Coming of the Hopi from the Under-World

[1]A long time ago the people were living below. There were a great many of them, but they were often quarreling with one another. Some of them were very much depraved. They abused the women and the maidens, and that led to very many contentions. So the chiefs, who were worried and angry over this, had a council and concluded that they would try to find another place to live. So they first sent out a bird named Mótsni, to find a place of exit from this world. He flew up high but was too weak and returned without having been successful. They then sent the Mocking-bird (Yáhpa). He was strong and flew up very high and found a place of exit. Returning, he reported this to the chiefs.

In the meanwhile the chiefs had caused a great flood. Many Bálölölkongwuus[2] came out of the ground with the water, and a great portion of the people were destroyed. When the Mocking-bird had made his report to the chiefs the latter said: 'All right, that is good. We are going away from here.' They then announced through the crier that in four days they would leave, and that the women should prepare some food, and after they had eaten on the fourth day they would all assemble at the place right under the opening which the Mocking-bird had found. This was done.

The chiefs then planted a pine-tree (calávi), sang around it, and by their singing made it to grow very fast. It grew up to the opening which the Yáhpa had found, and when the chiefs tried and shook it, they found that it was fairly strong, but not strong enough for many people to climb up on, especially its branches, which were very thin. So they planted another kind of pine (lö'oqö), sang around it, and made it also to grow up fast. This tree and its branches was much stronger than the other, but while the first one had grown through the opening, this one did not reach it entirely, its uppermost branches and twigs spreading out sideways before they reached the opening. Hereupon they planted in the same manner a reed (bákavi), which proved to be strong, and also grew through the opening like the calávi. Finally they planted a sunflower (áhkawau), and as it was moist where they planted it, it also grew up very fast and to a great size, its leaves also being very large; but the sunflower did not reach the opening. Its very large disk protruded downward before it reached the opening. The sunflower was covered with little thorns all over.

Now they were done with this.

Hereupon Spider Woman, Pöokónghoya, his brother Balö'ongawhoya, and the Mocking-bird that had found the opening, climbed up on the calávi in the order mentioned. After they had emerged through the opening, Pöokónghoya embraced the calávi, his brother the reed, both holding them firmly that they should not shake when the people were climbing up. The Mocking-bird sat close by and sang a great many songs, the songs that are still chanted at the Wúwûchim ceremony. Spider Woman was also sitting close by watching the proceedings. Now the people began to climb up, some on the calávi, others on the lö'oqö, still others on the ahkavu and on the bákavi. As soon as they emerged, the Mocking-bird assigned them their places and gave them their languages. To one he would say: 'You shall be a Hopi, and that language you shall speak.' To another: 'You shall be a Navaho, and you shall speak that language.' And to a third: 'You shall be an Apache, a Mohave, a Mexican,', etc., including the White Man. The language spoken in the underworld had been that of the following Pueblo Indians: Kawáhykaka, ákokavi, Kátihcha, Kótiyti; these four branches of the Pueblo Indians speaking essentially the same language.

In the under-world the people had been very bad, there being many sorcerers and dangerous people, just like there are in the villages to-day who are putting diseases into the people. Of these Pópwaktu, one also found his way out with the others. The people kept coming out, and before they were all out the songs of the Mocking-bird were exhausted. 'Hapí! pai shúlahti! Now! (my songs) are gone,' and at once the people who were still on the ladders commenced returning to the under-world, but a very great many had already come out, an equally large number having remained in the under-world, but the Kík-mongwi from below was with the others that came out of the kiva. The people who had emerged remained around the sípapu, as the opening was, and has ever since been called.

At this time no sun existed and it was dark everywhere. The half-grown son of the Kík-mongwi took sick and died, so they buried him. His father was very angry. 'Why has some Powáka come out with us?' he said. 'We thought we were living alone and wanted to get away from those dangerous men. That is the reason why we have come out, and now one has come with us.' Hereupon he called all the people together and said: 'On whose account have I lost my child? I am going to make a ball of this fine com-meal and throw it upward, and on whose head that ball alights, him I shall throw down again through the sípapu.' Hereupon he threw the ball upward to a great height, the people all standing and watching. When it came down it fell upon the head of some one and was shattered. 'Ishohí! so you are the one,' the chief said to him. But as it happened this was the chief's nephew (his younger sister's son).[3] 'My nephew, so you are núkpana (dangerous); why have you come out with us? We did not want any bad ones here, and now you have come with us. I am going to throw you back again.' So he grabbed him in order to throw him back. 'Wait,' he said, 'wait! am going to tell you something.' 'I am going to throw you back,' the chief replied. 'Wait,' his nephew said again, 'until I tell you some thing. You go there to the sípahpuni and you look down. There he is walking.' 'No, he is not,' the chief replied, 'I am not going to look down there, he is dead.' But he went and looked down and there he saw his boy running around with other children, still showing the signs of the head washing which the Hopi practice upon the dead immediately after death. 'Yes, it is true, it is true,' the chief said, 'truly there he is going about.' 'So do not throw me down there,' his nephew said, 'that is the way it will be. If any one dies he will go down there. Let me remain with you, I am going to tell you some more.' Then the chief consented and let his nephew remain.

It was still dark, and as there was no sunshine it was also cold, and the people began to look for fire and for wood, but as it was so dark, they could find very little wood. They thus lived there a while without fire, but all at once they saw a light in the distance and the chief said: 'Some one go there and see about it.' When they had still been in the lower world they had occasionally heard footsteps of some one up above. So some one went in search of the light, but before he had reached it he became tired and returned. Another was sent and he got there. He found a field in which corn, watermelons, beans, etc., were planted. All around this field a fire was burning, which was kept up by wood, and by which the ground was kept warm so that the plants could grow. The messenger found a very handsome man there. He had four strands of turquoise around his neck and very large turquoise ear pendants. In his face he had two black lines running from the upper part of his nose to his cheeks, and made with specular iron. By his side was standing his friend (a mask) which looked very ugly, with large open eye-holes and a large mouth. So it was Skeleton (Másauwuu) whom they had heard walking about from the other world. 'Who are you?' Skeleton asked the messenger. 'Where do you come from?' 'Yes,' he replied, 'we have come from below, and it is cold here. We are freezing and we have no fire.

'You go and tell your people and then you all come here to me.' So he returned and the people asked him: 'Now, what have you found out? Have you found anybody?' 'Yes,' he said, 'I have found somebody and he has a good crop there.' Skeleton had fed the messenger with some of his good things which he had there. The people had not brought much food with them from below and so they had not very much left. The people were very glad for this invitation and went to the place where Skeleton lived. But when they saw the small field they thought: 'Well, that will be gone in a very short time,' but Skeleton always planted and the food was never gone. When they came there they gathered some wood and built a fire and then they warmed themselves and were happy. Skeleton gave them roasting ears, and watermelons, melons, squashes, etc., and they ate and refreshed themselves. Some of the plants were very small yet, others still larger, so that they always had food.

So the people remained there, made fields, and they always kept up a fire near the fields, which warmed the ground so that they could raise a crop. When the crop had matured they gathered it all in, and when they now had provisions they planned to start off again, but there was still no sun, and it was cold. So they talked about this, saying: 'Now, it ought not remain this way.' So the chiefs all met in council with Skeleton, and talked this matter over in order to see whether they could not make a sun as they had had it in the underworld, but they did not just know how to do it. So they finally took a piece of dressed buffalo hide (hâkwávu), which they cut in a round shape, stretched it over a wooden ring, and then painted it with white dû'ma (kaoline). They then pulverized some black paint (tóho)[4] with which they drew a picture of the moon around the edge of this disk, sprinkling the center of the disk with the same black color. They then attached a stick to this disk. Hereupon they stretched a large piece of white native cloth (möchápu) on the floor and placed this disk on it. All these objects they had brought with them from the under-world.

They then selected some one (the story does not say whom) and directed him to stand on this moon symbol. Hereupon the chiefs took the cloth by it, corners, swung it back and forth, and then threw it upward, where it continued swiftly flying eastward into the sky. So the people sat and watched. All at once they noticed that it became light in the east. Something was burning there as they thought. The light became brighter and brighter, and something came up in the east. It rose higher and higher, and where the people were it became lighter and lighter. So now they could go about and they were happy. That turned out to be the moon, and though it was light, the light was only dim and the people , when working in the fields, would still occasionally cut off their plants because they could not see very distinctly, and it was still cold and the people were freezing, and they still had to keep the ground warm with fires. So. the people were thinking about it. The chiefs again met in council, and said: 'Ishohí! It is better already, it is light, but it is not quite good yet. it is still cold. Can we not make something better?' They concluded that perhaps the buffalo skin was not good, and that it was too cold, so they decided that this time they would take a piece of möchápu. They again cut out a round piece, stretched it over a ring, but this time painted it with oxide of copper (cákwa). They painted eyes and a mouth on the disk, and decorated the forehead of what this was to resemble in yellow, red, and other colors. They put a ring of corn-husks around it, which were worked in a zigzag fashion.[5] Around this they tied a táwahona, that is, a string of red horse-hair, finally thrusting a number of eagle-tail feathers into a corn-husk ring, fastened to the back of the disk. In fact, they prepared a sun symbol as it is still worn on the back of the flute players in the Flute ceremony. To the forehead of the face painted on the disk they tied an abalone shell. Finally the chief made nakwákwosis of the feathers of a small yellowish bird, called iráhoya, which resembles a fly-catcher, but has some red hair on top of the head.[6]

Of these nakwákwosis the chief tied one to the point of each eagle-tail feather on the sun symbol. They then placed this symbol on the white cloth again, again asked some one to stand on it, and, as in the case of the moon, they swung the cloth with its contents into the air, where it kept twirling upward and upward towards the east. Soon they again saw a light rise in the east. It became brighter and brighter and warmer. That proved to be the sun, and it had not come up very high when the Hopi already felt its warmth.[7] After the sun had been created and was rising day after day, the people were very happy, because it was now warm and very light, so that they could attend to their work very well. The children were running around and playing. They were now thinking of moving on. They had a great many provisions by this time, and so the chiefs again met in a council to talk the matter over. 'Let us move away from here,' the chiefs said; 'let us go eastward and see where the sun rises, but let us not go all together. Let some take one route, others another, and others still further south, and then we shall see who arrives at the place where the sun rises first. So the people started. The White People took a southern route, the Hopi a more northern, and between them traveled what are now the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Often certain parties would remain at certain places, sometimes for several years. They would build houses and plant.

Soon they became estranged from each other, and would begin to attack and kill one another. The Castilians were especially bad, and made wars on other people. When starting, the chiefs had agreed that as soon as one of the parties should reach the place where the sun rises, many stars would fall from the sky, and when that would happen all the traveling parties should remain and settle down where they would be at that time. The White People having taken a southern route, were more gifted than the other people. When they had become very tired carrying their children and their burdens, one of the women bathed herself and took the scales that she had rubbed off from her body and made horses of these scales. These horses they used after that for traveling, so that they could proceed very much faster. In consequence of this they arrived at the place where the sun rises before any of the other parties arrived there. And immediately many stars fell from the sky. 'Aha!' the people said who were still traveling; 'Some one has already arrived.' Hereupon they settled down where they were. It had also been agreed upon before the different parties started, that whenever those who did not reach the place where the sun rises should be molested by enemies, they should notify those who had arrived at the sunrise, and the latter, would then come and help them.


1. Told by Lomávântiwa (Shupaúlavi).

2. Great water serpent.

3. According to others it was a maiden.

4. These paints are still universally used in their ceremonies.

5. Lamávântiva says that the Hopi are very secretive about making this zigzag ring. They do not want any one to witness the manufacturing of this peculiar object.

6. The Hopi say that this red spot resembles fire, and hence the feathers of this bird are very much prized for prayer-offerings, whose object it is to produce warm weather.

7. Which is said to come partly from those small nakwákwosis and partly from the glittering shell which is said to also contain heat. As the shell glitters the light is said to proceed from the sun on account of that shell. The man that was thrown up with the sun is said to hold the sun in front of himself, but the rotation of the sun is caused by the Hurúing Wuhti of the east and the Hurúing Wuhti of the west who keep drawing and rotating the sun with a string. The man who was thrown up with the moon is also said to be still behind the moon, but instead of holding the moon in the center, as is the case of the sun, he still holds her by a stick that they attached to it when the moon was made. The increase and decrease of the moon is caused by a covering which is probably the piece of cloth in which the moon disk and the man were thrown into the sky at the time when the moon was created.

Source: Voth, H. R. "Coming of the Hopi from the Under-World". The Traditions of the Hopi (1905). Accessed 27 December 2002.

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