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The Iroquois ancestral Mother Ataensic lived in the sky long ago. At that time, the entire Earth was a vast lake filled with water birds, otters, and turtles. In the heavens above, Ataensic became pregnant. Ataensic’s husband, Sky Chief, was a very jealous deity and doubted his wife’s faithfulness to him. One night in his sleep, he had a dream that the Tree of Life should be uprooted, creating a great hole in the heavens. When he awoke the next morning, he planned to push his unsuspecting pregnant wife into the hole. He called Ataensic over to the Tree and had Her gather nut tree roots, berry bushes, and various other plants and herbs to fill Her burden basket with. He then uprooted the Tree of Life, creating a huge opening in the heavens.

Sky Chief told Ataensic to look at the Earth below through the hole. Curious, Ataensic went over to the edge of the hole, into which Sky Chief pushed Her. Waterbirds helped to ease her descent to the Earth and the other animals, sympathetic to the pregnant Goddess, built land up from the lake mud on top of Great Snapping Turtle who offered his giant back as a place to build the landmass upon. This is how the continent of North America became known as Turtle Island by the Iroquois.

iagentci

Upon this earth, Ataensic gave birth to Her beloved Daughter, Enedeka Dakwa. Mother and Daughter shared a very close familial bond, and the relationship between a child and her/his mother became the most important familial relationship for the matrilineal Iroquois.

As Enedeka Dakwa grew older, She longed to have a family of her own. The Earth Spirit, North Wind, saw Enedeka Dakwa one day and became infatuated by Her great beauty. Wondering how he might approach this lovely Lady, he transformed into a squirrel and asked Her to marry him. Enedeka Dakwa thought the squirrel was cute, but as she had promised to ask Her Mother first for permission to marry any suitor that came to Her, She asked him to wait while She asked Her Mother. Of course, Ataensic would not allow Her Daughter to marry a little squirrel, so Enedeka Dakwa had to decline his offer. The same happened again when North Wind transformed into a raccoon and a fox. Still not discouraged, North Wind transformed himself into a handsome young man and asked for Her hand in marriage yet again. Ataensic agreed to Her Daughter’s marriage to this man, and soon after Enedeka Dakwa became pregnant with two sets of twins.

aNorth Wind and Lynx

She bore two sons and two daughters, dying in childbirth because her second son,  Flint (Tawiskaroo) decided to take the shortest way out and burst forth from Her side. Enedeka Dakwa was buried and became the Mother Earth. From Her body came the Iroquois’ staple foods: corn, squash, and beans. Ataensic blamed Flint for Her Daughter’s death and so always sided with his twin brother, Sapling (Rawenio). The same pattern of a good and evil twin followed with the female twins, Sweet Blossom and Blue Lynx. Whenever Sweet Blossom would create something beautiful like the rose, Blue Lynx added thorns. Sweet Blossom was nurturing and caring, while Blue Lynx was bitter and selfish. Sweet Blossom only saw beauty around Her, while Blue Lynx had a jaded, negative perspective of the world.

One day when the evil twins Blue Lynx and Flint were trying to cross a river, they decided to make the area so cold that the river froze. Sweet Blossom and Sapling’s creations began to freeze and die, and so Sapling decided that the year would henceforth be regulated, with the spring and east governed by himself, the summer and south governed by Sweet Blossom, the autumn and west governed by Flint, and the winter and north governed by Blue Lynx.

Athe four directions2

One day an argument broke out between the two brothers. Flint was so jealous of Sapling’s ability to create such lovely beings that he stepped outside of his seasonal boundaries and began to freeze the entire earth. Ataensic asked her grandchildren to do something about the out of control Flint, so Sapling wrestled Flint into a cave and locked him as well as his monstrous creations inside with a large stone rolled in front of the cave’s entrance. Sapling became known as the Creator while Flint became associated with the Underworld and all selfish desires.

When Ataensic died, She returned to the celestial heavens and became Grandmother Moon. In honour of the thirteen scales on Great Snapping Turtle’s back who had given Her a place to dwell upon, the full moon returned thirteen times in a lunar year.

Resources:

http://www.marcinequenzer.com/creation.htm (I highly recommend this website, not only for detailed information on the Iroquois but also for the beautiful artwork available there)

http://journeyingtothegoddess.wordpress.com/tag/ataensic/

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