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Who are the Ant People?
All across the American Southwest we find petroglyphs (rock carvings) or
pictographs (rock paintings) depicting entities with spindly bodies, large
eyes, and bulbous heads that sometimes project antennae. These eerie figures
are frequently shown in a “prayer stance,” their elbows and knees positioned
at right angles, similar to the ant’s bent legs.
Ancestral Hopi petroglyph located in northern Arizona
Do these rock drawings represent a race of
Ant People? Do they actually
record ancient encounters between humans and an alien species? Are the
creatures truly “alien,” like those of the 1947 UFO crash near
Mexico? Or are they some cryptobiological anomaly native to our planet? If
not, then are they merely psychological manifestations-- creations of the
collective unconscious? Let’s examine the evidence.
“Those that are of Orion” is the apparent meaning of the term
Genesis 6:4 of the New English Bible. Masonic researchers
Robert Lomas claim that the root Aramaic word
nephîliâ is one name for
the constellation. The Nephilim, of course, are familiar to readers of
Zecharia Sitchin. This prolific scholar translates the Sumerian root
(not the American football league!) as “...those who were cast down upon the
Earth!” The King James version calls them “giants in the earth.” Just before
the great flood “the sons of the gods,” interpreted as either fallen angels
or the Watchers, mated with “the daughters of men” to produce these giants.
It may be more than a coincidence that Nephilim sounds much like the Hebrew
word nemâlâh, which means ant. In this case, morphology rather than size is
the primary factor.
If the Nephilim are indeed “of Orion,” the
Ant People could actually be
those who were cast down from the skies, perhaps from Orion itself.
Because the constellation rises due east, one might think that the name
Orion was derived from the word orient. In actuality, it is formed by
dropping the initial "m" in the Indo-European stem morui. Astoundingly, this
word means ant. Perhaps the constellation was so named because its narrow,
anthropomorphic waist suggests the insect.
The Hopi term for Orion is Hotòmqam, which literally means either “to string
up” (as beads on a string) or “trey.” This could refer to the three stars of
Orion’s belt but also to the tripartite form of the ant:
head, thorax, and
abdomen. These shiny, bead-like sections of the ant’s body may have their
celestial counterpart in what the Hopi consider the most important
constellation in the heavens. The appearance of Orion through the overhead
hatchways of Hopi kivas (semi-subterranean prayer chambers) still
synchronizes many annual sacred ceremonies.
Kiva at San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico
Ancient Hopi kivas were round like this but later became rectangular
This spot is thought by
some to be Sipapu, entrance to the Hopi Underworld. It is a sacred
place of pilgrimage for the Hopi, at the bottom of the Canyon of the
Little Colorado above its junction with the Colorado River.
When Orion dominates winter skies, the ants are deep in their own “kivas”
(hills). Although this seems contradictory, the zenith and the nadir are
actually one shamanistic axis comprising the Underworld.
Two separate realms
exist in the Hopi cosmology: the surface of the earth as the site of human
activity and a combined sky/underground region as the home of the spirits,
in particular the kachinas. (For the Hopi a
kachina is a masked spirit that
can assume the form of any physical object, phenomenon, or living being.)
Both the ant mound with its dark tunnels and the kiva with its
hole in the floor symbolically linking it to the Underworld) embody the
nether plane. This paradoxically arches upward across the skies to serve as
home to the star spirits.
The Hopi god of death, the earth, and the Underworld is named
the ants, he possess knowledge of both the surface of the earth and the
chthonic regions. He wears a mask with large open eye holes and a large
His huge, bald head resembles a summer squash, and his forehead
bulges out in a ridge. His feet are long as a forearm, and his body is gray.
This color is essential, since his name comes from the Hopi word
meaning gray. In fact, this description from Hopi mythology is uncomfortably
close to contemporary images of extraterrestrial Greys.
Masau’u is also the terrestrial equivalent of
Orion, whose name, as we said,
means ant. The Hopi believe that distances are insignificant to
because he can traverse the entire earth before morning comes. What better
way to express Orion’s movement from the eastern to the western horizon
during the night?
The Hopi word for ant is anu. In the same language
naki means friend, prayer
feathers, food offerings, or sand -- a nexus of concepts pertaining to this
insect that sometimes flies. A combination of the two words (anu-naki, or
“ant friend”) may be related to Sitchin’s
The Babylonian sky god
was also named Anu. One Sumerian cylinder seal from around 2250 B.C. shows
the pantheon of primary deities wearing peaked hats. The Hopi sky god
Sotuknang, closely associated with the earth god
Masau’u, also wears a
pointed headdress. Like their Middle Eastern counterparts, these American
Indian divinities were present at the creation of the universe and continued
to be instrumental in the culture’s development.
Figure adapted from an illustration by Petra Roeckerath, Stories of Maasaw,
A Hopi God,
Ekkehart Malotki and Michael Lomatuway'ma,
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1987
Anu (or Danu) was also the appellation of the
Celtic mother goddess and
patroness of the dead. In addition, Anu was another name for the Egyptian
city of Heliopolis, where the benben stone of meteoric iron was kept.
Furthermore, the Egyptian word anu meant not only products, revenues, or
something brought in but also gifts, tributes, and offerings. This refers to
both the ants’ ability to store provisions and the reverence given to the
Ant People. In any case, their influence is global.
Ants played a crucial role in the survival of the ancient
Hopi. The Ant
People’s great kiva provided sanctuary during both the destruction of the
First World, or First Era, by fire (volcanism or asteroids) and the
World by ice (glaciers). [For a possible location of this, see Jack Andrews' “Lost City of the Dead in the Grand Canyon.”] Only the virtuous
members of the tribe following a certain cloud by day and a certain star by
night were able to find the sky god Sotuknang. He elected to save these
migrating “chosen people” by leading them to the Ant People for protection.
Ants are portrayed as generous and industrious, offering the
when supplies ran short and teaching them the merits of food storage. In
fact, ants have such thin waists today, the legend goes, because they once
deprived themselves of provisions. In another account of the earliest eras,
the Hopi themselves are described as ants when they were “way underneath.”
The word underneath refers to both the Ant Kiva and the
and Second Worlds.
The previous Third World destroyed by a flood is also
conceptualized as being below ground, whereas our present Fourth World is on
the Earth’s surface.
According to a rather brutal Hopi myth of “Why the Ants Are So Thin,” many
ants were living east of Toko’navi, or Navaho Mountain near the Arizona/Utah
border. These insects are described not in the allegorical manner of an
Aesop fable but in an almost humanoid way. During a Kachina Society
initiation, two ants had dressed up as fierce, giant Hu kachinas and flogged
the ant children so hard that they were almost cut through in the middle of
their bodies, hence their slenderness. Is this another reference to “giants
in the earth”?
Ants are also associated with either warfare or hunting. The
that both traits are related to Orion in particular and stars in general.
This tribe also connects black ants with witchcraft.
The Hopi word
(similar to the mountain’s name) literally means flesh ant, the large dark
red ant with a painful sting. On the other hand, the Red Ant Society of the
Zuni, a tribe that lives near the Hopi, is associated with healing.
In Mesoamerica the Maya, who share many cultural traits with the
legends of ant-like men building stone cities and roads during the First
Creation (World). These peculiar beings possessed magical powers and could
summon stones into proper architectural positions by just whistling.
Archaeologist J. Eric S. Thompson writes:
“Zayamuincob can be translated as
‘the twisted men’ or ‘the disjointed men,’ suggesting a connection with
‘hunchback.’ The word may also be connected with zay, ‘ant,’ for there is
also a Yucatec [Yucatan Maya] tradition of an ancient race called
uincob, ‘red ant men.’ They were industrious like the ants which take out
the red earth and make straight roads through the forest.”
The reference to hunchback reminds us of
Koko Pilau (Kokopelli), the
humpback flute player. This is the ubiquitous, insect-like fertility figure
of Southwest petroglyphs.
Each February the Hopi perform the Bean Dance inside their
kivas. The fires
are kept continuously ablaze, turning these underground structures into
superb hot houses. This ritual may commemorate a time when the Ant People
taught the Hopi how to sprout beans inside caverns in order to survive. The
Hu kachinas previously mentioned are an integral part of this ceremony to
initiate children into the Kachina Society.
Petroglyph at Cottonwood Creek Ruin
near Homolovi State Park, Arizona
Ants resonate deep in our psyches as archetypal denizens of dual worlds: the
earth plane and the Underworld. Both linguistic and mythological evidence
indicates, however, that the image of ant-like anthropoids is more than a
psychological reaction to the tiny Formicidae of the natural world. Why else
would the mass media consistently give ETs the characteristics of bugs?
Unlike the vague phantasms of dreams, Ant People appear terrifyingly real.
If these creepy creatures are an extinct or isolated terrestrial species
like Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster, we have yet to uncover any fossil or
skeletal evidence of their past existence.
Were the Ant People (nemâlâh) actually the progeny (called
women who mated with rebel angels? Did an emissary from Orion, whose name
means ant, come to Arizona in order to become Masau’u, the ant-like god of
the Hopi? Were the Ant People willing to save the virtuous humans from two
different natural cataclysms because the former saw in the latter the
genetic reflection of themselves? Were the kiva-like caves in which the
found refuge really the anthills of ancient star beings?
These questions may
in the end be unanswerable. Nevertheless, the implications keep us