Hopi’s Encounter With Maasaw – The Skeleton Man And His Gift Of Sacred Knowledge

Ellen Lloyd - AncientPages.com - The Hopi Indians’ encounter with Maasaw was very emotional and frightening.

His physical appearance was so horrifying that many of the Hopi Indians ran. Some of the Hopi had the courage to stay because they had been looking for him for such a long time. They wanted to listen to Maasaw and receive spiritual wisdom.

The remarkable encounter with Maasaw is one of the reasons why the Hopi are today considered keepers of sacred knowledge.

Hopi’s Encounter With Maasaw – The Skeleton Man And His Gift Of Sacred Knowledge

The Hopi Indians have a very rich mythological tradition stretching back over centuries and they have stories about their ancestral journeys through three worlds to the Fourth World, where the people live today.

According to Hopi legends, Maasaw  (Masaw ,Massau, Masauwu) was a spirit that could not die and he was therefore appointed to be  Guardian of the Underworld. He is described as a Skeleton Man and Lord of the Dead in Hopi mythology.

Hopi mythology tells about the existence of worlds before our own. All previous worlds were destroyed because people became disobedient and lived contrary to Tawa’s plan. Tawa is the Sun spirit and creator in Hopi mythology.

There are different versions of how the previous worlds were destroyed and who managed to survive. Some legends tell that the Third World was destroyed along with all evil people, but other stories reveal good inhabitants were simply led away from the chaos which had been created by their actions.

Hopi Went Looking For Maasaw And He Gave Them Sacred Knowledge

When the Hopi emerged into the Fourth World (our current world), they learned that Maasaw was on Earth and they went looking for him. People who wanted to escape from the Third World decided to make contact with Maasaw.

Hopi’s Encounter With Maasaw – The Skeleton Man And His Gift Of Sacred Knowledge

Hopi legends tell all the previous worlds had been destroyed.

First, they sent a swift bird looking for Maasaw, but the bird was so tired when it reached the sky that it had to come back. Then, the Hopi tried to send a dove and later a hawk, but both creatures failed to reach Maasaw.

The one that succeeded in finding Maasaw was the catbird.

Maasaw asked him, “Why are you here?”

The catbird said, “The world below is infested with evil. The people want to come up here to live. They want to build their houses here, and plant their corn.”

Maasaw said, “Well, you see how it is in this world. There isn’t any light, just greyness. I have to use fire to warm my crops and make them grow. However, I have relatives down in the Third World. I gave them the secret of fire. Let them lead the people up here, and I will give them land and a place to settle. Let them come.”

See also:

Hopi Ancestors Witnessed Flying Shields In The Skies Over Palitkwapi - The 'Red City'

Astonishing Secrets Of Legendary Kachinas: Watchers Of The Hopi

Soyal: Hopi Indians’ Winter Solstice Celebration And Arrival Of The Kachinas

Coyote – Native American Trickster, Creator, And Sacred Animal Who Can Deceive But Also Give Wisdom

More Myths And Legends

Maasaw looked like a skeleton man, a stick person and he was a fearsome sight. When the Hopi Indians accepted Maasaw’s frightening physical appearance, his attitude began to change and he gave them wonderful knowledge. Maasaw explained to them how they should live and allowed their people to flourish.

Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona - Image credit: WN.com

The Guardian Spirit, Maasaw, gave the Hopi permission to settle in the region that is now northwest Arizona. Maasaw noticed that greed, ambition and social competitions were dominating factors in their former life and this lifestyle made people very unhappy.

Maasaw warned the Hopi that the life he had to offer them was very different from what they had before. To show them, Maasaw gave the people a planting stick, a bag of seeds, and a gourd of water. He handed them a small ear of blue corn and told them, “Here is my life and my spirit. This is what I have to give you.”

Hopi’s Encounter With Maasaw – The Skeleton Man And His Gift Of Sacred Knowledge

Native American Hopi carved Maasaw death Katchina doll. Image credit: Katchina House

Maasaw explained that if they followed his way, they would live long and fruitful lives. He wanted them to be humble and live like he did with only a planting stick and seeds. He wanted the Hopi to take care of and respect the land, and they did what he said, despite the fact that their manner of living was not easy.

Dry-farming in the high desert of northern Arizona, relying only on precipitation and runoff water, requires an almost miraculous level of faith and is sustained by hard work, prayer, and an attitude of deep humility. Following the way of Maasaw, the Hopi people have tended to their corn for nearly a millennium, and the corn has kept them whole.

For traditional Hopis corn is the central bond. Its essence, physically, spiritually, and symbolically, pervades their existence.

Hopi Followed Maasaw’s Advice And Lived In Peace

According to the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, a tribal training and support organization based at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. “to be Hopi is to embrace peace and cooperation, to care for the Earth and all of its inhabitants, to live within the sacred balance. It is a life of reverence shared by all the good people of Earth, all those in tune with their world. This manner of living lies beneath the complexities of wimi, or specialized knowledge, which can provide stability and wisdom but when misused can also foster division and strife.

Hopi’s Encounter With Maasaw – The Skeleton Man And His Gift Of Sacred Knowledge

Hopi Indians are very peaceful.

Deeper still in the lives of traditional Hopi people lies the way of Maasaw, a way of humility and simplicity, of forging a sacred bond between themselves and the land that sustains them. Maasaw’s way is embodied in corn.”

The source to true happiness is to live in peace and harmony with nature, animals and other people, Maasaw said.

The Hopi followed his teachings and they lived peacefully in communities, caring for each other for centuries. They always carried within them the knowledge of the Great Spirit and they performed sacred rituals daily.

The word Hopi is s short version of their name Hopituh Shi-nu-mu ("The Peaceful People" or "Peaceful Little Ones). The Hopi Dictionary gives the primary meaning of the word "Hopi" as: "behaving one, one who is mannered, civilized, peaceable, polite, who adheres to the Hopi way."

The tribe does live up to the name. The Hopi are a very peace-living people and they have managed to keep their culture intact thanks to the sacred knowledge given to them by Maasawthe Skeleton Man.

Written by Ellen Lloyd – AncientPages.com

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