Weekly Deity: Manabozho


Manabozho is a Native American god of the Algonquin tribe.  His main areas of influence include tricks, creation, food, and transformation.  He also appears in the stories of other tribes, such as the Menonmini, Anishinabe, and Ojibway tribes, among others.

Attributes

Manabozho takes the form of a rabbit and is also known as the Great Hare.  He is able to take a human form and also transform himself into other shapes, such as a tree.  Freqently while in the form of a human he carries a medicine bag.

Mythology

His younger brother is the wolfish Chibiabos and his grandmother is Nokomos (grandmother Earth).  He is a transformer figure, representative of various life forces, a creator, and a trickster.  In the Algonquin tribes, he is the main trickster figure.

There are a few myths of Manabozho from the Menonmini tribe available online here.  Search for Manabozho and three tales will come up: “Manabozho plays lacrosse,” “Manabozho’s little brother,” and “Trickster Tales.”  In the tales, Manabozho seems like a cruel being–he is rash and kills people and animals out of spite or for sport.  He also does not seem to be the brightest trickster of the bunch.  In these tales, his tricks are cruel, such as telling the birds to shut their eyes and sing and the first to open their eyes will forever have red eyes–except while their eyes are closed he kills the birds one by one in order to eat them all.

However, the Menonmini version deviates rather sharply from this version, taken from themystica.com:

“He has become a culture hero as well as a trickster because he tries to help people by teaching them the right way to live. He acquired his trickster aspect through the descriptions of his monster slayings. In various versions his conception was miraculous: his father, probably the North wind, lifted up a young girl’s skirt when she happened to be in the wrong, or right, place at the right time. Manabozho has the trickster’s appetites which allow him to play roles in creation that give creatures certain characteristics, for example, the featherless head of the Buzzard.”

Light and Dark Sides

In one tribe’s vrsion, Manabozho is a cruel trickster who doesn’t also appear to be very bright.  In another tribe’s version, Manabozho is a bit lighter-hearted, playing tricks that are relatively harmless and a participant in creation, as stated by the quote above.  It’s hard to tell which is the better, or truer, picture of Manabozho, but I suppose it would also depend on which tribe one belongs to.  I will say that on his Light side, Manabozho does assist with the creation and order of the world, and with transformation in general.  Transformation can be either good or bad, depending on your view, so that doesn’t help in determining Manabozho’s Light or Dark alignment.  It’s probably best to say instead that Manabozho is a neautral god who works on both sides of the field, both Light and Dark, and leave it at that.

Sources: Encyclopedia Mythica, Godchecker, and Native-Languages.org.

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