Creation : Search for the Corn Maidens (Part 2)


Greedy Crow turned black…

“Hold your feet with patience, there’s old heavy nose out there; go and see if he can hunt for them. He knows well enough to find their flesh, however so little that may be,” said an old priest, pointing to a crow who was scratching an ash-heap sidewise with his beak, trying to find something for a morning meal. So the warriors ran down and accosted him.

“O caw!” exclaimed the crow, probing a fresh place, “I am too hungry to go flying around for you stingy fellows. Here I’ve been ever since perching time, trying to get a mouthful; but you pick your bones and bowls too clean!”

“Oh, come in, then, grandfather, and we’ll give you a smoke and something to eat,” said the warriors. “Caw, haw!” said the old crow, ruffling up his collar and opening his mouth wide enough to swallow his own head. “Go before!” and he followed them into the dance-court.

“Come in, sit and smoke,” said the chief priest, handing the crow a pipe. At once the old crow took the pipe, and drew such a big whiff into his throat that the smoke completely filled his feathers, end ever since then crows have been black all over, although before that time they had white shoulder bands and very blue beaks, which made them look quite fine.

“Then crow spied an ear of corn under one of the mantles, for this was all the maidens had left; so he made for the corn and flew off with it, saying as he skipped over the houses, “I guess this is all you’ll see of the maidens for many a day,” and ever since then crows have been so fond of corn that they steal even that which is buried. But bye and bye the old crow came back, saying that he had a “sharp eye for the flesh of the maidens, but he could not find any trace of the maidens themselves.”


“Then the people were very sad with thought, when they suddenly heard Pai’-a-tu-ma joking along the streets as though the whole pueblo were listening to him. “Call him,” cried the priests to the warriors, and the warriors ran out to summon Pai’-a-tu-ma.

Pai’-a-tu-ma sat on a dung-heap, saying that he was about to make a breakfast of it. The warriors greeted him. “Why fo you two cowards come not after me?” inquired Pai’a-tu-ma.

“We do come for you.”

“No you do not.”

“Yes we do.”

“Well! I won’t come with you,” he said, following them to the dance-court.

“My little children,” he said to the grey-haired priests and mothers, “good evening:” – it was not yet midday – “you are all very happy, I see.”

“Thou comest,” said the chief priest.

“I do not,” replied Pai’-a-tu-ma.

“Father,” said the chief priest, “we are very sad and we have sought you that we might ask the light of your wisdom.

“Ah, quite as I had supposed; I am very glad to find you all so happy. Being thus, you do not need my advice. What may I not do for you?”

“We would that you seek for the corn maidens, our mothers, whom we have offended, and who have exchanged themselves for nothing in our gaze.”

“Oh, that’s all, is it? The corn maidens are not lost, and if they were I would not go to seek them, and if I went to seek for them, I could not find them, and if I found them I would not bring them, but I would tell them you ‘did not wish to see them’ and leave them where they are not – the Land of Everlasting Summer, which is not their home! Ha! you have no prayer plumes, I observe,” said he, picking up one each of the yellow, blue and white kinds, and starting out with the remark – “I come.”

“With rapid strides he set forth toward the south. When he came to the mouth of the “Canyon of the Woods”, whence blows the wind of the summer in spring time, he planted the yellow-plumed stick. Then he knelt to watch the eagle down, and presently the down moved gently toward the north, as though someone were breathing on it. Then he went yet farther, and planted the blue stick. Again the eagle down moved. So he went on planting the sticks, until very far away he placed the last one. Now the eagle plume waved constantly toward the north.

“Aha!” said Pai’-a-tu-ma to himself, “It is the breath of the corn maidens, and thus shall it ever be, for when they breathe toward the north-land, thither shall warmth, showers, fertility and health be wafted, and the summer birds shall chase the butterfly out of Summer-land and summer itself, with my own beads and treasures shall follow after.”

Then he journeyed on, no longer a dirty clown, but an aged, grand god, with a coloured flute, flying softly and swiftly as the wind he sought.

About Running Elk

My given native name, Running Elk, was bestowed in 2008 as I took my first steps as a fully fledged Medicine Man of the Zuni tradition. A most unlikely candidate for the role, my journey as a healer began some four years prior. The detour onto the shamanic way was most unexpected, yet has been one of the most rewarding challenges to date.
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