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|Compiled and Edited by
Katharine Berry Judson
Author of "Myths and Legends of Alaska", "Myths and Legends
of the Pacific Northwest", and "Montana."
In the beginning of the New-making, the ancient fathers lived successively in four caves in the Four fold-containing-earth. The first was of sooty blackness, black as a chimney at night time; the second, dark as the night in the stormy season; the third, like a valley in starlight; the fourth, with a light like the dawning. Then they came up in the night-shine into the World of Knowing and Seeing.
So runs the Zuni myth, and it typifies well the mental development, insight, and beauty of speech of the Indian tribes along the Pacific Coast, from those of Alaska in the far-away Northland, with half of life spent in actual darkness and more than half in the struggle for existence against the cold and the storms loosed by fatal curiosity from the bear's bag of bitter, icy winds, to the exquisite imagery of the Zunis and other desert tribes, on their sunny plains in the Southland.
It was in the night-shine of this southern land, with its clear, dry air and brilliant stars, that the Indians, looking up at the heavens above them, told the story of the bag of starsof Utset, the First Mother, who gave to the scarab beetle, when the floods came, the bag of Star People, sending him first into the world above. It was a long climb to the world above and the tired little fellow, once safe, sat down by the sack. After a while he cut a tiny hole in the bag, just to see what was in it, but the Star People flew out and filled the heavens everywhere. Yet he saved a few stars by grasping the neck of the sack, and sat there, frightened and sad, when Utset, the First Mother, asked what he had done with the beautiful Star People.
The Sky-father himself, in those early years of the New-making, spread out his hand with the palm downward, and into all the wrinkles of his hand set the semblance of shining yellow corn-grains, gleaming like sparks of fire in the dark of the early World-dawn. "See," said Sky-father to Earth-mother, "our children shall be guided by these when the Sun-father is not near and thy mountain terraces are as darkness itself. Then shall our children be guided by light." So Sky-father created the stars. Then he said, "And even as these grains gleam upward from the water, so shall seed grain like them spring up from the earth when touched by water, to nourish our children." And he created the golden Seed-stuff of the corn.
It is around the beautiful Corn Maidens that perhaps the most delicate of all imagery clings, Maidens offended when the dancers sought their presence all too freely, no longer holding them so precious as in the olden time, so that, in white garments, they became invisible in the thickening white mists. Then sadly and noiselessly they stole in amongst the people and laid their corn wands down amongst the trays, and laid their white broidered garments thereon, as mothers lay soft kilting over their babes. Even as the mists became they, and with the mists drifting, fled away, to the south Summer-land.
They began the search for the Corn Maidens, found at last only by Paiyatuma, the god of dawn, from whose flute came wonderful music, as of liquid voices in caverns, or the echo of women's laughter in water vases, heard only by men of nights as they wandered up and down the river trail.
When he paused to rest on his journey, playing on his painted flute, butterflies and birds sought him, and he sent them before to seek the Maidens, even before they could hear the music of his song-sound. And the Maidens filled their colored trays with seed-corn from their fields, and over all spread broidered mantles, broidered with the bright colors and the creature signs of the Summer-land, and thus following him, journeyed only at night and dawn, as the dead do, and the stars also.
Back to the Seed People they came, but only to give to the ancients the precious seed, and this having been given, the darkness of night fell around them. As shadows in deep night, so these Maidens of the Seed of Corn, the beloved and beautiful, were seen no more of men. But Shutsuka walked behind the Maidens, whistling shrilly as they sped southward, even as the frost wind whistles when the corn is gathered away, among the lone canes and the dry leaves of a gleaned field.
The myths of California, in general, are of the same type as those given in a preceding volume on the myths of the Pacific Northwest. Indeed many of the myths of Northern Californian tribes are so obviously the same as those of the Modocs and Klamath Indians that they have not been repeated. Coyote and Fox reign supreme, as they do along the entire coast, though the birds of the air take a greater part in the creation of things. These stories are quaint and whimsical, but they lack the beauty of the myths of the desert tribes. There is nothing in all Californian myths, so far as I have studied them, which in any way compares with the one of the Corn Maidens, referred to above, or the Sia myths of the Cloud People. In the compilation of this volume, the same idea has governed as in the two preceding volumessimply the preparation of a volume of the quainter, purer myths, suitable for general reading, authentic, and with illustrations of the country portrayed, but with no pretensions to being a purely scientific piece of work. Scientific people know well the government documents and reports of learned societies which contain myths of all kinds, good, bad, and indifferent. But the volumes of this series are intended for popular use. Changes have been made only in abridgments of long conversations and of ceremonial details which detracted from the myth as a myth, even though of great ethnological importance.
Especial credit is due in this volume to the work of the ethnologists whose work has appeared in the publications of the Smithsonian Institution, and the U. S. Geographical and Geological Surveys West of the Rocky Mountains: to Mrs. Mathilda Cox Stevenson for the Sia myths, and to the late James Stevenson for the Navajo myths and sand painting; to the late Frank Hamilton Cushing for the Zuni myths, to the late Frank Russell for the Pima myths, to the late Stephen Powers for the Californian myths, and also to James Mooney and Cosmos Mindeleff. The recent publications of the University of California on the myths of the tribes of that State have not been included.
Thanks are also due to the Smithsonian Institution for the illustrations accredited to them, to the Carnegie Institution of Washington for illustrations from the Desert Botanical Laboratory at Tucson, Arizona, and to Mr. Ferdinard Ellerman of the Mount Wilson Observatory and to others.
K. B. J.
Department of History,
University of Washington.