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Creation Myths

The Mystery of Cheewa

by Tom Rue

Long ago, the world was a chaos of disorganized matter, without form and void, spinning aimlessly in space. As this ball of indescribable substance churned and spun, it gave off lighter gases, which whirled to the outside of the sphere. As the gaxes mixed and churned, air was formed.

But Cheewa was there first.
A firm mass formed, but there were no trees, no flowers, no grass, and no plants. As the ball of matter continued to spin in space, liquids and solids began to separate. Finally, where the firmness met the sea, Cheewa sat alone. There was nothing but a vast expanse of sand to her north, and there were no sentient beings on the land. Only wind. And Cheewa.
The land was cold, for there was no fire. Cheewa sat in darkness -- neither the sun nor the moon yet gave light.
Cheewa was conscious of her self and that she was alone, but she was not sad for there was no bottom to her soul and she was filled with the fire of life. Her understanding was not veiled as her creative powers continued to work.
As Cheewa sat, a starfish crawled out of the sea and spoke to her, telling Cheewa about the undersea world. But Cheewa did not listen. Then a crab crawled ashore and told Cheewa of the wonders beneath the sea, inviting her to visit. But Cheewa ignored the crab. Finally, a turtle appeared and repeated to Cheewa the invitation to visit the undersea world, telling her of the King of the Deep's promise that awesome wonders and power awaited her. Cheewa believed the words, for the turtle had never lied to her, and she followed its direction.
Under the sea, Cheewa saw great wonders and teeming life. She saw fishes and many plants. Dolphins and great whales patrolled the depths and welcomed Cheewa. Down, down she went, to the deepest depths of the ocean. There, at the bottom, the tutle introduced Cheewa to the King of the Deep who welcomed Cheewa and invited her to live forever in his watery realm.
"Stay with me and be my wife," bade the King. But Cheewa was not used to companionship and declined. "I cannot," she said, "for my way is to live above in the realms of air." The King became angry, and bound Cheewa in a cave in the deepest depths. There Cheewa stayed for an eternity and a half, until the turtle heard what had happened.
The turtle approached the King of the Deep and told him that a rebellion was brewing in a far quarter of the sea. The King believed the turtle, for the turtle had never lied to him, and left at once to investigate, accompanied by an army of shar-toothed fighting fish.
Once the King had departed, the turtle opened the mouth of the cave. Cheewa escaped and returned anon to the upper world, taking with her a quantity of fertile mud from the bottom of the sea which she had made. When the King returned, he realized he had been tricked by the turtle and was angry that Cheewa had escaped.
Cheewa sat on the shore laughing, which further enraged the King of the Deep. In his rage, he caused a great eruption at the bottom of the sea, which sent waves of water to engulf Cheewa and all the lands of Earth. But the King failed to wasch Cheewa back to her watery prison.
With the mud Cheewa fertized the land to the north. The great floods caused by the sea's eruption watered the ground, and life began to form in the realms of air.
From the ground arose all the forms of life on Earth that we now know. The King of the Deep, however, decreed that creatures of water and air should ever remain separate, and that lunged beings could never return to the depts of the sea without a special dispensation. For his faithfulness, the turtle was blessed by Cheewa to be able to travel back and forth -- to survive in water or air.
There was a time when humans walked on four legs, like the rest of the animals. But Cheewa sat aboveand apart from them, for she saw they lacked understanding. Then, one young man, fair of face and speech, approached Cheewa and spoke softly to her soul. Cheewa heard his words and her heart was filled with compassion. She lifted the man upright, giving him the power to stand on his own. The man lay all night with Cheewa, by her invitation. At dawn, as Cheewa slept, the man reached deep into her womb, stealing from her some of her sacred enlivening fire, and crept away.
When Cheewa awoke, the man was gone. She felt empty somehow, as though she had suffered some great loss. And though some fire still burned within her, it was not as bright, and her understanding became veiled. Cheewa felt sad, and she thought her sadness was loneliness for the man.
On his journey home, the man stored the fire he had stolen from Cheewa in a bag made from an animal skin. Then he slept, but when he awoke, the bag awas in ashes and the forest was in flames.
Eventually, the rains came and quenched the blace, but fire continued to crop up here and there. The man made his way back to his tribe, where he showed women and men how to stand upright, as he had learned to do.
Although people tried to contain it, the fire that had been loosed would not always submit, and its untamed fierceness would win out, while at times it would warm and comfort living creatures. Humans marveled at its energy, and harnessed its power to heat their dwellings and cook their food.
People multiplied on the Earth, dominating it and subduing it. Cheewa lost awareness as the remaining embers withn her body grew cold. But when Cheewa awoke, she had been transformed. Her immortal energy mereged with the life-cycle of the Earth and to this day she makes her will known to the minds of receptive humans.

Related link... from the same issue of FireHeart, © 1991

  • Paganism and Myths of Creation -- A Ritual of Transformation by Walter Wright Arthen