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Onatah

Area or people: Iroquois
Location : North America
Gender : Female
Category : Deity


ONATAH: Corn Goddess; daughter of EITHINOHA who is Mother Earth.

Legend: In Iroquois mythology, Onatah was the corn goddess. She was the daughter of Eithinoha. She was kidnapped by the ruler of the underworld. her mother searched everywhere for her, grieving and while she grieved no crops grew. Finally the sun realised where she was, split open the ground and rescued her. However, the spirits of the underworld missed Onatah, and whenever the sun sleeps they snatch her back, and then a vast human effort in ceremonies and offerings are needed to waken the sun and rescue her.


Myth: THE SPIRIT OF THE CORN

AN IROQUOIS LEGEND

BY HARRIET MAXWELL CONVERSE (ADAPTED)

There was a time, says the Iroquois grandmother, when it was not needful to plant the corn-
seed nor to hoe the fields, for the corn sprang up of itself, and filled the broad meadows. Its stalks
grew strong and tall, and were covered with leaves like waving banners, and filled with ears of pearly
grain wrapped in silken green husks.

In those days Onatah, the Spirit of the Corn, walked upon the earth. The sun lovingly touched
her dusky face with the blush of the morning, and her eyes grew soft as the gleam of the stars on
dark streams. Her night-black hair was spread before the breeze like a wind-driven cloud.
As she walked through the fields, the corn, the Indian maize, sprang up of itself from the earth
and filled the air with its fringed tassels and whispering leaves. With Onatah walked her two
sisters, the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean. As they passed by, squash-vines and bean-plants
grew from the corn-hills.

One day Onatah wandered away alone in search of early dew. Then the Evil One of the earth,
Hahgwehdaetgah, followed swiftly after. He grasped her by the hair and dragged her beneath
the ground down to his gloomy cave. Then, sending out his fire-breathing monsters, he blighted
Onatah's grain. And when her sisters, the Spirits of the Squash and the Bean, saw the flame-
monsters raging through the fields, they flew far away in terror.

As for poor Onatah, she lay a trembling captive in the dark prison-cave of the Evil One. She
mourned the blight of her cornfields, and sorrowed over her runaway sisters.

``O warm, bright sun!'' she cried, ``if I may walk once more upon the earth, never again will I
leave my corn!''

And the little birds of the air heard her cry, and winging their way upward they carried her vow
and gave it to the sun as he wandered through the blue heavens.

The sun, who loved Onatah, sent out many searching beams of light. They pierced through
the damp earth, and entering the prison-cave, guided her back again to her fields.

And ever after that she watched her fields alone, for no more did her sisters, the Spirits of the
Squash and Bean, watch with her. If her fields thirsted, no longer could she seek the early dew.
If the flame-monsters burned her corn, she could not search the skies for cooling winds. And when
the great rains fell and injured her harvest, her voice grew so faint that the friendly sun could not hear it.

But ever Onatah tenderly watched her fields and the little birds of the air flocked to her service.
They followed her through the rows of corn, andmade war on the tiny enemies that gnawed at the roots of the grain.

And at harvest-time the grateful Onatah scattered the first gathered corn over her broad lands,
and the little birds, fluttering and singing, joyfully partook of the feast spread for them on the meadow-ground.


Ritual: Onatah is the perfect Goddess to call upon during Lammas Rituals.


Sources:
Image: Reeda Peel
Info: http://www.probertencyclopaedia.com/D_ONATAH.HTM
http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/native_american-mythology.php?deity=ONATAH
http://www.angelfire.com/biz6/gtbaskets/holidaystories.html


have you had any experiences with Onatah?
Please share if you feel comfortable :)
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