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American FolkloreAMERICAN LORE & LEGENDS

The Ark On Superstition Mountain

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By Charles M. Skinner in 1896

 

The Pima Indians of Arizona say that the father of all men and animals was the butterfly, Cherwit Make (earth-maker), who fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs at the junction of the Verde and Salt Rivers, and from his own sweat made men. As the people multiplied they grew selfish and quarrelsome, so that Cherwit Make was disgusted with his handiwork and resolved to drown them all. But, first he told them, in the voice of the north wind, to be honest and to live at peace. The prophet Suha, who interpreted this voice, was called a fool for listening to the wind, but next night came the east wind and repeated the command, with an added threat that the ruler of heaven would destroy them all if they did not reform.

 

Again they scoffed, and on the next night the west wind cautioned them. But this third warning was equally futile. On the fourth night came the south wind. It breathed into Suha's ear that he alone had been good and should be saved, and bade him make a hollow ball of spruce gum in which he might float while the deluge lasted.

 

 

A Pima Ki, or home, in Pima, Arizona, 1907

A Pima Ki, or home, in Pima, Arizona, 1907

 

Suha and his wife immediately set out to gather the gum, that they melted and shaped until they had made a large, rounded ark, which they ballasted with jars of nuts, acorn-meal and water, and meat of bear and venison.

On the day assigned Suha and his wife were looking regretfully down into the green valleys from the ledge where the ark rested, listening to the song of the harvesters, and sighing to think that so much beauty would presently be laid waste, when a hand of fire was thrust from a cloud and it smote the Blue Cliffs with a thunder-clang. It was the signal. Swift came the clouds from all directions, and down poured the rain. Withdrawing into their waxen ball, Suha and his wife closed the portal. Then for some days they were rolled and tossed on an ever-deepening sea. Their stores had almost given out when the ark stopped, and breaking a hole in its side its occupants stepped forth.

There was a tuna cactus growing at their feet, and they ate of its red fruit greedily, but all around them was naught but water. When night came on they retired to the ark and slept--a night, a month, a year, perhaps a century, for when they awoke the water was gone, the va les were filled with verdure, and bird-songs rang through the woods. The delighted couple descended the Superstition Mountains, on which the ark had rested, and went into its valleys, where they lived for a thousand years, and became the parents of a great tribe.

But the evil was not all gone. There was one Hauk, a devil of the mountains, who stole their daughters and slew their sons. One day, while the women were spinning flax and cactus fibre and the men were gathering maize, Hauk descended into the settlement and stole another of Suha's daughters. The patriarch, whose patience had been taxed to its limit, then made a vow to slay the devil. He watched to see by what way he entered the valley. He silently followed him into the Superstition Mountains; he drugged the cactus wine that his daughter was to serve to him; then, when he had drunk it, Suha emerged from his place of hiding and beat out the brains of the stupefied fiend.

 

Some of the devil's brains were scattered and became seed for other evil, but there was less wickedness in the world after Hauk had been disposed of than there had been before. Suha taught his people to build adobe houses, to dig with shovels, to irrigate their land, to weave cloth, and avoid wars. But on his death-bed he foretold to them that they would grow arrogant with wealth, covetous of the lands of others, and would wage wars for gain. When that time came there would be another flood and not one should be saved--the bad should vanish and the good would leave the earth and live in the sun. So firmly do the Pimas rely on this prophecy that they will not cross Superstition Mountains, for there sits Cherwit Make--awaiting the culmination of their wickedness to let loose on the earth a mighty sea that lies dammed behind the range.

 

 

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated July, 2012.

 

 

 

About the Author:  Charles M. Skinner (1852-1907) authored the complete nine volume set of Myths and Legends of Our Own Land in 1896. This tale is excerpted from these excellent works, which are now in the public domain.

 

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