The Hopi are a native people who live in northeastern Arizona and their creation stories and prophecies have always interested me as I grew up around them and the Navajo, another NE Arizona native people. Of interest for this post is the Hopi stories of the 5 Worlds which we can interpret as 5 Ages of Man.
The First Era of Man (1st World)
The 1st World (Age or Era) includes the creation of the universe, Earth, and humanity. At the time when the 1st Age began there was only the Creator whom the Hopi call Taiowa. There was no time, no shapes, and no life. Taiowa the Creator god began to create the physical realm and he began by creating his nephew whom is called Sotuknang. This nephew was named Taiowa’s agent and he was ordered to create 9 universes (or planets). Sotuknang gathered matter and water and put them on these 9 worlds to form land and sea. He was next instructed by Taiowa to gather air to make winds and breezes for these 9 planets.
The Creator god Taiowa then instructed Sotuknang to create life. Sotuknang went to the first world that was to be the first host of life and he created another deity named Spider Woman. He then gave her the power to create life. She began her work by first taking up some soil and mixing it with her saliva to create the very first two beings. She sang the Creatio Song over them and they became animated and living. One of these first beings was named Poqanghoya whom she instructed to go across the earth and solidify it. The other was named Palongawhoya and Spider Woman instructed this being to make a sound resonate through the earth so that the planet would vibrate with energy of the Creator Taiowa. In case you haven’t noticed it yet in the Hopi creation story planet Earth was the first of 9 planets on which life was created and on which the first two beings were created, thus, making Earth the oldest of the 9. I also find it interesting that sound waves are employed to make the earth vibrate with energy, in other words, to make it become alive and moving. The same thing happens to the two created beings when Spider Woman sings the Creation Song over them. Sound is very central in the Hopi creation story of the 1st World/Age.
These two created beings were next instructed by Spider Woman to go dwell at the poles to keep the planet rotating. In the Hopi Prophecies of the end of our world, the 4th World, these two beings or forces will be unleashed and they will leave their places at the poles causing cataclysm and the end of our present-day 4th Age.
Spider Woman then creates all of the plants, flowers, bushes, and trees of the Earth and then the birds and animals making all of them out of soil and singing the Creation Song over them to make them become animated an living things. After this, Spider Woman gathers yellow, red, white, and black earth and mixes it with her saliva making 4 men and 4 women. Spider Woman then sings the Creation Song over them and all 8 become living beings, the First Peoples. These people could not speak until Spider Woman called upon Sotuknang who gave them 4 languages and taught them how to speak. He charged them to respect the Creator and live in harmony with him. These people then began to multiply and spread across the Earth and although they could not understand eachothers language they could understand each other’s thoughts. During this time the people and the animals lived together peacefully and unafraid of each other. But divisions arose between the people and animals and between the people. They began to focus on their differences rather than their similarities and this created strife and divisions.
Things became so divided that the Creators decided to end the 1st Era and bring about a new one. So, the 1st Era was destroyed by fire and it took a long time for the planet to cool so survivors could live on top of the ground again. A few survivors were saved from this destruction when the gods told them to go live deep underground with the “ant people” prior to the destruction. This was the end of the 1st World (1st Age of Man).
The Second Era of Man (2nd World)
The 2nd World (Age) brought about a new creation although it was not as beautiful as the first. Sotuknang admonished the people created in that age to remember their Creator and the people multiplied and spread across the world rapidly. Soon these second humans covered the whole Earth. These people did not live with the animals as the people of the 1st Age did. The animals of this 2nd Age were wild and unfriendly to the humans. The people built villages and roads and they began to engage in trade. They stored up goods of various kinds for trading and for their own use. Soon they were even trading for things that they did not need. They began to grow greedy desiring more and more! They began to forget the Creator and soon the peoples of the world began making war upon each other over resources and trading goods. Once again Sotuknang appeared to some of the remaining faithful and again he sent them to live underground with the “ant people.” He then began the destruction of this 2nd Age (World) by having the two beings at the poles move out of their places ( polar shift). Soon the world began to spin out of control and rolled over. Great mountains slid and fell and the lakes and rivers splashed across the land along with the waters of the sea. And finally the entire planet froze into ice. So this 2nd Age ended with polar shift and the dawn of a great planetary Ice Age which lasted for years until the god instructed the two beings to return to their places at the poles, thus, stabilizing the earth’s rotation once again. The ice began to melt and life began to return and this was the beginning of the 3rd World (Age).
The Third Era of Man (3rd World)
As the great Ice Age came to an end and melted life began to return upon the Earth. The surviving peoples were brought out of the underground to once again dwell on the planet’s surface. Again Sotuknang instructed the people to remember their Creator and live in his ways. The people once again began to multiply and spread across the world, again, quickly. In fact, they began to multiply and migrate even faster than the people of teh 2nd Age did! These people built large cities and divided themselves into nations. As expected with so many nations and so many people divided war rose its ugly head among them. Some of the nations made huge shields on which they could fly! Just what were these “huge flying shields”? UFOs? Some sort of circular flying aircraft? We don’t know bu the story goes on to say that those nations building and using these huge flying shields used them to attack the cities of the other nations. Soon war and destruction were everywhere and when the god Sotuknang saw all the war and destruction he decided to end this 3rd Era rather quickly before it corrupted the few people that remained loyal to the Creator. He instructed Spider Woman to gather these few and along a shoreline she placed each of them with some food in the hollow stem of a reed. This must have been some sort of survival bunker or aircraft in which the people would be safe. Interesting that Sotuknang did not send the people of the 3rd Age underground again. When the few faithful people were safe he then unleashed a great flood upon the Earth that destroyed everything the people had built. This was the ending of the 3rd Age.
Our Age: The Fourth Era of Man (4th World)
Eventually the destructive flood came to an end and Spider Woman unsealed the reeds and let the people out. They floated on the water for many days searching for dry land. Finally, they came upon an island where they built small boats made of reeds. They set sail eastward and after many days they came to a bigger island. They sailed on and many days later they came upon an even bigger island hoping that this would be the Fourth World created by Sotuknang. However, Spider Woman informed them that it was not and that they had a long and difficult journey still ahead of them so they must endure. They walked across this larger island to the other side and when they arrived at the shore they built other boats and continued sailing eastward. After many days they came to an even larger island and they had to walk across it to the other side. There they built more boats and continued their journey eastward. Soon they came to a vast land with shores so high that they couldn’t find a place to land their boats until the Creator told them where to land.
When these survivors came ashore Sotuknang was there waiting for them. As they watched he made the islands they’d already been on disappear into the sea and then he welcomed them to the 4th World (Era of Man). However, this 4th creation was not as beautiful as those created before it. He also warned the survivors that life for them in this new land would be hard. It would have hot and cold weather and tall mountains with deep valleys. He then told them to migrate across the great land and search for homes for their respective clans. Some stopped and settled in warm climates while others continued onward settling in rich and fertile lands. The Hopi went on through the cold and icy part of this vast land settling eventually in arid lands between the Colorado River and Rio Grande River. They chose to live in this hard land so they would remember their dependence on and link to their Creator.
We are living in this 4th World (Era, Age) today but the Hopi say it too is coming to an end and soon it will be destroyed. After it is destroyed an new 5th World (Age, Era) will emerge, they say. We have become like the peoples before us. We most resemble the people of the last era (3rd World) who built great cities and had great technologies. But we, like them, have become selfish and greedy and so our world (Age) will end. We already know humanity is in a state of decline and that decline seems to become more rapid with each passing day, sadly.