Balladeer’s Blog presents its latest examination of a neglected pantheon of deities. In the Americas alone I have previously written about gods and goddesses of the Navajo, Inuit, Hawaiians, Choctaw, Iroquois and Aztecs.
Those familiar with the Creek people are aware of how many different sub-classifications there are, so I will remind readers that this article deals only with the deities of the Muscogee Creek. In the future I will eventually do examinations of the gods of the Tuckabatchee, Yuchi, Tuskegee and others generally regarded as Creek.
9. NEREHVURESSE – The Muscogee Creek moon goddess. She was the wife of the sun god and, as with the moon goddess of the Choctaw people, it was said that she spent moonless nights having sexual relations with her husband. The differing phases of the moon were explained as Nerehvuresse covering her face in varying degrees of embarrassment over having all the world know when she had been sleeping with her spouse.
8. HVUSE – The sun god of the Muscogee. He was the father of the corn goddess and coupled with her to sire the hunting god. Fire was considered to be the manifestation of Hvuse on Earth and during Creek New Year festivals the entire community would renew their household fires from the main fire at the center of the village. Hvuse was associated with purity and when the very first Muscogee Creek people emerged from the subterranean world they eventually migrated eastward, toward the site of the sunrise, eventually settling in their ancient territory in what is now Alabama and Georgia. Eclipses were believed to be caused by a giant frog trying to swallow the sun god as he flew across the daytime sky. Loud noises were made during eclipses to help drive the monster away.
7-6. YAHOLA and HAYUYA – These two gods resided in the air and the clouds. They were the guardians of Muscogee people being given training in mysticism and the medical arts. Yahola and Hayuya were the two most prominent of the four Hiyouyulgee, divinities who tutored the ancient Muscogee about the use of fire and various plants, medicinal and otherwise. Yahola and his brother Hayuya endowed people with strength, creative inspiration and magical abilities.
Both deities presided over the Busk Ground Ceremonies, the most important rituals in the Muscogee holiday calendar. Yahola in particular had special sovereignty over curing illnesses and the delivery of children. He was also the patron deity of the intoxicating Black Drink consumed in mass quantities by the Muscogee Creek, who would cry out his name when feeling the effects of the drink he had given to them as a gift.
Yahola, Hayuya and the other two Hiyouyulgee visited the ancient Muscogee Creek during their mass migration eastward, appearing to them on a “mountain of thunder” near the Red River. The Creek were attracted by the sound of singing from the highest peak of this mountain. Climbing to that peak they sacrificed a child and the four Hiyouyulgee then appeared to them. The tribe lived near the mountain for four years before resuming their journey to the east.
5. KIKOMIHCI – The god who created human beings and animal life after the supreme deity Ibofanaga was finished creating the Earth, the heavens and the underground world. Kikomihci animated people and other animals with their “ghosts” which could leave their bodies at night in dreams and wander around, returning to their host body by morning to avoid causing illness. Ibofanaga was solely responsible for the actual “souls” of the beings Kikomihci created. Like the Inuit and other peoples the Muscogee Creek distinguished between an animating force and an actual “eternal” soul.
Kikomihci created humans in the underground world and it was from there that the ancient Creek people eventually emerged from caves near what we call the Rocky Mountains. The Muscogee called those mountains “the spine of the world” (although in some versions it is instead the Appalachian Mountains that are given that designation). The realm of the gods was on the other side of those mountains.
A giant tree grew near the Place of Emergence, a tree that grew all the way into the heavens above and was considered the Axis Mundi by the ancient Muscogee. Originally humanity and animals all spoke the same language until Kikomihci decreed it otherwise as punishment for the wickedness of the ancient Creek people. It was to seek purification from their wicked ways that the tribe began its mass migration toward the site of the purifying sun god’s ascent each morning. After that decree Kikomihci withdrew from the affairs of the world and nevermore took any active role in the myths.
4. UVCE – The corn goddess of the Muscogee Creek people. Uvce created corn, beans and wormseed by scratching flesh from her body. She was the daughter of the sun god, and when she was an adult he went on to impregnate her with a child of her own. Uvce gave birth to a large clot of blood which she kept in a pot and which coalesced into a boy within a few days.
This son, the hunting god Fayetu, was incredibly successful at shooting game with his bow and arrows and provided their table with plenty of meat in addition to the corn and beans that Uvce produced. The corn goddess and her child lived in the realm of the gods on the other side of the mountains which formed the Spine of the World. As Fayetu grew into a man she had always warned him to never climb to the peaks to look down on the land of mortals on the other side.
After reaching manhood Fayetu disobeyed this command and, catching sight of how beautiful mortal women were, the hunting god told Uvce the time had come for him to leave her and seek a wife among humans. Saddened, Uvce made her son a headdress made of blue jay feathers and a flute that could summon any and all animals, even snakes. She told Fayetu to marry the first woman who cooked food for him and to make the world safe for his wife and her people by hunting down and eliminating monsters who preyed upon them.
After he had done so he was to return to his mother’s home in the land of the gods to receive a final gift from her. Years later, as instructed, the hunting god returned to that home only to find nothing but enormous fields full of corn and beans. He collected as much as he could and took these gifts back to humans as an eternal gift from his mother.
3. FAYETU – The Muscogee Creek hunting deity. He was the child of the sun god Hvuse and the corn goddess Uvce but was raised by his mother alone. From a very young age he was successful at hunting all manner of game animals and after reaching manhood he left his mother to seek a wife in the land of mortals.
As his mother instructed he married the first woman who agreed to cook food for him as he wandered among the ancient people. His wife was, of course, a member of the ancient Creek people. Her sister was married to the trickster deity Pasakola and this brother-in- law of Fayetu was often the source of trouble in myths. Here are some of the adventures the hunting god had among the ancient Creek:
a) Recovering his magic- imbued flute and headdress from Pasakola after the trickster deity stole them, b) Teaching the ancient Creek people how to fish when a monster had wiped out all game animals in the area, c) Chopping his wife in two to form twins so that he could have two wives, both as immortal as he was. When Pasakola tried to imitate this act by chopping his own wife in two she simply died, d) Killing the man-eating giant cougar Istepaupau by kicking him into a deep pit and setting him on fire with flaming arrows,
e) Saving the ancient Creek people from a giant flying turkey who would devour one person each day during their mass migration eastward. After killing it in combat Fayetu decreed that all subsequent turkeys would be unable to fly and would be much smaller in size, f) Slaying witches who would turn into human- sized owls at night so they could claw out the hearts of human beings and devour them, thus keeping themselves young, g) Killing a carnivorous, stench- ridden giant who had eyes that opened and closed vertically instead of horizontally and who carried a huge wooden club,
h) Slaying Nokosoma, a tusked bear whose head was where its genitals should have been and vice versa, i) Wiping out the man-eating Wakomos, deadly cows (yes, cows) who traveled single-file to disguise their herd’s numbers and who were so fierce even wolves cowered before them, and j) killing Atcukliba, lizard- monsters who formed inside of hollow trees and would suddenly dart their heads out through holes in the tree to feed on children or people sleeping near their tree home.
Fayetu’s sons were Chachusee, semi- divine chief of the ancient Muscogees, and Wikatca, the water god and lord of the snakes.
2. WIKATCA – The water god and lord of the snakes. He had the head of a cougar, the antlers of a deer, the wings of a bird and the body of a giant snake. Originally humanoid in form, Wikatca, then named Chatlahau, was hunting once with his brother Chachusee. Chatlahau was always dabbling in the forbidden and ate a taboo dish made from the brains of a black snake, a black squirrel and a wild turkey. Overnight he transformed into his hybrid form as the god Wikatca.
Wikatca’s scales shone like precious metal and his antlers were formed of bright crystal. Only skilled shamans could approach Wikatca, shaking rattles and singing four sacred songs, thus soothing him enough to let them scrape some of his horns into a powder that could be used in making various charms and weapons. The god lived in a deep lake and ruled over all the world’s snakes, from the ordinary to the Tie-snakes, gigantic serpents who were formerly human beings who had fed on taboo foods and transformed like Wikatca himself.
Once Wikatca coupled with a Creek woman who gave birth to his child. The woman and child were shunned by most of the inhabitants of their village, Coosa. The angry Wikatca had the mother of his child warn those few people of Coosa who had protected her and her offspring to evacuate. When they had done so Wikatca slithered out of his lake home, drawing floodwaters after him in a serpentine path and forever submerging Coosa, drowning all the remaining inhabitants. Whenever birds would fly over the waters where the village used to be a whirlpool would form and suck them down into it.
Another major myth involving Wikatca featured his nephew, son of the god’s young brother Chachusee. The ancient Muscogee that Chachusee ruled over were at war and the conflict was going very badly for them. Wikatca lured his nephew to his lake home, where on a temporary island formed entirely of the bodies of snakes he instructed the nephew on how the Muscogee could win the war.
Following the instructions of his returned son Chachusee mounted three assaults on three succesive days on the tribe with which he was at war. All three were repulsed, but on the fourth morning, as promised, Wikatca led an army of snakes against the foes of the Muscogee, defeating all of them and leaving them bound hand and foot by serpents.
Wikatca also ruled over the water people, supernatural beings about four feet tall with very long hair. More of his subjects were the Wiofu, amphibious deer who spread disease if their meat was eaten.
1. IBOFANAGA – The supreme deity of Muscogee Creek myths. He created the heavenly Upper World which was his home. This realm embodied perfection, order, permanence and clarity. Next he created the Lower World which was home to various dark forces and which embodied imperfection, madness, chaos as well as, oddly enough, fertility and creativity. (?) If the Upper World and Lower World came into contact all of creation would be destroyed so Ibofanaga created the Earth as a Middle World or buffer zone between the two.
Originally the Middle World consisted entirely of water and air, populated only by creatures who could inhabit those two elements. Eventually Ibofanaga had crawfish serve as earth-divers, retrieving enough soil from the bottom of the ocean for him to form land masses with. Kikomihci created humans and other land animals, animating them via “ghosts” which were entirely separate from “souls”, which were the creation and province of Ibofanaga.
Ibofanaga created the Milky Way to be “the Soul’s Path”, which leads to the afterlife. Along the way the soul must avoid being eaten by a giant, ethereal eagle. Eventually it reaches a deep river with a log bridge over it. If the soul led a virtuous life it crosses successfully, if not it falls into the water to be devoured by the celestial alligator in the river. A dog waits at the other end of the log and if the soul ever killed a dog while alive the dog will not let it pass. Souls falling to the eagle, the alligator or the dog would wind up condemned to forever wander the western part of the world. Another way to damn a soul to eternal wandering was to scalp its corpse.
Various myths detail the role Ibofanaga will play in the end of the world. He will supposedly cause all of the Creek women to be taken away to a far off island. Following this a war will break out between the Creek people and the rest of the world. Fire will consume most of the Earth and the dark forces of the Lower World will emerge from beneath the Earth and run rampant. In some versions those Creek who have preserved their customs and ceremonies will be summoned back underground at the Place of Emergence to wait out the destruction. In other versions when all the Creek have been killed in the chaos on the surface Ibofanaga will destroy the Earth to prevent the forces of the Lower World from possessing it. Individual souls will then face their ultimate fate along the Soul’s Path.
FOR MY LIST OF FIFTEEN IROQUOIS DEITIES CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2013/01/28/the-top-fifteen-deities-in-iroquois-mythology/
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