Native American Legends
The origin of the Yayaatu Society
A Hopi Legend
Ishyaoí! In Oraíbi they were living. In the home
of the Reed clan lived the Yáyaa-mongwi. This Fraternity
has now died out, but its altar paraphernalia are still kept in
the house. A long time ago a man and his wife had one little boy.
Some children of the village would often visit this boy. They were
lazy, though their parents often told them to work, and get wood,
herd sheep, etc. They would not listen, but often assembled at this
house where they would prepare some food in the corners in front
of the house, having stolen the food in the village. In a corner
in front of the house they would build their fire, The wood they
stole from the different houses in the village. So the men in the
village were very angry at them and so were the mothers of these
children. "You are lazy," they often told them. "You
do not want to work, and we are not going to feed you." So
they would go and steal some food in the houses and eat that.
One time the priest's son suggested to the others: "Let us
go and get some wood ourselves. Some one go and steal a hide strap
(piqö'sha) somewhere." So after they had eaten they went
through the village and gathered up piqö'shas of different
lengths and returned. They left the village on the east, drank at
K'eqö'chmovi, and then went farther east and gathered some
dry brush in the valley. After they had all gathered their bundles
the priest's son said: "Are you all done?" "Yes,''
they said. "All right, then let us go home now," he said.
But just when they were ready to start a Hawk in the form of a man
carne upon them.
He wore many strands of beads around his neck and had a black line
painted with specular iron running over his nose down to the cheeks.
The hair of all of the children was very much disheveled, so he
laughed at them. "Are you getting wood?" he said. "Yes,"
they replied, and he again laughed at them. His kiva was close by.
"You come in here," he said to the children, so they went
in. It was a kiva just like those in the village. He invited them
to sit down on the banquette that ran along the wall, so they sat
down. He then took a seat near the fire-place, filled a pipe and
took two puffs from it. He then said to the children that they should
take a seat near the fireplace, too.
He handed the pipe first to the priest's son, who smoked, addressing
the man as "My father" (Ínaa), which pleased the
man very much. All then smoked, one after another, all exchanging
terms of relationship, the older ones addressing the younger ones,
"My younger brother," and the younger ones the older ones
as "My older brother." He then said to them that they
should remain, as he was going to feed them, and after having eaten
they might go home.
Hereupon he went into another room and brought back a large roll
of qö'mi (a bread made of the meal of roasted sweet corn-ears)
which he fed to them. After they had eaten he went into another
chamber and brought forth a large roll of kilts, eagle wing feathers
(kwávok'i), ear pendants, eagle breath feathers, to be tied
into the hair, beads, etc., and handed all these to the children.
Hereupon he dressed up all the boys, tying the kilts behind.
He then handed an eagle feather to each one and directed them to
stand in a line. Hereupon Kísh Taka, the Hawk-man, took a
mö'chápu, which is a native cloth or ówa, wrapped
it up, and holding it under his left arm, took a stand at the south
end of the line, saving to the youths: "Now then, whatever
you see me do, you do the same." Hereupon he commenced to go
around the kiva crying, "Ow" (long drawn). They went around
in a circle in the kiva four times emitting the same sounds at short
intervals. Hereupon he went up the ladder, the youths following
Outside he again told them to do as they would see him do. He jumped
off the kiva, ran about through the brush, the youths always following
him and all constantly saying. "Ow, ow." Suddenly he threw
down the mö'chápu, spreading it on the ground, grabbed
the priest's son, threw him on the cloth, and then asked the other
youths to take a hold of the cloth at different places and in this
way they carried the priest's son to the kiva, throwing him through
the opening into the kiva.
Hereupon they waited, and in a little while the youth came out
of the kiva again, unharmed. Hereupon he grabbed another of the
youths and they threw him down, and in this same manner every one
was thrown into the kiva and came out unharmed. Then the Hawk-man
went into the kiva, being followed by all of the youths. He was
called the uncle of the youths. After they had entered the kiva,
he drew aside a curtain from one of the inner chambers and in the
room behind the curtain were four round ovens (kóici) dug
into the earth, in which an old woman kept up a fire. The Hawk-man
then grabbed the priest's son, threw him into one of the ovens,
the old woman spurting some medicine on him as he fell in.
Hereupon the other youths were thrown into the ovens. As soon as
the costumes were burned off the bodies, the Hawk-man took them
out again and placed all the, bodies north of the fireplace in the
kiva, and covered them with the aforementioned piece of native cloth.
When this was done he sat down and sang a song over the bodies.
Soon the bodies under the cloth began to move and the priest's son
was the first to come out, the others following soon, all now being
Hereupon he told them to sit down on the banquette on the west
side of the kiva. The old woman now came out and washed the heads
of the youths, giving a perfect white ear of corn (chóchmingwuu)
to each one. The Hawk hereupon addressed them, saying: "Thanks,
that you are now done. You are now prepared. You can go home now.
Take your wood to the Blue Flute (Cakwálânvi) kiva,
and enter that kiva and remain there. Do not go into the houses
to get something to eat, but wait for me there. After sundown I
shall come to you." Hereupon he handed an eagle wing feather
(kwávok'i) to the priest's son, whereupon the youths left.
When they came with their bundles of wood to the Blue Flute kiva
the people saw them and said: "Aha! the lazy boys have gotten
their own wood. Now maybe they will not steal any more." When
they had put down their wood, they ran to the houses where they
had gotten the burden straps and threw them on and into the houses,
without, however, entering them. They all returned to the kiva at
once without having partaken of any food.
The sun had now gone down. They waited awhile and after the evening
dawn had disappeared and it was quite dark they heard somebody come.
It was the Hawk, in whose kiva they had been, and he at once entered
the kiva. "Are you all sitting here?" the Hawk asked.
"Yes, we are all here. Sit down," the youths replied.
So the Hawk took a seat near the fireplace and at once filled a
pipe and they all smoked.
The Hawk had brought with him a small bowl and some kwíptoci
(meal from white corn that has first been soaked and then popped).
Of this meal he made a gruel in the bowl, which he fed to the youths.
He then told them that they should not go home, but early in the
morning some of them should take a seat in the north end of the
kiva and the others in the south end of the kiva. The first should
be fire jumpers (Tövúchochoyanik'am) and also Yáyaatus.
The others should be the singers (Tátaok'am). Between the
two parties he sprinkled a meal line on the floor of the kiva. One
he selected to act as watchman.
He should keep up the fires at the fireplace and keep out intruders.
He told them that they should remain in a sitting posture in the
kiva all of the next day and that they should fast all day. In the
evening he would return and feed them again. Thus they were assembled
here in the kiva, and each one had his "mother" (his white
corn-ear) standing against the wall by his side.
The people were wondering the next day why the little thieves,
as they called them, were not coming out to hunt something to eat.
Finally one of the women approached the kiva, looked in, and saw
them sitting in an erect posture. "Oh," she said to the
people, "they are assembled (yû'ngiota) in there."
They remained in this way in the kiva for four days, their uncle
coming every night to feed them and look after them. Early in the
morning after the fourth clay he washed their heads. The following
day it was Totókya (a name always applied to the day preceding
a ceremony). In the evening of this day the Hawk-man brought with
him the costumes for the youths, consisting of kilts, beads, eagle
feathers, twisted yarn (naálöngmurukpu), ear pendants,
ankle bands, and also some yellow paint (sik'áhpik'i).
All these he placed on the floor north of the fireplace. During
the night the youth who had been watching the fireplace in the kiva
dug four ovens on the plaza south-west of the kiva, while the others
buried a long cotton string in the ground on the same plaza. They
also stretched long strings along the houses of the village, pasting
them to the walls with qö'mi dough.
Early in the morning the watcher of the kiva went around through
the village begging for some wood. With this he heated the four
ovens on the plaza. The people wondered what he was going to do,
some suggesting that perhaps he was going to bake some píkami
(a food prepared in small ovens outside of the houses for festal
While this youth was beating the ovens the Hawk dressed up all
the others in the kiva. He painted a wide yellow band from shoulder
to shoulder running down over the chest; the lower arms and lower
legs he also painted yellow, and a yellow ring around the abdomen.
Their faces he covered with corn- pollen. They had many strands
of beads and also some strands of the twisted yarn consisting of
dark blue and brownish red yarn.
Large bunches of eagle feathers were tied to the top of their heads,
and an eagle tale feather was tied on each side of their head in
such a manner that their points extended backward. From these tail
feathers were also suspended strands of the twisted yarn. Old Hopi
Women's belts were tied over the kilts. Strands of the same yarn
were tied around their wrists.
At about noon the singers came out first, each one throwing a pinch
of sacred meal towards the sun. The Hawk-man and the old woman remained
in the kiva. As soon as the singers had emerged from the kiva they
went with long strides to the plaza (the same where now the Snake
dance takes place) where they lined up and sang.
As soon as they had formed in line the Yáyaatu also emerged
from the kiva and went to the plaza with long strides, the priest's
son carrying this time the möchápu which the Hawk-man
had used when initiating the youths. While the first party continued
singing, the Yáyaatu rummaged through the village, ascending
the roofs of the houses, jumping onto the people, tearing up and
throwing down chimneys, taking hold of children and people and swinging
them over the edge of the roof and threatening to throw them down,
etc. The people got very angry at them and beat them with sticks,
so they finally returned to the plaza.
Arriving there, the priest's son, now the leading priest of this
order, banding the möchápu to one of the others, jumped
into one of the ovens. The others drew him out dead, wrapped him
up in the möchápu, took him to the kiva and threw him
into it. Here he was at once resuscitated by the Hawk-man and the
old woman and came up apparently unharmed, having on again the same
costume as the one that had been burned off his body in the oven.
While this was going on, others had jumped into the various ovens
and were drawn out immediately, thrown into the kiva, and treated
the same way.
By this time the parents and relatives of these youths became very
much alarmed and began to cry and complain that their children were
killed that way, but the young man that had been watching the kiva
told them not to come near, saying that they were going to have
a dance yet. After they were through with this performance, their
leader went into the kiva and brought out a möchápu,
in which he had something wrapped up. This he placed on the ground
on the plaza and all the Yáyaatu crowded around this bundle.
Covering another large möchápu over them, they occupied
themselves for a short time with the bundle.
They then threw off the covering and standing in a circle around
the bundle they sang. In a little while they opened the bundle and
there were many fine, large watermelons in it. Leaving these watermelons
on the plaza, the leader again went Into the kiva, brought out another
bundle, over and around which they went through the same performance.
Uncovering this bundle a great many little cotton-tail rabbits jumped
up, which they distributed. among the children. The singers kept
up their singing during all these performances.
The Yáyaatu now all entered the kiva. Soon they came out
again, some hunting and uncovering the strings that they had buried
and attached to the houses. Others that followed them wound the
strings up on balls.
Whenever one string was found and wound up, another one was hunted
and wound, so they all went through the village hunting and winding
the strings that they had buried. Suddenly they all proceeded to
the house of the Cotton- tall Rabbit clan (Táb-ñamu),
where Homíhoiniwa and his family now live, and here one of
the strings ran into a water-jug.
This they lifted up without drawing the string out, and carried
it also to the plaza where they split it in two. It was found that
on the inside a cloud symbol was painted in each half jug. They
lifted up the two parts of the jug and showed the cloud symbols
to the people. Hereupon they covered up the two parts, sang over
them, and when they took the covering off the jug was whole again
as before, whereupon they returned it to the house.
The leader once more went into the kiva and came back with a bowl
containing some diluted white kaolin (dûmákuyi). This
they took to the top of the Maraú kiva, which is so situated
that from it a long high bluff, which is called Canávitoika,
can be plainly seen in the distance (probably eight or ten miles
to the west).
The Yáyaatu now gathered around the bowl and putting eagle
feathers into the white kaolin they moved them up and down in the
air, as if whitewashing that distant bluff, and behold, the bluff,
though far away, at once assumed a white color. All the people could
plainly see that it was being whitewashed, though it is far away.
Hereupon they returned to the plaza. the singers now stopping their
singing. They cut up the watermelons and distributed slices. All
then entered the kiva again, the mothers and the relatives of these
youths now crowding towards this kiva wanting to get their children.
The watcher of the kiva kept them back, saying, however, that they
had not yet been "discharmed".
When they had all entered the kiva the Hawk-man "discharmed"
them and then set nö'ekwiwi and white píki before them,
saying: "Now eat and then you sleep in the kiva one night.
In the morning when your people come for you, you can go with them."
In the evening the mothers again came and clamored for their children,
but the youth, that was watching the kiva, told them to go home,
as they were going to sleep there one night.
The Hawk-man and the old woman then wrapped up all the costumes
and other paraphernalia returned to their kiva in the valley east
of the village. Only the corn-ear mothers they left for each one.
In the morning the youths all went to their homes, and after that
they were no longer bad and dangerous. They formed the Yáyaatu
Society and directed their prayers towards the place where their
uncle, the Hawk-man, lived, and where they had been initiated.
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