Abenaki mythology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Abenaki people are an indigenous peoples of the Americas located in the Northeastern Woodlands region. Religious ceremonies are led by medicine keepers, called Medeoulin or Mdawinno.

Three ages[edit]

The history of the Abenaki people is divided into three time periods. In the first, the Ancient Age, humanity and animal-life are undifferentiated. In the second, the Golden Age, humans are still animals, but quantitatively different. In the third, the Present Age, animals and humanity are totally differentiated.

Beings of the Ancient Age[edit]

  • Atosis - a medeoulin who is a reptilian humanoid, forces people to find a stick so that he can cook them with it, was blinded by Moosbas
  • Azeban - "Raccoon", a raccoon or wolverine trickster spirit
  • Kee-wakw - a gigantic, forest-dwelling cannibal
  • Kisosen - "Sun-Bringer", the solar deity, an eagle whose wings opened to create the day, and closed to cause the nighttime
  • Kita-skog "Big Snake" or Pita-skog "Grand Snake" - a Horned Serpent who fights the Pa-don-gi-ak
  • Kchi-awasos - "Big Bear", the bowl stars of the Big Dipper are the Great Bear, who is chased every night by three hunters; he is killed every fall and his blood drips to earth turning the leaves brown while the constellation turns upside down; it is righted, and he is reborn, every spring
  • Mateguas (also Mat-gwas) - a rabbit spirit, first (one of magic) the rabbit, the first medeoulin, legendary founder of the Midewiwin.
  • Metee-kolen-ol - a race of evil wizards with hearts of ice
  • Nanom-keea-po-da - subterranean spirit who causes earthquakes
  • Niben - "Summer", a woman whose stunning beauty forces Pe-ben to retreat to the north; she represents summer
  • Pamola - a bird and night spirit who takes prisoners to Alomkik, near Mt. Katahdin and causes cold weather
  • Psônen "Snow-Bringer" - an eagle-spirit that makes snow by opening his wings
  • Padôgiyik "Thunders" - seven white-skinned, golden-haired brothers, half-human and half-bird, former inhabitants of Lake Champlain, war-like, thunder and lightning spirits.
  • Pebon "Winter" - a powerful sorcerer who puts his audience to sleep when he tells stories, spirit of winter
  • Siguan "Spring" - a young male who loved the season of summer, and brought her to the north every spring
  • Tabaldak "Owner" - the androgynous creator of existence
  • Wa-won-dee-a-megw "Snail" - a snail spirit that can live in trees, on land or in the water, as well as change size and appearance to look like a huge snake, alligator or scaly man; has horns which can be ground into a magical powder
  • Wad-zoo-sen - the eagle that flaps his wings to create wind. Gluskab tries to stop his wind in order to hunt by tying his wings and moving him, but realizes that without the wind, the earth and water will suffer and releases him enough to allow some wind.
  • Wassan-mon-ganeehla-ak - a race of people who play games with a ball of light, causing the Aurora Borealis

Beings of the Golden Age[edit]

  • Oodzee-hozo (Odzihózo) also known as Gluskab/Gluskabe (Gloos Ka Be)[1] - ("the man who created himself") a man who lived before the invention of legs. He dragged his body around, creating mountains, valleys and rivers (in this early form, he is referred to as Bemee-geedzin-pobi-zeed), as well as Lake Champlain, which is holy to the Abenaki. Odzihozo turned himself into a rock in the lake (Rock Dunder, roughly 1.4 miles (2.3 km) west of Burlington, Vermont), which he is said to inhabit.
  • Tool-ba (Tôlba) - foolish turtle spirit, uncle of Gluskab
  • Pla-ween-noo - turtle spirit, mother of Gluskab, patron spirit of the Sokwakis
  • Agaskw (also Nokemis) - ("woodchuck", also known as Nokemis, "my grandmother") is a very wise woodchuck-spirit of the Abenaki. She is the grandmother of Gluskab.
  • Moos-bas - mink spirit, adopted son on Gluskab, powerful fletcher, sometimes fulfills wishes
  • Mool-sem - one of Gluskab's dogs, the white one, could shrink or enlarge himself
  • M-da-weelh-ak - a loon spirit in the form of a dog, Gluskab's messenger, one of his dogs, the black one, could shrink or enlarge himself
  • A-senee-ki-wakw - a race of stone giants, the first people Gluskab created but then destroyed because they crushed other animals and injured the earth with their great size

Gluskab and Malsumis[edit]

Tabaldak, the creator god, made humans and then Gluskab (several variants of whom were associated with different branches of the Abenaki, including Glooscap, Glooskap, Gluskabe Klooskomba) and Malsumis sprang from the dust on his hand. Gluskab and Malsumis both had the power to create a good world, but only Gluskab did so. Malsumis still seeks evil to this day.

Gluskab founded the Golden Age of the Earth by rendering the evil spirits of the Ancient Age smaller and safer, as well as teaching humanity how to hunt and fish, build shelter and all of the Abenaki's knowledge of art, invention and science. Gluskab's departure ended the Golden Age, though he is prophesied to return and renew it again.

Me-koom-wee-soo was Gluskab's assistant and wields an ivory bow. He has a fierce temper and gains weight as he gets more angry; eventually, it is said, he sinks into stone. Gluskab and Me-koom-wee-soo had an archery contest once; Me-koom-wee-soo fired an arrow into the top of Mt. Washington, creating a pond, while Gluskab's arrow created a hole in the sky that was then called msatawa (the Evening Star).

Gluskab realized the strain hunters can cause on an ecosystem. He asked a woodchuck spirit for help, and she gave him all the hairs off her belly, woven into a magical sac; which is why woodchucks have bald bellies. Gluskab then went to a mountain, where Tabaldak had placed a huge eagle (P-mol-a) that made bad weather by flapping its wings. After binding it, Gluskab realized some wind was necessary and loosened them slightly. Gluskab saved the world from a frog monster that swallowed all the planet's water. When Gluskab cut open the monster's belly, some animals jumped into the water and became fish. Some modern Wabanaki believe that Gluskab is angry at white people for not obeying his rules.

Beings of the Present Age[edit]

  • Alom-bag-winno-sis or Alom-begwi-no-sis - a mischievous, dwarfish race of men upsets canoes, that can increase or decrease body size at will; they also own a pot which can transform a few kernels of maize into a huge quantity; seeing one supposedly foretells a death by drowning
  • Ask-wee-da-eed - a fire-elemental, identified as a will o' the wisp, that brings bad luck and death, also connected with comets and meteors
  • Atsolowas - a trickster.
  • Awa-hon-do z - insect spirits that bite humans
  • Awes-kon-wa - a small, flying sprite, associated with the Mohawk tribe
  • Batsolowanagwes - a benign trickster
  • Bedig-wajo (western Abenaki) or Ktaden (eastern Abenaki) - a culture hero
  • Chibaiskweda - marsh gas, supposedly caused by the ghost of an improperly buried corpse
  • Do-gakw-ho-wad - small men who prop the jaws of animals open with sticks in order to avoid being eaten
  • Dzee-dzee-bon-da - a monster, so ugly that even he is terrified of his own appearance
  • Ko-gok - another monster
  • Lo-lol - a frightening monster
  • M-ska-gwe-demoos - a swamp-dwelling woman, dressed in moss with moss for hair; she cries alone in the forest and is potentially dangerous
  • Maski-mon-gwe-zo-os - a toad creature, seduces men and children and kills them, appears either as a partridge or a woman dressed in moss, with a belt made of arborvitae bark
  • Meek-moos-ak - a pair of short twins who seduce women, who are then cursed to never desire marriage, kills hunters during the winter, possibly a personification of the Mi'kmaq tribe
  • N-dam-keno-wet - a half-fish, half-human creature with a small face and long hair, molests bathing women
  • P-skig-demo-os - a female creature, slays men and children
  • Pak-zin-skwa - an ugly, old woman
  • Pim-skwa-wagen-owad - small, aquatic, pinching creatures
  • Pok-wejee-men - small creatures, created from the bark of the ash tree
  • Tsa-tsamolee-as - the noisy, clownish fool
  • Tsi-noo - a person whose heart is made of ice and has no soul; he eats the souls of others for sustenance and strength
  • Wana-games-ak - river-dwelling creatures with faces so narrow, they are essentially two-dimensional, friendly creatures that warned the Abenaki of coming attacks


  1. ^ Afable, Patricia O. and Madison S. Beekes (1996). "Place Names" in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 17 (Ives Goddard, ed.). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, p. 193