Saturday, March 29, 2008

Nativa American Cat Names

No one knows for certain but it is suspected that Native Americans (erroneously called "Indians" by some, and all due to an error on the part of Christopher Columbus), migrated to North America across the Bering Strait around 12,000 years ago. From Alaska all the way down to Tierra del Fuego in South America, these people settled and formed a variety of diverse tribal cultures. Just a few of the North American tribes were: Apaches; Navaho; Innuit (or Eskimo); Cherokee; Mohawk; Hopi; and Comanche, just to name a few. Each tribe had a unique set of legends and religious observations, but one common trait existed in each of these cultures-all felt an intense spiritual connection to the earth and the animals that they encountered on a daily basis. To the Native Americans all things, both living and inanimate, deserved respect, for the Great Spirit itself existed in each and every manifestation of the mother earth. Because of their unconditional love for the land, some tribes refrained from making any decision at all without first considering how this decision might effect the welfare of their people seven generations hence. Too bad our society didn't learn the importance of this perspective. The wild cats that Native Americans would most likely have been familiar with were, Bobcats; Canadian Lynx; and, of course, the formidable Puma (also known as the Mountain Lion). Like all our chapters, the names selected here are by no means intended to comprehensively represent all of the many indigenous people of North America. You'll find a modest variety of tribes, but the real concern, as always, is all in the name.

AKNA (AHK-nah; Female): If your cat is an especially attentive mother, always keeping a watchful gaze of concern on her restless kittens, you might want to consider this name.To the Eskimos, Akna was the goddess of motherhood (in fact her name means, "Mother.")

COYOTE (k'eye-OH-tee; Male): All right, fat chance anyone is going to name their cat after another creature altogether, especially a dog-like creature like Coyote. But Coyote was such an important Being to several Native American tribes that to omit him would be foolish. Coyote was one of those tricksters that are found in several world mythologies, in fact very close in temperament and deed to Loki of the Norse pantheon. Most cultures consider the trickster a troublesome, even dangerous Being. Even so the trickster was highly respected, especially Coyote of the Native Americans. After all, it was the job of the trickster to cause confusion, havoc and trouble, but only as a reminder to humanity that we're not so smart and in control as we'd like to think we are. I doubt anyone will use this name for their cat, but watch out. Just because the name Coyote might not be appropriate for your cat doesn't mean he hasn't got a bit of the trickster just waiting inside for the right time to raise hell.

HINO (HIH-noh; Male): You might say that the Iroquois sky god and thunder spirit Hino was sort of a parallel to the Greek god of the heavens, Zeus. Whereas Zeus had an inexhaustible supply of thunderbolts to toss about whenever he got upset, Hino had fire arrows which he used for much the same reason. There were differences. Zeus was pretty amoral, which I suppose is one of the perks you get when you're king of the gods. Hino on the other hand wasn't the all powerful leader of the spirits. Far from being morally ambiguous, Hino was an indefatigable champion of good. Many an evil adversary experienced first hand the destructive force behind those lethal fire arrows. Guardian of humankind, Hino might be an appropriate name for a virtuous feline with a fearless protective streak.

MANITOU (MAN-ih-too; Male or Female): To the Algonquin tribes all things possessed a sacred entity, actually an individual parcel of the one sacred entity. Rivers, rocks, trees, deer, people, rain, wind, you name it-everything inherently contained deep within its form a unique spirit all its own. This spirit was called a Manitou. The Algonquin believed that through sincere effort, one could know the Manitou of any thing they wished. This, however, was not an easy task and for the most part this chore was left to the shaman. This is one of those "one-name-fits-all" entries, suitable for just about any cat, but is especially apt for a cat whose very nature exemplifies that universal quality of "catness."

MICHABO (MICH-ah-boh; Male) Remember that horrible old song called "Muskrat Love?" If not, you should count yourself among the truly fortunate. Those of us cursed with a twisted recollection of this pop monstrosity must forever contend with mental images of amorous muskrats "doing what comes naturally." One really has to wonder. I mean, what kind of disturbed screwball would even entertain the notion of writing a Top-40 song about two muskrats screwing? Which brings us to the Algonquin god, Michabo. This god's name means "Great Hare." To the Algonquin tribes, Michabo was the creator of all humanity. And how did he accomplish this prodigious feat? Why, by copulating with a muskrat of course. Michabo also created the earth (where else was he going to put the human/muskrat hybrids?), as well as water, fish, deer and just about everything else. Perhaps Michabo's most formidable power was his shape-shifting ability. He could turn himself into any animal at all, even cats I would imagine. So, should you have a cat with "a thing" for rodents (muskrats in particular) maybe it's really just Michabo out looking to sew a few more of his wild oats.

NAPI (NAH-pee; Male): Have you adopted an elderly cat? If so, this might be a good name to give him since it means "Old Man." To the Blackfoot tribe, Napi was the creator god. According to one of the Blackfoot myths, Napi formed the earth and from this earth he made a woman, complete with a son already born. The woman was absolutely delighted with this thing called existence and she questioned the god Napi as to whether this experience would go on forever or if it would all come to an end one day. This inquiry came as a surprise to Napi since he hadn't really considered the matter. Now just as curious as the woman, Napi decided upon a method of finding out the answer to this important question. The god would throw some dried buffalo dung into a river and if the dung floated, then human beings would eventually have to die. But this death would only last a period of four days. After the passage of four days the person would be born anew. However, if the dung sank, well then once you died, you'd stay dead. Napi carried out his plan and was happy to discover that the buffalo dung floated. You would think that this would please the woman, but she remained doubtful. She insisted that the whole experiment be tried again but this time SHE wanted to be the one to toss an object of her own choosing into the river. Napi let her have her way since he created her with an independent nature. The woman picked a large rock and announced that if it floated then people would never have to die, not even for four days. If it sank, then dead was dead.Needless to say the rock sank.

NOKOMIS (noh-KOH-miss; Female): Just as Napi might be a good name for an elderly male cat, the name Nokomis (meaning "Grandmother") might suit an elderly female cat. Nokomis was the Algonquin earth goddess. It was her responsibility to feed all the world's living things, even plants. According to the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nokomis fell to earth and gave birth to a girl named Wenonah, who grew to become the wife of Hiawatha.

ONATHA (oh-NAH-tha; Female): Many of the details found in the myths featuring this Iroquois wheat goddess are remarkably similar to incidents in the story of the Greek goddess Persephone. First, both were agricultural deities and daughters of the primary mother goddess (Demeter for the Greeks; Eithinoha for the Iroquois.) Secondly, both were abducted by the Underworld god (actually more like a demon according to the Iroquois stories; Hades, of course, in the Greek tales.) The Iroquois legends tell us that after the abduction of Onatha, the sun searched nonstop for the missing goddess, radiating warmth upon the land for weeks on end. This sun induced heat wave managed to free Onatha from her Underworld prison by drawing her up through the earth, whereupon she rose from the ground like the wheat she represented. To me it's obvious that this name should go to one of those felines of the sunbathing variety.

PAH (PAH; Male): Why do I like this name? Because it's so simple? No. Is it because it has a sort of affectionate ring to it? Hardly. I like this name because it reminds me of a comic book sound effect of disgust. You know, like in Superman when Perry White, Editor of 'The Daily Planet', looses his temper because of some screw-up by Jimmy or Lois, causing him to slam the door to his office while muttering something like "Pah!" under his breath. In reality Pah was the moon god of the Pawnee tribes. If you like this name for your cat, you might also consider a few other similar names like "Zap", "Pow", "Gasp", and "F'tang."

PUKKEENEGAK (poo-KEE-neh-gack; Female): If your cat happens to have exceptionally colorful fur bearing fastidiously symmetrical patterns, consider the Eskimo goddess Pukkeenegak. Besides being the goddess of childbirth, Pukkeenegak was also the goddess of clothing. She was always portrayed in fine garments and was something of a fashion icon, not unlike the super models of today. The elaborate designs tattooed on her face only added to her striking beauty, much like the cosmetics that highlight the faces of stylish women. The loveliness of Pukkeenegak was a refreshing change of pace for the Eskimo culture. After all, these people were rough and tough hunters struggling to survive in a harsh environment. This left little time for pure beauty for beauty's sake. But Pukkeenegak wasn't so removed from daily Eskimo life that she ignored local customs. She lived as the Eskimos did, worked and played as they did, even ate as they did. If you can imagine Cindy Crawford gobbling down handfuls of walrus blubber, you've got a pretty good idea of how Pukkeenegak was thought of (well, perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration). Good name for a beautiful and photogenic cat.

SEDNA (SEED-nah; Female): Does your cat hold a grudge? If so, consider the story of this extremely complex goddess. She too was of the Eskimo pantheon, but whereas Pukkeenegak was beautiful, Sedna was repulsive. She was the goddess of the ocean and all its creatures. Everyone was frightened of Sedna, due in large part to her hideous appearence-she was said to be a horrible one-eyed giant. But there was a time when Sedna was a beautiful young woman. Men from far off villages would come to court her, but she was a proud and haughty maiden and would have nothing to do with her gentleman callers. That is, until the fateful day a strange but extremely handsome young hunter came into the village. Sedna found herself quite attracted to this odd hunter. Blinded by his good looks, Sedna let her guard down and allowed the young man's words of love convince her that they should be married. The wedding took place just as soon as possible after which Sedna was promptly whisked far away by her new husband. That night Sedna learned an appalling truth. The beautiful young man she married wasn't a man at all. He was in fact a Kokksaut, that is, a supernatural Being, in this case a terrible bird-spirit. He had been quite taken by Sedna's charms so he donned the appearance of a human male that he might woo her. Now Sedna's father eventually found out about this deception and he became filled with anger, not only for the trick played upon his daughter but for the shame this set of circumstances brought upon his good name. After much difficulty the father managed to recover Sedna from the clutches of her otherworldly husband. Using a small stalwart kayak, father and daughter tried desperately to escape, but such an attempt was futile against the supernatural powers of the spirit world. The frightful bird-spirit, demonic in his tendencies, transformed back into his true form, let out a bloodcurdling scream and soon caught up to the poor little kayak bearing Sedna and her father. Flapping his giant black wings furiously, the bird-spirit brought forth dark storm clouds. The sea itself churned and seethed. So terrified was Sedna's father at the horrible sight of this wicked spirit and of the mighty storm that blackened the sky. Massive waves battered the kayak and both Sedna and her father feared for their lives. But Sedna's father was a cowardly and selfish man. He reasoned that his daughter was the cause of this disgraceful situation, and as such he decided that if anyone was going to die it would be Sedna. Taking the hysterical young girl in his arms, Sedna's father threw her into the tumultuous sea hoping that this sacrifice might placate the awful spirit. The piteous Sedna struggled hopelessly in the boiling ocean, and in a last ditch effort to save herself from the dire fate that awaited her, she found the strength to cling tightly to the side of the kayak. The storm grew more and more fierce, filling Sedna's father with absolute terror. Crazed by fear, he grabbed his walrus-ivory ax and began hacking away at his daughters hands. Chopping away her fingers, then her knuckles, then the remaining portions of her hands, the chunks of bloody flesh sank into the ocean. Sedna too was devoured by the waters. Then suddenly the storm ceased, followed by an unnatural calm. As the fragments of her severed hands submerged into the watery depths they transmogrified into whales, seals, walruses and the various other creatures of the deep. Stunned out of his senses but relieved, Sedna's father made his way back to the village where he began to feel pretty good about himself, his deed and his restored honor. That night he slept a deep and unnatural sleep. You see, Sedna had become the goddess of the ocean and she placed a spell upon her one time father. And what a dark vindictive goddess she had become. Sedna caused the sea to flood her father's village as he slept, washing away all traces of the settlement and pulling him down into her vast watery kingdom. Needless to say, their reunion was not a pleasant one. It was this sort of bitterness that changed her appearance from youthful beauty to gargantuan monstrosity. Deep in her underwater realm named Adliden she ruled with cruelty. Here in Adliden the souls of the dead were taken to pay for their sins, which is one reason why everyone was so terrified of Sedna. Nevertheless, Eskimo shamans came to her without fear and requested her assistance in hunting seals and other sea creatures that the tribes were so dependent upon for survival. What better name for a mean and vengeful cat?

SHAKURU (shah-KOO-roo; Male): Often when a cat enthusiast becomes involved with a new trend or fad, they will somehow find a way to include their pampered kitties in the hoopla as well. Consider cat jewelry; designer clothing for cats; psychoanalytic therapy for cats; cat astrology, and so on ad nauseam. I suppose there are countless numbers of grateful felines relieved that the piercing trend hasn't extended its influence to these inclusive cat owners. Personally, I think that's a good thing. Could the world long endure leather clad S/M kitties with silver hoops fastened to their ears and through their noses? Actually there are statues crafted by the ancient Egyptians depicting bejeweled cats with earrings, so obviously the notion isn't as far fetched as one may think. Still, I think it best to leave bodily adornments and self mutilation to we humans. This brings us to the practices of the Plains Indians and the festival of Shakuru-mighty sun god of the Pawnee tribe. During this most important of all Pawnee festivals, young warriors (set on demonstrating their manhood) partook in the ceremonial Sun Dance. This famous ritual dance demanded bravery, strength, endurance, not to mention a strong stomach and a high tolerance to pain. What you would do (if you were a young Pawnee brave) is take a length of buffalo-hide rope and tie an end to one of the many towering poles that had been erected especially for the Sun Dance ceremony. At the other end of this hide rope you were supposed to secure pointy razor sharp dowels carved of wood, bone, or whatever else you could get your hands on that wouldn't break. Now the fun begins! As a Sun Dance participant you were expected to take this sharpened dowel and push it clean through the several layers of skin and muscle tissue covering the chest. Once this chore was accomplished the warrior was literally bound to his pole of choice by the buffalo-hide rope. But that was only the beginning. Now the actual "dance" part of the Sun Dance ritual came into play. Symbolically retracing the sun's circular movement, the warriors danced around the pole to the trance inducing rhythms of drums. As they danced they leaned the entirety of their weight against the ropes that penetrated their chest. This dance went on all day and (as far as the young warriors were concerened), only ended when the dowels at last tore through their flesh. Kind of makes a nose piercing look wimpy, doesn't it?

SPIDER WOMAN (Female): Now hear me out on this one. I know that most people are going to think you came by this name as a result of feminizing the moniker of a well known Marvel Comics super hero. But Spider Woman is actually the Navaho spirit of magic and charms. She was powerful, mysterious, and wise. No, she didn't possess "Spidey Sense" as a result of being bitten by a radioactive arachnid. Maybe it's just me, but I think this is a great name for a cat. Of course, if we're going to start making comic book references, we better just mention Cat Woman right here and now and get it over with. So, Spider Woman or Cat Woman? I guess in the end it all comes down to maintaining one's childhood loyalties, i.e., Marvel comics or DC? TIRAWA (TEER-ah-wah; Male): Tirawa was the Pawnee god of the sky and all creation; the number one honcho, like Zeus to the ancient Greeks. One day Tirawa informed his beautiful goddess wife Atira that he intended to make a creature called man. He even decided upon the environment he would create in which this new creature might live. He described a circular world surrounded at the edges by deep blue skies. By his will, these humans and their world came to be. Taking his wife to the peak of the highest of all mountains Tirawa showed her the vast expanse of the earth and, true to his word, the land was indeed surrounded at the edges by a mighty blue firmament. Atop this mountain Tirawa announced to the rest of the gods that he created a being called man and that he would require their assistance in order to maintain this world. To sweeten the deal he promised them all a portion of his own powers so they could carry out the various new duties that were going to be required. So Shakuru was designated sun god; Pah became god of the moon; to the west Tirawa placed the evening star and gave her the title "Mother of All Things", while in the east the morning star was positioned as a guardian soldier. To the north Tirawa set the Pole star and in the south he put the Death Star. When these and several other stars were finally placed in their proper locations, the great Tirawa commanded these brilliant stars to sing the songs of creation. This they did and as their songs resonated through the universe, the oceans and hills, the mountains and grasslands, the trees, flowers, rivers, and clouds took shape. And then Shakuru the sun and Pah the moon made love producing a son. Likewise did the evening and morning star mate, bringing into the world a daughter as a result of this union. Then Tirawa instructed the force known as lightening to decorate the night sky with constellations (all of which were kept in a sack filled with tempestuous storms). As lightening went about this task, a sneaky and mischievous star called "Coyote-Deceiver" ordered Wolf to take possession of this sack. Wolf did as he was told and per his instructions he opened the sack releasing at once all the powerful storms in one fell swoop. This was a big, big mistake which even Wwolf realized, but unfortunately it was too late. For you see, Death itself escaped from that sack of storms and swiftly fled into the new world taking Wolf as his first victim. From that point on death has lurked silently among all aspects of the world. Anyway, Tirawa sent the son and daughter of the sun and moon and the morning and evening stars down to the earth and taught them many things. For example, they learned how to make fire; how to work the land for nourishment; they learned the art of language; the importance of rituals and religion; they were taught to honor life and of their unity with all things. As the days passed, month after month, year after year, many of the other stars that filled the heavens brought forth children and sent them to earth. These people, born of the stars, formed a tribe with the very first son and daughter respected as their chiefs. This tribe, filled with wisdom originating right from the ultimate source, were, of course, the Pawnee. Sure, a nice story and all, but Tirawa as a cat name? Well why not? The name fits a lordly cat, a creative cat, a dominant cat; hell, it fits most ANY cat...

TOOTEGA (too-TAY-gah; Female): I don't want to sound disrespectful but the Eskimo goddess Tootega (depicted as a little old lady who lived in a tiny stone domicile situated on a remote island) and Jesus Christ had at least ONE thing in common: They both felt right at home walking around on water. But whereas Jesus only displayed this extraordinary talent once that we know of, Tootega took to this practice whenever she pleased. No canoes, kayaks, or boats of any kind for this old gal-no siree. I suspect that, like cats, she hated getting wet. Got a cat that absolutely despises water? (And who doesn't.) Then here's a name tailor made. So just what was it that Tootega was goddess of? Good grief, she walked on water for crying-out-loud! That's not enough? What more do you people want?

No comments: