Mythological Records as Keys to the Ancient Past
BY PIONEER STAFF
American anthropologist and ethnologist Frank Hamilton Cushing (1857—1900) lived among and was accepted by the Zuni Indians of the southwestern United States, as the first in his field to dedicate himself to his occupation by immersing himself in and adopting the culture of his subject. Cushing lived with the Zuni from 1879 to 1884, at first risking his life since the Zuni suspected him of wanting to steal their secret knowledge. He was later initiated into the Priesthood of the Bow, the Zuni warrior society, and received a Zuni name, Tenatsali (medicine flower).
In D.S. Allan and J.B. Delair’s, Cataclysm: Compelling Evidence of a Cosmic Catastrophe in 9500 B. C., the authors, Cambridge and Oxford academics, present Cushing’s account of a great terrestrial event (see below), taken orally from the Zuni, as one of numerous legends worldwide that describe the Great Extinction at the end of the last Ice Age, a geologically recent event (perhaps 13,000 years ago) that destroyed hundreds of animal species across the globe. Allan and Delair propose that the killing of many plant and animal species on earth was the result of some cosmic object making its way through the solar system, the magnetic or gravitational force of which jostled Earth (and other planets) on their axes, rupturing the earth’s crust, causing widespread vulcanism and flooding, as the sea washed over landmasses, and creating geological features heretical researchers say have been erroneously attributed to the movement of glaciers. The event, recorded as legend in the accounts of ancient peoples, would then have been passed down in middle eastern and western civilization as the story of Noah and the Great Flood.
The Zuni account of that event, according to Allan and Delair, goes as follows, in words recorded by Cushing from the mouth’s of Zuni elders while living among them in the late 1800s.
The Zuni Legend of Prehistory
As it was with men and creatures, so it was with the world. It was young and unripe. Unstable its surface was, like that of a marsh, and dank, even the high places, like the floors of a cavern, so that seeds dropped on it sprang forth, and even the substance of offal became growing things.
Earthquakes shook the world and rent it. Beings of sorcery, demons and monsters of the under-world fled forth. Creatures turned fierce, becoming beasts of prey, wherefore others turned timid, becoming their quarry. Wretchedness and hunger abounded. Black magic, war and contention entered when fear pierced the hearts of men and creatures. Yea, fear was everywhere among them, wherefore the people everywhere, hugging in dread their precious possessions, became wanderers, living on the seeds of grasses, eaters of dead and slain things…
Dread was the din and stir. The heights staggered and the mountains reeled. The plains boomed and crackled under the floods and fires, and the high caves possessed the people and creatures which were black and awful so that these grew crazed with panic and strove alike to escape or hide more deeply. But erewhile they grew deafened and deadened, forgetful and asleep. A tree lighted of lightning burns not long.
Presently, thick rain fell, quenching the fires, and waters washed the face of the world, cutting deep trains from the heights downward, and scattered abroad the wrecks and corpses of stricken things and beings, or burying them deeply. Lo! they are seen in the mountains to this day, and in the trails of those fierce waters, though cool rivers now run, and where monsters perished—the lime of their bones we find, gigantic they were.
Seen are these also along the depths of the world. Where they huddled together and were blasted thus. Their blood gushing forth flowed deeply here in rivers, there in floods; but it was charred and blistered and blackened by fires, into the black rocks of the lower mesas…
There were vast plains of dust, ashes and cinders, reddened as in the mud of a hearth. There were great banks of clay and soil burned to hardness—as clay is when baked in the kiln mound—blackened, bleached or stained yellow, gray, red or white, streaked and banded, bent or twisted. Worn and broken by the heavings of the underworld and by the waters and breaths of the ages, they are the mountain terraces of the Earth-Mother, dividing country from country. Yet many were the places behind and between these-dark canyons, deep valleys, sunken plains unharmed by the fires, where they swerved or rolled higher, as close to the track of a forest fire, green grow trees and grasses, and even flowers continue to bloom. Therein tarried the people.
Dry and more stable was the world then, less fearsome its lonely places; since changed to rock were so many monsters of prey, some shriveled in size; made precious as amulets for the hunter and warrior, as told in other talks of our ancient speech.
The Zuni People
The Zuni are thought to have descended from Ancient Puebloans, peoples who inhabited the deserts of what is now the southwestern United States for a millennium. The present day Zuni live at Zuni Pueblo, McKinley County, New Mexico, population 6,367. Archeological evidence reveals the Zuni have inhabited the area since about 700 AD. Spanish explorers found the Zuni Indians in the year 1540 living in several large pueblos that exist now as ruins along the banks of the Zuni River.
The Zuni tribal name is actually Shiwinna (the flesh). The word Zuni derives from an unknown Spanish expression, probably since the time of the explorers. The Zuni language, perhaps owing to the tribe’s more ancient heritage, has no relation to languages of other Pueblo peoples.