Earth (Kunika, "Grandmother")

by Richard L. Dieterle

Grandmother Earth is the sister of the host of evil spirits that endanger man, although she herself is not hostile to humanity. In this respect she is very similar to the Greek goddess Gaia ("Earth"), but differs from Gaia by being portrayed as an old woman. She is also the grandmother of Hare, the greatest of the soteriological spirits.1 Her husband appears to have been Bear.2 The Medicine Rite says that tobacco first grew out of Grandmother Earth's left breast at the same time that the first maize plant grew out of her right breast.3

Earth, as one of the great spirits, is given white buckskin offerings decorated with an emblem [inset left] consisting of numerous parallel, closely packed, vertical lines that form a long shaded horizontal band.4 In the warbundle feasts, both she and the Sun are offered herbs and maple sugar.5

Ordinarily her blessings are said to be for life, but she can also bestow war powers.6

Links: Hare, The Sons of Earthmaker, Maize, Sun, Tobacco, Grasshoppers, Mice, Cougars, Wildcats (Bobcats).

Stories: featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?).


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 238, 392-393; Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 93-114.

2 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 161 nt. 27 (see pp. 99-100).

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 302-311.

4 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 220, plate 47.

5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 390.

6 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 411.