Cheyenne Legends

Maheo (also spelled Maheo’o) is the Cheyenne name for the Creator God. Literally his name means Great One, and he is often referred to as Great Medicine or the Great Spirit.

Maheo is a divine spirit without human form or attributes and is rarely personified in Cheyenne folklore. In some myths, Maheo is referred to as Heammawihio (or Heamaveeho,) which means Spider Above.

This useage may be an borrowed from their Arapaho kinfolk, who referred to the Creator this way to differentiate him from the earthly Spider figure (see below.) Maheo is by far the more common name.

Common Characters in Cheyenne Legends:

Axxea or MehneWater monsters who live in springs and menace travelers. Some Cheyenne people believe that these are two names for the same monster, others say that Axxea was the individual name of one particular Mehne monster, and still others that they are two different species of water monster.

Mehne is always described as a horned serpent, while Axxea is sometimes described as a horned serpent, sometimes as a four-legged creature like a bull or water panther, and other times compared to a caterpillar or worm. Nonoma is the sworn enemy of both, and while both are dangerous to humans, they may be calmed by respectful offerings.

Enemy Dwarves (Vo’estanehesono): A race of dangerous little people, about knee-high to a man, who lived in the Rocky Mountains and warred with the Cheyenne. Sometimes they were said to eat humans; other times, they were merely described as warlike and violent. Their Cheyenne name literally means “little people.”

Ma’xemestaa’e – A large, hairy humanoid creature, somewhat like the

Sasquatch or Bigfoot of the Northwestern tribes, only with birdlike feet.

Nonoma – The Cheyenne spirit of thunder. Some Cheyenne people describe Nonoma as a Thunderbird; others consider him a wind spirit like the Winter Wind, who is his spiritual opposite.

Rolling Head –  A horrible, vampiric sort of creature from Cheyenne myth, created when a man murders his unfaithful wife and her disembodied head returns from the dead to seek revenge.

Sweet Medicine ( Arrow Boy or Metzehouf) – Legendary prophet and medicine man of the Cheyenne tribe. He predicted the arrival of white men, among other things.

Two-Face (Hestovatohkeo’o) -A malevolent monster resembling a man with a second face on the back of his head; a person who makes eye contact with this second face will be murdered by the monster, who tries many ploys to try to get victims to look at him.

Wihio (also spelled Veeho, Veho) – is the spider trickster of Cheyenne mythology. Though he is associated with spiders and his name means “spider,” he has the form of a man in every Cheyenne tale. In some stories, Wihio plays the role of the clever and benevolent trickster/transformer hero, similar to Nanabozho of the Anishinabe tribes; but in most stories, he is merely a silly and foolish character who behaves as inappropriately as possible by Cheyenne social standards.

In any case, the literal meaning of the character’s Cheyenne name is “Spider.” It is given as “White-Man” in some older translations, but this is a misleading translation– the Cheyennes named white people after the trickster character, not vice versa!

Famous Cheyenne

Cheyenne Legends:


Article Index:

Sharpened Leg

Two young men were living together. One day one of them heard his comrade chopping outside the lodge.

He saw that the other man was sharpening his leg to a point, after having chopped off his feet. He was frightened and fled, running for a night and a day.

The Life and Death of Sweet Medicine

As told by members of the Strange Owl family on the Lame Deer Indian Reservation, Montana, 1967, recorded by Richard Erdoes. A long time ago the people had no laws, no rules of behavior- they hardly knew enough to survive. … Continue reading

The origin of death

AUTHOR: Cheyenne Legend, Myth, Oral Story When the world was created Death did not occur. The Earth became so overcrowded that eventually there wasn’t room for any more beings.

Yellowstone Valley and the Great Flood