Collected, translated and retold by Jeremiah Curtin (1835-1906)
Jeremiah Curtin was one of the greatest linguists and ethnographers of his day, and it is to him that we owe the preservation of many of the world’s greatest myths and legends. I should add, he was also a consummate story teller — although educated at Harvard, his stories ring with the warm and wisdom of the campfire. They are truly told beautifully and would be a wonderful addition to both 3rd and 4th grade in the Waldorf Curriculum. They are, in fact, wonderful at any time after that too — these are cultural gifts for all of us.
Native American Creation Myths tells the great myth cycles of the Wintu and Yana groups of what is now called Northern California. Anyone familiar with the creation story told by Plato in the Timaeus will immediately recognize both the viewpoint and many of the elements in these stories. That they sprung from traditions rich and deep is without question. That they still have much to offer us, even in this speeding modern world of ours, is also without question.
The first cycle includes myths dealing with the metamorphoses of the first people or gods into everything that is in the world, including the world itself. The second cycle describes the various changes, phenomena and processes observed throughout nature. Light and darkness, heat and cold, opposing winds, and heavenly bodies appear as heroes and leading actors. Here the first people as described in the creation myths were models upon which those faithful were to fashion their lives in all times and places.
These myths are a beautiful discovery – do enjoy!