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28. Sky Woman (Haudenosaunee Mythology)

In today's episode, we talk about Sky Woman from Haudenosaunee mythology. We discuss creation stories, the concept of good vs. evil, and humanity's relationship with nature.

Sources:

Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois by Joanne Shenandoah and Douglas M. George

The Oneida Creation Story by Demus Elm and Harvey Antone, tr. Floyd G. Lounsbury and Bryan Gick

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

,Skywoman: Ataensic, Atahensic, Ataentsic

Transcript below:


[intro music]

Lizzie: Hello and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about women from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts,

Zoe: I'm Zoe.

Lizzie: And I'm Lizzie. So, how are you today, Zoe?

Zoe: I'm good! I have the day off from both work and school today because we have one of those fake spring break days off going on right now, so that's nice.

Lizzie: That's awesome.

Zoe: It's also a pretty nice day out so I might go outside later today and yeah, I've been chilling, I slept in, I've been embroidering, listening to some podcasts, it's been a nice time so far.

Lizzie: That's great.

Zoe: How are you?

Lizzie: Well, here, it's snowing, which is really interesting.

Zoe: That is interesting.

Lizzie: Yeah. And I've been working on my thesis introduction and that's what I've been doing the past week. So, not very exciting.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Well, what's in a thesis introduction?

Lizzie: It's basically you introduce your topic, you do the background research stuff, and then you introduce your research questions and hypotheses.

Zoe: Awesome. But that sounds really fun. That sounds really cool, though.

Lizzie: Thank you. So, who are we talking about today?

Zoe: Alright, so today we are going to be talking about Sky Woman—

Lizzie: Ooh!

Zoe: —who is a figure from Haudenosaunee mythology.

Lizzie: Interesting!

Zoe: And so, have you heard of Sky Woman before?

Lizzie: I don't think so.

Zoe: Okay. So, fun fact, this is the first time where I used almost exclusively hardcopy sources, so, only books. Not really internet stuff.

Lizzie: Interesting!

Zoe: So that, that was fun. That was exciting. Very old school. And, yeah. So I'm excited to talk about her. So, first of all, just some background on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, they are a dominant organization of originally five, but eventually became six, Native American nations across land that, through, of course, centuries of genocide and stealing is occupied and known as the Northeastern to Midwestern United States and also parts of Canada. And they're made of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations and then eventually expanded to include the Tuscarora nation as well. And, so yeah. That's who they are, very basically, obviously there's a lot more. Before we begin, and some basics, Sky Woman is a mother goddess and a creation goddess, and there are stories about her found all throughout the different nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. And these stories can vary widely throughout these different groups, so in some stories she only plays a minor role, in others, she plays a very significant role in both the creation of the world and also the creation of things such as the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Lizzie: Cool!

Zoe: Yeah! She, and I'm gonna talk about the different, some different variations that I've found that you can see in different stories. "Sky Woman" is really more of a title, not her name, and refers to her status as a member of the Sky People. She goes by a lot of different names by the many different indigenous nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, just to make things simpler, I will be referring to her mainly as Sky Woman when discussing her generally as a concept. When discussing a specific story, I'll be using the name that she's referred to by the specific nation that tells the story, basically the name that she's referred to in the source that I was using.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: It will always be, like, the same figure, but I'll use specific names when talking about a specific story if that is the case in the source I found.

Lizzie: Alright.

Zoe: And my notes for today on the legends of the Oneida and Mohawk nations, but there are of course many other stories, those are just, again, the ones that I found in my sources. The first story I have is the creation story and this is from Skywoman: Legends of the Iroquois by Joanne Shenandoah and Douglas M. George. So, before the world began, the Sky People lived in a place called Skyworld. And they were magical beings who could never experience pain, death, or illness, and so they were very different from humans, but they were very like humans in their abilities to love each other, and also to dream.

Lizzie: That's beautiful!

Zoe: Yeah. So they were basically, like, immortal. But also very, you know, emotion- like headstrong emotions and stuff, which is awesome.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: One day a Sky Person, who was a young woman named Iotsitsisen, became sick with a strange disease. And her family and friends were of course very concerned, because Sky People don’t really get sick, and they didn’t know how to care for her or what was wrong. So, finally, her father had a dream. In this dream, he was told that if he took his daughter to a village, he would find a man called Taronhiawakon, or “holder of heavens”. And he would be able to cure Iositsisen’s sickness. So, when Iotsitsisen was brought to Taronhiawakon, the two fell in love instantly and he asked Iositsisen’s father if he could marry her, and the father agreed as long as he could cure her sickness. So he did, and she became pregnant with their child.

Lizzie: Okay. Did they figure out why she was sick?

Zoe: Not exactly. Or, maybe the next section will explain it more for you.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: So, one night, Taronhiawakon had a dream that told him that his wife needed to leave Skyworld and enter a new world below them, whose entrance could be found under the roots of the Great Tree of Light. And so I believe that was sort of the meaning of her sickness. Was that she had to leave Sky World.

Lizzie: Oh, okay.

Zoe: That was sort of what it symbolized. And he did not want to do as he was told, but he knew the Sky People would suffer if he did not. So he reached beneath the roots of the Great Tree and toppled it, and found a hole for her to travel through. Iositsisen stepped through the hole and was carried in a beam of light down to the world below, which was completely covered with water. Although the world was covered in water, it wasn’t devoid of life. There were all sorts of birds, fish, and water mammals, and they all floated around Iotsitsisen, trying to figure out who she was and what to do with her. They immediately realized that she was not equipped for living in the water, and decided to try to find a way to support her. So first, as she was falling, the geese all joined together to hold her up, but they realized that they wouldn't be able to hold her up for a long time, so the Great Snapping Turtle told them there was mud deep beneath the sea, and that if he had some, he could use it to make a place on his back for Iotsitsisen to walk. And they were-

Lizzie: I love the Great Snapping Turtle.

Zoe: Yes!

Lizzie: It's- do you think it's related to the World Turtle?

Zoe: Yes. As you will see in just a few moments.

Lizzie: Oh, wow! Oh my god, that's so exciting. Okay, keep going.

Zoe: Yeah. So, after several unsuccessful attempts, there's, I think, a lot of different versions but often there's a beaver, who attempts to dive below, and unfortunately, the animals drown before they're able to get to the mud. But, finally, the muskrat, who's like the smallest and weakest animal, manages to dive below and he drowns but when he floats back up, he's got a little bit of mud in his paw. And that ends up being enough. The animals spread it on Turtle’s back, and the geese placed Iotsitsisen on his back as well. So, she danced around in the mud and sang, and the mud began to spread in every direction until it covered the world. And Iotsitsisen decided to name the land Turtle Island in honor of the animal it rested upon, and that is the land that the Haudenosaunee live upon now. And she had created the world for humans to walk upon. Eventually-

Lizzie: That's awesome!

Zoe: Yeah, it's a really beautiful story. I love the singing and dancing especially.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: And, eventually, if you remember when she fell, she was pregnant. So, she gave birth to her daughter, Tekawerahkwa. And they lived together on the island. So, the next story involves her daughter. So, growing up on earth, her daughter was lonely. It was just the two of them, and she wanted a friend besides her mother to be with. As someone who is living with their parents in quarantine, kind of can relate to that [both laugh]. And so one day, the West Wind heard her singing and fell in love with her immediately. And there are some different iterations of the story, in some stories, she's courted by many different animals, and eventually, the turtle wins her over. And soon after, she becomes impregnated with two twins. And these two twins, there's one called Tawiskaron, or “Ice skin”, he had skin as hard as flint and a sharp, comb-like region on his head, and often in modern tellings he's referred to as “Flint”. And then there was Okwiraseh, who is "new tree". Or sometimes "holder of heaven". I think it depends on the story and the telling. So, Tawiskaron enjoyed fighting with his brother. He was really impatient, he didn’t want to have to wait for his mother to give birth naturally in order to live on earth. And he planned to use the comb-like ridge on his head to cut his way out of her body.

Lizzie: Oh...

Zoe: Okwiraseh protested, saying that they would kill his mother, but Tawiskaron continued anyway, and while Okwiraseh was being born naturally he forced his way out, and, as predicted, he killed their mother.

Lizzie: Oh no!

Zoe: Yeah. Iotsitsisen heard the cries of her daughter and hurried over to help, but she arrived too late. Her daughter was dead. So, filled with grief, she demanded of the twins who had caused her death. Tawiskaron immediately blamed Okwiraseh, and Iotsitsisen immediately flung Okwiraseh away from her, hoping he would die of starvation or cold.

Lizzie: Wow!

Zoe: Yeah. Fortunately, though, he was watched over by his grandfather, Taronhiawakon, and he was taught how to survive on earth. He worked to create humans, game animals, and a river flowing in two directions to help them. But Tawiskaron foiled his plans by blocking the flow of the rivers and creating predatory animals as well. The two of them cannot undo the other's work, so basically, through their creations, they created compromises that made life sustainable for humans to live on earth. And Okwiraseh eventually defeated his brother in a fight, but the changes that has brother had made last to this day. 'Cause you see, rivers can only flow in one direction and there exist predatory animals as well as game animals.

Lizzie: That's true.

Zoe: Meanwhile, in her grief, Iotsitsisen placed Tekawerahkwa’s head in the sky and it became the moon, watching over the earth.

Lizzie: Oh, that's really nice.

Zoe: Mm hmm. And her body grew into corn, bean, and squash; which of course are the three sister crops incredibly important to agriculture. And that's the main stories involving Sky Woman and Iotsitsisen. So, what are your thoughts?

Lizzie: Well, my first thought is definitely... I love the Giant Snapping Turtle, or the Great Snapping Turtle. I think that that sounds amazing... I don't know if you're going to talk about the World Turtle at all but... I know 'cause we were looking for, like, a way to talk about the World Turtle on the podcast [laughs] so I was wondering if that's how you, like, found this story.

Zoe: No, I actually had been thinking about doing this story already, it was the one when I was like—

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: —oh, I'm trying to find these books—

Lizzie: Oh, okay.

Zoe: —And can you send me your favorite PDF places and stuff.

Lizzie: Got it. Not that we pirate books. [laughs]

Zoe: No, I actually did buy all these books.

Lizzie: Oh, that's great.

Zoe: So. But it took me some time, so that's why I didn't do it immediately when I- and that's why we had the Tlazolteotl episode first.

Lizzie: Mm hmm.

Zoe: But I got them, I used them for research, they're really great books. And they're all by Haudenosaunee authors, which is really great.

Lizzie: Oh, that's great! That's- I feel like that's a bit hard to find sometimes, like.

Zoe: Yeah that's why I really wanted to find them. It was because, like, we've talked before, especially when talking about indigenous stories—

Lizzie: Yeah, for sure.

Zoe: —It's really important to find books by the authors and not just by like, white people trying to—

Lizzie: Exactly.

Zoe: —talk about the stories.

Lizzie: Anyway, besides the turtle, I think there's a lot of really, really fun things about this story, I like that- well, I like in general when there's like origin stories for like, you know, the moon, and like, nature types of stuff. I thought it was nice that she made the moon and the crops as like, a memorial to her daughter.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Definitely.

Lizzie: And I do think it's fun how the moon is usually feminine and how she was made out of the head of her daughter, that was pretty fun. I think Sky People and Sky World sound so cool. I think it's really fun to describe, I don't know if you consider them to be gods or not, but describe them as like, being similar to people, but they can't die or be ill or feel pain. Like that sounds apt.

Zoe: Yeah. Yeah, I'm not sure if they're viewed as gods or not, I think they seem sort of more like, just a separate, or like sort of a primordial, like, race of people.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: So before the world was created as we see, like, you know, Sky Woman created the world. But I think that it's really cool.

Lizzie: Yeah, in general, I love creation stories. I think they're really- really interesting.

Zoe: Yeah. And it's honestly such a hopeful creation story.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: Like a lot of creation stories are honestly really dark. And kind of—

Lizzie: Yes.

Zoe: But this story is just really beautiful and hopeful. Like, you know, Iotsitsisen is helped by all the animals. Everyone's working together to create the world and like, bring, like land for everyone. And like, it's a really like, great view of the world. And I'm actually going to talk a bit more about that later, but like—

Lizzie: Oh, great.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: And then the two twins are pretty fun. Then there was the evil twin. It was a bit sad how he got to blame everything on the nice twin. That was really sad, I thought. But anyway, turned out good.

Zoe: Yeah, definitely. So that is one version of the story. As I said, there's a lot of different versions of the story. And the differences—

Lizzie: And where was that from?

Zoe: That is the Mohawk version of the story—

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: —as far as I am aware. As far as I am aware, I think— yes. To my understanding. So, in the stories, um, Sky Woman and her daughter seem to be tied very closely together. So like in some stories Sky Woman is actually the one who gives birth to the twins, in another story. She's also the one whose head is made into the moon. So sometimes it just skips a generation and Sky Woman and her daughter are basically like the same person. And sometimes not. So.

Lizzie: I also think myths about like, mother daughter relationships are really nice.

Zoe: Mm hmm. Yeah, especially cuz she loved her daughter a lot. And it also reminded me of—

Lizzie: The Cherokee sun goddess.

Zoe: Yeah!

Lizzie: Exactly. Yeah. I was also thinking of her.

Zoe: Yeah. Because she also really loved her daughter and was really devastated when she lost her daughter as well.

Lizzie: Mm hmm. Yeah.

Zoe: So the second book that I used was The Oneida Creation Story by Demus Elm and Harvey Antone, translated by Floyd G. Lounsbury and Bryan Gick . And basically what this book is, is it's a transcription of an oral storytelling of the Oneida creation story by a man named Demus Elm in the original Oneida language and then analyzed and talked about by Floyd G. Lounsbury and Brian Gick. So it's pretty cool.

Lizzie: Nice.

Zoe: Anyway so in the story it's very different in a lot of different ways. So first of all Sky Woman is expelled from Sky World for a different reason. So instead of simply being told in a dream that she must be sent to the world down below she's actually sent there as punishment for supposed infidelity.

Lizzie: Oh!

Zoe: Yeah. So very different.

Lizzie: Very.

Zoe: Yeah. So the Oneida story describes her as being sent by her husband to fetch water and on the way she offers water to a sweaty lacrosse player before her husband. So this is either interpreted to imply previous infidelity, or is the act of infidelity itself.

Lizzie: Lacrosse?

Zoe: Yeah, lacrosse is an indigenous sport.

Lizzie: I didn't know that actually.

Zoe: Yeah. It's very Yeah, it's really interesting. So yeah, so they were at a lacrosse game. Her husband was like, get me some water. She got him some water. But on the way back, she ran across a sweaty lacrosse player, she gave him some water. And either the implication is that she and that specific player had had an affair before or her husband saw that as an act of infidelity by giving a man water before she gave him water.

Lizzie: Ah, okay.

Zoe: Yeah. So her husband is angry, tells the servants to uproot a white pine and pushes her through the hole under the tree. So in that way, like it's a very different version of the story, as opposed to the husband reluctantly giving her up to the world below, and instead is a punishment, also sort of taking away her agency in a way because instead of being like saying, It's her destiny, she's being like, forced down.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: I will say that the book in which I read the Mohawk creation story seems to be geared toward a younger audience, which is possibly why the story is different. It could also just be a different version. I'm not exactly sure. But I do think that's important to note. The infidelity thing does seem to be a pretty common trait of the telling, though. This is also something that's changed a little as time goes by. So in the 1600s documentations of the accounts, stories were similar to the one I told earlier in which a pregnant woman is sent down to earth. But by the early 1700s, the story had changed to her being exiled because of infidelity.

Lizzie: Interesting!

Zoe: And in some versions of the story, the husband-wife relationship is replaced by a brother-sister relationship in which the brother criticizes his sister for her infidelity and expels her. So, again, a very different version of why she is sent to earth. In the Oneida story, Sky Woman brings important plants with her, specifically tobacco and strawberries. In other recorded versions of the story, she's also said to have brought other important things, such as corn, deer meat, and tools for food preparation, which I think is really interesting, and I'm going to talk about more in a bit.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: And again, in this particular Oneida story that was recorded, Sky Woman is the mother of the twins, not her daughter. And that is apparently a common trait of the story since the 1800s.

Lizzie: Oh, okay. That's cool that you can trace it back the different versions.

Zoe: Yeah. And in fact, like the way that things have changed before the 1800s is very interesting. I'm going to talk about that in just a second. In some versions, the twins are abandoned at birth, but in other versions, they are raised by Sky Woman, especially the evil twin as we are seen in the Mohawk story, where she casts out the good twin and raises the evil twin because of the lie the evil twin told. So the story of Sky Woman, like basically all mythological traditions, was told orally long before it was written down. And according to an essay by Brian Gick in the book, The Oneida Creation Story, there was a distinct shift in how it was told around the early 1800s. So before the 1800s, the main figures of good and evil in the story were the good twin and the evil grandmother or Sky Woman.

Lizzie: Huh!

Zoe: But after the 1800s the main dual figures are the good and bad twins.

Lizzie: That's interesting.

Zoe: Yeah, I think this is so interesting. So before the 1800s, Sky Woman takes on the role that the evil twin fills in later tellings of the story. She is the one working to spoil the work that the good twin has done. So, this woman, this is a quote, "this woman is the grandmother of the good twin, their God, but she was quite different from her grandson who seeks to do only good. She was of a very evil nature, she subsisted only on the flesh of serpents and vipers, she presided at death, she likewise sucked the blood of men, causing them to die of illness and weakness. She is the Queen of the Shades, to whom they must pay the tribute of everything that has been buried with their bodies. And she forces them to divert her by dancing before her."

Lizzie: Well she sounds super cool.

Zoe: And this still exists in the same story where she was the one who created the earth.

Lizzie: Oh, really?

Zoe: Yeah. So, after, but after she creates the earth, she becomes more of a vengeful goddess figure.

Lizzie: Oh, so like that happened after?

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: Yeah. So this relationship between grandmother and grandson is actually basically the most common feature of all the versions of the story recorded before the 1800s. So Sky woman and her grandson basically act as the dualistic forces interfering in human life Sky Woman grants evil and her grandson grants good things. So before the 1800s this was like a really common trope in the storytelling that... or not really trope, but theme, motif in the storytelling. That Sky Woman was- the relationship between Sky Woman and her grandson as good and bad forces. Like it was the main aspect of the story that you could find in all different versions or most different versions.

Lizzie: Does it say why it changed so much?

Zoe: Um, there's some speculations. It's not really clear. I'm really not sure what to make of these changes in storytelling, it really transforms Sky Woman's role from a dangerous yet very important figure in Haudenosaunee cultures to a more passive figure that is much less important. So in some ways, it does remind me of what Hailey said in our episode about Cinderella in The Persecuted Heroine, about how the Grimm Brothers took away the roles of women in their stories and gave them to men instead. So we kind of see that with Sky Woman's role being replaced by the evil twin. And Brian Gick suggests in his essay that the tellings and retellings of these stories show influences of Christianity. There is a story that shows a pretty close parallel to that of Adam and Eve in the fall of man.

Lizzie: Oh, yeah. I was actually thinking about Eve.

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: How she was like banished from the garden, and then everything and... sounded kind of similar.

Zoe: Yeah, yeah, definitely, it makes a lot of sense with the story of her being banished from Sky World. And I'm wondering if this work to exclude women or reduce their roles, or make them out to be less evil and or have us agency, as a result of colonial Christian influence. The main force of evil in society being an elderly grandmother doesn't really work super well with Christian ideas of what women should be. And so I'm wondering if that's where the changes are from. I don't necessarily feel super comfortable saying these claims are definite and that's definitely what happened because I don't know a ton about the subject. But the timeline does match up.

Lizzie: It would make sense. And then you see that a lot in other cultures. So.

Zoe: And one thing I do want to say is, which is not like based on anything that I've read, but ties back to what I said in our last, in my last episode about Tlazolteotl, which is that, in some ways, I think possibly the relationship between Sky Woman and the twin as being good and evil might be more of a Western construct being imposed on our understanding of the story. Even though like the twin, like definitely, obviously, the evil twin is evil, he, like does bad things, he kills his mother. But in a way he and his brothers shaped the world to make it how it is now. And so it sort of creates the world that we have, and it creates a sort of sense of balance. And so I'm personally wondering, without, like, necessarily any, like, influence from anything that I read, like, is this more of, less of a story of good and evil and more of a story of balance. And the ideas of good and evil being imposed on it are more of a Western construct of like, Christian good and evil. and is like, and is this role of Sky Woman in the older versions of the story, really an evil role, but a more older, like balancing force. Maybe I'm totally wrong there. But that is something I thought about when I was doing my research.

Lizzie: That's interesting. I mean I also can't say, obviously, but I think that's really interesting. And like, yeah, I like the idea of balance rather than like specifically having a contrast between good and evil. And how everything and just because it's like a such a nature focused story, it makes sense that it would be about balance rather than like, yeah, black and white thinking.

Zoe: Yeah, and like, if you, for like an example, if you think about how the good twin created the, you know, game animals to be hunted, but the bad twin created the predatory animals, and from an ecological standpoint, both of those animals, types of animals need to exist in order to—

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: —bring balance to an ecosystem. So like, that's sort of my thought is like, it's not necessarily I mean, obviously, having predatory animals creates trouble and struggles for people living among them. But also, you can't just kill all them, because that's dangerous and bad for the entire environment that you're living in. And so again, maybe it's not necessarily a bad thing that it happened, but it was just more of a necessary thing in order for balance.

Lizzie: Circle of life. And all that.

Zoe: Exactly.

Lizzie: And even like forces of like, bad in the world are in a way, yeah, about balance, rather than being like, just specifically shouldn't exist, in a way.

Zoe: Yeah, in general, I think Sky Woman is so interesting. I love the idea of her being sent to Earth with some kind of divine mission to greet the world and create humanity with tools necessary for survival, as we see in the first story. And I also like the idea of her being more of a vengeful goddess or spirit who likes to cause trouble. And possibly because she has been sent to Earth without her consent, as we see in the second story. She's overall a super powerful spirit with a really significant hand and the destiny of humanity either way, and that's awesome.

Lizzie: Yeah, I think she sounds super interesting. I think she sounds really cool. And I also think it's cool that you found so many sources about her. I feel like from my experience, a lot of indigenous stories are like a bit hard to find, and like, especially like good sources for them. So that's really cool.

Zoe: Yeah, I found, so the one internet source I used was, I have it linked, it'll be in the show notes, was a really brief article from nativelegends.org. And it had a lot of dead links to stories, which I was really sad about, because I was like, no, I need those. But then—

Lizzie: Oh, you could've used the web archive.

Zoe: Oh, I didn't even think of that. But anyway, it also had a link to all these books that I could use. So I bought the books and I read the books and they were really great.

Lizzie: That's really cool.

Zoe: And I have one more thought on Sky Woman.

Lizzie: Okay.

Zoe: So, in Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, she discusses the story of Sky Woman in the first chapter. This is focuses particularly on how Sky Woman fell to the earth grasping seeds to cultivate the plants humans would need for life. While reflecting on an interaction with her students in which her students overwhelmingly declared that interactions between humans and nature can only end negatively, Wall Kimmerer discussed how Sky Woman demonstrates an alternate view of humankind's relationship to nature than the Christian worldview that has become so commonplace in society. She says, quote, "on one side of the world were people whose relationship with the living world was shaped by Sky Woman who created a garden for the wellbeing of all. On the other side was a woman with a garden and a tree. But for tasting its fruit, she was banished from the garden and the gates clanged shut behind her. The mother of men was made to wander in the wilderness and earn her bread by the sweat of her brow, not by filling her mouth with the sweet juicy fruits that bend the branches low. In order to eat, she was instructed to subdue the wilderness into which she was cast. One story leaves the generous embrace of the living world, the other two banishment. One woman is our ancestral gardener, the co-creator of a good green world that would be the home of her descendants. The other was an exile, just passing through an alien world on a rough road to her real home and heaven."

Sky Woman's story outlines ways to live in harmony with nature through practices such as respectful hunting, and ways of life that interact properly with the rest of the natural world. These guidelines are known by groups throughout the Great Lakes as the original instructions.

Lizzie: Oh, that's nice.

Zoe: Humanity as a whole may have strayed from these original instructions, but it's possible that we can find a way to adapt them to our current situation and figure out how to give back to the world we live on and treat it as it deserves. Robin Wall Kimmerer also points out that Sky Woman was pregnant when she fell. When she brought the seeds to the world that was created and cultivated them, she wasn't just creating a world for now. She was creating a world for her future children to come. In Christian cosmology. There's a hierarchy of beings where humans are placed at the top and plants and animals at the bottom. Indigenous knowledge defies this as many different indigenous groups label humans as the younger brothers of creation. Those with the least experience of loving who must learn from fellow plants and Animals how to live. And we see that with the story of Sky Woman, who, when she fell to earth, there were already animals living there, who had been on earth for a while. Perhaps Sky Woman who was sowing for the future not only left us food to eat, but teachers to listen to, on how to create a good and healthy world through the plants and seeds that she brought to sow. And I just thought that was really awesome.

Lizzie: Yeah, I mean, it's really interesting that she was pregnant while she, you know, was banished from Sky World and made everything because like she's creating life like personally, and she's also creating a bunch of natural forces. That's—

Zoe: Yeah.

Lizzie: —quite a cool, like, comparison.

Zoe: Yeah. Like, she's bringing life in all sorts of ways, like life inside of her through her child and also life in those seeds that she brings with her, the plants to cultivate.

Lizzie: Yeah.

Zoe: And again, like I said, it's such a hopeful view of the world. It's a hopeful view of like creation, and the relationship that we can have with the world. And if we listen to indigenous teachings about the environment and the world, we might be able to fix the climate mess that we're in right now.

Lizzie: That'd be great. And I do think it's really nice in myths and in folklore when there's like a really nice theme of like, humans and nature, but not like humans versus nature, but like coexisting and helping each other and everything. I feel we got a little bit of that last episode, but like, in a less hopeful way, with the Crane Wife episode about how like humans, like and nature can't like coexist, but this is a much more hopeful and optimistic version.

Zoe: Yeah. Like from the moment she fell, the animals were there to support her, like, the geese flew together to carry her and the animals were immediately trying to figure out the best way to—

Lizzie: Yeah!

Zoe: —make something for her to stand on. You know. We apply that same level of support to the world around us that maybe we can make something really great.

Lizzie: Yeah. That's a really beautiful message. So thank you Zoe for today's episode, and thank you for listening. Please feel free to subscribe and listen to our other episodes. And we will see you in two weeks.

Zoe: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Lizzie: Thank you.

[outro music]

Lizzie: Mytholadies podcast is produced by Elizabeth LaCroix and Zoe Koeninger. Today's episode was researched and presented by Zoe Koeninger. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @ mytholadies and visit us on our website at mytholadies.com. Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thanks for listening. See you next week!