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An Approach to Traditional Stories

In indigenous cultures there's are always traditional stories and it is usually the Medicine men in the society that are keepers of those stories.

Shaking Tent  old image done in birchbark biting

Often the Medicine man is a person who heals people with medicinal herbs or gives advice and heals by teaching based on the traditional stories and traditional knowledge. Siberian people call the Medicine man Kam and in some places Sham. The origin of the name Shaman is related to the word Sham. There is many misuses of the word Shaman. Shaman should be used to define a Sham or a Kam. In the Great Lakes area in US and Canada there are different types of Medicine men, the Great Lake area versions of a Kam. One of them is a Tchissakiwinini whose work is based on the idea of communication with underworld spirits. Many people think of a Shaman being magician or a sorcerers as soon as they hear about the Shamans work being associated with communicating with spirits. That's true for places where there's a sorcerer or magician being called a Shaman.

In indigenous cultures in Turtle Island the Shamans in general use medicinal herbs to heal people. There is a number of Shamans who try to communicate with spirits. This practice dates very far back in time among indigenous people. It is commonly accepted that there are creatures like us but from another substance and different from us. In Arabic they are know as Jinn. In Algonquin languages they are called Manidoos. The Shamans that practice communicating with them have a tradition of doing that since before the Ice Age. According to the monotheistic religions of the Middle East, before Ice Age there was a time when people and Jinn, Manidoos, if we can say, could see each other. Then according to the scriptures Suleyman, Solomon, asked the Creator that people stop abusing Jinn, Manidoos if we can call them that. After that people could no longer see Jinn, Manidoos, if we can say, and communication with Jinn was very much reduced. To indigenous people Suleyman, Solomon, lived in a very distant place and they could have easely not heard any messages from Suleyman, Solomon, and have continued to practice communication with Jinn by calling them and having them enter people or designated places. The persons specializing in that were Shamans. They would ask Jinn, Manidoos, if we can say, where animals for hunting were, what the weather in distant locations was like etc. Obvious placing a Jinn, a Manidoo, at the level of a god is contradictory to a monotheistic belief. The debatable question is whether the Shaman associated with communicating with a Jinn, Manidoo, is simply communicating or placing the Jinn, Manidoo, in the position of a god. The Shamans in the Great Lakes area as well as all traditional aboriginals claim not to be worshiping Manidoos but rather One Creator only.

According to the monotheistic religions of the Middle East every human being has a companion Jinn, a Kareen. Followers of those religions explain that when the person dies that companion Jinn, Kareen, lives on and knows everything about the person he lived with. They say that a who may communicates with a Kareen and get information can about the deceased person from the Kareen and that the Kareen pretenders to be the deceased person.

Going to people and telling them not to talk to Jinn after they have been talking with Jinn for millennia is an interesting issue. In a Muslim country there were Muslims who had a zeal for Islam but didn't ever learn Islam well enough because they lived far away from Arabic countries. There was a grave in front of an old mosque at their location. Apparently they didn't know that graveyards should not be placed in front of mosques. A young man, who spent time in an Arabic country, came and told the Imam there, who was a very old man, that it's not permissible to pray towards a grave. The old Imam said: "Our Jamaa here has been praying like that for 600 years, and you come to tell us now." There are Shamans, Kam, who practice communication with Jinn, Manidoos, if we can say, since well before the Ice Age. It would be interesting to hear what they would say if a young man told them that after Suleyman, Solomon, using Jinn, Manidoos if we can say, stops.

Aside from communication with the Jinn, Manidoos, if we can call them that, in many indigenous cultures there are mythological supernatural beings. These beings are always associated with a natural phenomenon and they usually represent it. In the Great lakes region indigenous culture, rough waters are associated with a water panther with horns. Church missionaries and followers of the Bible consider this underwater, underworld, horned creature with a devil.

In the Great Lakes region as well as in many other indigenous cultures there is a Shaking Tent ceremony. During the Shaking Tent ceremony the Shaman, called Tchissakiwinini in Great lakes region culture, is tied inside a small tent , then untied and noises come from inside the tent and the surrounding area. The primary spirit that the Tchissakiwinini claims to be communicating with during thios ceremony is an underwater panther with horns and spikes on the back. According to people who read the Bible, the spirits that the Tchissakiwinini's work is based on communicating with, are horned devils. The traditionalist Shaking Tent ceremony practitioners associate the underwater panther with storms and waves on water and strong rapids. In their culture they are not considered evil but rather a part of nature. On this point, in all human cultures waves, rapids and currents are natural occurrences and not evil devils. Followers of the the Bible that join the Shaking Tent ceremonies call the underworld spirits devils which is a clear contradiction since the underworld spirits represent natural phenomena such as waves on water. To call a wave on the lake or river evil with the pretext that all evil should be eradicated, would be trying to eradicate a natural phenomenon that is an important part of the universe. In Islamic beliefs which are a part of the religions from the Middle East, just like the Bible based religions, it is forbidden to say anything negative about the wind and weather elements, including waves. Therefore not all religions from the Middle East support the Bible based concept of all underworld spirits being evil.

Regarding talking to Jinn, Manidoo, if we can say, in many Muslim countries, Arab countries in particular, many Muslims indulge in talking to persons who they believe have been possessed by a Jinn, a Manidoo if we can say. Does that make them sorcerers is debatable. Then when the Tchissakiwinini according to people's beliefs is talking to a sprit or Manidoo or Jinn, from the area with water, about the water conditions there, the question whether this is it an act of sorcery is debatable.

Besides practices of talking to Jinn, Manidoos, if we may say, there are people who are considered Shamans and who don't do any of that. Their teachings of tales about supernatural beings and supernatural events are symbolic interpretations or real things. The stories they teach are not taken literally; instead they are interpretational and made to get a point across. An underwater panther with spikes and horns is a symbol for rapids on a river. If a person who takes these stories literally hears about a water panther spirit, he/she will either try summoning a Manidoo of the river, or if he/she doesn't believe in Manidoos then would probably call a zoologist to try capture on camera a water panther. However if the person who hears that story, is a person who takes the stories according to the interpretational meaning that they carry, he/she will understand that it warns about sharp rocks and fast waters at a certain part of a waterway.

Many traditional stories talk about events that took place millennia ago and are a window into the past. Dismissing them as Shaman recipes for summoning Jinn, Manidoos, is a narrow way of looking at them. Likewise taking them literally and misunderstanding them is losing them. By loosing the traditional stories we might be loosing a window into the past and along with it the millennia old knowledge of plants and animals based on millennia of experience.

 

Beadwork  pattern of a map of a river way with water panthers

Besides practices of talking to Jinn, Manidoos, if we may say, there are people who are considered Shamans and who don't do any of that. Their teachings of tales about supernatural beings and supernatural events are symbolic interpretations or real things. The stories they teach are not taken literally; instead they are interpretational and made to get a point across. An underwater panther with spikes and horns is a symbol for rapids on a river. If a person who takes these stories literally hears about a water panther spirit, he/she will either try summoning a Manidoo of the river, or if he/she doesn't believe in Manidoos then would probably call a zoologist to try capture on camera a water panther. However if the person who hears that story, is a person who takes the stories according to the interpretational meaning that they carry, he/she will understand that it warns about sharp rocks and fast waters at a certain part of a waterway.

Many traditional stories talk about events that took place millennia ago and are a window into the past. Dismissing them as Shaman recipes for summoning Jinn, Manidoos, is a narrow way of looking at them. Likewise taking them literally and misunderstanding them is losing them. By loosing the traditional stories we might be loosing a window into the past and along with it, the millennia old knowledge of plants and animals, based on millennia of experience.

The Turtle Island Story

 

"Earth-diving after a great flood is a motif widely found in Native cultures in Turtle Island (North America) hence  the continent's name, as well as among indigenous Turkic people in Central and Western Siberia. After the last Ice Age vast bodies of ice were known to have melted into great rivers and lakes. These stories recollect that time period in human history. One such story is present in the Ojibway  (Anishinabek) culture as well as in Sibirga  and Buryat cultures in Siberia." MSM

Ojibway Creation Story

The selection presented here describes Nanabush's re-creation of earth, as presented in William Jones, Ojibwa Texts, I. (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1919. AMS. 1974 pp.274-78).
 

Myth is both immediate and timeless and demands that both its aspects be perceived simultaneously. It is rooted in a particular tradition and cultural setting but it speaks in structures and symbols which transcend barriers of culture, language, even time itself. The performance of myth reinforces this dual aspect. Each individual performance is immediate and contingent on the particular story telling situation. But the story lives through many generations using the story teller as its medium. Only the voice changes. Traditional Ojibway thought accounts for the immediacy and timelessness of myth by understanding that the aadisokan (sacred story) has an existence independent of the storyteller. The aadisokan is viewed as an autonomous being with the power to impress itself upon the Anishinaabe (the people).
 

This translation tells the particular Ojibway creation story; it is also about all creation. Michibizieu steals the wolf-nephew who hunts for Nanabush. When Nanabush retaliates by trying to {30} kill the underwater being, Michibizieu causes a flood. The flood is associated in many traditions with the re-creation of the world after one of the world's forces becomes so strong as to destroy the essential equilibrium. Here, Michibizieu has stolen Nanabush's source of food and his link to the instinctual knowledge of the animal world. In trying to recover what he lost, Nanabush inadvertently precipitates a flood so that he must make a new earth.
 

Nanabush reestablishes the link between himself and the animals by making them helpers in creation. He asks them to dive for earth and to discover the size of the new world. It is the fourth, the weakest diver, Muskrat, who is able to retrieve earth. In an Ojibway context the use of four divers has sacred significance symbolizing harmony and wholeness; the success of the most unlikely diver reflects the high respect of the Ojibway for each individual's ability to contribute in life. In an Ojibway context the breath which creates earth is also associated with sacred forms of breathing (blowing) in the Midewinini rites, foregrounded stylistically by the word kuniginin which is ancient and used only in myth-telling.
 

But what of the significance of this story today -- generations, in many cases a language and culture, removed? When Nanabush blows gently, his breath is also the breath of language. Words become stories and stories become whole new worlds. A young man of Cree parentage told me once that he saw in the act of diving for the earth a metaphor for reaching deep down inside yourself to find a tiny grain of sand. When you find it you bring it up and you see a world for yourself. To create meaning one must reach down inside and transform through the breath of creativity. To me, the real mystery is where the grain of sand came from in the first place, and that, I suggest, is the autonomy of the myth speaking to us.
{31}

 

In Ojibway tradition, Nanabush creates earth for people from a world which has always existed. This reflects a vision of this world in the great, ongoing cycles of nature. In Ojibway tradition, Nanabush, the trickster-transformer who is part man, part manidoo, also links the people and their gods to the animals. Nanabush needs the help of animals at first; then he defines the perimeters of the earth with his own creative breath. In this creation story it is an image of man with some manidoo power and some help from the animals who creates our present world out of the ancient earth.
 

If stories could be arranged in concentric circles, the creation story would be at the center. The initial act of creation is a prototype for every other subsequent creative act and reflects a culture's ideas about itself. The Ojibway creation story reflects a perception of the people as part of a greater natural cycle, linked to the old earth, the animals and the manidoo. It portrays the people, through Nanabush, as defining their own limits through acts of creativity.
 

The creative act, like storytelling, is limitless. In the ongoing movement of dynamic exchange between storyteller, text, and audience, the myth encourages us to a deeper understanding of our world. Consider now the first creation of Nanabush:

1. Taiya Nanabush! He was really afraid!
2. Oh! then he remembered Muskrat.
3. "Hey, you dive "
4. "Alright, I'll get wet."
5. "Ey! Muskrat, be careful."
6. Taiya Muskrat lifted his tail,
7. then kwack! It sounded like that.
8. Oh! Muskrat swam around,
9. soon he came in sight of trees and
10. he hadn't drowned yet...
11. then he got halfway down the trees and
{ 32}
12. on the bottom he went unconscious
13. but not before he had taken some earth in his mouth,
14. and some in his hands holding tight,
15. and some around his stiff poker.
16. All the while Nanabush was watching for him.
17. Taiya! he saw a ball of fur floating on the water
18. and he picked it up
19. and for no reason he opened up the hand.
20. Taiya he held earth clasped in his hand!
21. And again, in the other hand he held earth tight
22. and there on his poker he looked.
23. Still more earth!
24. and there down his throat was lots more.
25. And so Nanabush blew on him and again Muskrat lived.
26. Nanabush dried the earth,
27. "Now I will complete the earth."
28. Nanbush blew on it.
29. kuniginin, a little island floated there!
30. And already the manidoog came out of the water. He spoke to them,
31. "Slowly! later when earth is bigger you will come out!"
32. Again he blew, a great island floated there,
33. and then where he blew was much earth.
34. And more life stirred the manidoog.
35. Again he blew on the earth.
36. He spoke to the one of swift flight, Falcon,
37. "Let's go, fly around the earth, find out how large it is."
38. For some time he was gone,
39. then he arrived back and said,
40-41. "It is not so very large."
42. Again Nanabush breathed on it,
43. a long time he breathed on it,
44. again he spoke,
45. "Let's go, you, Raven, learn how large is the earth."
46. Sure enough Raven started out.
{33}

47. It is uncertain how many months Raven was gone.
48. Later he returned.
49-50. "I wasn't able to learn how large is the earth,
51. I ran out of earth."
52. So Nanabush spoke to Raven,
53. "So that you will be proud I will create you,
54. how would you be proud?"
55-56. "Make me as the blue sky on a clear day Nanabush."
57. So sure enough Nanabush touched him blue,
58. and this now is Raven,
59. created by Nanabush.

1. A'tawa Nanabucu! Misa gäga't sägisit.
2. Tiwä, ugimi 'kwäniman ini'u wajakwan.
3. "Taga', kin. Minotc, wajack, kogin."
4. "Anic, minotc mano kayä, nin niganisabawa."
5. "À'a, waja' ck, aiyangwamisin."
6. Ta, waj 'ck oso odopinan;
7. cayigwa, kwatcak! inwäwägamicinon.
8. A' ta ! waja 'ck pabima kwaciwät,
9. ningutingigu, utäbabamae mi'tigoe.
10. Kawin anawi a' pici a' kwanabawäsi.
11. Cigwa abi' tawatig mi'tigunk ododi'tan;
12. migu' cigwa' wan'äntank tagwicing iwiti a 'king
13. Äjikana kantank 'ie i' a 'ki'
14. kayä anint unintcink ugani 'kibi'ton.
15. mi. i.ma utcitca' 'kank äjitcanga' kuskanig 'ie i' uso kayä winaga'tig.
16. Mägwagu Nänbucu a'kawabamat,
17. ä'tiwä ningutingigu, undci a.bocka a gundcisäwan wäntcitogu kapikwa' 'kwataguntcininitigu.
18. Minotc odod'pinan Nänbucu.
19. Anica totank, uba'ka kimintcibinan.
20. Ä'tawa, a' ki ugikaska 'kunintcantamini.
21. Minawa acawinitc minasab, a' ki uduntcimi 'kamawan.
{34}
22. Ima udcitca'kayanink udici. a. ntawâbamawan,
23. käyabi a'ki umi' kwunamawän;
24. kayä iwiti pindcikuna 'nawatc nibiwa udontcimi'kamawan.
25. Misa äjibäbwadanat mi.i'minawa ka.i. jipimadisint.
26. Äcibasank 'iei'u a'ki,
27. Misa, 'iei'u kä'ga tcigici 'toyan 'iei'u a'ki.
28. Nänabucu äcibodatank,
29. kuniginin! minisäns ki a gwantäni.
30. Migu' aca wi'pimi a gwa 'tanit 'iei' manidowänca, ajikanowat,
31. "Bä'ka, pama nawatc, mis tcag agwa 'ta 'käg."
32. Minawa' ajipodadank, kis tciminis ki a.gwantäni.
33. Midac ima kis tciba 'taninantinink ka i jibotatank
34. misa cigwa pimadisiwaganimunit 'ie i' manitowänca.
35. Minawa madci'ta pabwatätank 'ie i' a'ki.
36. Ajiganonat, ini', kacisanit kä'kä' kwan.
37. Taga, kiwitasän o o a'ki amantc anigu'kwagan oo' aki.
38. Gägä 't ajimadcat kä'kä'k.
39. Kumagu kia'pi'tanti,
40. cigwa tagwicinon ajikanonigut.
41. Kawin a'pidci mi 'tasinon.
42. Minawa äcipodadank,
43. kabäy.i.taci'tababwädadank.
44. Minawa oganonan ini' kagakiwan:

45. "Taga, kin kagagi, wiki'kadan amantc äniku'kwägwan ie i' a'ki."
46. Kägä' t ajimadcat a'e a' kagagi.
47. Amantcitug tasugisis änäntit kagagi;
48. wi'ka tagwicin.
49. Cigwa tibatcimu:
50. Kawin ningimi' kä zin amantc äniku'k wagwän 'oe o' a'ki,
51. migu iu ka.i.cinontakiwäyan.
52. Nänabucu dac ajiganonat ini' kagagiwan:
53. Ambäsa, tcipiciganimoyan kiga i.ci.i.n
54. Anin i.i'u.i .cipicigänmoyan?
55. Nänabucu 'ie i'wä kimicakwa'k ka.i.cinagwa' k
{35} kiyocawacwag,
56. mi'iu ambägic ici.i.yan.
57. Misa' gagä't Nänbucu ki.o. cawaskunat.
58. Kagagidac ka.i.cinagusit mi.i' ini'u Nänabucowan.

-Kim Echlin, Toronto, Canada

A Vesion of the Lenni Lenape Creation Story

The Lenni Lenape people are from the valley of Delaware and their creation story apparently mentions the melting of glaciations at the end of the Ice Age.


1. At first, in that place, at all times, above the earth,

2. On the earth, [was] an extended fog, and there the great Manito was.

3. At first, forever, lost in space, everywhere, the great Manito was.

4. He made the extended land and the sky.

5. He made the sun, the moon, the stars.

6. He made them all to move evenly.

7. Then the wind blew violently, and it cleared, and the water flowed off far and strong.

8. And groups of islands grew newly, and there remained.

9. Anew spoke the great Manito, a manito to manitos,

10. To beings, mortals, souls and all,

11. And ever after he was a manito to men, and their grandfather

12. He gave the first mother, the mother of beings.

13. He gave the fish, he gave the turtles, he gave the beasts, he gave the birds.

14. But an evil Manito made evil beings only, monsters,

15. He made the flies, he made the gnats.

16. All beings were then friendly.

17. Truly the manitos were active and kindly

18. To those very first men, and to those first mothers, fetched them wives,

19. And fetched them food, when first they desired it.

20. All had cheerful knowledge, all had leisure, all thought in gladness.

21. But very secretly an evil being, a mighty magician, came on earth,

22. And with him brought badness, quarreling, unhappiness,

23. Brought bad weather, brought sickness, brought death.

24. All this took place of old on the earth, beyond the great tide-water, at the first.

Second Part

1. Long ago there was a mighty snake and beings evil to men.

2. This mighty snake hated those who were there (and) greatly disquieted those whom he hated.

3. They both did harm, they both injured each other, both were not in peace.

4. Driven from their homes they fought with this murderer.

5. The mighty snake firmly resolved to harm the men.

6. He brought three persons, he brought a monster, he brought a rushing water.

7. Between the hills the water rushed and rushed, dashing through and through, destroying much.

8. Nanabush (also called Manibozho or Michabo), the Strong White One, grandfather of beings, grandfather of men, was on the Turtle Island.

9. There he was walking and creating, as he passed by and created the turtle.

10. Beings and men all go forth, they walk in the floods and shallow waters, down stream thither to the Turtle Island.

11. There were many monster fishes, which ate some of them.

12. The Manito daughter, coming, helped with her canoe, helped all, as they came and came.

13. [And also] Nanabush, Nanabush, the grandfather of all, the grandfather of beings, the grandfather of men, the grandfather of the turtle.

14. The men then were together on the turtle, like to turtles.

15. Frightened on the turtle, they prayed on the turtle that what was spoiled should be restored.

16. The water ran off, the earth dried, the lakes were at rest, all was silent, and the mighty snake departed.

 

THE SHAMAN'S CREATION STORY

Narrated by Shaman Valentin Khagdaev

The first earth was lost in the depths of the primal ocean. The earth was under water. Then the Creator created the first bird and ordered it to dive to the bottom of the ocean. It dove, but came It dove, but came back empty twice. Finally, it extracted the earth and brought it back in its beak. From that earth the Creator created the big earth. But that big earth was again sinking into the depth of the primal ocean. Then he put the earth in his palms, took a pinch of clay from it, and created the second earth. He loaded that earth on a back of a turtle.

This earth was flat, there were no hills, no mountains. And the ocean was flat. All animals, all birds, all insects, and all plants were created. All birds, all animals, all insects, and all fish were all happy. And man was created the last. This man was the only one who was not happy. Everyone was content except this man.

They lived for a long time. Many thousands of years passed. Man is still not happy. He curses the heaven and the earth, the sun, and the moon, and the Creator. And then the Creator has sent a thought from the depth of the universe to the first mammoth and the first snake in order to ask what this first man wants.

That first man still had four legs. The giant mammoth, who was holding the sky with his back, and the first snake approached the first man and asked him, “What do you want, you worm, earthly man? Why are you grumbling and whining?" Then, he raised one paw, looked at him and said, "Everything is flat! The earth is flat, the ocean is flat. I’m bored to death! That’s why I’m whining." Then the mammoth started digging the earth with his trunk. Thus the mountains formed.

The snake crawled in between them — thus the rivers formed. And no river flows straight, all rivers zigzag like snakes.

Ten more thousand years passed. All the animals, all the birds, all fish, all insects are happy. But man is not happy. He’s cursing the Creator. Then from the depths of the universe, the Creator descended on earth. He convened all earthly creatures to discuss all earthly matters, including the fate of the first man. Back at these wonderful times, the first moose was running as fast as a horse along the Lake Baikal. And all of a sudden a Codfish dives out of the water, "Where are you going, Horned Moose?" Then the Moose stopped and said, "I’m running to the meeting of all living creatures." "You are late!" says Codfish. "I’ve just returned from

there. Everything has been decided." Then the Moose stopped and asked, "So what have you decided to do with this man who is always grumbling?" Codfish hit the water with his fin and said, "It’s not good at all. Before, he had four legs, so he could catch some animal and eat it. But they have made him of two legs. His front legs were bent like this, they became hands. His ears do not hear well now, nor can he see or smell well. Not good at all..."

Then the Moose asked, "Well, you've taken everything away from him, what have you given him instead?" Codfish hit the water with his fin and says, "We gave him intelligence.

We don’t really know what it is though. The Creator advised this." At this point, the Moose began crying. Back then, the Moose had four eyes, two on the top and two below. The Moose was crying and crying, and cried his two upper eyes away. Now there’s just a little dimple above his eyes. As he was sobbing, the Moose said, "Oh, living creatures. You must know. Now there won’t be peace for a bird in the sky from this man. Not even a swimming fish will have peace from this man. Not even a running animal will have peace from this man."

And that was what happened, that was fulfilled...

The story was transcribed from the film
In Pursuit of the Siberian Shaman Valentin Khagdaev lives in the village Elantsi of Irkutsk district

Shaman Akkanat of the Sibirga nation living in Novokuznetsk has a similar story with him but without the moose having four eyes.

 

 

The Turtle Island Story

 

"Earth-diving after a great flood is a motif widely found in Native cultures in Turtle Island (North America) hence  the continent's name, as well as among indigenous Turkic people in Central and Western Siberia. After the last Ice Age vast bodies of ice were known to have melted into great rivers and lakes. These stories recollect that time period in human history. One such story is present in the Ojibway  (Anishinabek) culture as well as in Sibirga  and Buryat cultures in Siberia." MSM

Ojibway Creation Story

The selection presented here describes Nanabush's re-creation of earth, as presented in William Jones, Ojibwa Texts, I. (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1919. AMS. 1974 pp.274-78).
 

Myth is both immediate and timeless and demands that both its aspects be perceived simultaneously. It is rooted in a particular tradition and cultural setting but it speaks in structures and symbols which transcend barriers of culture, language, even time itself. The performance of myth reinforces this dual aspect. Each individual performance is immediate and contingent on the particular story telling situation. But the story lives through many generations using the story teller as its medium. Only the voice changes. Traditional Ojibway thought accounts for the immediacy and timelessness of myth by understanding that the aadisokan (sacred story) has an existence independent of the storyteller. The aadisokan is viewed as an autonomous being with the power to impress itself upon the anishinaabe (the people).
 

This translation tells the particular Ojibway creation story; it is also about all creation. Michibizieu steals the wolf-nephew who hunts for Nanabush. When Nanabush retaliates by trying to {30} kill the underwater being, Michibizieu causes a flood. The flood is associated in many traditions with the re-creation of the world after one of the world's forces becomes so strong as to destroy the essential equilibrium. Here, Michibizieu has stolen Nanabush's source of food and his link to the instinctual knowledge of the animal world. In trying to recover what he lost, Nanabush inadvertently precipitates a flood so that he must make a new earth.
 

Nanabush reestablishes the link between himself and the animals by making them helpers in creation. He asks them to dive for earth and to discover the size of the new world. It is the fourth, the weakest diver, Muskrat, who is able to retrieve earth. In an Ojibway context the use of four divers has sacred significance symbolizing harmony and wholeness; the success of the most unlikely diver reflects the high respect of the Ojibway for each individual's ability to contribute in life. In an Ojibway context the breath which creates earth is also associated with sacred forms of breathing (blowing) in the Midewinini rites, foregrounded stylistically by the word kuniginin which is ancient and used only in myth-telling.
 

But what of the significance of this story today -- generations, in many cases a language and culture, removed? When Nanabush blows gently, his breath is also the breath of language. Words become stories and stories become whole new worlds. A young man of Cree parentage told me once that he saw in the act of diving for the earth a metaphor for reaching deep down inside yourself to find a tiny grain of sand. When you find it you bring it up and you see a world for yourself. To create meaning one must reach down inside and transform through the breath of creativity. To me, the real mystery is where the grain of sand came from in the first place, and that, I suggest, is the autonomy of the myth speaking to us.
{31}

 

In Ojibway tradition, Nanabush creates earth for people from a world which has always existed. This reflects a vision of this world in the great, ongoing cycles of nature. In Ojibway tradition, Nanabush, the trickster-transformer who is part man, part manidoo, also links the people and their gods to the animals. Nanabush needs the help of animals at first; then he defines the perimeters of the earth with his own creative breath. In this creation story it is an image of man with some manidoo power and some help from the animals who creates our present world out of the ancient earth.
 

If stories could be arranged in concentric circles, the creation story would be at the center. The initial act of creation is a prototype for every other subsequent creative act and reflects a culture's ideas about itself. The Ojibway creation story reflects a perception of the people as part of a greater natural cycle, linked to the old earth, the animals and the manidoo. It portrays the people, through Nanabush, as defining their own limits through acts of creativity.
 

The creative act, like storytelling, is limitless. In the ongoing movement of dynamic exchange between storyteller, text, and audience, the myth encourages us to a deeper understanding of our world. Consider now the first creation of Nanabush:

1. Taiya Nanabush! He was really afraid!
2. Oh! then he remembered Muskrat.
3. "Hey, you dive "
4. "Alright, I'll get wet."
5. "Ey! Muskrat, be careful."
6. Taiya Muskrat lifted his tail,
7. then kwack! It sounded like that.
8. Oh! Muskrat swam around,
9. soon he came in sight of trees and
10. he hadn't drowned yet...
11. then he got halfway down the trees and
{ 32}
12. on the bottom he went unconscious
13. but not before he had taken some earth in his mouth,
14. and some in his hands holding tight,
15. and some around his stiff poker.
16. All the while Nanabush was watching for him.
17. Taiya! he saw a ball of fur floating on the water
18. and he picked it up
19. and for no reason he opened up the hand.
20. Taiya he held earth clasped in his hand!
21. And again, in the other hand he held earth tight
22. and there on his poker he looked.
23. Still more earth!
24. and there down his throat was lots more.
25. And so Nanabush blew on him and again Muskrat lived.
26. Nanabush dried the earth,
27. "Now I will complete the earth."
28. Nanbush blew on it.
29. kuniginin, a little island floated there!
30. And already the manidoog came out of the water. He spoke to them,
31. "Slowly! later when earth is bigger you will come out!"
32. Again he blew, a great island floated there,
33. and then where he blew was much earth.
34. And more life stirred the manidoog.
35. Again he blew on the earth.
36. He spoke to the one of swift flight, Falcon,
37. "Let's go, fly around the earth, find out how large it is."
38. For some time he was gone,
39. then he arrived back and said,
40-41. "It is not so very large."
42. Again Nanabush breathed on it,
43. a long time he breathed on it,
44. again he spoke,
45. "Let's go, you, Raven, learn how large is the earth."
46. Sure enough Raven started out.
{33}

47. It is uncertain how many months Raven was gone.
48. Later he returned.
49-50. "I wasn't able to learn how large is the earth,
51. I ran out of earth."
52. So Nanabush spoke to Raven,
53. "So that you will be proud I will create you,
54. how would you be proud?"
55-56. "Make me as the blue sky on a clear day Nanabush."
57. So sure enough Nanabush touched him blue,
58. and this now is Raven,
59. created by Nanabush.

1. A'tawa Nanabucu! Misa gäga't sägisit.
2. Tiwä, ugimi 'kwäniman ini'u wajakwan.
3. "Taga', kin. Minotc, wajack, kogin."
4. "Anic, minotc mano kayä, nin niganisabawa."
5. "À'a, waja' ck, aiyangwamisin."
6. Ta, waj 'ck oso odopinan;
7. cayigwa, kwatcak! inwäwägamicinon.
8. A' ta ! waja 'ck pabima kwaciwät,
9. ningutingigu, utäbabamae mi'tigoe.
10. Kawin anawi a' pici a' kwanabawäsi.
11. Cigwa abi' tawatig mi'tigunk ododi'tan;
12. migu' cigwa' wan'äntank tagwicing iwiti a 'king
13. Äjikana kantank 'ie i' a 'ki'
14. kayä anint unintcink ugani 'kibi'ton.
15. mi. i.ma utcitca' 'kank äjitcanga' kuskanig 'ie i' uso kayä winaga'tig.
16. Mägwagu Nänbucu a'kawabamat,
17. ä'tiwä ningutingigu, undci a.bocka a gundcisäwan wäntcitogu kapikwa' 'kwataguntcininitigu.
18. Minotc odod'pinan Nänbucu.
19. Anica totank, uba'ka kimintcibinan.
20. Ä'tawa, a' ki ugikaska 'kunintcantamini.
21. Minawa acawinitc minasab, a' ki uduntcimi 'kamawan.
{34}
22. Ima udcitca'kayanink udici. a. ntawâbamawan,
23. käyabi a'ki umi' kwunamawän;
24. kayä iwiti pindcikuna 'nawatc nibiwa udontcimi'kamawan.
25. Misa äjibäbwadanat mi.i'minawa ka.i. jipimadisint.
26. Äcibasank 'iei'u a'ki,
27. Misa, 'iei'u kä'ga tcigici 'toyan 'iei'u a'ki.
28. Nänabucu äcibodatank,
29. kuniginin! minisäns ki a gwantäni.
30. Migu' aca wi'pimi a gwa 'tanit 'iei' manidowänca, ajikanowat,
31. "Bä'ka, pama nawatc, mis tcag agwa 'ta 'käg."
32. Minawa' ajipodadank, kis tciminis ki a.gwantäni.
33. Midac ima kis tciba 'taninantinink ka i jibotatank
34. misa cigwa pimadisiwaganimunit 'ie i' manitowänca.
35. Minawa madci'ta pabwatätank 'ie i' a'ki.
36. Ajiganonat, ini', kacisanit kä'kä' kwan.
37. Taga, kiwitasän o o a'ki amantc anigu'kwagan oo' aki.
38. Gägä 't ajimadcat kä'kä'k.
39. Kumagu kia'pi'tanti,
40. cigwa tagwicinon ajikanonigut.
41. Kawin a'pidci mi 'tasinon.
42. Minawa äcipodadank,
43. kabäy.i.taci'tababwädadank.
44. Minawa oganonan ini' kagakiwan:

45. "Taga, kin kagagi, wiki'kadan amantc äniku'kwägwan ie i' a'ki."
46. Kägä' t ajimadcat a'e a' kagagi.
47. Amantcitug tasugisis änäntit kagagi;
48. wi'ka tagwicin.
49. Cigwa tibatcimu:
50. Kawin ningimi' kä zin amantc äniku'k wagwän 'oe o' a'ki,
51. migu iu ka.i.cinontakiwäyan.
52. Nänabucu dac ajiganonat ini' kagagiwan:
53. Ambäsa, tcipiciganimoyan kiga i.ci.i.n
54. Anin i.i'u.i .cipicigänmoyan?
55. Nänabucu 'ie i'wä kimicakwa'k ka.i.cinagwa' k
{35} kiyocawacwag,
56. mi'iu ambägic ici.i.yan.
57. Misa' gagä't Nänbucu ki.o. cawaskunat.
58. Kagagidac ka.i.cinagusit mi.i' ini'u Nänabucowan.

-Kim Echlin, Toronto, Canada

The Walam Olum (or "Red Event") of the Lenni Lenape

This is a story of the Lenni Lenape people from the valley of Delaware recorded in petroglyphs and apparently it mentions the melting of glaciations at the end of the Ice Age.

1. At first, in that place, at all times, above the earth,

2. On the earth, [was] an extended fog, and there the great Manito was.

3. At first, forever, lost in space, everywhere, the great Manito was.

4. He made the extended land and the sky.

5. He made the sun, the moon, the stars.

6. He made them all to move evenly.

7. Then the wind blew violently, and it cleared, and the water flowed off far and strong.

8. And groups of islands grew newly, and there remained.

9. Anew spoke the great Manito, a manito to manitos,

10. To beings, mortals, souls and all,

11. And ever after he was a manito to men, and their grandfather

12. He gave the first mother, the mother of beings.

13. He gave the fish, he gave the turtles, he gave the beasts, he gave the birds.

14. But an evil Manito made evil beings only, monsters,

15. He made the flies, he made the gnats.

16. All beings were then friendly.

17. Truly the manitos were active and kindly

18. To those very first men, and to those first mothers, fetched them wives,

19. And fetched them food, when first they desired it.

20. All had cheerful knowledge, all had leisure, all thought in gladness.

21. But very secretly an evil being, a mighty magician, came on earth,

22. And with him brought badness, quarreling, unhappiness,

23. Brought bad weather, brought sickness, brought death.

24. All this took place of old on the earth, beyond the great tide-water, at the first.

Second Part

1. Long ago there was a mighty snake and beings evil to men.

2. This mighty snake hated those who were there (and) greatly disquieted those whom he hated.

3. They both did harm, they both injured each other, both were not in peace.

4. Driven from their homes they fought with this murderer.

5. The mighty snake firmly resolved to harm the men.

6. He brought three persons, he brought a monster, he brought a rushing water.

7. Between the hills the water rushed and rushed, dashing through and through, destroying much.

8. Nanabush (also called Manibozho or Michabo), the Strong White One, grandfather of beings, grandfather of men, was on the Turtle Island.

9. There he was walking and creating, as he passed by and created the turtle.

10. Beings and men all go forth, they walk in the floods and shallow waters, down stream thither to the Turtle Island.

11. There were many monster fishes, which ate some of them.

12. The Manito daughter, coming, helped with her canoe, helped all, as they came and came.

13. [And also] Nanabush, Nanabush, the grandfather of all, the grandfather of beings, the grandfather of men, the grandfather of the turtle.

14. The men then were together on the turtle, like to turtles.

15. Frightened on the turtle, they prayed on the turtle that what was spoiled should be restored.

16. The water ran off, the earth dried, the lakes were at rest, all was silent, and the mighty snake departed.

 

THE SHAMAN'S CREATION STORY

Narrated by Shaman Valentin Khagdaev

The first earth was lost in the depths of the primal ocean. The earth was under water. Then the Creator created the first bird and ordered it to dive to the bottom of the ocean. It dove, but came It dove, but came back empty twice. Finally, it extracted the earth and brought it back in its beak. From that earth the Creator created the big earth. But that big earth was again sinking into the depth of the primal ocean. Then he put the earth in his palms, took a pinch of clay from it, and created the second earth. He loaded that earth on a back of a turtle.

This earth was flat, there were no hills, no mountains. And the ocean was flat. All animals, all birds, all insects, and all plants were created. All birds, all animals, all insects, and all fish were all happy. And man was created the last. This man was the only one who was not happy. Everyone was content except this man.

They lived for a long time. Many thousands of years passed. Man is still not happy. He curses the heaven and the earth, the sun, and the moon, and the Creator. And then the Creator has sent a thought from the depth of the universe to the first mammoth and the first snake in order to ask what this first man wants.

That first man still had four legs. The giant mammoth, who was holding the sky with his back, and the first snake approached the first man and asked him, “What do you want, you worm, earthly man? Why are you grumbling and whining?" Then, he raised one paw, looked at him and said, "Everything is flat! The earth is flat, the ocean is flat. I’m bored to death! That’s why I’m whining." Then the mammoth started digging the earth with his trunk. Thus the mountains formed.

The snake crawled in between them — thus the rivers formed. And no river flows straight, all rivers zigzag like snakes.

Ten more thousand years passed. All the animals, all the birds, all fish, all insects are happy. But man is not happy. He’s cursing the Creator. Then from the depths of the universe, the Creator descended on earth. He convened all earthly creatures to discuss all earthly matters, including the fate of the first man. Back at these wonderful times, the first moose was running as fast as a horse along the Lake Baikal. And all of a sudden a Codfish dives out of the water, "Where are you going, Horned Moose?" Then the Moose stopped and said, "I’m running to the meeting of all living creatures." "You are late!" says Codfish. "I’ve just returned from

there. Everything has been decided." Then the Moose stopped and asked, "So what have you decided to do with this man who is always grumbling?" Codfish hit the water with his fin and said, "It’s not good at all. Before, he had four legs, so he could catch some animal and eat it. But they have made him of two legs. His front legs were bent like this, they became hands. His ears do not hear well now, nor can he see or smell well. Not good at all..."

Then the Moose asked, "Well, you've taken everything away from him, what have you given him instead?" Codfish hit the water with his fin and says, "We gave him intelligence.

We don’t really know what it is though. The Creator advised this." At this point, the Moose began crying. Back then, the Moose had four eyes, two on the top and two below. The Moose was crying and crying, and cried his two upper eyes away. Now there’s just a little dimple above his eyes. As he was sobbing, the Moose said, "Oh, living creatures. You must know. Now there won’t be peace for a bird in the sky from this man. Not even a swimming fish will have peace from this man. Not even a running animal will have peace from this man."

And that was what happened, that was fulfilled...

The story was transcribed from the film
In Pursuit of the Siberian Shaman Valentin Khagdaev lives in the village Elantsi of Irkutsk district

Shaman Akkanat of the Sibirga nation living in Novokuznetsk has a similar story with him but without the moose having four eyes.

 

 

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