North American Indian Gods
The moon, brother to the sun whom Moon chases across the sky. Aningan has a
great igloo in the sky where he rests. Irdlirvirissong, his demon cousin, lives
there as well. The moon is a great hunter, and his sledge is always piled high
with seal skins and meat.
ASGAYA GIGAGEI (Cherokee)
The Red Man or Woman evoked in spells to cure the ill. Asgaya Gigagei is either
male or female, depending on the sex of the patient.
The Earth, Sacred Mother of every living creature. The Pawnee were hunters. When
told to abandon hunting and settle down to farming, their priest replied: “You
ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosom? Then
when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for
stone! Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter
her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it, and
be rich like white men! But how dare I cut off my mother’s hair? It is a bad law
and my people cannot obey it.”
AWONAWILONA (Pueblo Indians)
“The One Who Contains Everything.” The Supreme God, the Creator of All. Before
the creation there was only Awonawilona; all else was darkness and emptiness.
Both male and female, Awonawilona created everything from himself and taking
form became the maker of light, the Sun.
BIG HEADS (Iroquois)
Demon gods. Giand heads without bodies which fly about in storms. They find men
Breathmaker taught men to fish and dig wells, and made the Milky Way. When the
virtuous die, they follow the Milky Way to a glorious city in the western sky.
COYOTE (Southwestern Indians, but known in other areas as well)
A trickster, a clown. The creator and teacher of men. Like Loki, Coyote is
always lurking about, causing trouble and playing pranks. To the Zunis, Coyote
is a hero who set forth the laws by which men may live in peace. The Pomo
Indians maintain that Coyote created the human race and stole the sun to keep
them warm. The Montana Sioux say that Coyote created the horse. The Chinook tell
how Coyote and Eagle went to the land of the dead to bring back their dead
wives. On reaching the land of the dead, they found a meeting lodge lit only by
the moon which lay on the floor. Every night an old woman would swallow the
moon and the dead would appear in the meeting lodge. Recognizing their wives
among the spirits of the dead, the two gods devised a plan. The next day, after
the old woman had vomited up the moon and the dead had disappeared, Coyote built
a huge wooden box and placed in it leaves of every kind of plant. Coyote and
Eagle then killed the old woman, and Coyote donned her clothes. When the time
came, Coyote swallowed the moon. The dead appeared, but Eagle had place the box
outside the exit. When Coyote vomited up the moon, the dead filed out and were
trapped in the box. Coyote pleaded to be allowed to carry the box, and Eagle
gave it to him. But Coyote couldn’t wait to see his wife and opened the box. The
spirits of the dead rose up like a cloud and disappeared to the west. So it is
that people must die forever, not like the plants which die in winter and are
green again in a season.
Spirits of maize, beans and gourds who live together in a single hill. Searching
for dew, the maize spirit Onatha was captured by the evil spirit Hahgwehdaetgah
who took her off to the underworld. Sun rescued her, and ever since she has
remained in the cornfields until the corn is ripe.
First Woman’s adopted daughter. To punish mankind for pride, First Man and First
Woman sent a plague of monsters to kill and devour them. The time came when
First Woman repented of the evils she and First Man had visited upon men, and
she sought a means for their deliverance. First Woman discovered the infant
Estanatlehi lying on the ground near First Woman’s mountain, and took her in.
The infant Estanatlehi grew to adulthood in four days. Making love with the Sun,
she gave birth to the Twin Brothers who after many adventures slew the monsters.
EVENING STAR (Pawnee)
An evil star who drives the sun down out of the sky and send his daughter to
hinder Morning Star from the sun back up again.
FIRST MAN AND FIRST WOMAN (Navajo)
In the beginning, First Man and First Woman ascended from the underworld
together with Coyote, leading the people through trials and tribulations into
the surface world which became their home. Deciding that the sky was too empty
with only Sun and Moon, First Man, First Woman and Coyote gathered up glittering
stones and placed them in the sky to serve as stars.
GAHE, also GA’AN (Apache)
Supernatural beings who dwell inside mountains. The can sometimes be heard
dancing and beating drums. Because they can heal and drive away disease, they
are worshipped. In the ritual dances of the Chiricahua Apache masked dancers
painted a different color for each point of the compass represent all the Gahe
except the Grey One. The Grey One, though he appears as a clown, is really the
mightiest of all the Gahe.
The Creator, or more exactly, the creator force. Generally benevolent, but often
whimsical. Gluskap created the plains, the food plants, the animals and the
human race from the body of the Mother Earth. His rival was his wolf brother
Malsum, who made rocks, thickets and poisonous animals. After a long struggle
Gluskap killed Malsum and drove his evil magic under the earth. Gluskap drove
away monsters, fought stone giants, taught hunting and farming to men, and gave
names to the stars. His work done, Gluskap paddled towards the sunrise in a
birch bark canoe. Some day he may return.
Thunder god, god of the sky. The Rainbow is his consort. With his fire arrows,
Hino destroys evil beings.
The demon cousin of the moon. Sometimes Irdlirvirissong comes out into the sky
to dance and clown and make the people laugh. But if anyone is nearby, the
people must restrain themselves or the demon clown will dry them up and eat
Nature spirits which inhabit and control everything — animal spirits, spirits
of departed ancestors, spirits of natural resources such as wind, rain and
thunder. Their exact number is not known, but at least five hundred appear in
the mythologies of the different villages.
“The Lucky Hunter.” Sometimes called First Man. He lives with his wife Selu
(“Corn”) in the east where the sun rises, and their sons, the Twin Thunder Boys,
live in the west.
KITCKI MANITOU (Algonquin)
The Great Spirit, the Supreme Being. The Uncreated, the Father of Life, God of
the Winds. The Great Spirit is present in some way in nearly every North
American Indian mythology.
The Great Hare. A trickster. A shape-shifter. Creator of men, the earth, deer,
water and fish. Michabo drives away cannibal spirits. In the House of Dawn,
Michabo is host to the souls of good men, feeding them succulent fruits and
MORNING STAR (Pawnee)
A protector who leads the sun upward into the sky. A soldier god.
Elder Twin Brother.
Sky spirit. In the beginning, Nesaru had charge over all creation. Displeased
with a race of giants in the underworld who would not respect his authority,
Nesaru sent a new race to the underworld to replace them and sent a flood which
destroyed the giants without destroying the new men. When the new men cried out
to be released from the underworld, Nesaru sent the Corn Mother for their
“Grandmother.” The Sacred Earth Mother. Nokomis nurtures all living things.
NORTH STAR (Pawnee)
A creator god. Beneficiant and venerated.
“Stonecoat.” The name comes from his coat which was made of pieces of flint.
Equally good and evil, Ocasta was one of the Creator’s helpers. Ocasta created
witches and drifted from village to village stirring up turmoil. Some women
trapped Ocasta, pinning him to the ground with a stick through his heart. The
men cremated the dying Ocasta, who while burning on his funeral pyre taught them
songs and dances for hunting, fighting wars and healing. Some of the men were
granted great power and became the first medicine men.
OLELBIS (Wintun, Pacific Coast)
The Creator who lived in Olelpanti (Heaven) with two old women. When the first
people destroyed the world with fire, Olelbis sent wind and rain to quench the
flames, and repaired the earth. Olelbis intended men to live forever. When they
grew old, they were to climb to heaven and join Olelbis in paradise. Olelbis set
two vultures to the task of building a ladder to Olelpanti for men to ascend,
but Coyote persuaded them to stop work.
RABBIT (Southeastern tribes)
Like Coyote and Michabo, a trickster god. Through a sly trick, Rabbit brought
fire to man.
RAVEN (Northwestern tribes)
Another trickster god. Very greedy, forever seeking food. Raven stole the moon
from a miser and placed it in the sky.
Goddess of the sea and the creatures of the sea. A one-eyed giant. A frightful
old hag, but she was young and beautiful when her father threw her in the sea as
a sacrifice. A sorcerer wishing to visit Sedna must pass through the realms of
death and then cross an abyss where a wheel of ice spins eternally and a
cauldron of seal meat stews endlessly. To return he must cross another abyss on
a bridge as narrow as a knife edge.
“Corn.” Sometimes known as First Woman. Kanati’s wife. Selu created corn in
secret by rubbing her belly or by defecating. Her sons, the Twin Thunder Boys,
killed her when they spied upon her and decided she was a witch.
Sun god. The Pawnee performed their famous Sun Dance for Shakura’s sake. Young
warriors attached themselves to tall poles with strips of hide which were tied
to sharp stakes. The stakes were driven through the skin and flesh on the chest.
The young brave would then support his entire weight with the hide ropes as he
slowly circled the pole following the sun’s movement in the sky. This lasted
until the sun went down or the stakes ripped out of the brave’s flesh.
SOUTH STAR (Pawnee)
God of the underworld, the opposite of North Star. Magical and feared.
A goddess. When Sun’s daughter was bitten by a snake and taken to the Ghost
Country, Sun hid herself in grief. The world was ever dark, and Sun’s tears
became a flood. At last the Cherokee sent their young men and women to heal
Sun’s grief, which they did with singing and dancing.
A beautiful young maiden carrying a torch who is chased through the sky by her
brother Aningan, the moon. The planet Jupiter is the mother of the sun and very
dangerous to magicians. If they are careless, she will devour their livers.
The earth god, master of hunting to whom all deer belong.
The Power Above, creator of the heavens and the earth. In the beginning Tirawa-
Atius called the gods together to announce his plan to create the human race and
promised the gods a share of power for their help. Shakura the Sun was assigned
to provide light and heat, Pah the Moon was assigned the night, and Tirwara-
Atius placed the Evening Star, the Mother of All Things in the west. The Morning
Star he set to guard the east. After the gods had raised dry land from the
watery chaos, Tirawa Atius told Sun and Moon to make love, and they gave birth
to a son. He then told Evening and Morning Star to make love, and they gave
birth to a daughter. So the human race was made. All would have been well if
Coyote had not stolen a sack of storms from Lightening. Opening the sack, Coyote
loosed the storms and so brought death into the world.
Youngest Twin Brother.
Thoume’ taught the people to make clothing and fire, and how to make love. After
making the moon and the sun, Thoume’ sent the trickster god Kutnahin to teach
medicine and food preparation to men. Kutnahin traveled through the world
disguised as a derelict covered with buzzard dung.
The good spirit, representing everything in nature good and helpful to man.
TWIN THUNDER BOYS (Cherokee)
The sons of Kanati and Selu. Kanati and Selu live in the east, the Twin Thunder
Boys live in the west. When thunder sounds, the boys are playing ball.
Black Bear. A guardian. Symbol of long life, strength and courage.