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Native American Chili Pepper Mythology

The chili pepper is one of several plants with a name that comes from a Native American language-- "chili" comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec Indian) name for the plant, chilli (also spelled and pronounced chili or xilli in some regions.) The chili pepper's alternate name, cayenne, also comes from a Native American name: the Tupi word kyynha.

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Chili peppers were primarily used as a food seasoning in Native North American tribes, although they were used in some rituals by the Hopi and Pueblo tribes of the Southwest. In Mexican Indian tribes, chili peppers played a much more spiritually important role. Many Maya tribes ascribed healing and protective powers to chili peppers, and even today some Mexican mothers are in the habit of feeding their children spicy food when they fall ill.

Native American Chili Pepper Gods and Spirits

Tsil Kachina (Hopi)

Native American Legends About Chili Peppers

How Ahaiyutaa and Matsailema stole the Thunderstone:
    Zuni legend about the origin of chili peppers.

Recommended Books of Chili Pepper Stories from Native American Myth and Legend

The Whole Chile Pepper Book:
    Collection of folklore, history, and recipes about chili peppers, including many from indigenous Latin America.
Native American Food Plants:
    Comprehensive book on the names and traditional uses of food plants throughout Native North America.



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