Iroquoian Mythology Iroquois

Posted By admin On 29/12/21

The Iroquois Confederacy was originally formed when five smaller nations,Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas (becoming the Six Nations in the 18th century when the Tuscarora migrated back north to New York) united with a goal to peacefully solve conflict, and is known as the first democracy in North America. According to both Iroquois and Wyandot mythology, flying heads are ravenous spirits, that are cursed with an insatiable hunger. Sometimes flying heads are also associated with whirlwinds. As previously mentioned the flying head that terrorized the Iroquois came and vanished without a trace. What happened to it is unknown.

An Iroquois Legend

A long time ago, there lived a person called Skunny-Wundy. He wasn't very big and he wasn't very small, but everybody knew him well because he was always boasting about his bravery. He would talk about all the brave things he had done and all the brave things he was going to do until people would beg him to stop. They weren't quick to do so, however, because Skunny-Wundy, whose name meant Cross-The-Creek, loved only one thing more than he loved to boast: he loved playing tricks on people.

Now in those days there lived some terrible monsters. There were people who could turn themselves into monster bears. And there were great Flying Heads who could destroy whole villages. There were monsters hiding in the springs who grabbed careless travellers, and great horned serpents living in the lakes. But the most frightening monsters of all were the Stone Giants.

The old sachem was interested. 'Aren't you even afraid of the stone giants?'

'Hah,' said Skunny-Wundy. 'I will destroy the stone giants if they dare to fight me. There is no greater warrior than Skunny-Wundy. If...'

Without his noticing it, everyone crept quietly away and left Skunny-Wundy standing there shaking his stone hatchet and boasting. While he strode up and down, all the people gathered in the Council House. Soon a young man came out and ran out of the village only to return a few minutes later, but Skunny-Wundy did not even notice.

All the people, led by the old sachem, came out of the Council House and gathered around Skunny-Wundy. The old man said, 'Skunny-Wundy, rejoice. We have decided to give you a chance to prove your bravery.'

Skunny-Wundy stopped striding back and forth. He looked around. All eyes in the village were focused on him. 'Ah,' he said with a worried look, that is very good. But... uh... what do you mean?'

'We have decided,' the old man said with just a hint of a smile, 'to allow you to fight the Flint Coats.'

'Oh,' Skunny-Wundy said, 'that is good, but... how can I find the Stone Giants? Why... they might even run away when they see me coming.'

'Do not worry,' the old man answered, smiling broadly. 'A very big Stone Giant stands even now on the other side of the river. He is waiting for you. We sent a messenger to tell him he should run away before the mighty warrior Skunny-Wundy arrived to destroy him. That made the Stone Giant so angry he swore he would stay there until you arrived.'

Skunny-Wundy was very frightened, but he knew he had to accept this challenge. If he didn't, people would make fun of him forever.

'Hah,' Skunny-Wundy said, 'that is good. I shall go now to fight the Flint Coat.' He strode quickly out of the village. However, as soon as he was out of sight, he began to walk more slowly. He needed time to think. How could he defeat such a monster?

'If I throw rocks at him,' he said to himself, 'he'll catch them and chew them up like ripe berries. If I shoot arrows at him, they'll snap like blades of dry grass. No, I must think. Stone giants aren't very bright after all. Perhaps I can think of some way to trick him.'

Just then, Skunny-Wundy heard a very loud, frightening noise that sounded like the beating of a gigantic drum or the roaring of a hurricane wind. It came from the direction of the river just beyond the trees. Skunny-Wundy crept closer. He peered out from behind a tree and saw what he had been afraid he would see.

There on the other side of the river stood the biggest, ugliest, angriest stone giant anyone could ever imagine. He had pulled a giant pine tree up by the roots and was beating it against the earth, making a noise like an enormous drum. As he pounded the ground, he sang a terrible war song in a voice as loud as a hurricane.

Iroquoian mythology iroquois names

Skunny-Wundy began to turn around so that he could tiptoe away, but it was too late.

'HONH!' the stone Giant roared. 'Whos is over there? Are you Skunny-Wundy whos says he can destroy me?'


Skunny-Wundy stepped out from behind a tree. 'Yes!' he shouted. 'I am Skunny-Wundy and it is true that I can destroy you. Come over here and fight me!'

Holding the giant pine tree in one hand like a war club, the stone giant waded into the river. The water was deep and before he was halfway across he disappeared under the water. Quick as a fox, Skunny-Wundy hurried upstream where the river was shallow and quickly crossed over to the other side.

Before long, the Stone Giant's head came out of the water near the other side. He climbed up onto the bank where Skunny-Wundy had been standing.

'Honh!' the stone giant roared. 'Where is Skunny-Wundy?'

Iroquoian Mythology Iroquois

'Here I am!' shouted Skunny-Wundy from the other side.

The stone giant turned and looked at him. 'Why did you go over there?' he growled.

'Over where?' Skunny-Wundy answered. 'I'm still waiting for you. You must have gotten turned around under water. If you aren't afraid of me, come over here and fight.'

The Stone Giant roared with anger and rushed into the river. He immediately disappeared under the water and Skunny-Wundy had to run quickly to cross over to the other side of the river. He ran so fast he dropped his stone hatchet and left it behind.

When the stone giant climbed out of the water again, there was no sign of Skunny-Wundy, but right in front of him was Skunny-Wundy's hatchet.

'What is this!' growled the Stone Giant. 'This must be a toy.' He lifted the hatchet to his mouth and touched it to his tongue to test its sharpness. Then he struck Skunny-Wundy's hatchet against a real boulder. To his surprise, the boulder split right two!

Meanwhile, Skunny-Wundy was watching from he other side of the river. He had heard that any weapon touched by the saliva of a Stone Giant would have magical power and now he knew that it was true. Skunny-Wundy slipped out from behind he trees and waved his arms.

'Hah!' Skunny-Wundy shouted. 'Come over here and bring me back my hatchet, so that I can cut off your head with it.'

For the first time in his long life, the Stone Giant felt fear in his cold flint heart. If Skunny-Wundy's little stone hatchet could split great boulders in two, Skunny-Wundy would surely be able to destroy him. 'No,' pleaded the Stone Giant, 'Do not kill me. You are a terrible warrior. Let me go and I will see that none of my people ever come near your village again.'

Skunny-Wundy pretended to think for a minute. Then he nodded his head. 'That is good. You may go and save your life. But always remember Skunny-Wundy, the great warrior!'

Iroquois present day

The stone giant hastened away, leaving Skunny-Wundy's hatchet on the river bank. As soon as he was out of sight, Skunny-Wundy crossed over and retrieved his weapon. 'Now I must return to my village. My people will be very glad to hear the stories I shall tell them.'

Thus it was that Skunny-Wundy used his wits to defeat the Stone Giant.

Return to Iroquois Legends

'I have alluded to the Ot-ne-yar-hed or Stonish Giants, who overran the country, fought a great battle, and held the people in subjection for a long time.The Stonish Giants were so ravenous that they devoured the people of almost every town in the country. At the Mississippi they had seperated from all others and gone to the northwest.'The family was was left to seek its habitation, and the rules of humanity were forgotten, and afterwards eat raw flesh of the animals. At length they practiced rolling themselves on the sand, by this means their bodies were covered with hard skin; these people became giants and were dreadful invaders of the country.'

So said David Cusick. According to him the Holder of the Heavens led them into a deep ravine near Onondaga, and rolled great stones on them in the night. But one escaped, and since then 'the Stonish Giants left the country and seeks an asylum in the regions of the north.'

The Onondagas have a local but different story. They say that a Stone Giant lived near Cardiff, a little south of their reservation, which is by no means their early home. He was once like other men, but was a great eater, becoming a cannibal, and increased in size. His skin became hard and changed into scales, which alone would turn an arrow. Every day he came through the valley, caught and devouted an Onondaga, a fearful toll. The people were dismayed but formed a plan. They made a road in the marsh witha covered pitfall, decoyed the giant through the path and down he went and was killed.Of course when the Cardiff Giant was 'found' it did not astonish the Onondagas that he was of stone.

The Onondagas have also a story of a Stone Giant's race with a man near Jamesville. He ran the man into the hollow at Green Pond, west of that village, where the rocks rise 200 feet above the water on three sides. On the south side the precipice can be ascended by a natural stairway at one spot, and the man was far enough ahead to reach the top before the other. He lay down and looked from the rocks to see what the other would do. The latter came and looked around. Not seeing the man he took out of his pouch what seemed a finger, but was really a pointer of bone. By means of this he could find any object he wished, and so it was always useful in hunting. As he climbed the rocks the man reached down and took away the pointer before the other saw him. The giant begged him to restore it. If he would do this he was promised good luck and long life for himself and friends. Though he begged so piteously the man ran home with it to show his friends, leaving him there helpless, unable to find his way. His friends interceded, telling him to accept the giant's good offer and not incur his enmity. So they went back adn found him still at the lake. He recieved his pointer, promising to eat men no more, and good luck followed the man. This is one of the oldest Stone Giant stories, closely resembling one told by David Cusick.

The Albatwitches-Columbia, Pennsylvania

Local legends in the area of Columbia, Pennsylvania speak of a creature called an 'albatwitch.' The albatwitch is a small (about 4 feet tall), manlike creature which supposedly lived in wooded areas. Their main area of residence seemed to be near Chickies Rock, a heavily wooded area along the banks of the Susquehanna River about a mile or two north of town. Albatwitches were also reported from wooded areas all along the river's shore.

The creatures are named for a habit which they possess. Their bizarre common name is short for 'apple-snitch', as they are reputed to have a taste for apples. Legends speak of how the albatwitches would oftentimes steal apples from picnickers, occasionally even throwing them at the startled people. Legends also record that the creatures often sat in trees, coming down only to find food.

Iroquois Present Day

Legend also says that the albatwitches either became extinct or were driven nearly into extinction in the later years of the nineteenth century. Chickies Rock, where the creatures supposedly lived, does have a tradition of strange sights and sounds - in the 1950s and 1970s, a manlike figure was seen several times, and local legends also speak of sounds like the crack of a whip heard in the woods at night. One can only wonder if these could be connected with the albatwitch.

Iroquois God

Whether these stories are connected or not, several sightings of Bigfoot-types have been recorded from this area. A vague report concerning the sighting of a hairy humanoid came from Lancaster in 1973. Lancaster is a scant 10 miles east of Columbia. Another came from the town of North Annville (about 20 miles to the north) in the same year. In addition, a number of reports have surfaced out of neighboring York County.

Iroquois Mythology

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Also, some sources say that the Susquehannocks, like many Indian tribes, had a belief in an apelike monster, and sometimes depicted it on their war-shields. The Susquehannocks were a local tribe - coincidentally, major evidences of their civilization (ruins of a village and burial grounds) were found at the base of Chickies Rock.