by Mineke Schipper, Humanity’s End as a New Beginning: World Disasters in Myths

11. Deluge from the subterranean

(Mojave Apache, Arizona)

Long, long ago humanity did not live here upon this earth, but deep own under the ground. However, a time came when no fruit grew anymore and the people had nothing to eat. They sent the humming-bird to explore where to find food. Flying up into the sky, he saw a grape-vine with roots in the underworld and, through a hole in the middle of the sky, growing up into the upper world. The humming-bird flew through the hole in the sky, and arrived in a land full of mescal and fruits and flowers of all kinds. It was this world where we live now.

The humming-bird came back and told the people about the beautiful country he had seen, and they all wished to go up there. They climbed all the way up on the grape-vine, through the hole in the sky, until they had arrived into this upper world. However, they had left the blind frog-folk behind, in the underworld. 

The people had already lived for a while in the new land, when they heard a strange noise swelling into a roar. What could it be? They sent a man to look down the hole, and he saw the waters rising from the underworld, so high that they had nearly reached the world they lived in. The blind frogs below had caused this flood in order to wash all people away.

The people were worried. What could be done? They hollowed out a tree and filled the resulting trough with fruits and blankets. They selected a beautiful maiden and laid her inside so that she would be saved alive. The trough was closed up when the flood came up from below, through the mouth of the hole. The people ran into the highest mountains, but even there the waters rose over them.

The trough kept floating while the flood kept rising so high that the waves dashed the trough against the sky, where it struck with a loud noise. Then, gradually, the flood went down, until the trough came to rest on the ground again. The girl opened it and stepped onto the earth. She looked all around, but there was no one left. All the people had been drowned. The world had to begin anew, and the only saved girl’s first thought was: “How can I bear children, how can I make new people?”

Early before sunrise she went up into the mountains and lay there, all alone. Gradually the light dawned and the first rays of the sun shone warm upon her body while water was dripping from the crag. Thus she conceived and on her own she bore a daughter. When the daughter had grown up, the mother said to her: “Do you know how you came into being?”

“No,” the young girl replied.

“I am going to show you,” the mother said, and she went with her daughter up into the mountains. “Please, lie down,” she said, and the girl was lying down as her mother had done. All day the girl lay on the mountain and the next morning before sunrise, her mother came and lay down upon her own daughter while she looked at the sun. Then she sprang up, quickly, and thus the girl conceived of the sun. The child she bore was the son of the sun, Sekala Ka-amja.