Zuni origin witch story. – By Nolan Ukestine
Reading all these stories of shapeshifters, skin walkers, and evil beings. I like to share an very very old story. A story as old as time itself so please be respectful cause this story has strong Zuni beliefs. A story of a being with two hearts that thrives on the negative, fear, pain, jealousy, and weakness of the people.
A being that the Zuni referred to as a Ha’likwe that uses its evil power to hurt one another. Yup that evil power is universal. We dont call them skin walkers, We call them “Ha’likwes” which means sorcerer or witch and yeah they do shape-shift into different animals. The origin story of how Ha’lilkews came to be is also apart of our creation story.
In the beginning the people lived in the most fourth underworld. The world of soot where it was pitch dark black, and people were guided by the sound of the voices. The sun father wanted to see his children therefore send down his two twin sons. Known as the twin war gods. With them they brought knowledge, sacred prayers and songs to help the people emerge from the underworlds. They planted prayer bundles within the underworlds, and trees grew leading them out. The first tree was a fur tree as they grow in dark environments. The people climb the trees up into the next world. The world of gas they repeated the same task, and a spruce tree grew as it can grow in harsh environments, but it took the tree a little longer to grow. Some people suffocated from the smell of the odor, but eventually the tree grew. Next was world of algae.
They repeated the same task as before, and a pine tree grew as they can grow in wet mothy environments. The tree grew entering the next world. The last world the world of water the people rested, as the war gods informed them of things to come in the coming days. The last tree, a bamboo tree grew leading into the world of daylight, for as they grow in wet humid environments. The last tree was a test to see who was strong in mind and body, and to see how the people would work together in helping each other to overcome this test and to prepare them for their quest to fine the middle place, their promise land. The people helped each other climbing this long slippery bamboo tree, but all worked together to overcame this task.
Some fell back down into the underworlds to become dark beings. Working together as one the people emerge from the four underworlds. As the first people came out the war gods instructed the people to greet the sun with a prayer and embrace their father for the first time. As the sun rose over the horizon, the pain struck from the light of the sun and their eyes closed shut, but the war gods insisted to embrace even if their eyes we’re in pain, but their eyes remain closed only to be guided by voices and sounds.
The emergence took four years for all the people to come out. As that was happening, the war gods instructed the people on different survival task for their quest . The people gathered ready for their quest to find the middle place guided by the twin war gods. They make sure all were together, and proceeded on. As they begin to leave the place of emergence ( Grand Canyon) there was a great earthquake in the rumble. That signaled that they left one of the people behind in the place of emergence. So the war gods, and the curious people went back to see who they left behind, the last person to come out of the four underworlds. They saw a person sitting on the mound, but he was different from all the rest. They say he had two horns that stuck out from each side of his head with long hair, wide black open eyes like an owl. The war gods already knew this was an evil being so they were about to kill him. But the evil being had knowledge that he used against them.
He said if he gets killed all will be lost. Because with him he had the six different colored corn that he used against the war gods as collateral and threatened to drop seeds back in the four underworlds, if he was killed. He said the people will need the corn in the near future. The soon to be white, yellow, blue, red, black and multi colored corn. The second was he could control the world’s population. With that said he looked very hard at a Small child and the kid fell dead . Showing what kind of power he had .
And the third was he knew that there was an afterlife for our people and told the people they will see the kid he killed again when they pass on to a place called the dancehall of the dead. The holy mountains they will find on their journey. With that the war gods had no choice but to let him live. Cause they knew he was true to his word, and he was a part of the balance of life. Good and evil. The witch manipulated the war gods as they went on their quest to find the middle place. Before they continued their quest, the war gods transformed the people in the beings we are today. When we entered the new world we had webbed hands and feet bat like ears. Tails from our tailbones with skin like algae. As they got to a certain place a lake.
The twins lead the people down in the depth of the lake where they transform the people. Using their aarowheads the war gods cut the Tails and open the peoples eyes lids. Their eyes were closed shut like new born infants from living in the dark underworlds. They scraped off there algae like skin, and cut the webbings from their hands and feet. The ears were cut to it’s rightful size, and became the A:shiwi (The Flesh of the people) the human form. As the war gods we’re busy with their cast. The witch snuck passed the twins where he too transformed himself into a human, so no one will recognize him or notice him tricking the people. That is why we can’t really tell who a witch a two hearted being, good and evil. So the people continue on their long epic quest to find the middle. That is the origin of how ha’likwes came to be part of the world we live in.
Back in the day if witches got caught they held witch trials in the middle village at the old abandoned church. They would bind their hands behind their back and hang them on the church wall. They were questioned in reasons why they where prowling around the area. Some trials were scary I heard. Some shapeshifted into animals while they were hung on the wall with terrible screams. Exposing themselves to the people. But once they expose themselves or if another person finds out their a witch they end up dying or going crazy. Cause all the bad things they did to the people, falls back on them. Some would just disappeared never to be hear from again, but that practice has long been discontinued. That is the perspective of the Zuni people. Thanks for listening.