Table of Contents Preface 1 The Four Creations Hopi

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The Elohim

      In the beginning the Elohim made the sky and the earth, but the earth was shapeless and everything was dark. The Elohim said "Let there be light," and there was the light that made day different from night. And that was the first day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be a dome to separate the heavens from the waters below," and there were the heavens. And that was the second day.

      The Elohim said, "Let the waters of the earth gather so that there are seas and there is dry land," and so it was. The Elohim said, "Let there be vegetation on the land, with plants to yield seeds and fruits," and so it was. And that was the third day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be light in the heavens, and let them change with the seasons," and so there were stars. Then the Elohim made a sun and a moon to rule over the day and to rule over the night. And that was the fourth day.

      The Elohim said, "Let there be creatures in the waters, and let there be birds in the skies," and so there were sea monsters and sea creatures and birds. The Elohim blessed them, saying "Be fruitful and multiply". And that was the fifth day.

      The Elohim said, "Let the earth have animals of various kinds", and so it was. Then the Elohim said, "Let us make humans after our own likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle and creeping things of the land, and over all the earth." The Elohim said to these humans, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, ruling over the fish and the birds and the animals of the land. We have given you every plant and tree yielding seed. To every beast and bird of the Earth we have given every green plant for food." And that was the sixth day.

      And on the seventh day the making of the heavens and earth was finished, and the Elohim rested.

Sources for "The Elohim" and "Yahweh":

Norman C. Habel, 1971, Literary Criticism of the Bible: Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 86 p. (BS 1225.2 .H3)

David Adams Leeming and Margaret Adams Leeming, 1994, Encyclopedia of Creation Myths: Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 330 p. (BL 325.C7 L44 1994)
John Lawrence MacKenzie, 1966, "Pentateuch" and "Adam and Eve" in Encyclopedia Britannica: Chicago, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
Herbert G. May, editor, The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New York, Oxford University Press, 1564 p.
Dagobert D. Runes, 1959, Concise Dictionary of Judaism: New York, Philosophical Library Inc., 237 p. (BM 50.R941c)
A.M. Silbermann, translator, 5745 [1985], Chumash, with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth, and Rashi's Commentary, Vol. 1: Jerusalem, The Silbermann Family, 281 + 29 p. (BS 1221 1985 v.1)
Julius Wellhausen, 1899, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bucher des Alten Testaments: Berlin, G. Reimer, 373 p. (BS 1215.W4 1899)

A much more extensive bibliography is available at

Other web pages of interest include (and succeeding lessons as well)

      This story is really two stories that come from the Native American peoples of Wisconsin. The first story is a Potawatomi story of the origin of humans, and the second concerns the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa peoples.


A Potawatomi Story

      Earthmaker made the world with trees and fields, with rivers, lakes, and springs, and with hills and valleys. It was beautiful. However, there weren't any humans, and so one day he decided to make some.

      He scooped out a hole in a stream bank and lined the hole with stones to make a hearth, and he built a fire there. Then he took some clay and made a small figure that he put in the hearth. While it baked, he took some twigs and made tongs. When he pulled the figure out of the fire and had let it cool, he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. Earthmaker nonetheless realized that it was only half-baked. That figure became the white people.

      Earthmaker decided to try again, and so he made another figure and put it on the hearth. This time he took a nap under a tree while the figure baked, and he slept longer than he intended. When he pulled the second figure out of the fire and had let it cool, he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. Earthmaker realized that this figure was overbaked, and it became the black people.

      Earthmaker decided to try one more time. He cleaned the ashes out of the hearth and built a new fire. Then he scooped up some clay and cleaned it of any twigs or leaves, so that it was pure. He made a little figure and put it on the hearth, and this time he sat by the hearth and watched carefully as the figure baked. When this figure was done, he pulled it out of the fire and let it cool. Then he moved its limbs and breathed life into it, and it walked away. This figure was baked just right, and it became the red people.

      The red people became many tribes, and they spread across the land. Among these tribes were the Ojibwe, the Ottawa, and the Potawatomi. These three tribes were enemies and fought many battles. One Potawatomi man had ten sons, all of whom were killed in battle. Unbeknownst to him, there was an Ojibwe man who had lost ten sons in these battles, and there was an Ottawa man who had likewise lost ten sons. Each man mourned so much that they wandered away from their tribes, each looking for a place to die in the woods.

      The Ojibwe man walked and walked, and eventually he came to a huge tree. The tree had four long roots stretching to the north, east, south, and west, and four huge branches that extended in the same directions. The tree also had one huge root that ran straight toward the center of the earth, and its center limb ran straight up into the sky. The tree was so beautiful, and the view from under it was so tranquil, that the man forgot his sorrow, and eventually he was happy.

      As the Ojibwe man sat under the tree, he saw another man approaching in the distance. This newcomer was crying as he walked toward the tree, but eventually he saw the tree's beauty and stopped under it. The Ojibwe man said, "I lost ten sons in war and was so heartbroken that I wandered away to die, until I came to this tree. Why have you come here?" The newcomer, an Ottawa, said, "I too lost ten sons in war, and I lost myself in grief until I came to this place". The two men sat and talked of their troubles.

      As the two men talked, a third approached weeping. The first two watched as this third came to the tree. When they asked, the third man, a Potawatomi, told how he had lost ten sons in war and had walked in grief until he came to this beautiful place.

      The three men talked and realized that their sons had died fighting in the same wars. They concluded that the Great Spirit had brought them together to this tranquil place, where they could hear the spirits speak. They agreed that there had been too much fighting between their tribes, and too much grief. They resolved to go back to their tribes and get them to live in peace. They made three pipes, and each took a pipe of tobacco home to his people as a symbol of peace.

      Ten days later, the three old men led their people to the great tree. Each man brought wood from which they built a fire together, and they cooked food from each tribe. They filled a pipe and offered its smoke to the Great Spirit above, to the spirits of the four directions, and then downward to the spirit that keeps the earth from sinking into the water. The tribes each smoked from the pipe of peace and ate of the common meal, and their chiefs agreed that they should live in peace. The three old men agreed to a set of rules to preserve the peace and to guide their peoples. This is how the Potawatomi, the Ojibwe, and Ottawa came to live in peace and to intermarry, as one people.

Dorothy Moulding Brown, 1947, Indian Fireside Tales: Madison, Wisconsin Folklore Society, 7 p. Harry H. Anderson, ed., 1992, Myths and Legends of Wisconsin Indians, Milwaukee History, vol. 15, no. 1, p. 2-36. (as available at 137.html)




Dorothy Moulding Brown, 1947, Indian Fireside Tales: Madison, Wisconsin Folklore Society, 7 p.
Harry H. Anderson, ed., 1992, Myths and Legends of Wisconsin Indians, Milwaukee History, vol. 15, no. 1, p. 2-36. (as available at 137.html)  

      This story comes from Hawaii, where it was part of the Kumulipo, a chant recounting both the origin of the world and the genealogy of Hawaii's reigning family. The Kumulipo is a work of poetry with many shades of meaning and plays on words, and it also contains many subtle parables and parodies of rivals of the royal family. It is difficult to render the native Hawaiian word-play and rhyme into English prose, and while this version tries to maintain some of the juxtaposition of organisms with similar names, it can do so only in a limited way. In each section of the story, shades of darkness, each of which have their own names in Hawaiian, progress toward daylight and give birth to the life of the world.


Birth in the Dawn

      When the earth first became hot and the heavens churned and the sun was dark, land emerged from the slime of the sea. The deepest darkness of caverns, a male, and the moonless darkness of night, a female, gave birth to the simple lifeforms of the sea. The coral that builds islands was born, and the grub, the sea cucumber, the sea urchin, the barnacle, the mussel, the limpet, and cowry, and the conch and other shellfish. Born was the seagrass, guarded by the tough landgrass on land; born was the Manauea moss of the sea, matched by the Manauea taro plant on land; born was the Kele seaweed, and the Ekele plant of the land.

      Next the deep darkness of the deep sea and darkness broken by slivers of light in the moonlit forest gave birth to the fish of the sea. The porpoise was born, and the shark, and the goatfish, and the eel, and the octopus, and the stingray, and the bonito, and the albacore, and the mackerel and mullet, and the sturgeon. Born was the Kauila eel of the sea, matched by the Kauila tree on land; born was the Kupoupou fish of the sea, and the Kou tree on land; born was the A'awa fish of the sea, guarded by the 'Awa plant of the land. Trains of walruses and schools of fish swam past the coral ridges, still in the darkness of night.

      Next darkness of night and night that just barely breaks into dawn gave birth to the flying creatures. The caterpillar was born, and the moth to which it leads; the ant was born, and the dragonfly that it becomes; the grub was born, and the grasshopper that it becomes. The snipe was born, and the turnstone and the mudhen, and the crow and the rail, and the albatross and the curlew, and the stilt and the heron. Born was the sea-duck of the islands, and the wild duck that lives on land; born was Hehe bird of the sea, matched by the Nene goose on land.

      Next, as the sea advanced onto the land and passed back and forth across it, the light of earliest dawn and half-darkness produced the crawling creatures that come from the sea. The rough-backed turtle was born, and the horn-billed turtle and the dark-red turtle. The lobster and gecko were born and the mud-dwelling creatures that leave their tracks in the sand. Born was the Wili sea-borer of the sea, and the Wilwili tree on land; born was the Opeope jellyfish of the sea, and the Oheohe bamboo of the land. Thus the crawling animals were born in the night, creeping and crawling onto the land.

      Next were born the animals of the land, including the dog and rat. Then, in the stillness as the light of dawn came across the land, were born La'ila'i, a woman, and Ki'i, a man, and Kane, a god, and Kanaloa, the octopus. From the union of La'ila'i with Ki'i and Kane came humanity, waves of people who came from afar. Born was Hahapo'el, a girl, and Ha-popo, another girl, in the upland valleys whence chiefs arose. Born were humans, spreading across the earth, and now it was day.




Martha Warren Beckwith (translator and editor), 1951, The Kumulipo: Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 257 p. (BL2620.H3 K9)  

      This story comes from the Wakaranga people of what is today Zimbabwe.

Life from Moon and the Stars

      Before there was any life on earth, God made a man and named him Moon. He sent Moon to live on the bottom of the sea, but Moon wanted to live on the land. Despite God's warnings of how hard life would be, Moon went to live on land.

      Eventually the lifelessness of the land made Moon so unhappy that he wept. God took pity on Moon and sent him a wife named Morningstar to keep him company for two years. When Morningstar came from heaven to live with Moon, she brought fire with her, for it had not existed on earth before. She built a fire in the middle of Moon's hut and slept on the side opposite him. In the night, however, he crossed over and made love to her. By the next morning, she was swollen, and she gave birth to the grasses and trees and other plants, and soon the world was green with life. The trees grew until they touched the sky, and then the first rain fell from the clouds that they touched. Thus life on the land flourished, and Moon and Mornngstar led a bountiful life in their new paradise.

      At the end of her two years, Morningstar returned to the heavens to live there forever. Again Moon wept in his loneliness. God offered him another wife, but he warned Moon that this time the husband would die after two years. Thus Eveningstar came to live with moon. When they first made love, she gave birth to goats and sheep and cows on the next day. On the day after that, she gave birth to the antelopes and birds. On the third day, boys and girls were born.

      Moon wanted to sleep again with Eveningstar, but God warned him that he should not. He did so, however, and on the next day Eveningstar gave birth to the lions, the leopards, the snakes, and the scorpions that plague humankind because Moon ignored the warning.

      As Moon's daughters grew up, they became beautiful, and he wanted to sleep with them too. He did so, and they had many children. Thus Moon came to rule over a far-flung kingdom of his descendents. Eveningstar was jealous, however, and she sent a snake to bite her unfaithful husband. He soon fell ill, and the rainfall that his people had enjoyed stopped. As the rivers dried up and famine began, his people concluded that it was his fault. Eventually they rose up and strangled him, and they set another man in his place as king.

      The people threw Moon's body in the ocean, but he rose from the sea to the skies to seek his first wife Morningstar, in hope of reliving their life in the paradise they had made.

Ulli Beier, 1966, The Origin of Life and Death�African Creation Myths: London, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 65 p. (GR355.B4)  

      This story comes from the Seneca people, who lived in the Iroquois Nation in what is now central and western New York and Pennsylvania. This story is a synthesis of two stories recorded on the Cattaraugus Reservation in New York by Jeremiah Curtin in the 1880's and J.N.B. Hewitt in the 1890's. Curtin and Hewitt collected their stories from several elderly Seneca, including Abraham Johnny-John, Solomon O'Bail, George Titus, George Armstrong, Zachariah Jimeson, Andrew Fox, Henry Jacob, Henry Silverheels, Peter White, Black Chief, Phoebe Logan, Truman Halftown, and Chief Priest Henry Stevens.


Two Brothers and their Grandmother

      Long ago, before this earth existed, humans lived in the sky, and they were ruled by a great chief. This chief's lodge was near a tall tree that had white blossoms and that every year produced corn for the people to eat. When this tree bloomed, there was light, but once its blossoms fell, darkness descended until its next flowering.

      Once this chief's daughter became ill with a disease no one had seen before. Despite her people's best efforts to cure her, she did not get well, and all the people were worried. Someone in the tribe dreamed that she would be cured if the tree was pulled up by its roots. No one in the tribe wanted to do that, so they ignored the dream as an aberration. This person had another dream that the people must dig a trench around the tree and uproot it to save the chief's daughter, but again the dream went ignored. Only after a third such dream did the people begin digging. They dug a trench around the tree, severing the roots as they went. When the last root was cut, the tree disappeared into the ground, into what seemed to be a bottomless hole.

      Many of the people were distraught, and one young man in particular complained about the destruction of the tree. The chief's daughter had been brought to the tree in hopes that she would be cured, and the young man was so angry that he kicked her into the hole. Soon she disappeared from the view of her people as she fell into the apparent abyss.

      The young woman fell through darkness, but eventually it became light and she saw that she was falling into water, and in fact there was no land at all in sight. The animals saw her, however, and they resolved to save her. At the loon's direction, the fishhawk flew up to catch her, and the fishhawk deposited her on the turtle's back. Even Turtle grew tired of holding her, however, and the animals decided they needed land on which to place her. Several dove down to find mud in the water, but they failed until Toad tried and came back with some wet dirt. Soon the other diving animals did likewise, and Beaver patted the mud down on Turtle's back to make an island. Before long the island was quite large, and bushes began to grow at its banks.

      The young woman recovered from her disease, and in fact she soon gave birth to a daughter. She raised her daughter on the island, and they ate potatoes that they grew there. When they went out to dig potatoes, she warned her daughter that she must always face the west. This was so that the west wind could not enter her and make her pregnant. The daughter nonetheless disobeyed, and soon she was heavy with child. She could hear twins inside her debating how to exit her body. One was born naturally, but the other was born through his mother's armpit, and she died from the wound.

      The two brothers grew up together, but the younger was disagreeable and angry. They decided that the island needed more life, so they the made the forests and lakes. One day they divided the island in half, with each to make his own animals. The older brother made human beings, and he breathed life into them. He also made many animals that were fat and slow moving, he made the sycamore tree bear fruit, and he made the rivers flow both ways, with one half going upstream and one half going downstream. The younger brother also made many animals, including a huge mosquito that knocked down trees when it flew, and he made his half of the island rocky and full of ledges and precipices. The younger brother tried to make humans, but he could only make ugly animals, and in his anger he vowed that he would make animals that would eat humans.

      The two brothers returned home to their grandmother's lodge, and decided that the next day they would go out to see what each other had done. First they went to the younger brother's half, where the older brother was distressed at the huge mosquito that could kill his people. He grabbed the mosquito and rubbed it between his hands until it was tiny, and it flew away when he blew on it. Then they went to see the older brother's half of the island, where the younger brother was disgusted because life would be too easy for the humans. He took many of his brother's animals and made them smaller and faster so they couldn't be caught, and he made the fruit of the sycamore tiny and unpalatable, and he made all the rivers flow downstream so that humans would have to work to travel.

      Soon the two brothers got into a terrible fight about how each had changed the other's half of the island, and in their battle the older brother was killed. The older brother went to his home in the sky, where those who live good lives go to join him, and the younger brother went on to spread evil, and when evil people die they are tormented by him because he could not make a human.




Jeremiah Curtin and J.N.B. Hewitt, 1918, Seneca Fiction, Legends, and Myths: Thirty- Second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 1910-1911, p. 37- 819. (J84.SI2.1 1910-1911)  

      This story comes from the Wichita people of southern Oklahoma and eastern Texas. The story was told by the Wichita chief, Towakoni Jim, to George Dorsey, who compiled Wichita stories. The Wichita religion centered on worship of the heavenly bodies, as the conclusion of this story suggests.


The Moon and the Morning Star

      In the beginning there were neither sun, nor stars, nor anything else that we know today. For a long time, the only man was Man-never-known-on-Earth. He created everything. When he created the world, he created land and water, but they were not separate, and still everything was dark. Then Man-never-known-on-Earth created a man who was known as Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light and a woman named Bright-Shining-Woman. Everything that they needed, they dreamed of, and it was there when they awoke. Bright-Shining-Woman received an ear of corn and knew that it would be the food of generations to come.

      Still there was nothing but darkness. Without knowing why, Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light began a journey to the east, moving slowly through the darkness. He came to a stranger who told him that there would be many villages and many people in the future, and that it would be up to Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light to teach them. As they talked, a voice from the east called to this stranger to shoot a black-and-white deer that would follow a white deer and a black deer out of a stream nearby. Four times the stranger had to tell the impatient voice that he was preparing a bow and arrow to shoot the deer. Finally he emerged from his lodge as the deer jumped out of the water, and he shot the black-and-white deer. This meant that the earth would turn, that the stars would move, and that there would be day and night. The stranger, whose name was Star-that-is-always-moving, went to follow the deer that he had wounded, but Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light stayed by the shore. From where the voice had spoken, he now saw the sun rise for the first time. He returned to his home, but he traveled much faster now that it was light. That night he saw three stars in the sky, with another star nearby, and he concluded that they were the three deer and the man who followed them.

      After there was light, villages and people multiplied, as the stranger had predicted. Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light and Bright-Shining-Woman went from village to village, teaching the people. Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light taught the men about bows and arrows, and he taught them to play the ball game and the shinny game.

      Bright-Shining-Woman taught the women about corn, how to grow corn, how to feed the people with corn, how to offer some corn at each meal to Man-never-known-on-Earth, how take four kernels and rub them on their child as a prayer. She also taught them the double-ball game. She told them that, after she was gone, they could look at her face to tell when their monthly bleeding should occur, and by counting her appearances they could keep track of when their children would be born. Then she left them, and that night the first moon came up, because she was the Moon.

      Man-with-the-Power-to-Carry-Light taught the men that they must offer some of the game that they caught to the moon and to the stars and to the other supernatural beings. He told them that he would leave them, but that they would see him sometimes in early morning. When they saw him, they were to take their children to drink and bathe in the river, which would give them long life. Then he left them and became the Morning Star.




George A. Dorsey, 1904, The Mythology of the Wichita: Washington, Carnegie Institution, 351 p. (E99.W6 D718).  



The following is not a creation story. Instead, it is nearly the opposite, a prophecy of the end of one of the earth's peoples. It is the response of Chief Sealth, or Chief Seattle, to the U.S. government's demand for two million acres of land in the northwestern U.S. in 1854. Seattle was Chief of the Dwamish Indians, and he was responding to representatives of U.S. President Franklin Pierce. Chief Seattle spoke in his native Dwamish, and his speech wasn't published in English until 1887. Many versions of the speech have appeared subsequently, and some of them emphasize themes noticeably different than those of the original. The following is an abridgment of the first version, which was published by Henry A. Smith in the Seattle Sunday Star on October 29, 1887.


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