Sunday, March 27, 2011

E-Yah, the Hungry Spirit

Today at the Detroit Institute of Arts we encountered E-yah, the spirit of gluttony. E-yah, an insatiably hungry spirit, appears as a tiny head on enormous wooden bowls like the two in the photos we took. These bowls were filled to the brim with food and offered up at feasts held by "an elite group of spiritual leaders of the Yankton Sioux nation in South Dakota." Ability to eat enormous quantities of food indicated a sign of spiritual power, according to the documentation (which you can see by clicking on the image).

I searched for more legends of this god and found a tale about a man on a journey who returned "looking like a specter. ... The poor fellow, delirious with hunger, fancied himself engaged in mortal combat with Eyah, the god of famine, who has a mouth extending from ear to ear. Wherever he goes there is famine, for he swallows all that he sees, even whole nations! The legend has it that Eyah fears nothing but the jingling of metal." From Old Indian Days by Charles Alexander Eastman.

A god of gluttony or famine who presides over feasts and swallows whole nations? Fascinating. Obviously the product of a very different set of experiences than that of us modern feast-or-diet humans.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I like eyah -- though I'd probably call her (?) Ohyeah!