Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
Tulchuherris resembles certain European tales more than any other in this collection. Apart from other merits, the value of such a tale in comparative mythology is evident.
The old woman, Nomhawena, is an earthworm now; the Indian tale-teller says that there is no doubt on that point. Pom Pokaila, her second name (Pom, earth; Pokaila, old woman) admits of two translations,--old woman of the earth, or old woman Earth. In the first case it would apply to Nomhawena, who digs the earth always, is a woman of the earth; in the second, it would mean the earth itself. The earth is, in fact, Tulchuherris's mother. Nomhawena is his grandmother, in a titular sense at least. In more countries of the world than one, grandmother is the title of a midwife; and the office of midwife was performed by Nomhawena at the birth of Tulchuherris.
We may picture to ourselves the scenes and circumstances of Tulchuherris's birth. Root Flat is one of those level places where innumerable little piles of fine soil are brought to the surface by the labor of earthworms. Over this valley, as over so many others on the Pacific coast, fog is spread after sunrise,--fog which comes up from the earth dug in every direction by Nomhawena's people. In this fog is Tulchuherris, the mighty son of the earth; in other words, lightning, electricity, that son of the earth who comes to maturity so speedily.
Kulitek Herit, brother of Tulchuherris, for whom Nomhawena mourned so deeply, is now the white feather which appears sometimes in the black tail of the black vulture. Komos Kulit is the Wintu name of this vulture. There were three great feathers among the Wintus, transformations of three great persons among the first people. The first of these is the white feather just mentioned, which is the metamorphosed Kulitek; the second is the longest black tail-feather of the black vulture, which is the present form of Hamam Herit, who fought in the Norwan struggle; the third is the longest wing-feather of the same vulture. This feather is the metamorphosed Tubalus Herit.
The first two feathers are used on great occasions in war; the third feather, only by doctors or Hlahis.
In Indian mythology there is a subtle, but close and firm, connection between the sunflower and the sun, which is illustrated strikingly in this story. The old woman, by her magic art, burns great piles of big trees in two or three minutes, while a handful of sunflower roots is beyond her power and keeps the fire alive for years. This illustration, in the material world, of the Indians, reminds one of the still, small voice in the spiritual world of the Hebrews. The sunflower root in this Tulchuherris tale is invincible from its connection with the sun, the one source of light and heat; the still, small voice is considered almighty because of its connection with the whole moral life and light that exists in the universe.
The two obsidian knives in Sas's house are an interesting reminder of the Damocles sword.
In the case of Tichelis, now ground squirrel, and Hawt, the
present lamprey eel, we have cases of personal collision resulting in transformation. In the Wintu mythology this is exceptional, and in this instance one-sided, for the vanquished make no attempt to transform Tulchuherris.