Usen is the name of the Apache Creator God or One God. He is a great holy power Who is above everything. He is good, He looks after the people of the world, and in the words of a chief, “He made us in order to have mercy on us.” The Creator first made Apache people on White Mountain.
The Apache regard coyotes, insects, and birds as having been human beings. The human race, then, is but following in the tracks of those who have gone before.
In the Apache way of life, there is a belief that a dark side of life is present, as well as a light side. In the dark side of life there is misery, and nothing progresses for the Apache. In the light of life there is happiness; a world Usen created of peace and harmony. In this world of peace and harmony, everything progresses for the Apache people.
Characters found in Apache Legends:
Bears – The bear is an animal the Apache do not have contact with because bears are highly respected. Never touch a bear, its waste materials, footprints, bedding area or anything the bear has touched.
Do not call him by his name. The Apache people refer to him as my grandfather or my uncle. If you cross paths with the bear, tell him to go into the dense forest and live where no other entities set foot.
Big Owl (or Owl-Man): A malicious and dangerous giant often used as a “bogeyman” in children’s stories. Like other legendary Apache beings, Big Owl is sometimes described as having human form (in this case a man-eating ogre) and other times animal form (in this case a horned owl large enough to carry off a child.)
Coyote (or Fox): Coyote is the most common trickster figure among the Apache tribes (though in some communities, the same stories attributed to Coyote instead feature Fox as the hero.)
Like the trickster figures of other Southwestern tribes, Coyote/Fox is occasionally helpful to humans, but at other times his impetuous and foolish behavior causes trouble for everyone around him.
Frequently he is killed through his own recklessness, but always comes back to life afterwards. Like other legendary Apache beings, Coyote is sometimes described as having human form, and other times animal form.
Gans – A race of Mountain spirits. They lived on earth in very ancient times and are believed to dwell within certain mountains. The sacred mountains of the Apache are the Sierra Blanca, Guadalupe Mountains, Three Sisters Mountain and Oscura Mountain Peak. According to the teaching, the GAN have supernatural powers, and are able to help mankind.
Owls – The owl is a night creature and the Apache people do not have contact with this animal. Avoid having a night owl near you. It is considered a bad omen if an owl hoots near you day or night.
Ouxouiga – The Thunderbird is responsible for creating thunderstorms.
Snakes – The Apache do not communicate with this animal; it is considered a bad omen to have contact with a snake.
White Painted Woman – She gave birth to two sons, Child of Water and Killer of Enemies on the sacred White Mountain. They were born during a turbulent rainstorm when thunder and lightning came from the sky.
Giant Monsters who wanted to kill them feared White Painted Woman and her sons, whom she raised to be brave and skilled. When they grew up to be men, they rose up and killed the monsters of the earth.
There was peace and all human beings were saved. She is the model of heroic and virtuous womanhood, and brought the Puberty Rite ceremonies to the Apache people.
Animals, elements, the solar system, and natural phenomena are revered by the Apaches. That which is beyond their understanding is always ascribed to the supernatural. Here is their creation story.
Five brothers and their sister lived alone on a mountain; the brothers had killed a great many people in the country around. The sister gathered the wood and cooked the game they killed. When it was time for her maturity dance, she asked: “How can I dance when there is nobody to sing for me?”
The story and teachings of White Buffalo Woman. Legends, like most history, are often corrupted and embellished by the conquerors. Whatever the means of conquest may have been, the stories about the victories are usually cleaned up for later generations … Continue reading