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Native American Gods and Goddesses
American Indian Gods
Let's go back to a time when Natives lived and ruled the land that is now known as the United States of America. Just as the ancient peoples of Europe had their beloved gods and goddesses before Christianity, the Natives had their own Native American gods and goddesses, many of which were comparable to others...if not the same gods and goddesses just with different names.
If you're yearning to learn about the Native American gods and goddesses, you've come to the right place. While this article will not identify every single Native American god, it will introduce to you some of the most well-known Native American gods and goddesses. Let's get started.
When you start learning about Native American gods and goddesses, one of the first names you will hear is that of the "Great Spirit". The Great Spirit was known to the Lakota tribe as Wakan Tanka; however, Wakan Tanka has later been translated to mean something a bit closer to "Great Mystery".
The Sioux believed that the Great Spirit was a part of everything and in everything - animals, rocks, water, the earth, the sky, and inside of us. This is a very similar concept to pantheism. This Great Spirit has also been compared to the Christian God, and was used to convert many Native American tribes to Christianity when the European immigrants began to take over the United States.
The Great Spirit was known as Gitchi Manitou to a couple Algonquin peoples, and he was known as Ababinili to the Chickasaw peoples of the Southeastern US. The Chickasaw Natives believed that The Great Spirit, or Ababinili, was the giver and creator of all life (again, very similar to the Christian God).
To this day, many Native Americans still refer to God as the Great Spirit and honor the Great Spirit in different ways. Though the Great Spirit has different names, the Great Spirit is still the most revered of the Native American gods, in my opinion. You can read a Native American prayer to the Great Spirit below.
Native American Prayer to the Great Spirit
In the Native American Pueblo and Navajo tribes, Spider Grandmother is known as the creator of life and has woven us and the universe together. She is widely compared to the Great Spirit, in that she is a creator Native American goddess and is believed by some to be everywhere and in everything (omnipresent and omniscent).
Spider Grandmother has been passed down orally from generation to generation and also appears in quite a few Native American legends. A newer play known as "The Coyote Cycles" features Spider Grandmother as one of the four main characters.
The story of how Spider Grandmother wove the web of life and created the world and universe is one that is a very inspirational and beautiful story. You can read it by clicking here.
White Buffalo Calf Woman
The White Buffalo Calf Woman is not necessarily a Native American goddess like one might think, but she is looked at as more of a prophet to the Lakota peoples. Pte Ska Win is her Lakota name and the story goes that she appeared to a few Lakota men about two thousand years ago. It is said that she presented the Lakota peoples with a very sacred gift - a sacred peace pipe that they claim to still have in their possession today.
The story goes that a couple Lakota men were out in the Black Hills of South Dakota, hunting for buffalo, when a white buffalo calf appeared to them. The white buffalo calf transformed into a beautiful young woman when they came closer to it, and they believed her to be one of the Lakota peoples at first because she spoke to them in their native language. Apparently one of the men had some naughty thoughts pop into his mind about the mysterious woman and stepped forward to take her into his arms or possession. When he did this, she spoke to him and a black cloud came over his body...and when the cloud cleared, the man was nothing but bones on the ground.
The other Lakota man was told that he should return to his people and warn them that she would be returning to talk to his people and give them a sacred bundle in four days. The Lakota man did warn his people and the woman came to the Lakota tribe when she said she would, carrying a sacred bundle. She spent four days with them, teaching them seven sacred ceremonies and giving them a sacred peace pipe. The second time she had appeared to the people, she came down from the sky in a cloud and rolled off of the cloud as a white buffalo calf, so this is why she is known as the Pte Ska Win (white buffalo calf woman).
Wohpe is thought to be another form of Pte Ska Win to the Lakota peoples. She is a Native American goddess who represents cycles, time, meditation, and peace.
I was planning on finishing this hub with just discussing the Great Spirit, Spider Grandmother, and the White Buffalo Calf Woman, but apparently I would've been missing a big character or deity, if you will, in many of the Native American cultures...the Coyote. And would you believe it that on my way to work this morning, the coyote appeared to me?
I had to blink for a second, but he was standing there in a field...facing the other way...and it hit me. So this is a tribute to the Coyote as the Natives have seen him in his different spiritual forms and as he appears to us from the spiritual realms with a message.
Now many may not refer to the Coyote as a Native American god, but he is definitely of the spiritual world as we can see in the Native American stories and beliefs. In my opinion, he can be looked at as one of the Native American gods and goddesses in that he has deep spiritual meaning and symbolizes many different things to the Native Americans, specifically the different Plains' Natives.
To the Navajo tribe, the Coyote was said to have escorted the first humans into the mundane world from the spiritual world...so he acted as a spiritual guide into reality from another realm. Not only did the Coyote bring the humans into this world, but he also brought along with him seeds for life; therefore he is also viewed as sort of a Creator god or spirit.
The Coyote was thought in other tribes to be a trickster, but was there to teach us how to be better people...how to see our faults and fix them. The Coyote, as a trickster, was also thought to have been able to transform or shapeshift into other forms of life. He also represents an end to something of the natural world, but therefore brings about new beginnings and new opportunities to the Shoshoni.
Whether you view the Coyote as a Native American god or not, he is definitely a huge part of Native American culture dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years and so deserves a spot in this article.
May Wakan Tanka bless you all!