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The frosty cold from the breath of this winter god is eased by the return of the Corn Maidens in spring, who bear the scents of flowers and warm mists.


A wren is a small and compact bird, with a flat head and fairly long, curved beak. It is also short-winged, often keeping its longish tail either cocked above the line of the body or slightly drooped. Wrens are primarily insect eaters, but they will also eat some fruits and seeds. House Wrens build nests of twigs and grass. They lay approximately 6 to 7 white eggs. The incubation time is 12 to 15 days. Wrens will lay 2 broods in the nesting season (typically April to July). The male House Wren builds several nests and the female chooses which nest she prefers. The other nests may be used by the male to raise a second brood with another female and will remain in place to discourage other male wrens from nesting in the same territory.


In traditional Zuni society, a council of select priests governs over each village, with specific duties assigned to each council member. A pekwin is a secular authority figure who holds the responsibility to oversee the welfare of the people and preserve the peace of the community by intervening in disputes and advising community members on issues of moral conduct. The pekwin, who has a most central role as a mediator between social, political, and religious life in the pueblo, is carefully selected by the other priests. He must be exceptionally versed in Zuni history and mythology, must be able to coordinate traditional ceremonial dances, and must exhibit noble, just, and kind characteristics. If the people disapprove of him, they can appeal to the council, and another man would be appointed to the position.

Corn Maidens

The Corn Maidens of Zuni personify the bounty of life giving corn that grows in six colors. The Seven maidens made corn seeds from rubbing the flesh off their body. Early on, insulted by the lascivious gyrations of the male dancers and flute players, the Corn Maidens fled to the land of everlasting summer. It is their breath that brings the rain and warm breezes of summer to the lands of winter. In the legend, the Corn Maidens return to dance when the corn is a foot high. In some legends the sisters perish in a fire that scorches the earth and in others, they become the seven stars of the Big Dipper. In Zuni mythology, the Corn Maidens are often dancing and the Zuni Molawai ritual dramatizes the loss and recovery of the Corn Maidens on the first day of the December Shalaka ceremony.

The Yellow Corn Maiden symbolizes the north; the Blue Corn Maiden represents the west; Red Corn Maiden represents the south; White Corn Maiden is of the east; the speckled Corn Maiden stands for the zenith; and the Black Corn Maiden for the nadir. Each maiden accompanied the Shiwani, or rain priests, to their homes in the respective directions.


In the Zuni origin myth A’wonawilona is the living sky, the most supreme force whose genderless, fluid essence gave life to the earth. As the myth goes, in the beginning A’wonawilona exists in a world of nothingness and, by expansion of thought first creates mist and then transforms into the sun. As the mists form they gathered to become clouds and the resulting precipitation covered the emerging earth in water. It is from this water and flesh as the embodiment of the sun that A’wonawilona created the other deities, Father Sky and Mother Earth. It is Father Sky and Mother Earth that created human beings. Along with the divine pair Shiwani and Shiwonokia, these five deities have existed from the beginning of time.

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