This page is
intended as a reference guide for students of Iroquois mythology. The format
will consist of a Name (and occasionally
a translation) with a description
of the divinity. The description will include areas of authority, attributes,
images, appearance, and selected comments or stories which might help characterize
the divinity better. This is an ongoing work which, at the moment, is incomplete.
I most certainly solicit comments and contributions; if you have additional
information for me (or complaints, for that matter), I ask only that you
try to supply documentation in support of what you have to say.
Note that Iroquoian languages are heavily dialected - the names given below are often Seneca or Seneca-Mingo, but some are not, and so complete consistency should not be sought.
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Areskoui The Great Spirit as Patron of the hunt and of war.
Ataentsic Also called Atseatsine. "Woman-Who-Fell-To-Earth". First woman, mother of Yoskeha and Tawiskaron. The wife of Atseatsan, She is said to have fallen, pregnant, to Earth while chasing a bear to obtain medicine for Her spouse. Giving birth to Her twin sons, She remained on Earth, suffering cruel torments. She is an ambiguous figure - one the one hand She is regarded as Mother to humanity, and the bringer of the gifts of corn and meat. On the other hand, she is said to be a malevolent witch, conjoining with Her evil child Tawiskaron to wreak havoc and injury upon those She can gain control of.
Atseatsan First man, husband of Atseatsine (Ataensic). A solar divinity, He and His spouse help to raise the sun up into the heavens on long poles, since it is too hot to take hold of directly.
Awaeh Yegendji (Mother Swan) She is a aged wisewoman living alone in the forest with Her three daughters. Suffering privation, She urges Her children to marry so that She can be provided for and, after lengthy attempts to woo Big Earth's son, the eldest and youngest daughters are accepted as His mates.
Awataerohi A disease spirit, caused when it takes up residence within a victim's body. It can be cured only by holding a particular sort of ritual feast and dance - their are twelve types of Awataerohi illnesses, each associated with it's own special dance as a cure.
Bean Woman One of three sisters (the others are Corn Woman and Squash Woman), the Patroness and revealer of the bean vine as one of the three primary staples to humanity.
Breath-of-the-Wind An aerial spirit, child of Ataensic. Some versions of the Ataensic cycle have it that Breath-of-the-Wind is the mother of Yoskeha and Tawiskaron rather than Ataensic.
Cannibal Woman It is told that she was one who prepared a meal for herself, but spared nothing for her husband's dogs. They used orenda to cause her to cut herself and, sucking on the wound, finds she likes the taste better than the meal she has prepared. She thereupon mutilates herself badly, and finishes by slaying and eating her child. The dogs flee and warn her husband, who then settles elsewhere with them.
Corn Woman One of three sisters (the others are Bean Woman and Squash Woman), the Patroness and revealer of maize as one of the three primary staples to humanity.
Dagwanoenyent The spirit of the tornado, She is the daughter of the wind, and a malevolent witch. She can be slain, but even if She is burned to ashes, She will revivify at the time of the next storm. The only way of insuring Her subdual is to carefully separate Her ashes into three different containers, and keep those containers far from one another.
Daganoweda Perhaps a deified mortal - he is said to have been a Huron living c. 1550 CE, a prophet who had a vision of all the Iroquian peoples of the St. Laurence region united under a tree of peace. He appeared to Haiohwatha and convinced him to undertake the task of unification. Mythologically, He has become identified as a son of the Great Spirit, assuming human form to preach the message of diverse strengths within a commonwealth and an end to incessant feuding.
Dahdahwat Any of a variety of spirit creatures who can assume a variety of forms, and appear in dreams. They are dangerous, and can kill if enough attack a victim together.
Dajoji Spirit of the West Wind, and tutulary cougar deity. He is associated with Gaoh, and the two of them will combat violent storms. His battle shriek will cause all who hear it to panic - even the sun itself will hide behind a cloud.
Deadoendjadases (Earth-Circler) A cannibal giant who lives with His three sisters, and protects a giant strawberry patch. He is eventually brought down by members of the Turkey, Partridge, and Quail clans.
Deagahgweoses (Long Upper Eyelid) The Patron of tobacco, who makes it by hammering plant-stuff and singing the proper songs to it while doing so.
Deanodjes (He of the Two Teeth) The Walrus spirit.
Dehodyatgaieweh (He is split asunder) A Forest Face, partaking in equal measure the essence of the East in one half of His body, and of the West in the other half.
Dehotgohsgayeh (Split-Face) A giant who dwells in the south, and is a tutulary spirit of the hickory tree. He is helpful, and can protect against evil. He also has associations with darkness, bears, and thunder.
Djieien A monstrous spider spirit, huge and evil, whose vital essence is kept hidden and apart from it's body, so that it can regain form after even the strongest attacks.
Djigaahehwa Any of a class of lesser spirits who appear as dwarvish people and have authority over plant life, especially the growth and fluorishing of medicinal herbs. They are of the Husk Face family of spirits.
Djoeaga The Raccoon spirit, a common character in many tales.
Doonongaes (He of the Two Horns) A horned serpent who dwells in lakes and ponds. Generally inimical to humans, he is a shapeshifter who can assume human form. He defends his water by causing anyone who dips a hand in it to lose that hand. His special associate is Skahnowa, and his particular enemy is Hinon.
Eithinoha A female spirit associated with fertility - She is the mother of Onatha.
Faces in the Forest Any of a class of spirits dwelling in deep woods, and appearing as faces imbedded within the bark of trees or of a pattern of leaves. They are associated with particular trees or locales within the forest. Their orenda may be utilized in healing by carving a mask from the living wood of a tree, and using the mask within medicine dances and rituals to portray that particular spirit. In return for gifts of tobacco and white corn mush, they will appear in dreams and teach healing rituals.
False Faces Any of a class of spirits who serve Shagodyowehgowah and, like He and their less powerful brethren the Forest Faces and the Husk Faces, may be induced to teach or provide healing in return for gifts of cornmeal mush and tobacco. Like the other similar classes, False Faces are the subject of carven masks which portray them and are utilized within healing rituals. They dwell in many locales, particularly mountains. Although defeated along with their chief in their bid for mastery over the world, they retain great power, and are correspndingly useful allies or terrible enemies, depending upon whether one gives them due honour, or ignores them.
Gaasyendietha Meteor Fire Lizards, creature who dwell within bodies of water and are only seen when they briefly travel from one lake to another - if they extended their stay above water, they would set the forest afire from their heat. They are dangerous but not necessarily evil, and some tales relate circumstances under which they have aided humans, unlike the Doonongaes, who never help humans.
Gadjiqsa A Husk Face spirit who provides defence against Ganiagwaihegowa.
Ga-gaah A crow spirit sent by Adekagagawaa to bring corn to humanity.
Gagohsa The Seneca term for False Face spirits as a class, and the masks that portray them.
Gahongas Any of a class of spirits in dwarven form, who are specially associated with rocks and stone - they are immensely strong for their size.
Gandayaks Any of a class of spirits in dwarven form, who have power over living plants of all sorts, and control their growth and health. They also have some power over fish as well. See also Djigaahehwa.
Ganiagwaihegowa A monstrous bear, nearly invulnerable except to attacks to the soles of his feet. He devours humans, and in some stories dwells in the underworld.
Ganyajigowa Mud-Hen spirit, a trickster figure in much the same vein as coyote is to many Amerindian cultures. She gives names to many things at the beginning of time, and engages in many contests with other creatures, in which Her orenda proves superior to theirs. She is ultimately slain by a Gaasyendietha.
Gaoh Master of the Winds, He directs the activities of Dajoji, Keksa'aa Uneuke, Nyagwai, and Uyetani, Offerings of tobacco and white corn mush will placate Him, and earn His aid.
Gaqga Crow spirit, well known for sociability and thievery.
Gendenwitha The morning star. Originally a beautiful mortal woman, she was brought into the sky and transformed into a star by a semi-divine suitor who did so in order to protect her from the jealousy of the Dawn.
Godasiyo A female chieftain who governed the people when the world was young (recall that the Haudenosaunee are matrilineal in matters of inheritence and descent - but note also the difference between matrilineal and matriarchal, which the Haudenosaunee weren't). In those times, everyone spoke the same language. Because of trouble over Godasiyo's dog, she decides to move her village upriver. Coming to a fork in the river, the villagers begin to squabble over which branch to follow, and the paddlers in Godasiyo's canoe start fighting. The platform she sits upon in the canoe shatters, and she is tipped into the river, becoming a large fish in the process. The people find thereupon that they can no longer speak to one another, since each speaks a separate language.
Godiont A female chieftain of the people when the world was young (recall that the Haudenosaunee are matrilineal in matters of inheritence and descent - but note also the difference between matrilineal and matriarchal, which the Haudenosaunee weren't), who arranges for the False Face spirits to dwell in the Genesee Valley. They are mocked by a tribesperson however, and so they leave the valley, instructing Godiont in the making of False Face masks, and their proper use.
Gohone The divinity of Winter, and things associated with that season. He is a servant of Adekagagawaa.
Gonyahsgweont (Her Throat is Swollen) The Toad spirit.
The Great Spirit Generic term for the creator and master of all the world; found not only in translations of Haudenosaunee ideas, but used as a term by non-Indians for similar ideas among many tribes. See Wakan Tanka among the Sioux. Among the Iroquois, the "Great Spirit" manifests in any of several entities or Aspects; see Adekagagawaa, Areskoui, Hawenniyo, Shagodyowehgowah, Tareyawagon, and Tarhuhyiawahku.
Gwiyee Seagull spirit. Gulls are regarded as being vain and inclined to chase after people, although they have been commanded not to by Ganyajigowa.
Hadentheni & Hanigongendatha (Speaker & Interpreter) Two heroes who undergo an initiatory journey in order to become fully a part of the people. Shunned by their village because they know not who they are, they travel through the forest on a trail which leads them first to the Sun, then to the Moon, then to "Uncle". Each station prepares them for the next, and Uncle finishes by disassembling each, purifying their bones, and reassembling them. He sends them on to the Afterlife, Hawenniyo's longhouse, where they are welcomed and instructed in lore. Returning to their village, the teach the people what they have learned, are accepted in turn.
Hadjihsa Thokste?ah Eldest and chief of the Husk Face spirits. He taught humans the proper way of honouring Husk Faces, and instructed humans in what powers Husk Faces held.
Hadu?i A Hunchbacked being, a senior member of the False Face class of spirits. He contested with Hawenniyo for mastery but, losing, was bid to assist humans as long as they honoured the False Faces with the appropriate dances and gifts.
Hagondes (Longnose) A cannibal spirit, represented by a buckskin mask. He is regarded as a bogey-type entity who carries off truculent or ill-behaved children in His basket.
Hagonsadji (Blackface) Rattlesnake totem spirit.
Hagowanen Huntsman spirit, who travels the forest bringing down game and reducing the catch to tiny bundles for ease of transfer. Husband to Hongak, He is captured by Djieien, but ultimately rescued by his son Othegwenhda.
Haiohwatha (normally transcribed now as "Hiawatha") A deified mortal, a Mohawk medicine man who evidentally lived circa 1570 CE. He apparently was visited by or had a vision of Daganoweda, who convinced him to undertake the herculean task of unifying the Iroquoian tribes of the St. Laurence Seaway region. Spending the rest of his life on this ultimately succcessful mission, he has become recognized as a spirit of lawfulness, order, and pan-tribal organization.
Hanehwa An Anima, created by a powerful sorceror or witch as a guardian of their lodge. It is constructed from the flayed skin of an enemy, and will shout if danger approaches.
Hanogahga (The Whistler) A False Face spirit, adept at healing if properly honoured.
Hawenniyo An Aspect of the Great Spirit who figures largely in origin tales concerning False Face spirits. He is said to be master over all, and the progenitor of tobacco.
Hinon (Thunderer) A divinity associated with thunder and torrential storms, with rainbows, and with healing. He lives within a cavern behind Niagara Falls, and is another Haudenosaunee spirit who has associations with tobacco - He has instructed the people to honour Him by, not smoking, but burying small amounts in the soil. Although beneficial to humans, He is inclined to solitude and seldom ventures away from His lair.
Hodesadoghdo A False Face spirit, noted as a healer.
Hodigohsosga A class of False Face spirits, adepts at healing and ritual.
Hongak Canada Goose spirit. Spouse of Hagowanen, and mother of Othegwenhda. She gives to Her son a flint amulet containing much of her orenda, to aid him on his quest.
Honochenokeh Any of a class of invisible spirits, beneficial to humans.
Hotho Spirit of Winter; but see also, Gohone. Stories about Hotho revolve around His contest with a hunter who claims Hotho cannot freeze him over the course of a night - by careful preparations the hunter survives, requiring Hotho to submit and allow Spring to commence.
Husk Faces Any of a class of spirits who dwell within certain types of plants, especially maize, beans, and squash. They, like their brethren the False Faces and the Forest Faces, may be placated by gifts of tobacco and white corn into providing healing. Gadjiqsa and the Djigaahehwa are an examples of Husk Faces.
Hustoyowanen (Long-Snout) Deer (adult male) totem spirit.
Jokao (Stonecoats) Any of a class of spirits associated with Winter. Their origins are obscure - some tales relate that they are purely spirits, but other stories aver that they were humans who turned cannibal during harsh winters. In either case, their stone coats must be divested by hunters offering them melted deer fat, so that the snow may begin melting and spring occur.
Keksa'aa Uneuke (Young Deer, Fawn) Spirit of the South Wind, and tutulary deer deity associated with Gaoh.
Keneu Golden Eagle spirit., closely associated with Hinon.
Nyagwai Spirit of the North Wind, and tutulary bear deity. He is associated with Gaoh.
Ohdowas Any of a class of dwarven spirits, evil beings who dwell in the underearth and direct the activities of various monsters and other evil entities.
Ohohwa Owl spirit, enemy of all rodentkind.
Ohswedogo Guardian of the West, placed there by the Great Spirit at the beginning of days to be a help to humans.
Oki A Huron-specific class of invisible Power spirits, carriers of magickal energy. Oki are both spirits, and unusual objects such as the sky, shamans, madmen, amulets, etc. Oki will appear in animal form to certain individuals known as Arendiwane (a word thought to be cognate with the Iroquoian orenda) within dreams, there to possess them and make of them powerful sorcerors and medicine men.
Onatha Fertility Goddess associated with grain, especially wheat. She is the daughter of Eithinoha.
Onditachiae Turkey (adult male) spirit, associated with power over thunder and rain.
Ondoutaehte War divinity, a being of ambiguous size and gender - some tales describe Him as a dwarf, others regard Her as an elderly crone - who causes dissension and the need for retaliation.
Onoqgontgowa The Bumblebee spirit - named by Ganyajigowa despite wanting to remain nameless.
Orenda & Otgon Not spirits as such, they can assume the force of sentient spirits under some circumstances. Orenda and Otgon are the invisible Power, spiritual and/or magickal force which permeates all being. They can be collected and enhanced, but they exist and flow through everything. Orenda is good energy, Otgon is evil energy. See Wakan among the Sioux for a very similar idea, and note also Oki among the Huron.
Othegwenhda Child of Hagowanen and Hongak, and a hero-figure treading a gray area between mortal and spirit. He goes on an extended journey to rescue his father, encountering and defeating many foes in what seems to be an initiatory sequence - one such adventure is his slaying of Djieien.
Shadahgeah A dweller in the mists above the clouds, ruler of all birdkind. Described in some contexts as vulture-like, and in others like unto an eagle. Very likely there is a connection to some degree or other with the Thunderbird image which appears in many Indian mythologies.
Shagodyowehgowah A supreme deity, the ruler of the very powerful False Face class of spirits and, according to the Seneca, the author of creation as a whole.
Shodieonskon A trickster divinity in much the same pattern as Coyote or Ganyajigowa. He plays cruel practical jokes on all manner of people, for personal advantage or simply out of perversity. He is said to be the brother of Death.
Skahnowa Great Turtle spirit, servant and guardian of Doonongaes.
Squash Woman One of three sisters (the others are Bean Woman and Corn Woman), the Patroness and revealer of the bean vine as one of the three primary staples to humanity.
Tareyawagon A supreme deity among the Mohawk, who say that He liberated them as a tribe from imprisonment in the underearth, and led them to the Valley of the Mohawk.
Tarhuhyiawahku A supreme spirit, the holder-up-of-the-Heavens.
Tawiskaron The evil son of Ataentsic and, like her, bent on the destruction of humans. Among the Mohawk He is a Winter divinity. Here, He tries to build a bridge of flint into human lands, so that all the creatures of famine can come and devour humans. He is tricked by Sapling and Bluebird into fleeing before the bridge is built, though, so humanity endures.
Tsiyae Dog spirit. Dogs are favoured and respected creatures in Haudenosaunee tales - aside from their attributes of help with the hunt and conspicuous loyalty, it is recognized that they are very wise, for they hear everything that is said around the campfire, but do not reveal what they know.
Tsohoqgwais The Chipmunk spirit. He is marked as He is owing to an encounter with Bear, who took a swipe at Him and scarred His back.
Twehdaigo Guardian of the East, placed there by the Great Spirit at the beginning of days to be a help to humans.
Uyetani Spirit of the East Wind, and tutulary moose deity. He is associated with Gaoh.
Yiyantsinni A group of twelve solar spirits which hold the sun up on long poles.
Yoskeha The good child of Ataentsic, and the bringer of the secret of fire to humans, which he learned from Turtle.
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