In the beginning was only Tepeu and Gucumatz (Feathered Serpent). These two held council and thought, and whatever they thought came into being. They “thought” the Earth and it came into being. They “thought” the mountains, and mountains appeared. They thought trees, and sky, and animals etc, and each came into being. However, none of these things could praise them, so they formed more advanced beings. It took several tries using different materials but eventually man was created. Interestingly enough, this story from Apache Indian mythology correlates with some evolution theories about the origins of man. From the sponge, the earliest known multi-cell being to the upright man standing on a street corner, the evolution of man is traced at the splitting of the reptile kingdom into two divisions.
However, for those who do not believe man descended from reptiles and amphibians to walk among the mountains, the Apache Indians had another creation myth. This myth begins with darkness, for darkness was all that existed. Then the One Who Lives above, a small, wizened man with a beard, appears as if from a deep sleep. This man, the Creator, claps his hands and a little girl appears. She is Girl Without Parents. The Creator rubs his face with his hands and the Son God appears. The creator rubs his forehead and Small Boy appears. These were the four gods of all – the One Who Lives Above, the Girl Without Parents, the Sun God, and the Small Boy. The four gods shook hands and their sweat mixed together. The Creator made Tarantula, Big Dipper, Wind, Lightning-Maker, and Lightening-Rumbler. He rubbed his palms together and a small brown ball fell from them. They all took turns kicking it which made it grow. Then Wind blew into the ball and it grew even larger. Tarantula spun long cords which were then attached to the ball. Pulling as far as he could, Tarantula first pulled a long black cord to the east; a blue cord to the south, a yellow cord to the west and a white cord to the north. When he was finished, the brown ball had become the planet earth. Creator clapped his hands and told the Hummingbird that appeared to fly over the earth and report back. Hummingbird noted the presence of water on the west. To stop the bouncing and rolling of the earth, Creator made four giant posts in the corresponding colors of Tarantula’s cords. These were placed at the four compass or cardinal points of the earth which stopped the earth from spinning and moving. Now the rest of creation occurred.
Other native tribes had their own creation myths, many similar to these. The Chelan tribe myth contains twelve moons. The Cherokee myth speaks of a giant island floating on a vast ocean. To alleviate the darkness the sun is lassoed and moved from east to west, providing light in the darkness. Other tribal myths involve beetles being sent from the living above the land. In some it is a mud beetle that ventures forth and gathers soil enough on which to live. In others it is the water beetle that is the explorer of new areas. No matter the legend, however, there is some connection to the science we know and not only study but use every day. The twelve moons correspond to the twelve months of the calendar many in the world utilize every day. The sun indeed rises in the east and sets in the west for these people who traveled from Asia across the Bering Straits to the North American continent thirty-plus thousand years ago. And again, the evolution of man includes the smaller animals who crawled on the ground before learning to walk upright on it.
Many of these tribal stories were celebrated and retold in the form of dance and dramas reenacted with face paintings and masks. Herbs were used both in the cooking and in the celebrating, smoking in long pipes, etc. Some of these herbs were hallucinogenic. Also present in many of these customs is Animism. Animism is not a religion but a belief system found in many of the tribal faiths. Today it is used to refer to beliefs of many indigenous people, sometimes known as Pagans to those in organized religions. For those who believe in Animism, humans are not the only things with souls, with beings. They see themselves as part of a multispecies community and recognize the life, the soul in things many consider inanimate such as rocks. As in the native or indigenous tribal customs, the animism or spirit is recognized in all things and to be respected. The sharing of a peace pipe, for instance, is the showing of respect to the sacred being of another.
The connections these myths and beliefs have to the evolutionary sciences is both interesting and weirdly accurate. The connections with later organized religions are also evident. We are indeed all part of the larger one, the body of mankind and the creation in which we live.
Curried Pineapple and Dried Fig Salsa
Like the four cardinal points of the Apache creation myth, today’s recipe has ingredients from four food groups.
Produce: 1 cup Mission figs; 1 3.4 cup fresh pineapple
Nuts: 3 tsp unsweetened coconut chips
Spices: 1 tsp curry powder; 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Liquid: 1 ¼ cups water
Ina medium-sized saucepan, combine the figs, curry powder, red pepper flakes, and water. (Note: If using canned pineapple, use the liquid from that in place of the water. Fresh is really best, though, is possible!) Bring this mixture to a boil and then reduce the temperature. Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, covered, until the figs are soft and plump. Leaving the liquid in the pan, remove the figs and quarter. Then place the quartered figs in a bowl. Add the pineapple fruit to the liquid mixture in the pan. Cook over a medium heat until the liquid has reduced and the pineapple is well coated. Add the pineapples to the figs and stir. In a small skillet, toast the coconut until golden brown. Stir this into the pineapple and fig mixture. Salsa can be served warm, chilled, or at room temperature.