E.W. Gifford (1887–1959)
  • E.W. Gifford (1887–1959)
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Then the earth dragon, with its great, long horns, got up and walked down from the north. It traveled underground and the god Nagaicho rode on its head. As it walked along through the ocean depths, the water outside rose to the level of its shoulders. When it came to shallower places it turned its head upward, and because of this there is a ridge near the coast in the north upon which the waves break. When it came to the middle of the world, in the east under the rising sun, it looked up again, which created a large island near the coast. Far away to the south it continued looking up and made a great mountain range. In the south the dragon lay down, and Nagaicho placed its head as it should be and spread gray-colored clay between its eyes and on each horn. He covered the clay with a layer of reeds, then spread another layer of clay. On it he put some small stones, and then set blue grass, brush, and trees in the clay. “I have finished,” he said. “Let there be mountain peaks on the earth’s head. Let the waves of the sea break against it.”

— from “Earth Dragon” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

Nagaicho, or “Great Traveler,” is a companion god to Chenesh, the creator god in the mythology of California indigenous peoples such as the Kato. Often seen as a comedy team in which Chenesh plays the straight man while Nagaicho teases him into acts of creation, the duo is credited with the creation of the world and its inhabitants. In this version, based on a 1930 account by E.W. Gifford (1887–1959), who specialized in the study of California Indian ethnography.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Comments

Sign in to comment