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Native American Legends: Skeleton Man (Masaw)

Name: Skeleton Man
Tribal affiliation: Hopi
Hopi name: Maasawu (Masau'u, Maasawi, Masawu, Maasaw, Masaaw, Masauwu, Masaw, Masao or Mosau'u), pronounced maw-sow-uh
Type: Lord of the Dead, culture hero, trickster

Skeleton Man is Lord of the Dead in Hopi mythology, but is often depicted as a benign and even humorous figure. In the Hopi creation epic Skeleton Man is a culture hero who taught the Hopis the arts of agriculture as well as warning them about the dangers of the world. In other legends, he plays the role of a very earthy trickster who chases women and makes bumbling mistakes. These funny and scandalous stories make Skeleton Man into a more endearing, accessible figure. Although his aspects can be terrifying, Skeleton Man is generally considered a great friend of humanity who can be trusted to take care of Hopi people in the afterlife.

Skeleton Man Stories

Másaw, the Caretaker:
    Legend about the Hopi people's first encounter with Masaw (Skeleton Man.)

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Recommended Books of Skeleton Man Stories
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Stories of Maasaw, a Hopi God:
    Good collection of Maasaw legends, put together by two Hopi authors.
American Indian Trickster Tales:
    Compilation of more than a hundred Skeleton Man and other trickster stories from many different tribes.
Use discretion sharing these with kids as some of the stories contain adult humor.

Additional Resources

 Hopi legends
 Hopi language
 Arizona languages
 Southwestern tribes
 Southwest art
 Uto-Aztecan languages

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Back to Native American Indian Myths
Learn more about the Hopi Indians.

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