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A CIRCLE WITHIN THE ABYSS

[Excerpts from a book by Dr. John Anderson]

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Who Created the World Axis?

Surviving Chumash records do not specify whether it was one god or a number of gods who ordained the 'birthing' and subsequent 'ordering' of the physical world. They probably followed the tradition of nearby California cultures in attributing the primordial creation to a celestial deity


In most California theologies, this creator remains beyond the understanding of the human mind. Mystical encounters with this divinity cannot be expressed in words, and thus descriptions of his presence in the world of human affairs are rare and opaque.

References to the Chumash creator fit this pattern. Alaleqwel is the Chumash term for a person who creates something, and although it may have been used to designate the Creator, surviving documentation does not comment on such usage. Whistler's dictionary of Chumash words, for example, has no citation for a creator deity. In The Lizard's Tale, I propose that this absence is compensated for by the preservation of a popular name for the Creator - Enememe, a moniker meaning "He who sleeps." Chumash narrators affectionately describe him as a flute playing lizard whose paradoxical music is a metaphor for the inexpressible essence of his being.

In previous writing, I have quoted numerous Chumash texts which suggest that the personality of Enememe is the central source of information about the Creator. Using other Native American cosmologies as models, many of Enememe's behavior patterns can be shown to have great significance, especially those found in sleeping and withdrawal passages.

From such metaphysical teachings, it seems evident that Enememe was the original divine presence who existed prior to the creation of the physical world. He appears to be a variant of the ancient Eurasian deity who lived in a state of complete peace, which the Chumash called Tipashumashwish.

For reasons beyond the comprehension of humans, the inscrutable first deity decided to manifest the physical world and initially populate it with the First People. Through Kipshuwashich, will power, he started the creation process, thus setting material body in motion and placing his first animated beings into mythic time. At this transition, he entered the state of Asshunach, which means to be the ruler, for he was no longer alone.


A short parable about Enememe's role in the creation of humanity demonstrates his rule over the five less powerful (transformer) gods who governed earthly affairs. This narrative is the most important surviving commentary on the flute player's supreme status. Enememe conflicts with Coyote, the leader of the gods of disorder. He imposes his will over Coyote, insisting that newly created humans be given hands like his, useful lizard hands instead of coyote paws.

The conflict of will takes place at the time of the epic transformation of the world by the Great Flood. The five Chumash transformers deities are overseeing dramatic changes of time, space, and species. These are the gods who still regulate the material world today, and therefore act as controllers of history. Enememe intervened only because this was a crisis point, when he was forced to reassert his powers as the dominant deity. His victory over Coyote, and his subsequent withdrawal, permitted the other deities to turn their attention once again to ruling the physical universe during mundane time.


Other references to the Creator deity are extremely rare in Chumash ethnography. Any citation that even mentions an attribute of the supreme deity or Creator is therefore worthy of careful analysis. A spiritual called "Coyote's Song" demonstrates the difficulties faced by anyone trying to understand the few citations available for study. This song is open to many explanations.

Kitsepawit, a Chumash historian, tells how Coyote, when he sings this spiritual, was "pretending to be the one who does everything." This is a puzzling comment, since neither Coyote nor any of the four other Chumash regulator gods were capable of omnipotence, i.e. of doing everything.

Kitsepawit does not reveal the name of "the one who does everything," but clearly it is not Coyote since he is only "pretending" to this status. The lyrics apparently were written as a parody of Coyote's vanity, to entertain the audience that had prior knowledge of the identity of the "does everything" deity.

Surely, they laughed heartily when Foolish Coyote sang: "I go around the world. I, it is I. I cause the mist... When I climb the mountain tops, I cause clouds; I cause the rain. Long live Coyote; he will always be." It is typical of Coyote to glory in his powers, when in fact he is constantly being kept under control by his supernatural rivals. The final line of his song emphasizes Coyote's egotistic weakness, as he proclaims his eternal life.

Coyote is best understood as a character plagued by his many frailties that keep him from using his divine power wisely. In his heart, he is not the only being in the world blessed with eternal life. The other transformer deities, also lived forever, and none of them were as old as the original creator deity who began the creation process."[page 11, chapter 1]

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ENEMEME: A flute-playing Lizard, whose music bestowed divine wisdom upon those who were blessed to hear it. See Enememe's Friends for more information.

HOUSE OF FATE The Chumash believed that the gods competed with each other nightly, in a heavenly house of fate. The outcome of the two rival teams of the gods, led by Eagle and Coyote, determined the fate of humanity for the coming year. See Fate for related discussion.

COYOTE In Fate Coyote is described as the god who brings rain, while Eagle is the god who reigns during drought. Some readers have contacted me, asking about this passage. My point was not to deny that Coyote brought rain and the resulting prosperity that resulted from good crops, but rather that he was NOT capable of perfection in this endeavor. He certainly was not all powerful!

Eagle was the leader of the gods who opposed Coyote, and deities allied with Eagle competed successfully to counteract (balance) Coyote's rain-making abilities [J. Anderson, November 24, '2000].


This web page represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views of the Chumash Indians, either individually or in a group.

Kuta Teachings