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Fire and Flood || Reading Notes: California and the Old Southwest Part A

  • Some cultures seem to have an origin story for fire that involves it being stolen from elsewhere.
    • i.e. coyote steals it from "somewhere in the west"
    • Prometheus steals it from the gods
  • They also include a flood story that seems to eliminate everyone but just a few people.
    • Is this indicative of a similar series of floods that may have actually killed many people a long time ago?
  • The sun made of ice. What an interesting concept.
  • Now a great fire instead of a great flood.
    • Also, that guy was a real jerk.
      • Couldn't get the girls so he decides to literally light the entire world on fire.
  • It seems like there are three major creation animals in most of these myths:
    • Coyote
    • Spider
    • Eagle
  • Interesting explanation for why the moon is not as bright
    • The reeds were wet and did not burn so well
    • What if it was explained as just being smaller?
  • ...were there lions in North America?
    • Apparently, sort of?
      • They lived until like 11,000 years ago.
    • Still not sure where the lions from this myth come from.
  • Here we see a brief mention of the possibility of man flying too close to the sun. A common theme perhaps.
  • It seems like Old Man Above is really a jerk in this story. I don't quite understand why he was so angry at the Grizzlys. 
    • Still an interesting explanation of why bears only walk on their hind legs sometimes.
  • Another great flood story.
    • I like the idea that Earth Doctor doesn't quite get things right the first time.
      • He also is apparently not the most powerful being in existence.
    • Elder Brother sort of doesn't deserve to be the ruler.
      • The whole flood thing was his fault anyway.
      • Not sure what he thought the problem was with the original humans.
  • Yet another flood story.
    • At this point, I am convinced that there really was some cataclysmic flooding event that occurred at some point in the past. These stories are just explanations for how people survived such a terrible time.
    • It should be noted that the Sia (or Zia) live in the desert. I think any great amount of rain in the mountains could have caused devastating floods for the arid/desert areas that fit the description of this story.
      • The water did not come as rain but as "rivers between the mesas"
        • Flowing down from the mountains.
    • So did every living thing move upwards from a lower earth to a higher earth?
      • Is the lower earth still flooded?
  • Are coyotes really that friendly to man?
  • Again, fire is stolen by coyote.
    • Poor squirrel got burnt quite a bit.
    • It's interesting that the final hero of the story is the weakest animal.
  • So coyote is both a benevolent god figure and trickster.
  • He seems to be killed by his own trickery quite often.
State Flag of New Mexico. Featuring the Zia Sun Symbol

By: Katharine Berry Judson

Photo Credits:


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