“How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun” is a Hopi legend. As its name suggests, it is a myth surrounding the creation of the moon and the sun. Many Hopi legends involve the sun as it is a central symbol in Hopi culture.
The Hopi Indians, meaning good, peaceful, or wise, come from a group of South-western people called Pueblo.
However, their language is different from that of the Pueblo (Eck, 1998). They currently reside in northeast Arizona, at the south end of the Black Mesa. The Hopi Indians grew food in a similar fashion to the Navajo Indians. Their basic food was corn or maize. The Hopis centred religious ceremonies on corn that they had grown (Eck, 1998). When a child is born it is given a special blanket and a perfect ear of corn. On the twentieth day following the child’s birth, the child is taken to the mesa cliff and is held facing the rising sun. When the sun’s rays touch the baby, it is given a name.
As with most Hopi accounts of creation, “How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun” largely centres around the Sun. As previously explained, Hopi mothers continue to seek the blessing from the Sun of their newborn babies (Eck, 1998).
The Hopi have a vast mythology and folklore, born from a distant past. They believe in many supernatural beings, the identification of which can be problematic (Hopi). The Hopi mythology is imaginative and poetic, and their philosophies are awash with contradictions. The bodies of dead Hopis are sewn into blankets and placed with crop offerings among the mesas rocks (Hopi). The Hopi have faith in in a future life in an underworld, but seem to have little concept of future punishment.
Masauwu, or the Skeleton Man, plays a significant part in the story of “How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun”, though here he is simply referred to as ‘Skeleton’. The Skeleton Man was the Spirit of Death and the Keeper of Fire (Mythology). Additionally, he was the Master of the Upper World, otherwise known as the Fourth World, and he was present when the righteous people left the evil of the Third World for the potential of the Fourth (Mythology). In “How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun” Skeleton is depicted as owning a horrible mask. He is also referred to as a handsome man. However, demonstrating the diversity of Hopi myths, Masauwu is also sometimes referred to as an unattractive, fearsome creature (Mythology). In this story, Masauwu helps to settle the Hopi and teaches them how to grow crops. As this myth demonstrates, maize is vital to the subsistence and religion of the Hopi. Its physical, spiritual and symbolic essence encompasses their existence.
The Hopi people have been around for thousands of years and have a rich culture comprising, among other elements, spiritualty and mythology. “How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun” provides a sound example of some of the central concepts of Hopi mythology, in particular the significance and importance of the Sun. Of course, this story addresses only a small section of the wider Hopi culture but it does, nonetheless, encompass some of the more crucial aspects.
Eck, P. Hopi Indians. Retrieved from http://inkido.indiana.edu/w310work/romac/hopi.htm
“Hopi Mythology.” Access Genealogy. Web. 8 March. 2011. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/hopi/hopimythology.htm
“How the Great Chiefs Made the Moon and the Sun.” First People. Web. 8 April. 2011. http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/HowtheGreatChiefsMadetheMoonandtheSun-Hopi.html
“Mythology of Hopi.” 2012 Era, 2007. Web. 8 March. 2011. http://2012era.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=35