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“The Four Worlds and the Emergence”

by Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava), Tewa Village, August 1969

Hopis tell stories about ancestral journeys through three worlds to the Fourth World, where the people live today. Here, Hopi storyteller Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava) tells a story, handed down through the generations, about how people began as bugs and migrated through the worlds.

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Search for the Middle“Search for the Middle,” Barton Wright (Artist)

From what I learned from the old-timers about the underworld and how the people emerged into this last world, they weren’t people in the First World, they were what you might call just creatures, bugs. Finally some good spirit turned them into different forms. Said, “You can’t live down here as bugs and things like that. Go to the next world after I turn you into something else.”

So he [she] turned them into some other forms, not really human yet, and led them into the Second World. They were still animal-like, like wildcats or mountain lions, had tails. But the ones that were going to become human beings, their tails were just short. The ones that were going to be animals had [longer] tails.

And when things got bad down there [in the Second World], they began to eat each other. The good spirit said, “This won’t do. I’ll take you to another world, the Third World.”

So they emerged from that animal world to the Third World where they really became human-like. They didn’t have any language. They conversed by making sounds like animals. They were living there for a long while. Then it became worse again.

“Well, I think I’ll take you to the next world. But there’s somebody living there. You’ll have to ask permission. If he accepts you, you can go. I have a way of [getting you to] the Second, the Third, and the Fourth World. But if you want to go up there you will have to ask permission.”

The way it is told by the old people, the Third World was below the Fourth, down in the ground, and the Second below the Third, and the First below the Second. But I wouldn’t say that meant down in the center of the earth, but it’s just a way of describing a manner of existing.

Earth Mother“Earth Mother,” Barton Wright (Artist)

This good spirit that brought them up from one place to another called herself Mother Spider. She was the one that did it, according to Hopi tradition. When they were about to come to the last world, she said, “This spirit up above is a pure spirit. Now you’ll be going into the stage when you know bad from good. In order to be accepted, you’ve got to leave your bad medicine behind, do away with it. I see a lot of you here doing evil things. If you’re going to be accepted, leave your [evil medicine] here when you come up to the other world where you are going to live if you are accepted.”

The spirit she was talking about was Masauwu. Fire Clan was the one that named him. Fire Clan became the Fire Clan when they identified with Masauwu, but how they came together they don’t tell us. When they emerged to the Fourth World, the Fire Clan laid claim to Masauwu as their relation. But Masauwu didn’t really accept them.

The people who wanted to escape from the Third World decided to send a scout up to see what it was like up there and make contact with Masauwu. They chose a swift bird, the swallow. But he tired before he reached the sky and had to come back. After that they sent a dove, then a hawk. The hawk found a small opening and went through, but he came back without seeing Masauwu.

Finally they sent a catbird. He was the one that found Masauwu.

Masauwu asked him, “Why are you here?”

“The mockingbird said, ‘Be sure to leave the evil ones down there.’”

The catbird said, “The world below is infested with evil. The people want to come up here to live. They want to build their houses here, and plant their corn.”

Masauwu said, “Well, you see how it is in this world. There isn’t any light, just greyness. I have to use fire to warm my crops and make them grow. However, I have relatives down in the Third World. I gave them the secret of fire. Let them lead the people up here, and I will give them land and a place to settle. Let them come.”

After the catbird returned to the Third World and reported that Masauwu would receive them, the people asked, “Now, how will we ever get up there?”

So Spider Old Woman called on the chipmunk to plant a sunflower seed. It began to grow. It went up and almost reached the sky, but the weight of the blossom made the stem bend over. Spider Old Woman then asked the chipmunk to plant a spruce tree, but when the spruce finished growing it wasn’t tall enough. The chipmunk planted a pine, but the pine also was too short. The fourth thing the chipmunk planted was a bamboo. It grew up and up. It pierced the sky.

Chakwaina Okyatsiki“Chakwaina Okyatsiki,” Barton Wright (Artist)

Spider Old Woman said, “My children, now we have a road to the upper world. When we reach there your lives will be different. Up there you will be able to distinguish evil from good. Sorcerers cannot come with us, or they will contaminate the Fourth World. So be careful. If you see an evil person going up, turn him back.”

The people started to climb up inside the bamboo stalk. The mockingbird took the lead. He went ahead of the people, and every time he came to a joint in the bamboo, he said, “Pashumayani! Pashumayani! Pashumayani! Pash! Pash! Pash!—Be careful! Be careful!”

How they got through the bamboo joints I don’t know, because it was never explained in the stories. The people kept going. They traveled in groups. Down below, the people chose who they wanted to travel with, and when they’d get to a certain joint in the bamboo, the mockingbird would look down and ask, “Is everybody coming?”

“Not all of them. They’re still coming.”

“Well, we’re about in the middle. Is everybody prepared to come up?”

“No, there are still some at the bottom. They’re waiting for others to move up.”

The mockingbird moved to the next joint, said, “We’d better hurry on up. I’m going to ask again. Is everybody prepared to come?”

“There’s just a handful left down below.”

The mockingbird said, “Be sure to leave the evil ones down there.”

“Who are the evil ones?”

“Oh, you all know who they are. We had plenty of evil down there. We don’t want it up here in this world.”

People said, “Who are the evil ones?”

The mockingbird said, “You know who they are.”

“We don’t. How can we tell if we leave the evil ones behind?”

Mockingbird said, “Well, he’ll be along. If you see the mark on his face, that’s the evil one.”

“What kind of a mark has he got?”

“Oh, he’s got a long nose, and the tip of his nose is always dark.”

They looked at one another and said, “Now, who in the world is that evil one?” They couldn’t determine who the evil one was. “Well, we haven’t seen anybody with that kind of nose. Everyone’s got the same kind of nose we’ve got.” They couldn’t determine who was the evil one.

So they moved to the next joint. They had one more joint to go.

“Now has everybody started up?”


The mockingbird said,“Whoever comes out [of the bamboo] last, close it up.”

The mockingbird came out first. He sat there near the opening, saying, “Pashumayani! Pashumayani! Take it slow, take it easy!”

Then when about half of the people had come up, he started directing everybody where to sit. “Go to the left of the reed [bamboo], and the next group go to the right, and the next group in between over here, and the next group in between over there.”

The people kept coming.

“Now how many more?”

“We’re the last ones.”

“All right, close up [the end of the bamboo]. Here is some cotton I brought.”

They stuffed up the end of the bamboo with cotton.

“Well, did we leave the evil one down there?”

They looked at one another.

Then this fellow that represents evil laughed. “Haah! You can’t get along without the evil one. He has a part to play in this world. You have to have the good and the evil, so I came up.”

“So you are here?”


“We didn’t want you up here.”


“Because you’re always doing something evil that we don’t like.”

“Yes, I know that. But somebody’s got to warn you early in the morning when daybreak is coming.”

“How will you let us know?”

“Soon as you see the white streak in the place where the light is going to be from, I’ll give you a cry that [day is here].”

“What kind of day?”

The evil one said, “We’re in a kind of [half] light now, but there’ll be daylight to come. There are a lot of wise men here. Let’s first fix up the old sky. Anybody got a buckskin with no holes in it?”

Somebody said, “Here’s one.”

“Where’d you get a buckskin with no holes?”

“I didn’t have to shoot this deer. I just outran him.”

“Well, spread it out, spread it out.”

The people said, “What are we supposed to do now?”

“These wise men will know. I’m the evil one.You don’t want me to come around, yet I’m teaching you people how to go about it.”

He said, “Now, you people are talking about light. [We are going to] put this buckskin way over on this side [of the sky]. And another buckskin over there on the other side. There’s going to be two phases in this world, light and dark. Right now we can see a little bit, but the new light is going to be beautiful. There’ll be one light for the day and another light for the night.”

So they covered one buckskin with yellow pollen. And the other they covered with a half-mixed pollen. The evil one said, “Now these two [buckskins] are going to be our main [sources of] light. They will play the biggest part. One is called tawa, the sun. The other is called muyao, the moon.”

“We’ve got to have some other things, too,” the evil one said, “things that will shine in the night sky. Who’s got some yelaha [graphite]?”

Somebody said, “Oh, I have some.”

“Let me see it. Oh, that’s too dark. I have some that’s white.”

He took out his yelaha and began to fix up those things that would become stars. He said, “Oh, you are wise people, but not wise enough.”

He took his pouch of yelaha and scattered the contents [into the sky]. They began to shine and sparkle. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”

People were afraid, they bent their heads, saying, “You evil one, you evil one.”

He said, “Oh, that’s not evil. I want the whole sky to be lighted at night, so that no matter where you are, you’ll be guided by these lights. In the daytime the sun will give you light. With the moon and stars in the night you’ll be able to travel.”

One wise man said, “Good.”

Somebody said, “So you’re in favor of the evil one?”

The wise man said. “Well, there’s some good about that evil one. I think he did the right thing.”

The evil one said, “This is the way it’s going to be. So let us chant.”

They started to chant.

At about the fourth chant they began to see a streak, a light streak [on the horizon].

“One more will do it. Just keep it up. Nobody fall asleep. Everybody stay awake. Now it’s coming.”

Everybody looked to the east, saw the rays of the sun shooting up. Heh! They began to see things. They hadn’t known they were in such a beautiful world. They looked around. There were lots of trees, lots of grass, lots of flowers.

The evil one said, “You see now the beautiful world you were brought to. That other one, the moon, will come at night. But now we’ve got to get together and see how we are going to live. Let the mockingbird tell us who is going to lead us.”

The mockingbird said, “It’s up to you wise men to decide about that. Would the Fire Clan lead?”

But the man who was head of the Fire Clan didn’t say anything. He just shook his head.

So one big husky man got up. He said, “Well, if you people [the Fire Clan] don’t want to lead, I’ll take the lead.”

All right. They had an emblem already, made out of feathers, turquoise, and other stones. Whoever was going to be the leader was supposed to use the emblem as a token of authority. They had brought it out with them from the underworld.

The man who took the emblem said, “Before we go on, we want to distinguish ourselves as clans, like we did before in the old days down below, when we identified with this group or that one. Now in this lighted world we want to know each other, which group we belong to. I’ll choose the bear again for my clan. I’ll take the responsibility for leading the people, since the Fire Clan leader doesn’t want to. He’s the one that came up into this world first, and he’s the one who should be in authority. I don’t see why he doesn’t want the responsibility.”

The Fire Clan leader said, “It’s too great a thing for me to control the people.”

“Well, I’ll take it,” the Bear Clan man said.

The Origin of Corn“The Origin of Corn,” Barton Wright (Artist)

The mockingbird had a big job. As the people came up in groups he told them where to station themselves around the sipapuni, and he told them what language they were going to speak from that time on. He told the men to sit in a big circle, and in the middle he put out a lot of different kinds of corn. White corn, yellow corn, speckled corn, red speckled, blue speckled, grey speckled, every kind of corn. And in amongst all the corn there was a short stubby blue ear.

The mockingbird said, “Now, all these different kinds of corn mean something. This yellow corn means enjoying everything in life. If you have that corn you’ll be prosperous. But you’ll have a short life. This short blue ear means a lasting life, a long life. People won’t die young, they’ll grow old. But they’ll have to work hard. It will be a rugged life for them.”

The mockingbird explained about every different kind of corn and what it meant, and he told the tribes to choose the one they wanted. The men in the council were thinking about which ones they were going to choose.

There was one tall, slender man sitting there, and he didn’t think very long. He was the Navajo. He reached out and took the yellow ear, the one that meant a short life but an enjoyable one. He said, “I don’t know why it takes you people so long to decide. I’ll take this yellow one. Even if my life won’t be long, it’ll be enjoyable. I’ll enjoy women, I’ll enjoy riches, I’ll enjoy everything.” (It seems to be true that the Navajos don’t live to be very old. They die younger than Hopis.)

Well, then all the other people around the circle began grabbing the corn ears. The Comanche got the red corn. The Sioux got the white corn. The Utes got the flint corn with the hard kernels. (Those different tribes are using the same corn today.) Every tribe got one particular kind of corn. But the leader of the bunch that were going to be Hopis, he was slow. He kept on sitting there, thinking about which corn would be the best for him. The corn disappeared pretty fast, until there was only one ear left, the short stubby blue one. So finally he took that one.

He said, “That’s the way it’s going to be. I’m going to have to work hard, but I’ll have a long life.”

The people were getting ready to disperse, to go on their migrations, but they discovered that a child had died, the son of one of the chiefs. The people were all mourning, wondering why the child had died.

The evil one said, “Say, don’t cry about this. Come over here and look down [through the sipapuni].” They did that, they looked down into the Third World, and they saw the boy walking and running around down there.

The evil one said, “You see, he’s alive.”

The people said, “If he’s alive, then why did we have to send him back there?”

The evil one said, “It wouldn’t be good to have [the spirits of] the dead among you living people. When your stalks [i.e., bodies] are old and not useful anymore, you’ll go on living down there. Your stalk will remain here, and your iksi [breath] will go below and go on living.”

After that, the people started on their migrations, saying that some day they would all come together again.