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Cherokee mythology

The Cherokee are a tribe of Native Americans who live in the southeastern United States. Recent archeological discoveries by archaeologist/ethnologist Dr. Tim Jones of the University of Arizona place the Cherokee on the Ozark Plateau immediately after their invasion from South America, from whence they moved to occupy large parts of the the southeastern and eastern United States from what is now southern Pennsylvania south to what is now Florida.

The Cherokee venerated the horned serpent Sint Holo, who appeared to extremely intelligent and resourceful male youths, as well as Tsul 'Kalu[?], a god of the hunt and Oonawieh Unggi[?] ("the oldest wind"), a wind god. The Ani Yuntikwalaski[?] were people of thunder and lightning; they caused fires in trees (usually hollow sycamore). Asgaya Gigagei[?] was a thunderstorm spirit, also called Asagaya Gigaei[?].

Kana'ti and Selu

There was a couple named Kana'ti ("lucky hunter") and his wife, Selu ("maize"). Kana'ti was an excellent hunter and never failed to catch some game. Their son played in the river in which Selu washed the blood off of her husband's catch every day. The boy soon began playing with a creature that sprang from the river and called himself his elder brother, whose mother had thrown him into the river. Kana'ti and Selu knew he had come the blood. Kana'ti once told his son to start wrestling and pin the spirit boy down so Kana'ti could see him. Kana'ti and Selu took the spirit boy home with them. He was a disobedient and wild child, who quickly developed skills in magic. He was called I'nage-utasvhi[?] ("he who grew up in the wild"). I'nage-utasvhi and the real boy followed Kana'ti on a hunting trip one day, because I'nage-utasvhi wanted to find out where he caught all his game. I'nage-utasvhi turned himself into a bid of down, and floated unto Kana'ti's shoulder without his knowledge. He watched Kana'ti make arrows from the reeds of a swamp, then I'nage-utasvhi left and told Kana'ti's son what he had seen. Neither were certain of the purpose an arrow.

The boys followed him farther and saw him shoot a deer, and then understood the meaning of the arrows. The boys then made seven arrows of their own, in imitation of Kama'ti and went to the same cave. When they tried to scare out a deer to shoot, the whole cave emptied of deer and they were so surprised that they did nothing. I'nage-utasvhi did shoot a deer in the tail, pushing its tail upwards. The boys decided shooting the deers' tails was fun, and did it to all the deer (this is why deer tails go up, instead of down like most animals). After the deer came raccoons, rabbits and all the other four-footed creatures, then the birds. The birds flapping wings made so much noise that Kana'ti heard what was happening and rushed to the scene. When he saw what was happening, he was furious. So he went up the mountain, and when he came to the place where he kept the game he found the two boys standing by the rock, and all the birds and animals were gone, and without saying a word he went down into the cave and kicked the covers off four jars in one corner. They contained bedbugs[?], lice, gnats and fleas, which then swarmed all over the boys. When Kana'ti felt they had been sufficiently punished he knocked the insects off the boys who had nearly been bitten to death.

Ever since then, mankind had to hunt to find the animals, whom are no longer located in a cave. Now, Selu, the boys' mother, was an excellent cook and kept her foodstuffs in a storeroom. They boys wandered what she did in the storeroom, and they spied on her from a small hole. She leaned over a basket in the middle of the room and rubbed her stomach counterclockwise; the basket filled halfway with corn. She did the same under her armpits and the basket was filled the rest of the way with corn. The boys decided Selu was a witch and that the food was poisonous; she had to be killed, they decided.

Selu read their minds and knew they would kill her. She asked the boys to drag her body around a circle drawn on a cleared spot in front of the house, and watch the circle all night so that they would have maize the next day. They killed her with a club and put her head on the roof of the house facing west. They didn't follow her directions exactly, clearing only seven small spots instead of the one large circle as he said; this is why corn does not grow everywhere, but only in the places where Selu's blood fell as they dragged. They dragged her body only twice, and thus people have to work the crop two times. The next morning (after they watched all night) the corn was full grown.

When Kana'ti came back, he saw Selu's head and was furious. He went to stay with the wolf-people. I'nage-utasvhi once again changed himself into down and accompanied Kana'ti. The wolf people were having a conference, and Kana'ti asked them to challenge his boys to a ballgame, and then kill them. They agreed. I'nage-utasvhi and his brother (under I'nage-utasvhi's direction) made a wide circle all around the house, making a trail all around except in the direction from which the wolf-people would be coming. They made themselves arrows and waited. As soon as the wolf-people passed through the break in the trail, it magically transformed in a high fence, locking them in. I'nage-utasvhi and Kana'ti's son then killed them all with their arrows, as the wolf-people were trapped. A few escaped to a large swamp. The boys ran around the swamp, and fire sprang up in their tracks and only a handful of wolf-people survived, becoming the modern wolves.

The boys were soon approached by a traveler who asked for the secret of the neverending maize (agriculture). They gave him seven grains and told them to plant them every night and watch them until morning. The maize multiplied during the night, they told him. On the last night, they fell asleep and did not keep watch. This is why it is now necessary to grow maize for six months instead of one night.

The boys searched for Kana'ti. They sent a gaming wheel in each direction and, when it didn't come back, that was where they went, towards the Land of the Sun. They headed east and found Kana'ti walked with a dog, which was actually the gaming wheel.

The trio reached a swamp and Kana'ti told the boys it was dangerous and they should wait outside. Of course, they followed him again, stumbling across a panther, which I'nage-utasvhi shot in the head several times, but the panther was unfazed. When Kana'ti returned he asked if the boys had found the panther (knowing they had followed him). They told him they hd but that it hadn't hurt them because they were men.

Next, Kana'ti told the boys that they would soon be with a tribe called the Anada'dvtaski[?] ("roasters"), a cannibalistic people.

I'nage-utasvhi took some splinters from a tree that had been struck by lightning. When they arrived at the cannibals' village, a large pot that was set to boiling for the purpose of eating the boys. I'nage-utasvhi put the splinters into the fire which, when it began to boil, sent lightning bolts to kill the cannibals.

Meeting back up with Kana'ti (who was once again surprised by their survival), the boys soon separated from him again and then made their way to the end of the world, where the sun rises. Kana'ti and Selu were sitting there. Then, the boys stayed with their parents for seven days, and then returned to their homeland and were known as Anisga'ya Tsunsdi[?] ("the little men") and their conversations were thunder.

The people were hungry sometime later, and retrieved the boys. They sang songs and the wind slowly grew. On the seventh song, deer came out from the woods. The villagers then learned the seven songs, but eventually forgot five, which the Cherokee hunters always sang when hunting deer.

Reference: http://www.pantheon.org/areas/folklore/folktales/articles/kanati_and_selu



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