Uktena And Daughter Of The Sun

In the following myth, one should take note of the creation of a mythical animal, (although many Native Americans believe this animal to be real), which is called Uktena. This being combines the wings of an Upper World animal and a snake body of the Lower World with deer antler horns from This World. The markings on the wings of Uktena probably represent the peregrine falcon. As can be seen by the description, Uktena combines all Three Worlds into one being. This is the only mythical animal which does this. The belief in and stories of Uktena have survived from historical times.

Uktena has been depicted by the ancient Mound people in every possible medium, such as shell, bone, stone, copper, wood, and pottery. Many of the shell gorgets have been mistaken as representing a Bird Dancer, when they actually represent an Uktena Dancer. This can be seen by taking a closer look at the dancer's regalia on the shell. You will notice that the dancer wears a deer antler headdress, with feathers hanging from his arms, and serpent-looking tail coming from his wrist.

Also indicated in the myth is that there could have been a way to bring back the dead from the Darkening Land (the seven men and the box). A lot of ceremonies which involve blood-letting are done to call up one's ancient ancestors. This was practiced by the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Mound Builders of North America. The reason I add this is because many of the occurrences of Uktena represented dancers, as well as numerous artifacts indicate a blood-letting spiritual warrior faction of the Mound People.

The Daughter of the Sun

The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the Earth. Every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the West, she used to stop at her daughter's house for dinner.

Now the Sun hated the people on Earth because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. She said to her brother, the Moon, "My grandchildren are ugly; they grin all over their faces when they look at me."

But the Moon said, "I like my younger brothers; I think they are very handsome." They always smiled pleasantly when they saw him in the sky at night, for his rays were milder.

The Sun was jealous and planned to kill all the people, so every day, as she got near her daughter's house, she sent down such sultry rays that there was a great fever. People died by the hundreds, until everyone had lost some friend, and there was fear that no one would be left. They went for help to the Little Men, who said, the only way to save themselves was to kill the Sun.

The Little Men made medicine and changed two men into snakes, the Spreading-Adder and the Copperhead, and sent them to watch near the door of the daughter of the Sun to bite the old Sun when she came the next day. They went together and hid near the house until the Sun came, but when the Spreading-Adder was about to spring, the bright light blinded him. He could only spit out yellow slime, as he does to this day when he tries to bite. She called him a nasty thing and went past him into the house. The Copperhead crawled on without trying to do anything.

So the people still died from the heat. They went to the Little Men for help a second time. The Little Men made medicine again and changed one man into the great Uktena and another into the Rattlesnake and sent them to watch near the house to kill the old Sun when she came for dinner. They made the Uktena very large, with horns on his head, and everyone thought he would surely do the work, but the Rattlesnake was so quick and eager that he got ahead and coiled up just outside the house. When the Sun's daughter opened the door to look out for her mother, he sprang up and bit the Sun's daughter - and she fell dead in the doorway. He forgot to wait for the old Sun, but went back to the people. The Uktena was so very angry, but he went back, too.

Since then, we pray to the Rattlesnake and do not kill him because he is kind and never tries to bite if we do not disturb him. The Uktena grew angrier all the time and very dangerous, so that if he even looked at a man, that man's family would die. After a long time, the people held a council and decided that he was too dangerous to be among them, so they sent him up to Galvlati, and he is there now.

When the Sun found out her daughter was dead, she went into the house and grieved. The people did not die anymore, but now the world was dark all the time because the Sun would not come out. They went again to the Little Men. They were told if they wanted the Sun to come out again, they must bring back her daughter from Tsusginai, the Ghost Country, in the Usvhiyi, the Darkening Land of the West.

They chose seven men to go and gave each a sourwood rod a hand-breadth long. The Little Men told them they must take a box with them, and when they got to Tsusginai, they would find all the ghosts at a dance. They must stand outside the circle, and when the young woman passed in a dance, they must strike her with the rods to make her fall to the ground. The men were to put her into the box and bring her back to her mother. However, they were to be very sure not to open the box, even a little, until they were home again.

They took the rods and a box and traveled seven days to the West until they came to the Darkening Land. There were a great many people there, and they were having a dance just as if they were at home in the settlements. The young woman was in the outside circle, and as she swung around to where the seven men were standing, one struck her with his rod. She turned and saw him. As she came around the second time, another touched her with his rod, and then another and another, until at the seventh round, she fell out of the ring. They quickly put her into the box and closed the lid tight. The other ghosts seemed not to notice what happened.

The men took up the box and started home toward the East. In a little while, the girl came to life again and begged to be let out of the box. The men made no answer and went on. Soon, she called again and said she was hungry, but still they made no answer and went on. After another while, she spoke again and called for a drink, pleading so that it was very hard to listen to her, but the men carrying the box said nothing and went on.

When at last they were very near home, she called again and begged them to raise the lid just a little because she was smothering. They were afraid she really was dying, so they lifted the lid a little to give her air. As they did so, there was a fluttering sound inside and something flew past them into the thicket. They heard the Redbird cry, "Kwish! Kwish! Kwish!" in the bushes. They shut the lid once more and continued toward the settlements, but when they got there and opened the box, it was empty.

So we know the Redbird is the daughter of the Sun. If the men had kept the box closed, as the Little Men told them to do, they would have brought her home safely, and we could bring back our other friends from the Ghost Country. Now, when they die, we can never bring them back.

The Sun had been glad when they started to the Ghost Country, but when they came back without her daughter, she grieved and cried," My daughter, my daughter..." She wept until her tears made a flood upon the Earth. The people were afraid the world would be drowned. They held another council, and sent their handsomest young men and women to amuse her so that she might stop crying. They danced before the Sun and sang their best songs. For a long time, she kept her face covered and paid no attention, until at last, the drummer suddenly changed the song. When she lifted up her face and was so pleased at the sight, she forgot her grief and smiled.