Tag Archives: creation

Andean creation myth

BACKGROUND: My informant, MP, was born in the US but as a child, MP traveled with her parents all over South America. The following piece is one myth she remembers from her time in the Andes — their creation myth. The story was passed down from her parents to her.

CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation I had with MP about the Andean creation myth.

MP: So it goes like, in the beginning, there was this god — I don’t know if you need the spelling — there was this god, Viracocha who created the Earth, which was totally dark and also giants lived there. The giants were really like, disrespectful of the god so he created a flood to destroy them and start over. This time he created a people in his image and sent a wise man to Earth to teach them how to live properly. He basically ended up creating [the city of] Cuzco. Anyways, when this was done, he eventually left.

THOUGHTS: This story, to me, is very structurally similar to the biblical creation story. In both stories, there is a God who exists by himself in darkness until he decides to create life. In both stories, the god creates life and, unsatisfied with the way they’re living, sends a flood to destroy them. Finally, both gods sent a spiritual representative (in this case it’s Viracochan, in the Bible it’s Christ) who essentially guides humanity towards the right path.

Zirahuen Lake Legend

Main Piece: Zirahuen Lake Legend


Full Piece – Transliteration (told in English by a Spanish Speaker)


“The Legend say that when the fall of Tecnochtitlan. Spaniards come and was a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, the captain wanted to have her for himself so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in the valley surrounded by mountains. The Princess Erendira cry day and night, and pray to her gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night Juriata and Jaratanga decide to help her; they turn her into a mermaid and her tears were so powerful that a lake was formed in the middle of the valley.


Villagers say that the mermaid is still living under the deep of the lake and sometimes she emerges to punish me of evil hearts.”




“The Legend says that when Tecnochtitlan fell, Spaniards came with a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, and the handsome captain wanted to have her all to himself, so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in a valley surrounded by mountains. Princess Erendira cried day and night, praying to the gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night, Juriata and Jaratanga, decided to help her. They transformed her into a mermaid and gave her tears so powerful that when she would cry she created a lake in the middle of the valley where she was held.


Villagers say that the mermaid is still living in the depths of the lake and will surface sometimes to punish mean of evil hearts.”




This story was told by my Mexican nanny, Mirna, of 18 years, and it is one of her favorite stories growing up as a kid. Her mother would tell it to her brothers and sisters as a sort of bedtime story, and to teach her sons what would happen if you were mean to a woman you loved. She likes this story because it gives her a feeling of empowerment as a woman, and likes to think that it gives her a voice in her head that she won’t take crap from anyone. Her grandmother passed on the story to her mother, who then passed it on to my nanny and her siblings.




My nanny is a native Spanish speaker, but she told me in English as to help me understand, and I did not get the chance to get the full Spanish telling. The origin of the story is from the Michoacán region of Mexico, where my nanny grew up and where her family still lives to this day. It tells of the formation of the lake nearby where they live, and is more of a creation story from the region.

I think of this as more of the kind of story that would be told around a campfire or to a child as they are being put to bed, because it has both a mythological part in the story of the gods helping out the princess, and also tells of why certain things came to be near their home and gives a reason that almost dictates their way of life.


My thoughts:


When I first heard the story, I thought it was a variation of the “La Llorona” story, where a similar event occurs in that a woman is distraught by her man and ends up living in a body of water. When I asked if this was a version of La Llorona, she began to explain that this was a local legend from where she grew up, and was a story explaining the creation of the lake near where she lived.

I don’t think this was the entire story, as it seems very short and not very detailed, but it still gets the point across as being a creation story.




For another version of this story, see:  The Leyend of Zirahuen’s Lake (http://ourcommunityblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/leyend-of-zirahuens-lake.html)

How the Islands were fished out of the ocean

Main Piece: Hawaiian Legend


“So the legend goes, Maui was out fishing with his brothers in a canoe one day, when he cast out a line. He had something big on the line, and told his brothers to row, and not look back, as it was a bad omen when fishing from a canoe to look behind you while rowing.

The brothers did not look back, and Maui continued reeling in his catch. Once he got it up, it became known that Maui had fished the Hawaiian Islands out of the sea.”




Danny told this story as a creation story of the Hawaiian Islands. Maui is a demigod in Hawaiian mythology, being the son of the two major deities in Hawaiian mythology. Danny likes this story because it is a creation story, and although untrue, gives the natives a good mythological explanation of how the Hawaiian Islands came to be that they can pass on as a part of their beliefs.

Danny likes this story because even though it is obviously not true, it is something almost every Hawaiian believes in, and all other people in the world will just disprove with science. He likes that it is a story dating back to the original inhabitants of the island, and gives him a sense of pride in his culture and where he comes from.




Danny told me this is a legend that would be told as a bedtime story. He does not remember the exact details but remembers the main story of it, but he does remember it as a prominent story from his childhood. He says his grandmother used to tell it to him and his siblings, and his mother would occasionally tell it as a bedtime story.

There aren’t many other contexts this story would be told in, other than possibly in a children’s book explaining how the islands came to be, or as a tour guides introduction to the history of the islands.


My Thoughts:


This story reminded me a lot of stories such as the Grand Canyon story where Paul Bunyun dragged his axe behind him as he was walking, and carved out the Grand Canyon, or a Native American story where the Kiowa’s came to earth through a log. Creation stories are generally too far-fetched to be true, but the general consensus of the people who live there is a small sliver of belief in the myth, but more so they serve as something to hold on to as a piece of their cultural heritage.




For another version of this story, see here: Maui (http://kms.kapalama.ksbe.edu/projects/ahupuaa/waianae/wan/wan12maui/index.html)

The Turtle and the Great Spirit

It goes something like this…

The Great Spirit wanted to create a world with animals and people, so he asked the Turtle to come up to the surface so he could build on the turtle’s back. But he wasn’t able to finish, so he just had the mountains and the valleys and the land created. So he went to sleep, and he dreamed of the animals and people crawling and walking and flying on and above the earth and he didn’t like what he saw in his dream… but when he woke up and discovered that his dream had populated the earth, it had turned out to be good…


How did you come across this folklore: “This is something I researched for a school project a while ago.”

Other information: “It’s a message to young children of the tribe—I don’t remember which tribe it is, maybe Abenaki? to pay attention to their dreams, because that is what created them.”

This is another example illustrating how the story within the constructed-truth of a myth doesn’t matter as much as the lessons embedded in, setting up some moral value for people, in this case, listening to dreams because a dream is how they originated.

Raweno and the Owl – Mohawk/Iroquois

As a Child growing up in a small prairie community, we were constantly reminded of the “special ” relationship that the “Indian,” now native Americas , now aboriginal people’s, now First Nations, had with nature as manifest by the great spirit. As a child in a rural Canadian environment I  had developed my own personal relationship with nature and was always curious of how or what the native/Indian/aboriginal folklore and experience was different than my own.  I made it a point to educate myself on their heritage, and was fortunate enough to hear a folk creation story from a man of Mohawk/Iroquois descent.  The Mohawks used to occupy parts of Ontario, where I am from, so I was very exposed to their culture growing up.

The story of Raweno is a Mohawk creation story that a native of my small prairie community told me.  Raweno was the Great Spirit who created everything: all of the plants, all of the animals.  While molding the animals, Raweno would take requests from the animals so that he could create them as they desired.  The molding and decision process was supposed to be a private interaction between Raweno and the animal being molded, but the owl insisted on watching and giving his input.  Raweno told him to stop interfering, and to leave Raweno to his work.  But the owl continued to give Raweno suggestions, as well as making constant requests for Raweno to change his physical appearance as he saw a wider variety of creatures being created.  Raweno became very angry at the owl’s constant interferences, so he took the owl and shook him until his eyes went wide in fear. He then gave the owl a short neck so that the owl could not stretch his neck to watch things he shouldn’t watch.  He continued by giving the owl big ears to ensure that he can listen to what he is told, and gave him dull colored feathers solely because the owl wanted to be an extravagant bird. And finally, because Raweno worked primarily in the day, he made the owl nocturnal so that he could no longer disrupt Raweno’s work.

It wasn’t until I had you and your brother that I found the book Owl Eyes by Frieda Gates.  She made the story more kid friendly, although there wasn’t anything necessarily kid un-friendly in the original story, and I wanted to share this story I was fortunate enough to hear with you two.  I never told you or your brother that the story I read to you was a native American myth, but now that you are older, I am confident that you can appreciate the heritage of a culture I was surrounded with as a child.

It’s funny how different native creation stories vary from those of the more modern religions.  In Christianity, for example, creation stories are very human-oriented, while the creation stories for native cultures are very animal-oriented.  My father used to tell my brother and I this story from Frieda Gates Owl Eyes, but he would re-phrase it to make my brother and I to make us laugh, like saying Raweno like “Raweenie,” and giving the owl a very high pitched, annoying voice.  He used to tell us this story every night before we went to bed, and I didn’t realize until later that he changed the words, I was always so focused on the pictures (and I couldn’t read).  I actually miss hearing the story every night, as it was a really good bonding experience for me, my father, and my brother.  One of my fondest memories is sharing that moment with them every night.

Gates, Frieda. Owl Eyes. New York City: Harper Collins, 1994. Print.