Native American Tales

The Origin of the Hopi Snake Dance

The Origin of the Hopi Snake DanceThe Origin of the Hopi Snake Dance


A young man once wondered whether or not the gods were real. He determined to set out for the lower village to find out. Along the way an actual god came to him and told him that he should trust in the gods and that his quest was not wise; he even changed into his godly form in front of the young man, but the young man was not deterred.

Another god soon showed himself to the young man, again telling him that he should trust in the gods and that his quest was not wise. The young man was again not deterred.

A third god soon showed himself to the young man, this time the third god told the young man that he should still trust in the gods, but that he should go no further than Snake Village. The snakes there would try to bite the young man. The god gave the young man an herb to use against the snakes.

The young man got to snake village and the snakes did try to bite him, but he used the herb and was even invited to the mayor’s house. The mayor had two beautiful daughters, one of which the young man slept with that night. Upon his departure, the mayor offered the young man one of his daughter’s for a wife; the young man chose the one he had slept with.

The journey home was very long, but the couple was given four colors of corn meal– white, blue, yellow, and red. The cornmeal was to be spread before the mountains and ever since the mountains have those colors. When they got to a mesa the wife said she would wait there. The journey had been very long, so long that the wife was pregnant and about to give birth. The young man was supposed to go to the village and come back, but no one was supposed to touch him.

When he got back to his village a girl he knew ran up and embraced him before he could say anything.

When he went back to the snake woman, she told him that she had to leave, but she gave birth to a baby, which could turn into a snake at will, like its mother, and then she left. The Hopi perform a snake dance in honor of the people descended from this child.


These four colors appear again and again in these tales, obviously they’re of great significance. I think the colors are found in nature, but stories were told to bolster their importance.


The guy found out that gods were real, maybe, and ended up with a wife out of it. They do say that God will bless you if you are faithful, fair enough. On the other hand, this guy lost his blessing, his wife, because he didn’t follow-through with what he was supposed to do. On the other hand, how was he supposed to prevent the actions of other people? Sometimes someone else does something, and it’s not necessarily bad, but it somehow messes you up. It happens and it’s life. It’s not really fair that this guy lost his snake wife because some woman came up and hugged him, but I don’t know, maybe “hug” was code word for something else, and in that case, maybe he deserved to lose his wife.

I think the best that can be taken from the story is that sometimes you get blessed by your faith and sometimes bad things will also happen to you.


I don’t think I’d marry a snake.

Weigh In

Do you think this guy deserved to lose his wife?

Do you think he was rewarded for believing or punished for doubting?


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