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Ataensic

Ataensic In North American Indian mythology (Iroquois), sky woman, creator goddess, mother of twin brothers, Hah-gweh-di-yu (sapling) and Hah-gweh-da-et-gah (flint), one good and one evil.

Long ago there grew one stately tree that branched beyond the range of vision. Perpetually laden with fruit and blossoms, the air was fragrant with the tree’s perfume. People gathered under its shade when councils were held. One day the Great Ruler said to his people: “We will make a new place where another people may grow. Under our council tree is a great cloud sea that calls for our help. It is lonesome. It knows no rest and calls for light. We will talk to it. The roots of our council tree point to it and will show the way.”

Having commanded that the tree be uprooted, the Great Ruler peered into the depths where the roots had grown. He then summoned Ataensic, the sky woman, who was with child, and asked her to look down. She saw nothing. The Great Ruler, however, knew that the sea voice was calling and bidding Ataensic to carry light to it. He wrapped a great ray of light around Ataensic and sent her down to the cloud sea.

When the animals saw the blinding light they became frightened. “If it falls, we will be destroyed,” they said. “Where can it rest?” asked Duck. “Only the oeh-da [earth] can hold it,” said Beaver, “the oeh-da, which lies at the bottom of our waters. I will bring it up.”

The beaver went down but never returned. Then Duck ventured, but soon his dead body floated to the surface.

Many other divers also failed. Then Muskrat, knowing the way, volunteered. He soon returned bearing a small portion of mud in his paw. “But it is heavy and will grow fast,” he said. “Who will bear it?”

Turtle was willing, and oeh-da was placed on his hard shell. Hah-nu-nah, the turtle, then became the earth bearer. The oeh-da grew, and Ataensic, hearing the voices under her heart, one soft and soothing, the other loud and contentious, knew that her mission to people the island was nearing. Inside Ataensic were the twin brothers Hah-gweh-di-yu, who was good, and Hah-gweh-da-et-gah, who was evil. Hahgwehda- et-gah, discovering that there was some light coming from his mother’s armpit, thrust himself through it, causing Ataensic’s death. Hah-gwehdi-yu, however, was born in the natural manner. Foreknowing their power, each claimed dominion over the other. Hahgweh-di-yu claimed the right to beautify the land, whereas Hah-gwehda-et-gah was determined to destroy it.

Hah-gweh-di-yu shaped the sky with the palm of his hand and created the sun from the face of his dead mother, saying, “You shall rule here where your face will shine forever.” But the evil brother set darkness in the western sky to drive the sun down before it. The good brother then drew forth the moon and the stars from the breast of his mother and led them to the sun as its sisters who would guard the night sky. He gave to the earth her body, its Great Mother, from whom was to spring all life.

The two then created all that is on the earth. Hah-gweh-di-yu created mountains, valleys, forests, fruit-bearing trees, and good animals, such as the deer. Hah-gweh-da-etgah, the evil one, created monsters that dwell in the sea, hurricanes, tempests, wild beasts that devour, grim flying creatures that steal life from helpless victims, and creeping poisonous reptiles.

When the earth was completed, Hah-gwehdi-yu bestowed a protecting spirit on each of his creations. He then asked his evil brother to make peace, but Hah-gweh-da-et-gah refused and challenged Hah-gweh-di-yu to combat, the victor to be ruler of the earth.

Hah-gweh-da-et-gah proposed weapons that he could control—poisonous roots strong as flint, monster’s teeth, and fangs of serpents. But these Hah-gweh-di-yu refused, selecting the thorns of the giant crabapple tree, which were arrow pointed and strong.

They fought with the thorns, and Hahgwehda-et-gah was defeated. Hah-gweh-di-yu, having become ruler of the earth, banished his brother to a pit under the earth, whence he cannot return. But he still retains servers, half human and half beasts, whom he sends to continue his destructive work. They can assume any shape or form. Hah-gweh-di-yu the good, however, is continually creating and protecting.

Taken from the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante

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