Pima Legends: The Great Flood of Cherwit Make

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Pixabay – Image by geralt – CC0 Public Domain

Around the world, there are many myths and legends in many diverse countries that tell of the creation of humanity and how the creator god became disappointed and angry with his creation through their immoral behavior.  To put the earth right and to punish the immoral majority he sends a Great Flood to drown them while saving a few of the worthy to repopulate the earth.  The following is an example of such a legend from the Native American Pima people of Arizona, USA.  It  tells of the creation of humanity by their god Cherwit Make and how he sent a Great Flood against them when their behavior came to displease him.

The Creation

In the sacred traditions of the Pima people, the creator of all humans and animals was Cherwit Make, the earth-maker, who was the butterfly.  Cherwit Make had fluttered out of the clouds in the sky to the place of the Blue Cliffs where the Verde River and the Salt Rivers meet.  From his own sweat, he made humans.  The people thrived and multiplied but grew argumentative and selfish towards one another.    Cherwit Make was disappointed and disgusted at  his creation and decided he would bring about a great flood of the earth to drown them.  Despite his dissatisfaction with them, he thought he would give them a chance to change their ways.

Suha the Prophet

One night, using the voice of the north wind he told them to live in honesty and peace.
Only Suha the prophet heard the voice of the north wind and interpreted the message for his people. They would not believe him and told him he was a fool to listen to the wind.

The next night Suha heard the voice of the east wind which brought the same message but which also warned that they would all be killed if they did not change their ways.  The people laughed and called him a fool again for listening to the wind. The following night Suha heard the same message from the west wind and again the people laughed at him and ignored him.

On the fourth night came the south wind and whispered into Suha’s ear that because he alone had been good and honest he and his wife should be saved from the coming deluge.  The south wind told him to gather spruce gum and create a hollow ball that would be watertight and would float and be their ark and would save them.  When the waters rose they should climb inside the ark and float safely upon the water until it receded.

Suha and his wife set to work gathering the spruce gum which they melted and shaped into a large hollow  ball with one entrance which could be quickly sealed when inside.  They gathered supplies of nuts, acorn meal, venison and bear meat so that they would not starve while the land was in flood.

The Great Flood

When the fateful day finally arrived Suha and his wife were stood by their ark which they had built on a high ledge overlooking the valley below.  From their high place they looked out and saw the people at work and heard the songs of the harvesters and they grew sad to think that it would all soon end.  As they watched, a fist of fire punched downwards from the skies and struck the Blue Cliffs with a thunderous boom.

Then the sky rapidly darkened and the rain began to fall.  Quickly Suha and his wife climbed into their ball and sealed the door shut.  The rain fell in continuous torrents for days on end and the water crept up the sides of the Blue Cliffs.  Their ark was soon taken up by the water and was carried safely for days untold.  Eventually, their provisions ran out and they thought they would surely starve or be killed by the wild buffeting of the water on their craft.  At last, the ark stopped being thrown to and fro by the waves and wind and came to rest on solid ground.  Breaking the door open Suha and his wife gladly stepped out of the confines of the ark.

Superstition Mountain

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Superstition Mountain – Image by Mikesanchez1109 – CC BY-SA 3.0

They found they were high on Superstition Mountain looking over a sea of water. There was cactus growing nearby so they ate their fill.  When night came they went back to the ark, which was their only shelter and slept.  They may have slept for a day, a week, a year even a thousand years, they did not know.  When they finally awoke the water had gone and there were verdant valleys filled with all kinds of plants, birds and animals and there were woods with bears and deer and birds singing in the trees.  Together, they left the ark and went down the mountains to live in the green and fertile valleys below. There they dwelt for a thousand years and from them came a great family of people.

The evil of Hauk

The flood sent by Cherwit Make had devastated the world but not completely cleansed it of evil.  A devil of the mountains named Hauk still remained to haunt and persecute the people.  He had his lair the other side of Superstition Mountain and every so often he would come forth  to steal the daughters of Suha and kill his sons.

There came a day when the men were all out in the fields harvesting maize.  The women remained at home spinning cactus fiber and flax. Hauk came over Superstition Mountain and into the village  and kidnapped yet another one of Suha’s daughters.  When Suha returned home and was told what had happened he vowed to kill Hauk.  He bided his time and watched Superstition Mountain.  At last, he saw Hauk going over the mountain and followed him to his home.

He then put a sleeping drug into the drink his daughter served him and Hauk fell into a deep sleep.  While he was asleep, Suha struck him over his head killing him and causing his brain to splatter over the earth. The greatest part of Hauk ‘s evil was killed but the seeds of evil from his brain fell upon the earth, took root and grew and although it grew, it was less than it had been before.  Suha took his daughter back home and taught his people many good and helpful things.  He taught them how to weave, how to make and use tools and how to avoid and prevent wars and to live in peace.

The Prophecy of Suha

The time came when he knew he must die and on his deathbed, he prophesied that his children would grow arrogant and greedy for wealth and material things.  They would try and claim the lands of others and would wage wars for greed and gain. He told them that when that time came the good would be removed from the earth and live in the sun.  The bad would perish when the flood returned and not one of them would survive.  Slowly and surely the prophecy of Suha unfolded.  Although humans made many great achievements their pride grew and they saw themselves above the creatures of the earth forgetting where they had come from and they thought themselves invincible and above the gods.

Cherwit Make

Cherwit Make, the butterfly, rests on the Blue Cliffs until the time comes when his patience finally runs out and he will unleash the great waters once again.

© 23/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 23rd, 2016 zteve t evans

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One thought on “Pima Legends: The Great Flood of Cherwit Make

  1. Pingback: The flood, floods and mythic flood stories 11 Overwhelming waters – Belgian Ecclesia Brussel – Leuven

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