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Other Council Fires Were Here before Ours: A Classic Native American Creation Story

Other Council Fires Were Here before Ours: A Classic Native American Creation Story

by Jamie Sams, Twylah Hurd Nitsch, Twylah H. Nitsch (With)

A retelling of the Seneca creation story and prophesies for the future.


A retelling of the Seneca creation story and prophesies for the future.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This latest effort by Sams ( Sacred Path Cards ) and Nitsch ( Language of the Stones ) purports to pass on the knowledge of Nitsch's grandfather, one of the last Seneca medicine men. The book relates the story of creation, of the four worlds (ages) through which the earth has passed and the three worlds yet to come. Past are the worlds of Love (when the love of the creating Great Mystery was poured on the earth), Ice (perhaps some racial memory of the Ice Age), Water (when whites came to Turtle Island, the primeval land mass of Indian myth) and Separation (recalling not only humanity's divorce from creation but also continental drift). Now is the dawning of the World of Illumination, from which we will pass through the World of Prophecy to the World of Completion, when all of creation will be reunited as one. With its emphasis on interdependence and the equality of all parts of creation, the book's heart is in the right place, and parts of it reflect the genuine oral tradition of the IroquoisSeneca are an Iroquos tribe per Jace . However, laden with New Age jargon and often impenetrable, this work ultimately will leave even sympathetic readers pondering its sincerity. Illustrated. Author tour. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Sams, author of Midnight Song (Bear & Co., 1988), and Nitsch, a Seneca elder, take a unique approach in relating the Seneca explanation of the Earth's creation and evolution. The story of the four worlds or ages we have so far experienced is narrated by a stone, and detailed in a delightful panorama of races and characters, triumphs and tragedies. Clearly reflected here is the animism of the Seneca, which ascribes life to all elements in the creation (sky, water, animals, people, stones) and gives each equal status. The final chapters contain the prophecies of the coming three ages, which predict the evolution of all aspects of our world into a harmonious paradise. There is much food for philosophical thought here, and the narrative style makes it approachable for mature YAs. A lengthy appendix on the language of the stones is included.-- Bruce Alan Hanson, Wayzata East Junior High Sch. Lib., Plymouth, Minn.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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7.37(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Oh Great Mystery, what is this I feel? The vastness, the total darkness, and this sense of well-being. My heart answered my question with a flutter because there was nothingness surrounding me. My mind raced with possibilities, only to be surprised that I had the ability to think. Oh Grandfather, Grandmother, is this a joke you are playing on me? This darkness is limitless and yet I have no fear. "Great One," my mind called out, "where am I?" My senses are reaching out into this eternal Void and feeling the textures of joys I have never known. "Oh Great Mystery," I whispered, "inside of that I am feeling there is a growing presence that baffles me. What are these new sensations?"

My mind sought to identify the emerging phantom of exquisite beauty only to have it merge with me. Shudders of complete happiness overtook me when I melded with the phantom and suddenly I knew. I understood the mystery of the Void. In unparalleled ecstasy, my mind soundlessly cried out in gratitude to the Original Source. "Great Mystery, you live in me as in all other thoughts here in the emerging Void. I give you thanks and praise for this joy I feel, knowing the wholeness of potential Creation and knowing that I belong to it."

My thoughts rolled through the deep nothingness of the Void, touching other ideas and feelings, then came to rest somewhere in the inky darkness. I felt an eruption in the blackness and watched as a brightness was birthed. Light came into being and gave sight to all the inhabitants of the Void. A cloudlike substance began to arise and encircle Eternal Land as GreatMystery created the Field of Plenty. All that would ever be needed in Creation began to form as patterns of light and thought. I marveled as each idea exploded into wondrous expressions of feelings, colors, and tones. The limitlessness of Great Mystery's abundance sent shimmering rainbows of light through me. I felt the goodness and beauty of every new part of Creation as each emerged. Patterns of color traveled through the mists, uniting and dancing with one another in endless space.

As I responded to the ecstatic waves that emanated from every thought, I noticed that I, too, was a patterned set of colors dancing in the light. I reveled in the discovery and observed the changes in me when other designs touched my being. I felt each feeling as music, color, heights of knowing, and joy. Soundless though they were, each thought-form became rhythms of Great Mystery's heartbeat, silently dancing on. Each life-form was a thought of interlaced beauty playing upon every other harmony nestled in this endless space. The Void was fun of wondrous gifts of beauty, each evolving and exploding into new heights of love.

Great Mystery noticed that the Music of the Spheres was felt but was not heard. The gift of listening was added to Creation and Jud-gown (Eternal Land) was complete. "Oh, Swenio," my heart cried out, "You who are the Great Mystery have given us yet another gift of love that makes my spirit soar." My mind was filled with the presence of melodious rhythms that commanded my feelings until each emotion was felt and explored in fullness. I began to understand that I was everywhere and nowhere, empty and full, all and nothing at the same time. Like me, Eternal Land was an indivisible Uni-world created in wholeness as a unified expression of Swenio's love. A translucent sphere began to encapsulate Eternal Land as the Field of Plenty prepared each unique lifeform for manifestation in the First World, which would be called Da-was-sa-wah (in the beginning).

Many patterns and colors of light gathered together as Great Mystery rolled some matter from the Field of Plenty into a bubble. The gifts of beauty that would live within the bubble of matter sprang forward and disappeared within the ball. Swenio breathed upon the sphere, giving it physicality, and called it Grandfather Sun. This was the first divine act of Creation that manifested thought into form. Love was the essence of Grandfather Sun. All of Eternal Land was awed by the intensity of his golden light. Great Mystery decreed that Sun would feed all who came into his circle with love. Grandfather Suns mission was to give warmth, light, and love to all Creation unconditionally. He was to be a constant reminder to all of Swenio's children that each of them carried, a part of the Eternal Flame of Great Mystery's love and that none were excluded from that source of light.

Patterns of silver and blue swirled by my line of vision, weaving a new wonder to behold. The Music of the Spheres softened, and chimes tinkled in delicate harmonies as Great Mystery formed the body for these gifts of beauty to enter. Another sphere, smaller than Grandfather Sun, was rolled from the Void into the First World. The silvery light laced with the palest of blue gently gathered Grandfather Sun's light, taking it into her body and reflecting it outward once again. Grandmother Moon had been birthed from the limitlessness of the Spirit World in a glory all her own. Her gentle beauty touched my heart as she spoke to us of her mission, which was to give light in the places of darkness that would be called night. This second manifestation, Moon, was the reflector of Grandfather Sun's love and the weaver of our feelings, making them into dreams as we rested.

To give our feelings substance, Swenio, the Great Mystery, called forth shimmering waters from the Field of Plenty and gave Grandmother Moon the mission of weaving the ebb and flow of the countless waves of emotion. The dancing, fluid substance called Water encircled Grand-mother Moon and joyously exploded into shining droplets coming together again in a body of liquid silver-blue spiraling in the reflected light of Grandfather Sun. Water's songs were varied and spontaneous.

Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours. Copyright © by Jamie Sams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Jamie Sams is a member of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge. She is the coauthor of Medicine Cards™:The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals, author of The Sacred Paths Workbook, and (with Twylah Nitsch) Other Council Fires Were Here Before Ours.

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