observed the process.[9][10]

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