Yuchi Religion

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In treating other subjects frequent mention has been made, heretofore, of various religious beliefs connected with different phases of life, of the ideas which the Yuchi hold regarding the supernatural realm, and how they maintain their relations with the latter by means of rites and ceremonies. An attempt will now be made to give as many of these beliefs as could be gotten in order to present as clearly as possible an idea of the religious life of the tribe.

In the earliest mythological time about which anything at all is known, there existed only a certain realm of water and air called yubahé, ‘in the far heights.’ This expanse was boundless and fiat. It was inhabited by beings who lived in the water and beings who lived in the air. Just what their form was is not known for all, but some of those that are mentioned have animal names and show animal characteristics, such as Crawfish, Buzzard, Panther, Spider, etc. In other respects, however, they behaved much like human beings. That many mythical animals are conceived of as human in form is indicated by the use of the particle go, ‘human,’ with their names. Others, from what We are told, who bore the names of various natural objects had animal forms too. Among these, for instance, are Sun, and Moon. It would seem, apparently, that the interest of the people in the various animals had deter-mined the form of their deity concepts.

Others who are mentioned only by name may have been anthropomorphic. Some of these, for instance, are Sun, Tso, Wind, Widá, Old Woman, Wänhané, Old Man, Gohané, Iron or Metal Man, Gohäntoné, Gyatha’, the cardinal points, the four winds and others who seem not to be unlike ordinary human beings, both in their ideas and in some of their doings. The supreme deity idea, however, seems to be centered in Tso, ‘Sun,’ who is known, as far as could be ascertained, under some different names, among them ‘The One who is Breath,”1 and ‘Makes Indians’ being frequent. These beings, some of them, had wives and children; they gamed, traveled about on the hunt, procreated, evidently made war and had gatherings where certain peculiar acts, which we might call rites, were performed. In short, from what we know of this mythical period of the supernatural beings, their life was much like that which the Indians lead, except that death was non-existent. There were evidently chiefs among these beings who, in a general way, might be regarded as central figures in mythology, but no one being in particular is mentioned as such. In one connection Sun is evidently chief, in another Gohantoné, though the matter is not at all clear.

The social gatherings of these beings should be mentioned again, on account of the fact that what was done at such times by the supernatural beings was afterward taught to human beings by Sun, when the present earth and people were created, and in a way, was dramatized as an act of worship by the Indians. It seems that the beings used to assemble at the Rainbow, yueä’, and enact various peculiar rites. One of these performances was to scratch the people on the arm or breast with a certain instrument. This act will be referred to again subsequently. The beings evidently had dances too upon their Rainbow assembly ground.

After a time, it appears that some reason for change took possession of the supernatural beings. They decided to make another realm, an earth. According to the account. Crawfish dove to the bottom of the waters and brought up some dirt from which the earth was made and from which it grew to its present size. The various beings then took part in modifying the form of the earth, and in making improvements on it. Light of the proper sort was finally secured, after various attempts on the part of different beings, as well as darkness of the right intensity. The beings all seem to have been extremely active and powerful at this time, for they did various things to each other which left permanent marks upon them, which their descendants who still reside upon the earth retain. For instance, the chipmunk wanted to have night brought upon the earth, thus angering the panther, who jumped on the chipmunk and scratched his back. The chipmunk accordingly bears on his back to this day the marks of the scars he received. This example is taken simply to show a typical case of animal exploits in what might be termed the genesis period.

The following is a translation of the myth of the origin of the earth:

1. The Origin of the Earth

“Water covered the face of the earth. Beneath the water they knew there was land, but they knew of no one who could get it. The flying creatures of the air were baffled. But they decided to get something to help them find it. The swimming creatures in the waters did not believe it could be done, because they knew the land was too far down. So they doubted.

Now the Crawfish was the one who claimed that he could find land. He told them to give him time. He told them to look for him in four days. Then he went down, and soon the water came up colored with mud. Everyone knew that before he had started the water had been clear. For four days they waited; on the fourth day the Crawfish came up. He was nearly dead when they picked him up, but in his claws they saw there was some earth. They carefully picked it out. Then they made it round like a ball, but it looked very small. Now one of the great birds had long claws, and when that bird lifted up his leg, they threw the ball of earth at him. And when it struck him, the ball splashed and spread out, but it was very thin. That is where the earth was made in the beginning.

Now all the creatures wanted to walk on it, but they gave instructions that no one should walk on it yet. For four days it lay thus, growing larger and larger. Now they wanted to have it level. So they called for someone. The Buzzard answered and said that he would go over the earth and stretch his wings. That is the way he would make it level. The Buzzard started, when they agreed to it, but he had not gone far before he became tired of stretching his wings so much. He began to flutter and waver a great deal. On account of this the Buzzard could not level it all. And that is what made the mountain ridges. Now the earth was made and they occupied it.”

I also give the account of the creation of light and darkness, to finish details for the generalized discussion.

2. Origin of Light, Sun, Moon and Stars.

“And everywhere was darkness.. The earth had been made, but there was no light. The different animals gathered together. They appointed a day for deliberation, to decide who should furnish light for the newly made earth. The Panther was the first. They appointed him to give light because he runs backward and forward in the heavens from one end to the other. They instructed him to go east and come back. So he ran to the east and turned, crossed the heavens and went down in the west. When he had done this and returned to the gathering he asked if it was all right. They told him it was not. Then then appointed another. They sent the Star (spider). Now they told the Star to go east and come back. The Star did as he was told. He made a light in the east but it was too dim. He went west and then came back to the gathering and asked them if it was all right. Then they told him, “No. Your light is too dim.’” So they appointed another. They appointed the Moon. They told the Moon to go east then come back through the sky and go down in the west. The moon started out as they directed. When it was coming back it made a better light than that made by the Star, but it was not enough. Then the Moon asked if it would do. They said it would not. Then they appointed another. They chose the Sun, and told him what to do. When the Sim came back westward it gave a good light, and when it went down it was all right. So the Sun was appointed to light the earth, and he gave an everlasting light.

Now when they told him about it, the Chipmunk wanted to have some night. He said to them:

“If it is daylight all the time, persons could not increase.” ‘ He said, ‘ “If there is night, then people can rest from their work and procreate.” ‘

So he urged in favor of night. They agreed with him in part, because they saw that what he said was true. And night came in, dividing up the day. Then when it was dark it was so dark that persons could not see to travel or to procreate. And they saw it would not do because creatures would not increase. So they put the Stars (spiders) and the Moon in with the night to enable people to see enough for those things, and it was all right. Thus the Chipmunk had made the night on the strength of his own senses, and they agreed and allowed it to remain.

When they said that, the Panther became angry and jumped upon the Chipmunk and caught him. He caught him by the neck and scratched him on the back. That is what made the red stripes on the Chipmunk’s back, which he has yet. So the earth was lighted by the sun, moon and stars, and night came in too.”

At some time not far removed from this mythical stage, the event of the creation of man took place. Whether this was during or after the creation of the earth is not known. At any rate, as explained in the myth, a woman in a vague way became the mother of a boy, who originated from a drop of her menstrual blood. This boy she carried to the Rainbow where the beings were gathered, and he was scratched by them as was customary. After several exciting events had taken place, which are not well understood, it seems that the mother was driven away with her boy. The inference is that the mother and son then fell from the sky to the earth. Henceforth he was called Sun, Tso, and became the ancestor of a new race upon the new earth. In this way originated the human beings who called themselves Tso’yahá, ‘Offspring of the Sun.’ Then Sun taught his people certain ceremonies, which were to be performed to protect them from evil influences, and to honor the supernatural beings of the realm over the earth. He gave them two plants, ƒeáde’, button snake root (Eryngium yuccaefolium) and, to tcála, ‘red root’ (Salix tristis (?), which they were to steep and drink during the ceremony, to purify them. He instructed them in the scratching rite, which he had undergone, and instituted the practice, at the same time, of distributing new and sacred fire once a year at the occasion of the ceremonies, among the different human households. Sun then enjoined the people to keep up the dances and rites he had taught them, saying that once a year he would soar through the heavens over them and look down to see if they were obeying. He conditioned their prosperity upon their obedience and left them after giving other instructions regarding ceremonial details and features of town life. Among other things he showed them how to make an assembly ground like the one in the supernatural world and taught them how to decorate this to symbolize the Rainbow. As there are some details in this assembly ground, or town square with its symbolism, which deserve attention, it will be taken up later on. The ceremonies which were begun on earth at this time will be also described under a special heading.

It should be mentioned here that at certain times since the origin there have been born individuals with a very dark shade of skin. These black-skinned Yuchi, as they are termed, are looked upon as being more closely related to Sun than the rest of the people. They are said to be his direct offspring, their mothers having become pregnant by Sun. As no particular rank is given them, however, their position is a sort of empty aristocracy. Several black-skinned Yuchi are said to be living today, but I have not been fortunate enough to see them.

Here are several translations of variants of the origin myth which has just received comment.

3. The Origin of the Yuchi and the Ceremonies.

“The Sun deity was in her menstrual courses. She went to dip up some water (up in the sky world). She went down to the creek. Then some blood fell on the ground. She looked at the water. When she reached the top of the hill she set it down. She thought that something had happened. She went down the hill again. A small baby was sitting there. She took it along with her and kept it. She raised it and it grew. That was an Indian. She took him to the Rainbow where the others were and he was scratched and it was the ceremony at the square-ground. In the ancient time he was scratched. The drops of blood fell and lay on the ground. She placed him on the ground. The drops of blood were lying on the ground. She put him on the ground. Then she walked away from the square-ground with him, going toward the east. She reached the edge of the square. Indians came along following them. The lightning struck and frightened them. It drove them back. The Sun mother went on home with the boy. Then he went to sleep. As he grew up he became lonesome. He had no one to play with; he had no one to look at. He was lonesome. While he was sleeping and lying there, his mother pulled out one of his ribs. While he was lying there she took it out. She made a woman out of it. Then the boy awoke. He saw her. He was glad now. Then they multiplied and increased in numbers.

The Red root {to tcälá) and Button Snake root (ƒeáde’) standing near, (which had been used when the boy was scratched and made to perform the ceremony among the sky people), she told him to use. It was made for that use and the Yuchi are using it yet just as he told them. It is here yet. This is his medicine. While they try to keep up the ceremony and use of the medicines God (wetanA’) goes with the people. Her son was the child of the Sun, that is what the Yuchi are named, Children of the Sun.

On that day no trouble comes to the people when they have taken the medicines. When the Sun comes up he looks down to see if they are doing the ceremonies. If he comes up high here and sees no Indians performing the ceremonies on the earth at high noon, he would stop. He would cry. It would be the end of peacefulness. The Sun would cover his face with his hands and go down again in the east. Then it would become dark and the end. It has been declared so. This is what we heard in the past.”

4. Origin’ of the Yuchi. (Second Version.)

“There was a Sun and there was a Moon. Then the Moon was in her menstrual courses. When she got up, a drop of the blood fell from her and descended to the earth. The Sun saw it. He secured it and wrapped it up, laying it away thus for four days. On the fourth day he went and got it, and unwrapped it. When the bundle was opened, he saw that it had turned into a human being. Then he said:

‘ “You are my son. You shall be called Tsoyahá.” ‘ And he gave him the name Tsoyahá, Sun people or Offspring of the Sun. From him all the Yuchi had their origin.

Now his descendants increased until they became a powerful people. They are weakening now, but if they ever disappear from the earth a terrible thing will happen. For the Sun said:

‘ ” If the Yuchi perish, I will not face this world. I will turn my face away, and there will be darkness upon the earth, and it will even be the last of the earth.” ‘

So it will come to pass if all the Yuchi die out. But now there are certain Yuchi who are known to be sons of this Sun. Whenever one of them dies the Sun turns his face away from the earth for a little while. That accounts for the eclipse. These Yuchi may he known by the color of their skin, which is nearly black. The black-skinned Yuchi are the Sun’s sons. There are a few living now.”

In tracing this mythical history of the Yuchi we have now reached the period when human beings and the other animals seem to have been on close terms of intimacy on the earth. Everywhere magic was in operation. Animals often acted in a most offhand manner, from that moment the act becoming a rule on earth, or the result of the act becoming a natural fixity. Some specimen accounts will be given later.

A trickster appears among the animal beings by the name of Rabbit. There are other tricksters too, but Rabbit is the chief figure among them. This period is thought, roughly speaking, to have directly preceded the present one. There are many myths relating the deeds of animals and human beings which are concerned with magic. The details of the magical transformations and exploits of the earthly beings are a little to estensive to discuss here, but will be found further on under mythology.

Toward the end of this period, in short, the things of the earth and the affairs of human beings take on a more modern aspect. Many new things are originated. Death is brought to man by the disobedience of someone. Tobacco is originated from human semen. Other Indian tribes are brought into existence. Fire is secured and distributed among the people by Rabbit, and various other cultural features of human life, as well as characteristic traits among animals, are brought into existence. Some representatives of this class of myths will be given at the end of the discussion of mythology.

Up to this point we have only attempted to deal with the beliefs concerned with the supernatural beings, and with the native concepts of origin and transformation. Some of the beliefs in connection with customs and rites will now be taken up. It has already been stated, under customs, that the newly born child is believed to be the reincarnation of its predecessors. And it was show, at the same time, that the reincarnated spirits revived in the children the qualities which they possessed during their lives. The abode of the spirits of the dead is in the sky world or the supernatural world. The path to this lies over the rainbow, and the direction to be traveled is eastward. When the soul has passed the obstacle of the swaying cloud, which is likely to crush the journeying soul and destroy it, it joins with the other spirits and supernatural beings inhabiting this realm. One of the supernatural beings, Wanhané, Old Woman, has charge over the souls here and in some way is thought to control rebirth and the return of souls to earth. There is mention in one of the myths of some men who traveled to Old Woman and at last succeeded in obtaining the souls of their dead wives, returning to earth with them. It has also been shown how the different individuals of the clans inherited thy protection of their clan totems, when they passed the initiation rites, thenceforth retaining these as protectors through life. As the members of clans are considered to be the descendants of their totemic animal, they are in a sense the cousins, as it might be expressed, of the earthly animals who are also descendants of the supernatural animals. The clan taboos and incidental beliefs need not be repeated again here as they have been mentioned in dealing with customs and the clans. But the animals of the earth, in general, are considered as thinking beings, with interests in life, customs and feelings not unlike those of men. Even today these mutual elements in the lives of men and animals are felt to exist. But naturally in the mythical age the two were more nearly on the same level than now. For, they say, it is very seldom nowadays that men and animals can converse together. A few random tales referring to such instances of recent intercommunication, however, are as follows.

An old and decrepit Indian told the story. He was complaining about his infirmities, squeaking voice, and shrunken form. He said, “I was going along on my pony late in the afternoon. Pretty soon I came to what was like a large rock. I heard a voice from somewhere say, ” ‘It smells just as though there was an old woman riding around here.’” I looked up and saw a big rattlesnake sitting on the rock, coiled. His neck was as thick as a man’s neck. He was looking right at me.”

An outlaw, who was hiding from the vengeance of the relatives of the man whom he had murdered, became very hungry. He rode up to a house and was going to ask for food. First he crept through a cornfield near the cabin, to see if the way was safe. While lying between the furrows there, he heard two hens talking. They were casting glances at him. He listened to what they were saying. They chuckled a little, then one said, “Isn’t that the fellow who is scouting around here for having killed somebody?” The outlaw got out.

The animals are all believed to have their protecting supernatural kinsmen as well as men, for that reason in hunting them their protecting spirits have to be overcome before one can hope to bring them down. It is the same with human beings. If one’s guardian spirit is all right no harm can come. So in warfare, the idea is to strengthen one’s own guardian kinsman spirit and to weaken the enemy’s. In this respect hunting and fishing are much like warfare. The magic songs and formulas fight the supernatural struggle and open the way, while the actual weapons do the work when the spiritual barriers are removed.

As regards the objects in nature in general which surround them, the Yuchi have the usual animistic concepts so characteristic of the beliefs of nearly all primitive people. Inanimate objects, and even abstract ideas such as cardinal points and various feelings and deeds, are the abodes of agencies which we may call spirits. These may be either favorable or unfavorable to men, their influence being believed to be largely controlled by man’s personal conduct in the observance of taboos and in the performance of the rituals and ceremonies. Plant spirits are highly powerful and important, according to the ideas of an agricultural people like this, and We shall find them to be quite prominent objects of worship in the ceremonies.

The sacred number standing out prominently in religious matters will be seen to be the number four. Five appears less frequently.

5. Origin of the Other Tribes, and a Chief’s Visit to Receive the Creator’s Prophecy.

Now the people had come upon the earth. The Shawnee came from above. The Creeks came from the ground. The Choctaw came from the water. The Yuchi came from the sun.

So Gohantoné appointed a day for them to meet and mingle, because he thought at first that it would be better for them to do that. Accordingly they met at the place of sunrise, in the east, and mingled together in friendship. They smoked together and held a council. After considering, they concluded that it would be better for all if they did not mix up. And henceforth they separated, each tribe going its own way and living alone.

The Shawnee said, “Our name is Shawnee, and we’ll go off by ourselves.” So they went.

The Creeks said, “We are Muskogi, and we’ll go off by ourselves.”

The Choctaw said, “We’re Choctaw.” And they went away.

The Yuchi were there too, and they said, “Our name is Yuchi.” And they in turn left. Each tribe selected its own place to live in, and went there.

Now after a while, when they had been separated some time, Gohantoné thought the thing over and said,

“You have nothing. So I’ll give you something. I’ll give you all the earth.”

Then he gave them the earth, and they scattered over it.

Now after a while Gohantoné thought the matter over again. Then a Creek chief died. When the chief was dead he appeared before Gohantoné, who said to him,

“This land belongs to you and your children forever. This land will be yours forever, but these whites who have just come will overwhelm you and inherit your land. They will increase and the Indian will decrease and at last die out. Then only white people will remain. But there will be terrible times. ”

So spoke Gohantoné to the dead Creek chief. For four days he lay dead, then he came to life again. When he woke up he was well. He immediately called a great council. Shawnee, Choctaw, Creeks and Yuchi all assembled to hear him, and he told them all that he had seen and heard. He told them that the land would belong to the Indian forever, but the white man would overrun it. So the thing is coming to pass as Gohantoné said.

6. Rabbit Steals Fire for the People.

In the beginning there was no fire on the earth, and there seemed to be no way to get it. Therefore, when the people wanted to eat flesh, they had to eat it raw. Finally the Rabbit said that he knew where fire was, and even said that he could get it. Then the people went into camp and took council. They decided to send Rabbit to get the fire that he spoke of.

“If you know where fire is, then go and get it,” they said to him.

So Rabbit started out, and swam across the ocean, because he knew that fire was only to be had on the other side of the sea. The people over there were having an olden time dance, and when Rabbit appeared among them they said,

“Here is a man who belongs on the other side of the sea. So watch him well.”

They selected four of their number to watch him. Now because Rabbit was such a good dancer, they soon chose him to lead them in one dance after another. So while he was leading they urged the four guardians of Rabbit to watch him very closely.

Now when Rabbit began to lead, he took a large shawl and wrapped it about his head and wound a number of berry leaves into it until the whole was very large. Then they danced very hard. But suddenly Rabbit picked up a coal from the fire and put it on his head among the berry leaves and ran away toward his own land. All the people started after him, but they could not catch him. He got safely over the sea with the burning coal, and was crossing a prairie near home when he dropped the coal, and the timber all about was set on fire. All the woods got on fire. The people ran out and secured the burning sticks and gave them to each family, so that they all could have fire. And it was never allowed to go out.

7. Rabbit Obtains Fire. (Second Version. Abstract.)

The Rabbit went across the ocean for fire and got in among people who were dancing. They were the people who possessed fire. He took some of the fire in his hand and jumping into the ocean swam across with it. When he had landed it began to rain, then he put the fire in a stump. When this took fire he scattered the burning pieces all around and the woods caught fire. From this the Indians got it.

8. Four Men Visit the Spirit Land to Recover Their Wives, and Death Originates.

Four Yuchi who had wives decided one day to kill them. So they killed the four women. “There is no such thing as death. So let us go and hunt them,” said they.2

Accordingly the four husbands set out to find their wives. They said, “Let us go where the Creator is.” They set out westward and traveled a long while, coming at length to a place where there was a great cave. Before its mouth swayed a great cloud, in such a manner that they could not get by it or around it, for it was moving up and down. They saw that their journey would end here unless they could devise some means of passing the cloud. It was decided that they imitate something very swift and get in in that way. Said one of the men, “I’ll be a deer.” So he became a deer, and when the cloud raised up the next time, he jumped in. The next said, “I’ll be a panther.” And when the cloud raised up, he jumped in. The third man said, “I’ll be a bear. ” And the next time the cloud raised up, he too jumped in. They had all jumped at the right time, and had succeeded. Now the fourth man said, “I am a man, and I’ll be a man.” And when he tried to get in, the cloud fell on his head and crushed him.

Then the three men who had reached the inside of the cave took their natural shape as men, and began to climb up the back of the cloud within the cave. After they had been some time climbing, they came to a wonderful scene, and as they went on they beheld an old woman seated there. The old woman was the sun. When she saw them she spoke to them.

“My sons, are you come. Are you not hungry?”

And the men said that they were hungry. Accordingly she planted a hill of corn, a hill of beans, and a hill of squash for each man. Now when they saw her doing this, they thought, “Well, as we are so hungry shall we have to wait for these things to grow before we can eat?” But the old woman knew their thoughts, and replied as though they had spoken out loud. She said,

“You think you won’t eat very soon, but you won’t have long to wait.”

Even then the plants began to sprout and grow up, and soon they fruited, and it was not long before they gathered the corn, beans and squashes, and were ready to eat. The old woman then put a small quantity of the vegetables before each man. But they said, “Do you think that that little will fill us?” In reply, she said to them, “There will be some left over.”

When they had finished eating, it was as she had said. There was some left over. Now the old woman spoke to the men again.

“What did you come here for? What do you want?” she asked them.

“We had four wives who are dead. We lost them, and they told us to hunt for them. So we are here.”

“Well, they are here,” said the old woman, “we are going to have an all-night dance, and the women will be there. Then you will see them.”

Now the men were deciding whether to stay for the dance, or to go on. And while they were thinking over it, a panther monster came up, and they were very much afraid. But as soon as they saw him, the old woman lifted up her dress and told the men to come and get beneath it; they went under and she protected them. When the great monster came near, he said to her, “I smell people.” But the old woman said, “You smell me.” The monster was deceived and went away. Then when it became time the men went to the dance. They arrived at the place where they were dancing, and the men could hear the dance but they couldn’t see anything. They said to the old woman,

“We can hear, but we cannot see. So give us a sign so that we may know that our wives are here.”

Then the old woman got a coal from the fire and put it on the hip of one of the women who was now dancing with the rest. She did the same with each woman until the four had coals of fire on their hips. Now all that the men could see was the coal, when the women were dancing. But they stayed there watching. Soon the old woman said to them,

“If you cannot see, lay down and go to sleep.”

So they did as they were told, and went to sleep. The old woman left them, and getting four large gourds, made holes in them and put one woman in each gourd. Then she carried the gourds to where the men were, and woke them up, saying, “Here are your women. ” She laid the gourds down, one near each man, and said,

“Now lie down and sleep again. When you wake up you will be back on earth. But when you wake up, don’t open the gourds.” She told them, ” When you get back to your people, go to a dance and take these gourds with you. ”

Then they went to sleep again, and after a while woke up. They were back on the earth. They went on until they reached their people. But on the way, one of the men became impatient, and opened his gourd. Immediately a great wind came out and went up in the air. So the other three kept theirs and didn’t open them. At last they reached their own land. When the time for a dance came around they took their gourds with them. While they were dancing they hit their gourds on the ground and broke them. The women jumped out and joined them in the dance. But the man who broke his beforehand, when he saw the other women restored to their men, wept. Now that’s the way it was done.

The three who had done as the old woman told them, had a good time and were afterwards called by the others, “the people hunters.” They were considered to be very wise, and in a short time they all became great chiefs and councilors in their tribe.

9. Tobacco Originates From Semen.

A man and a woman went into the woods. The man had intercourse with the woman and the semen fell upon the ground. From that time they separated, each going his own way. But after a while the woman passed near the place again, and thinking to revisit the spot, went there and beheld some strange weeds growing upon it. She watched them a long while. Soon she met the man who had been with her, and said to him, “Let us go to the place and I will show you something beautiful.” They went there and saw it. She asked him what name to call the weeds, and he asked her what name she would give them. But neither of them would give a name. Now the woman had a fatherless boy, and she went and told the boy that she had something beautiful. She said, “Let us go and see it.”

When they arrived at the place she said to him, “This is the thing that I was telling you about.” And the boy at once began to examine it. After a little while he said, “I’m going to name this.” Then he named it, ī, ‘tobacco.’ He pulled up some of the weeds and carried them home carefully and planted them in a selected place. He nursed the plants and they grew and became ripe. Now they had a good odor and the boy began to chew the leaves. He found them very good, and in order to preserve the plants he saved the seeds when they were ripe. He showed the rest of the people how to use the tobacco, and from the seeds which he preserved, all got plants and raised the tobacco for themselves.

10. Wind Seeks His Lost Sons and Kills the Iron Monster.

The Wind came out of the east and was lying somewhere, they say. He had four young men; they were his sons. One of them once said, “Let us go and look at the earth.” That’s why they went, and they haven’t come back yet. So the young man went west and was gone a long time; he has never come back. Soon after, the second young man went and did not come back. Then the third young man went and he did not come back. None of them came back.

Now the Wind said, “I will go myself.” He prepared and got everything ready. He told them to bring him a chair. They brought him a large terrapin. Then he ordered his pipe, telling them to bring him a bullfrog. Then he called for his pipe-stem. They brought a kind of snake and made a pipe-stem. He told them to get his tobacco. They brought him snake dung for tobacco. He told them to get his ammunition bag. They got him another snake for the ammunition bag. And when he told them to bring a belt for the ammunition bag, they brought him a bull snake’s hide for that. Then the Wind was ready.

He got up and started toward the west, the way the young men had gone before him. He followed their trail, traveling a long while, and at last came to a creek. Across the creek on the opposite bank he saw a white rooster. A short distance back there was a house. Now when the rooster saw him it flew over and alighted on the roof of the house. Then someone came out and crossed the creek in a little boat to meet him. Then the man in the boat told Wind to get in with him and go across. But Wind said that he had his own way to get across. So he put the terrapin in the creek and got on his back and the terrapin carried him across. Then they went on and soon reached the house. When Wind got to the house, the man gave him a chair and told him to sit down. Wind said that he had his own chair. He took the terrapin and sat down on him. The man then asked Wind to smoke with him. Wind said that he was willing, but that he had his own tobacco. And taking the snake dung, he put it in the frog’s mouth, filling it up.

“Now all that I need is a little fire to light my tobacco with,” said Wind. But he had his own fire. Taking the joint snake he had with him he struck a fire, and soon had a light for his pipe. He lighted it in that way. Then taking the other snake which was the pipe-stem, he inserted this in the frog’s anus. So the pipe was finished, and in that way Wind could smoke with his host.

Now the owner of the house was a bad man; a man who could not be killed. He was made of iron. So he was Iron Man. Wind knew all about that, and he even knew that Iron Man had killed his four young men. Then Wind decided to kill him. When he smoked, he drew in a great deal of smoke and blew it on Iron Man. And that is the way he killed him. When Iron Man was dead, his wife came up and said to Wind,

“You killed my man. Let’s marry.”

But Wind said that he would not. He asked her where his four young men were and what had become of them. Then she told him all about them. She told him to go where he would find a certain dead tree near the water. She told him that if he would go and cut this tree down and throw it in the water, the four young men would come up from it. Then she guided Wind to the tree and said to him, “Cut it down.” She got an axe and Wind cut the tree down. Then he threw it in the water as Iron Man’s “wife had told him. And the four young men came out of the water. When they stood on the ground they all looked black. They recognized Wind, but they told him that they were not under his control any longer. “Well, I’ll make something different out of you, then,” he said to them. Then one of the young men said, “What shall I be?” But Wind did not answer him, for that.

“I’ll be a wolf,” said the second. So the Wind told him to go into the woods, and he went.

Wind asked the third what he would be. “I’ll be a crow,” said he. Then Wind asked the fourth what he would be. “I’ll be a raven,” said the fourth young man. Wind told him to go into the forest. Now the first young man who had spoken too soon was the only one left. And Wind said to him, “What will you be?” “I’ll be a dog,” said he. “Well, you go and stay with the wolf/ ‘ said Wind to him. And he went.

Now Wind was through with the young men. He said, “Some day I will go back where I came from. As I go I’ll leave nothing in my way.”

Wind has never come back; he is there yet. But some day he will come. That is what the old Yuchi say.

11. The Lost Yuchi.

They say the Yuchi all lived together in the old days. They had a dance, and while they were dancing, a quarrel arose among them. Some of them had bear hides upon their backs, and the rest were dancing with wildcat skins. The people who wore the bear hides then departed. They went west, over the great mountains. The others who had the wildcat skins remained. All the Yuchi here are the wildcat hide people. But what became of the bear hide people no one knows. They are both Yuchi but they cannot find each other.

12. Origin of Thunder and Lightning.

There is a great being, whose name is Konsánonwi. He rides over the seas upon a great blacksnake. When he goes in and out of the water, there is a great noise. That is the thunder. Sometimes the great snake shakes his tail, and that is what makes the lightning. But that is another story.

13. Why the Cedar Tree is Red-Grained3 , and How the Sun Was Rescued From a Sorcerer.

An unknown mysterious being once came down upon the earth and met people there, who were the ancestors of the Yuchi Indians. To them this being taught many of the arts of life, and in matters of religion admonished them to call the sun their mother as a matter of worship. Every morning the sun, after rising above the horizon, makes short stops, and then goes faster until it reaches the noon point. So the Unknown inquired of them what was the matter with the sun. They denied having any knowledge about it, and said, “Somebody has to go there to see and examine.” “Who would go there, and what could he do after he gets there?” The people said, “We are afraid to go up there.” But the Unknown selected two men to make the ascent, gave to each a club, and instructed them that as soon as the wizard who was playing these tricks on the sun was leaving his cavern in the earth and appeared on the surface they should kill him on the spot. “It is a wizard who causes the sun to go so fast in the morning, for at sunrise he makes dashes at it, and the sun, being afraid of him, tries to flee from his presence. ” The two brave men went to the rising place of the sun to watch the orifice from which the sun emerges. The wizard appeared at the mouth of the cave, and at the same time the sun was to rise from another orifice beyond it. The wizard watched for the fiery disk and put himself in position to rush and jump at it at the moment of its appearance. When the wizard held up his head the two men knocked it off from his body with their clubs, took it to their tribe, and proclaimed that they had killed the sorcerer who had for so long a time urged the sun to a quicker motion. But the wizard’s head was not dead yet. It was stirring and moving about, and to stop this the man of mysterious origin advised the people to tie the head on the uppermost limbs of a tree. They did so, and on the next morning the head fell to the ground, for it was not dead yet. He then ordered them to tie the head to another tree. It still lived and fell to the ground the next day. To insure success, the Unknown then made them tie it to a red cedar tree. There it remained, and its life became extinct. The blood of the head ran through the cedar. Henceforth the grain of the wood assumed a reddish color, and the cedar tree became a medicine tree.4

14. The Origin of the White People and Their First Appearance to the Yuchi.

It was out upon the ocean. Some sea-foam formed against a big log floating there. Then a person emerged from the sea-foam and crawled out upon the log. He was seen sitting there. Another person crawled up, on the other side of the log. It was a woman. They were whites. Soon the Indians saw them, and at first thought that they were sea gulls, and they said among themselves, “Are not they white people?” Then they made a boat and went out to look at the strangers more closely.

Later on the whites were seen in their houseboat. Then they disappeared.

In about a year they returned, and there were a great many of them. The Indians talked to them but they could not understand each other. Then the whites left.

But they came back in another year with a great many ships. They approached the Indians and asked if they could come ashore. They said, “Yes.” So the whites landed, but they seemed to be afraid to walk much on the water. They went away again over the sea.

This time they were gone a shorter time; only three months passed and they came again. They had a box with them and asked the Indians for some earth to fill it. It was given to them as they desired. The first time they asked they had a square box, and when that was filled they brought a big shallow box. They filled this one too. Earth was put in them and when they “were carried aboard the ship the white men planted seed in them and many things were raised. After they had taken away the shallow box, the whites came back and told the Indians that their land was very strong and fertile. So they asked the Indians to give them a portion of it that they might live on it. The Indians agreed to do it, the whites came to the shore, and they have lived there ever since.

15. The Wolves Kill the Terrapin and Give the Terrapin Red Eyes.

The Terrapin was lying in a hollow. A Wolf came near and stood on the slope above the Terrapin. The Terrapin soon began to revile the Wolf, calling him bad names. Now the Wolf became very angry and straightway called his friends to help him punish the Terrapin. They gave chase and the Terrapin was compelled to crawl into a hollow log. They soon managed to get her out of this, but she got away and climbed up a grapevine into a tree. The wolves searched for her and at last saw her shadow. But they did not see where the Terrapin was, until afterwards. Then they began shooting at her and finally killed her with the old arrows which they picked up. The Wolf who was at the head of them told them what to do. So they tore her up. Then he took her head and held it up and asked who would eat it. The one whom he asked would not eat it. He said, “No ! I will not eat it; it would give me a headache and kill me.” He offered it to another one, and received the same answer. Each time he offered it to a wolf it was refused, and he could get no one to eat the Terrapin’s head. Then the Wolf became very angry and took some of the blood and threw it in the eyes of the young terrapins who were standing around. That is why all terrapins have red eyes.

16. The Heron Outwits the Parrot.

The Parrot and the Heron were friends. They met one day and the Parrot asked the Heron to come over and visit him. The Heron was willing, so one day he went over to pay his visit. The Parrot was going to have dinner for him. When the food was ready, the Parrot put a fiat dish full of it before the Heron and told him to eat away. But the dish was so flat that he could not get any of the food into his mouth. After trying a number of times he gave it up and decided to go home hungry. But before he left he asked the Parrot to come over and have dinner with him soon. Then he left.

Before long the Parrot went to dine with the Heron. The Heron had things ready and when they thought it time to eat, he got out his dinner. But now his dinner was in a high deep pot. This was all right for the Heron, but the Parrot could not get his bill near the food, because the pot was too deep. So he had to go home hungry himself, just as the Heron had to when he visited him. He was disappointed.

17. Rabbit Outwits Wolf and Steals Pigs.

The Rabbit and the Wolf were friends. One day the Rabbit said to the Wolf, “There are some fine pigs in a certain pen. I always kill and eat some. Let us go and get some now. ” So the Wolf agreed and they went to the place where some one had some fine hogs. “Now,” said Rabbit to the Wolf, “you are the largest. You jump over the fence and knock one on the head and kill him. Throw him over the fence. You are the larger. You carry him and go on home and I will watch.” The Wolf jumped over and got a good hog. He dragged him over the fence and started to carry him home. But the Rabbit had gone and cut a big pole. When the Wolf came along, Rabbit ran around his head and hit him with the pole. Then the Wolf dropped the hog and made off for home as fast as he could. He was struck hard, for he never looked back to see what it was. Now the Rabbit took the hog and carried it home with him. All night he roasted meat and had a good time.

Then he thought, “I have hit my good friend, I must go and see him.” He laughed a great deal. Then he went to the Wolf’s house to see him. ” What was the matter with you?” he asked him. “They whipped me,” said the wolf. “Yes, I heard you making a din and I ran off,” said Rabbit.

18. Rabbit and Wolf Go Courting.

The Rabbit and the Wolf were fond of two girls. But the girls would often make fun of the Rabbit because he was smaller and weaker than the Wolf. “Well, I am smarter than wolf, and you will see,” said he at last.

Soon he met the Wolf, who was on his way to the girls’ house. The Wolf wanted company so he asked Rabbit to go with him. “No,” said Rabbit, “I am too tired. ” ” Well, never mind, get up on my back and ride, ” the Wolf told him. Then the Rabbit agreed, and mounted the Wolf’s back. ” But you must go slowly. I am sore, ” he said. Soon they arrive at the house. “Now, I’ll go and knock on the door, you wait here, “said the Rabbit. Then he knocks on the door, and when the girls come, he says to them, ” See the Wolf hitched out there. He is my horse. I’ll drive him in.” Then he goes out and tells the Wolf that the girls are ready and want to see them. He mounts the Wolf’s back again. Then he digs his spurs into the Wolf and whips him up. They dash through the door, and almost break down the house. “See! I told you so,” shouted the Rabbit as he rushed by the frightened girls.

19. The Rabbit is Trapped by the Tar-man, and Escapes.

Now the Rabbit used to steal beans from a certain man. He would go to the place where the beans were kept, during the night, and steal as many as he needed. The man made up his mind to catch the Rabbit. So he got some tar (yasoci, ‘pine drops, ‘) and made a little man out of it. He put a stick in its hand and laid it near where the beans were the next night. Again the Rabbit went to steal beans. But when he got to the place and saw the tar-man there with a stick, he became angry, and told the little man that if he did not drop the stick, he would kick him. Then he kicked him, but his foot stuck to the tar-man, and Rabbit then told him that, unless he let go, he would kick him again. So he kicked him again, and that foot, too, got stuck. Then Rabbit told him that, if he did not let go now, he would hit him. Then he hit the little man and his hand stuck where he hit the tar. Rabbit then told him the same thing as before, and when he hit him with the other hand that stuck too. So the Rabbit Was well trapped.

In the morning the owner of the beans came to see what had happened. He laughed when he saw Rabbit caught there, and got everything ready to loosen the Rabbit and put him in a box. But Rabbit escaped from the man and ran away. Then the man put the tar-man among the beans again. Before many nights had passed Rabbit came again for beans, and the same thing happened as before. Rabbit quarreled with the tar-man and soon was trapped hand and foot. Now this time the owner of the beans came and when he found Rabbit caught again he made sure that he would not escape. He got him safely in a box, and said, “Tomorrow I’ll throw you in the river.” He left Rabbit all night. Now before the time came for the man to throw him into the river. Rabbit was determined to escape.

The man’s son was playing around near the box where Rabbit was, and soon Rabbit said to him, “Let me out, and you get in here; they are going to throw me into the river.” So the boy did open the box and got in himself. Then the Rabbit ran away. The man threw the boy into the river. That was his son, but he did not know it.

20. The Rabbit Visits the Bear and Fails to Imitate Him.

The Bear and the Rabbit were friends. The Rabbit went to visit the Bear and to have dinner with him. Before they were ready to eat, the Bear went upstairs and cut some fat from his entrails. Then he cooked it with the beans. The dinner was very good, and Rabbit thought about it and made up his mind to do the same as the Bear when he wanted to have a fine dinner. Then the Rabbit told the Bear to come to sec him. Said he, “I live in the raspberry patch. You must come to dinner.”

Soon the Bear went over to the Rabbit’s house and visited him. Before dinner the Rabbit went upstairs to cut some fat from his entrails. But when he cut his entrails he was hurt, and the pain was so great that he made a great uproar. The Bear ran upstairs to see what was the matter, and found that Rabbit had cut his entrails. “Now,” said the Bear, “I’ll show you how to do that. ” And he cut some fat from himself and cooked it with the beans that Rabbit had prepared. Then they had their dinner. The Bear thought about it and went home laughing.

21. Wildcat Feigns Death and Deceives the Rabbit.

The Wildcat was lying in a shady place in the woods. They thought he was asleep. The Rabbit came that way and found him lying there. So he called the Turkeys and told them that the Wildcat was dead and living not far away. They assembled and made ready for a good time. A rattle was brought and they began to dance, round and round the Wildcat. Then they thought they might as well eat him. But suddenly the Wildcat jumped up among them. He caught the Rabbit and a fat Turkey.


  1. Comparable in sense to the Creek supreme deity and creator, Hisdkidamissi, ‘Master of Breath.’ 

  2. The implication in this statement is that death was then non-existent. 

  3. From A. S. Gatschet, Some Mythic Stories of the Yuchi Indians, American Anthropologist, Vol. VI, p. 281. 

  4. Cedar wood is always used in the manufacture of the flageolet (see Yuchi Music) and cedar leaves are important agents in the medicinal practice

MLA Source Citation:

Add after new site opens. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 29 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/yuchi-religion.htm - Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2014

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