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Native American Caterpillar Mythology

Caterpillars do not play a prominent role in the Native American folklore of most tribes. Like other small animals and insects, they sometimes appear in legends as symbols of meekness and humility. In the Navajo culture, caterpillars have more mythological importance. Tobacco Horn Worm (a sphinx moth caterpillar) helps the people by driving away water monsters in the Navajo emergence myth, then reappears later to cure the poisoned culture heroes. Although modern tobacco farmers consider this type of caterpillar a pest, Navajo farmers believed they had a more symbiotic relationship, and the hornworm caterpillar was valued for its powers over tobacco medicine.

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Caterpillars are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures. Tribes with Caterpillar Clans include the Mohave.

Native American Caterpillar Gods and Spirits

Cocoon-Man (Achumawi)
Tobacco Horn Worm (Navajo)

Native American Legends About Caterpillars

*Caterpillar and the Making of Daylight:
    Achumawi story about Caterpillar saving the people from Darkness in a gambling game.
*Pine-Marten Marries the Bead Sisters:
    Achumawi story about Cocoon-Man and the wives of Pine Marten.

Recommended Books of Caterpillar Stories from Native American Myth and Legend
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Insect Mythology:
    Interesting book on the meaning of caterpillars and other insects in world mythology, including Native North America and Mesoamerica.
Native American Animal Stories:
    Great collection of American Indian tales about animals, told by Abenaki storyteller Joseph Bruchac.

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