South Carolina Indians – Cherokee Legend of the Universe

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Provided by the Cherokee Tribal Travel & Promotion Office

Cherokee, NC – Legends abound in the Cherokee culture and the existence of the universe has its place in the inventory of stories handed down from generation to generation. Forefathers of the present day Cherokee believed the universe was made up of three separate worlds: the Upper World, the Lower World, and This World.

This World, a round island resting on the surface of the waters, was suspended from the sky by four cords attached to the island at the four cardinal points of the compass. Each direction of This World was identified by its own color and hovered somewhere between the perfect order and predictability of the Upper World and the total disorder and instability of the Lower World.

East was associated with the color red because it was the direction of the sun, the greatest deity of all. Red was also the color of sacred fire, believed to be directly connected with the sun, with blood and therefore with life. Red was also the color of success.

North was the direction of cold so its color was blue. It represented trouble and defeat.

South was the direction of warmth and its color, white, was associated with peace and happiness.

West was the moon segment. It provided no warmth and unlike the sun was not a giver of life. Black was the color assigned to the West and it stood for the region of the souls of the dead and for death itself.

Mankind's goal, the Cherokee believed, was to find some halfway path or balance between the Upper World and the Lower World while living in This World.


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