Skywoman

Author: fraise

Friday 15 July 2011, in Journal

I’m making the most of our four-day weekend, thanks to yesterday, the 14th, being France’s national holiday, and working as much as I can on my thesis. Overall, it’s on comparative creation myths (comparative meanings, not value – I’ve never been one to hierarchise much of anything, however I’ve always been interested in meaning). My favorite part is on Skywoman/Aataentsic (“All-Knowing Wise Woman / Ancestress / Mature Flowers”), a legend that has many versions among Iroquois-family tribes, as well as a version often known as “Strawberry Legend” among the Cherokee. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League/Confederacy) version is overviewed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization; a Seneca (Iroquois) Creation Story is available thanks to Archives Canada, and the Cherokee Nation has its version at The Beginning/Legend of the Strawberries. An excerpt from the latter:

The Creator found that his daughter laughed and sang too much; and she talked constantly. She asked too many questions. Why do the leaves of the Tree of Life shine? Who created the Upper World? Who named the plants? Creator still loved her, for this was his daughter, but this constant laughter and questions, what could he do? The Creator had told them many times to stay away from the Tree of Life and not to play around its trunk. But like all curious children she had to see why her father said these things. First Man would insist that she not go to the tree but every day First Woman would climb the tree to its highest limbs. One day she found a hole in the bottom of the trunk and started to go in. First Man was again insistent that she stay away from the tree but to no avail. She went in and fell out of the bottom of Ga-lun-la-ti.

Creator returned home to find First Woman was missing. He asked First Man “where is my daughter?” to which the young man replied “I told her not to go into the hole in the bottom of the tree, but she would not listen.” Creator did not know what to do as he peered over the side of Ga-lun-la-ti and saw his daughter falling toward the awesome ball of water.

There’s an excellent documentary on the Huron-Wendat (Wyandot, Iroquoian but not members of the Confederacy/League) available online thanks to the Canadian National Film Bureau, Kanata: Legacy of the Children of Aataentsic. If you understand French, the original is at Kanata : l’héritage des enfants d’Aataentsic. It includes an oral retelling of the Aataentsic/Skywoman myth, as well as further symbolism and its relation to their way of thinking, which I found heartening as well as interesting.

In a quirky turn of events, I actually did not know of the French-language Huron-Wendat versions before beginning my thesis… which is in French. I had been prepared to translate one of the English versions, and then discovered Aataentsic, “Celle de toute sagesse”.

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