The Cherokee Indian Unseen World

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The unseen world, often referenced in Native religions, is a combination of idea, faith, and essentially, the belief that a world outside of our own consists of something almost unexplainable.

The unseen world, often referenced in native religions, is a combination of ideas, faith, and essentially, the belief that a world outside of our own consists of something almost unexplainable. 

The Upper World of the Cherokee

The upper world of the Cherokee is pure and predictable, consistent and stable. Consequently the upper world sets boundaries and limits. Creatures in the upper world are larger but have many of the same features. There were individuals who acted as chiefs and councilors, yet they had the ability to magically transform things, people, and animals.

Among the occupants of the Cherokee upper world was a sun god, who could be either male or female, and was the dispenser of day and night and life and death. The moon was called the sun’s brother, and sometimes our grandparent. Fire was the earthly representative of the sun, and often came in the form of an old woman. Fire could be fed, as we’ve seen in many Native religions, but urinating on fire could cause sickness. Like the sun, it was appropriate to feed a piece of each meal to her. The sun, and fire was addressed as “ancient red” and ancient white.”

Water and fire were diabolically opposed to one another, so it was up to man to keep them apart. The Cherokee also had a river deity called the long man, a giant, whose murmurs could only be interpreted by a priest. The eagle was associated with the upper world and peace and perfect order.

The upper world also has four quadrants including Red man, Kanati, representing thunder, who was good and only killed white men. They called him “white “ so as not to offend him. There was also red bear, red sparrow and hawk in the East and black man and black bear in the West.

What are the characteristics of the Cherokee lower world?

The Cherokee underworld consisted of ghosts, monsters, cannibals and man killer witches. Monsters would deviously come up through rivers, lakes, waterfalls and mountain caves. The underworld represented the opposite of everything the upper world represented. This included the seasons, which were opposite seasons in the underworld. Unlike the upper world that was pure and stable, the underworld was disorderly, dynamic, inverted, fertile, futuristic and filled with madness. Water, associated with the underworld, was opposed to fire, which was associated with the upper world.

The origin story of the Cherokee involves an upper and lower world?

There’s also a middle world, like our own earth, a detour per se to each world. The creatures of the upper world came down to the middle world, however they grew small and started degenerating. The creatures in the upper world witnessed this change and decided to leave, but the creatures that had already degenerated couldn’t leave the middle world. Thus they “became the creatures we have in this world now”. The less ideal, degenerated creatures evolved into the forms the Cherokee were familiar with.


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