Spirit Woman Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ephanie, a woman of unspecified age and circumstance, is a Native American living in San Francisco. One morning, she is awakened by the presence of a shadowy form, cloaked in a swirl of vapor, at the foot of her bed. The form slowly assumes the shape of a woman, small, with “something of bird, a hawk perhaps, about her.” Her eyes have a strange gleam, and her clothes and appearance are those of a traditional southwestern Pueblo Indian woman. Her hair is cut traditionally, falling in a straight line from crown to jaw, forming perfect square corners on either side, with straight bangs cut at the eyebrows, in the ancient arrangement that signifies the arms of the galaxy, “the Spider.” She wears a finely woven shawl, embroidered with spider symbols, and buckskin leggings wrapped around her calves. The woman announces that she has come to tell a story, one that Ephanie has long wanted to hear.

Knowing that this is no mortal visitor but a spirit woman, Ephanie raises herself in her bed and performs the traditional ritual of greeting, the sign of the sunrise, by taking a pinch of corn pollen between her fingers and thumb and opening them as though to free the pollen.

The spirit woman begins to speak, chanting the creation story of the Keres people. Old Spider Woman—known also as Sussistinaku, Thinking Woman, because she creates by thinking things into existence—is the creator of the world. First she creates two sisters to help her, and she structures her creation in the pattern she brings with her from the center of the galaxy, a pattern of corners, turnings, and multidimensional arrangings that “is the sign and the order of the power that informs this life and leads back to Shipap,” the home of Iyatiku (Corn Woman), the goddess who governs the spiritual affairs of the Keres people.

Next, the spirit woman explains the relationships and natures of the Keres deities. After Sussistinaku created her two sisters, Uretsete and Naotsete, Uretsete was known as the father, Utset, because Naotsete had become pregnant and had a child....

(The entire section is 847 words.)