Native American Legends
A Journey to the Skeleton House 1
A Hopi Legend
In Oraíbi the people were living, and over there at Hónletsnöma's
house there lived a youth. He was always sitting at the edge of
the mesa early in the morning; He was always thinking about that
graveyard there. "Is it true that some one is really living
there?" he thought. "Is it true that if some one dies
he goes somewhere?" thus he was thinking. ''If only some one
would tell me whether these that are buried here are living somewhere."
Now, at last he got some corn meal, then he went to the edge again,
and then he prayed with it to the Sun and said: "Now then,
have you perhaps seen anywhere these that are buried here?"
Thus he prayed. "Now, if you have seen them somewhere, inform
me." Having thus prayed he returned. And then after that he
thus continued to pray. After having thus prayed for four days he
sat down there and some one came ascending the mesa. The one that
ascended asked him: "Now, why do you want me?" "Yes,"
said the one that was sitting there, "I am always thinking
about those who are buried there, whether it is true that they are
living in some other life." "Now," he, the Sun, said,
yes, they are living. Are you really anxious to see them?"
Now the young man answered. ''Yes," he said. "Very well,"
answered the Sun, "I shall then give you this here." He
handed him something. "When you will sleep in the evening,
eat a little of this, but you tell your mother and them all about
it." "Very well," the youth said. "I shall leave,"
said the Sun.
The young man now went home to his house. He arrived there. His
mother was preparing food. When they had eaten he said to his father:
"My father," he said, "is it really true that if
some one die he remains somewhere? I want to find out about it."
Now, hereupon the mother said to him: "You must not do that
way; yet it is for you (to say)." "Yes," said the
young man, "yes, as soon as I shall sleep in the night I shall
not wake up quickly; hence, as soon as the sun is risen and is high
up, you must work on me and then maybe I shall return and wake up."
Now the father said, "Very well." It now was evening.
He now ate a little of the medicine. Upon that he slept. He was
entirely dead and he went to the Skeleton House. He came to Apóhnivi.
There was a plain trail. On the north side he descended and there
somebody was sitting, but that one had died long ago and (behold!)
it was that one. He recognized him.
That one said, "Have you come?" "Yes," the
young man said. "Now you carry me," said the one who was
sitting there, "at least four steps. There you set me down."
"No, I am in a hurry," the young man said to him, and
thereupon proceeded. Now the one that was sitting there cried. When
he (the youth) had gone a little was again some one was sitting
there. He spoke to him in the same manner. He again did not want
to. Now he ascended Bow Height (Aoátovi), but there somebody
went backward and forward and carried something. It was a woman.
She had in a carrying basket some very hard stone (kalávi),
but a bow string was her burden band. It had cut into her head skin.
Now that woman said, "Take this from me." "No,"
the young man said, "I am in a hurry,'' and proceeded.
.Again somebody came, and now he had reached him, but this one
was carrying a healing stone. His burden band was a hair string.
Cactus was tied to the right foot of that one and póna (also
a species of cactus) to his left foot, so how could he get along
fast? If he hurried a little that pricked him very much. Now that
one said, "Take this away from me.'' "No , he replied,
I am in a hurry," and again he proceeded. After that he ran
fast. Now then he came to the salt, and there somebody was shaking
a bell very loudly. Now he arrived at him, and it was the Kwánitaka.
The Kwánitaka said to him: "Have you come?"
"Yes," the young man said.
The Kwánitaka now said, "Have you seen them? Thus you
want it. Now I shall inform you. There where you first came upon
one, that one is very wicked. He does not want rain in summer. That
one when he does something offensive to these here clouds they all
run away. Then again, you know, you arrived at another one. That
one killed some one. That one when he put something bad into somebody
he died from it, hence when will those arrive here? You see when
they have taken four steps, there they remain again. Then these
at Aoátovi are carrying something. They also take four steps
and then remain there, but they always remain eight 'times' before
they proceed, hence when shall they arrive here? Now go on, but
you go this way here (pointing to one of two diverging roads). Now
you go on happily and then somewhere some one will ring again."
And sure enough when he drew near, somebody was ringing, and again
he arrived at some one who spoke to him in the same manner. ''Have
you come?" he said. "Yes," the young man answered.
"All right, go on," said the Kwánitaka, and taking
hold of the young man he led him. Now they came somewhere, and there
was a fire. Now they arrived there and it was very deep there, like
a corn steaming oven (kóici), but it was burning very much.
"Don't you know, those that you first came upon, they come
here. Them I burn up here. Those wicked ones there in Oraíbi,
them I burn up here, but they at least will come out. Do you see,
as soon as burned, as soon as it smokes, it comes out. Now you see
sometimes it (the air) is filled with smoke. Now that (smoke) is
these. They eat nothing. They are never happy. But it was themselves
when they planned it. Now then, let us be this way again."
Now they arrived at a place where it was very deep and where it
was very dark deep in. "Here I throw some of them in, but they
always remain in here. They never come out. Now, come on, let us
be back, Thus you wanted to understand this. Now he left him. Now
he returned to the other Kwánitaka, and he arrived there.
And he again said, "Have you come?" "Yes," said
the young man, and again he led him to a road, directing him to
the other of the two roads. "That way you go," he said,
and now he came somewhere to a village, but it was a large village.
They lived there in white houses only. There at the extreme edge
of the village a Kwánitaka was going up and down, He said,
''Have you come? Come this way," and then took hold of him
and took him to the village. He arrived there. There another chief,
a Kwánitaka, stood close at the village. "Have you come?"
he said to them. "Yes," they answered together, whereupon
he said, "Now please enter." Upon that this other also
took hold of the young man and they entered, and sure enough, there
also some were living and he knew them. He had been a chief in Oraíbi
a long time ago. Now the Kwánitaka said to the young man.
''This way, this you wanted to know." But in a large blossom
he was living. That deceased chief and three other chiefs were living
in blossoms that were standing one after the other. "Thanks,"
said the Kwánitaka, ''these were never bad in Oraíbi:
they were always good, therefore they are here this way now. Now,
then, let us go and look there, too." So they again entered.
There all kinds of grasses and plants and blossoms of every description
were. "Thus these are living here," said the Kwánitaka.
"This you wanted to know, hence now you took well. When you
return you tell them. You see if any one is not wicked there in
Oraíbi he shall certainly come here. Here you have seen it.
You see, there a road has been prepared for them. Now as soon as
you arrive you tell them everything about this our life here, and
if some one thinks to himself (has his welfare at his heart) he
must live accordingly. Thus you wanted it. Because you have entered
our dwelling, here everywhere you have found out everything, but
as soon as you think of coming here sometime, you must eat a little
of your medicine again, but you must tell this to your mother and
your father and to them, but they must never do that way, and if
they do not believe my talk they shall never live with us here.
Now then, proceed. Run fast, as your father and mother are waiting
Now then, from there he ran very fast. He arrived at the Kwánmongwi,
where the road divided. He said to him, ''Have you come?" "Yes,"
the young man said. "Very well," he replied, "run
fast now, your father and mother are waiting for you." He now
came running very fast. At Aoátovi he again came upon them
who were being punished there, those who because they had stolen.
They were going to the Skeleton House, but were still punished there,
but they were concerned that their thieving should come to an end,,
and then sometime they might arrive at them in the Skeleton House.
Now when he came upon them the one that was sitting there said to
him: "So you have come back again!" "Yes," the
young man replied, and at once proceeded, running very fast. Now
he came upon the woman. She said, "So you have come back again!"
"Yes," he answered, and upon that proceeded, running very
He now came upon the one that had killed some one, north of Apóhnivi.
"So you have come back again," said the one that was punished
there, "Yes," he answered. Having said this, he proceeded,
running. Now he arrived a little north of Apóhnivi. Now there
the one that did not want it to rain was sitting. He also said the
same thing. "Yes," the young man said, and proceeded,
running. Now he arrived at his house in Oraíbi and entered
his body. Now when the sun was rising he awoke and sat up. He was
thinking. The sun was somewhat high already. Now his mother, because
she was through making the food, came to look after him and he had
awoke. "Are you awake?" the mother said, "Yes,"
he replied. "Come then, let us eat; come this way," the
mother said. "Very well," answered the young man. So they
were eating. When they had eaten the father asked the young man:
"Now what have you found out?" "Yes," he said,
"yes, truly they are living. I have seen everything there in
the Skeleton House and there the chief told me thus, thus I tell
you. There that Kwánmongwi burns these wicked ones there,
and these others he throws into the dark, and then again, these
that have been chiefs here they live well there and they are chiefs
there again. I have seen their way of living there. So when some
time you will not see me here, you must not worry over that; truly
they are living there." Thus he told them. And after that they
were living together. By and by the young man wanted to go back
again, and he said to his father, "My father, my mother."
they said. "I shall go back again," he answered. "very
well," said the father, and that night he took some of that
medicine and then slept, but now he was really dead. And (in the
morning) the mother, in order that he should eat, in order that
he should refresh himself, looked after her boy, but he had died.
Now they wrapped him up and put him away, there below Kúivö.
There they buried him.
After that they lived (alone), but they, the father and the mother,
were homesick after their boy.Now the father went to his field,
and when he came there he hoed his field. Then at the edge of the
field something was running. It was a bird, a Báchro. Now
the Báchro spoke. "Alas!" he said, "alas,
my father is homesick after me." "Yes," the father
said, "I am homesick after you." The Báchro said,
"Now you must not be that way; why I told you (all about it).
In four days I shall come back again, hence you must both come."
Having said this he flew away. Now, after four days the father said
to the mother: "Let us go together." ''Very well,"
she said. Now his wife prepared some lunch and then they left. When
they arrived there they were making the field. Now the husband said
to his wife, "Now somebody will come." "Who?"
she asked. When they were still thus talking it arrived. Close by
them something was whistling, and now he came running towards them
and arrived at them. As soon as he had arrived at them he said,
"Alas, you are homesick after me." Now the father said,
"Yes." "Now you must not be that way," he said.
''I live well." Now the mother said: "Yes, I am homesick
after you." Now again he said, "You must not be that way.
I shall come and see you. Having said this he again flew away. In
the evening they went home and surely after that when the father
was walking in the field that came there. After that they continued
to live there.
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