Originally posted by wannabe
I've been reading a lot about the the southwestern Indian tribes, and their creation story piqued my interest. Apparently they came from an
"underworld", through something called a "sipapu", which is said to be located in the Grand Canyon.
Can anyone tell me anything more about this story? Is there any truth to it, and did these peoples emerge from a tunnel system in the Grand Canyon?
Has anyone been there?
I've read a lot of Hopi myth, and I'm pretty familiar with their creation story. It's a really good one.
To answer some of your questions/comments, first, they don't believe that they
came from an underworld
. The Hopi believe that all of
came through successive worlds until we got this one (and I don’t use the word “underworld,” as it has connotations for most Abrahamic
religions that it doesn’t really have for the Hopi).
The short version is this (and forgive me if I misspell some of the names): People once lived in the first world. Except, at that point, they were not
like people at all. They were really like insects. The first world was dark and crowded, and the inhabitants spent much of their time fighting with
each other. Some have suggested that it was a cave, deep within the earth. Whatever the case, to the Hopi, it was a world
, not just a cave.
Then, Tawa (or Dawa)—most probably the sun spirit, and creator of the first world—became disappointed with the insect-like creatures, because they
didn’t understand the meaning of life. So, he sent Gogyeng Sowuhti—a.k.a. Spider Grandmother—to prepare them for a journey.
They journeyed up into another world high above the first one (some would say another cave). In this world, they were transformed into animal-like
creatures, and were much happier. But, again, they did not understand the meaning of life, and eventually turned on each other again.
So again, Gogyeng Sowuhti told them to make ready, and brought them to the third world, far above the second. This world was brighter, and their
bodies changed again. Now they were people. They began to establish the trappings of civilization (planting, building, hunting).
Then, they were given the knowledge of fire by Maasawu, the owner of fire, the ruler of the upper world
, and the keeper of the land of the dead
(interesting, isn’t it, that the ruler of the UPPER world is the keeper of the land of the dead).
Anyway, the people had a new problem now, powakas (more or less sorcerers/witches). They worked evil, and the people didn’t know what to do. At a
great council, it was decided to try to leave the third world. The people had heard footsteps in the sky, so they decided to try to go where the
footsteps came from.
Long story short, they grew a tall plant, it reached through a doorway in the sky (called the sipapuni
, and the people climbed through to the
fourth world, leaving the evil powakas behind.
Of course, some powakas escaped into the fourth world too, which explains why there are evil people.
Is it a true story? Well, I don’t see why not. It’s as good a story as any other, and one could even take it as an interesting, “primitive”
understanding of evolution (that is, the transformation of bodies and growth of “understanding). Who am I to say if it is true or not. I rather like
the Hopi stories.
I don’t particularly think they came through a tunnel system. They are quite clear that it was a hole
. And, I see no reason to view the Hopi
people as stupid (although anyone familiar with their myth would have to wonder how many times a kikmongwi has to destroy his own village before they
stop gambling in the kivas). That said, if they wanted to say tunnel, I’m sure they knew what a tunnel was and would have just said tunnel. Instead,
they said doorway in the sky. Big difference to me. It’s almost suggestive of the hollow earth theories some folks love. Almost
As to whether the sipapuni is in the Grand Canyon, there are some who believe it exists still, covered in water as a disguise. I’m not 100% sure
where, because I’m at work and don’t have my books handy. But I would ask you this. Why do you want to know. Are you (like many others) interested
in trying to get a glimpse at the third world? If so, why? If you believe it exists, then you must believe we left it behind us for a reason. So, my
advice would be to remember the third world and why it was left. Don’t go searching for a way back in.
Finally, if you have any other questions about the Hopi emergence story or other Hopi myths/stories, I’ll do my best. I love their myth sets and
have read them a lot. I would strongly suggest you read them for yourself, though. Try The Fourth World of the Hopi
by Harold Courlander. It is
an excellent collection of Hopi stories, straight from Hopi people. And, if you’re really interested, you might compare it to the similar myth sets
of a nearby people, namely, Diné bahane`
, which is the Navajo creation story. You can find them both on Amazon for like $10 each. I have, and
it was great reading.
Keep the questions coming if you got ‘em.