Avanyu, Spirit of the Rivers


Author looking at a petroglyph site near the river. Avanyu is represented with and without horns in between images of the Cloud people.


I dreamed about you last night:

An antidote for metal spikes

rising out of unhallowed ground,

bloody wooden spears that impale,

leaving lifeless bodies

in their wake.


I need you.


Gift me with the knowledge

I need to deal with

Double moons,

Reversing, dirty rivers

(behind my back)

spiked metals

and baby blue.


I need you.


Spears of hatred

wound and fester

create illness,


disharmony in

spirit, soul, and body.


I need you.


Black Serpent

you are the manifestation of

the Spirit of Life

your belly blesses the Earth as

you slither on hallowed ground.


Our desert needs you.


Mother of the Flowing Waters,

You are the Source of Life,

Under your care

seeds swell and burst

red willows are tinted green

Cactus sprout buds in winter –


Our desert needs you.


Your image is pecked in stone

on all the surrounding mesas.

Horned, you spiral skyward

calling the Cloud People

To gift our Earth with rain…

Won’t you sing to them again?


Our desert needs you.


Red Willow River is under siege

from drought

Her stones are no longer hidden

under sea green water.

The desert floors cracks

beneath my feet.


Our desert needs you.


Come to us,

Spirit of the Living Waters

Mother of the Fertile Earth

Come to us

so that we may be healed

of wounds brought on

by those who have forgotten

that You are the Source of Life.


Working Notes:


Avanyu is an ancient Pueblo Tewa deity who is the Guardian of the Waters. He is usually represented as a horned or plumed serpent with curves that suggest flowing water or sometimes as the zig zag of summer lightening. Avanyu appears on the walls of canyons and in caves high above the rivers of New Mexico.


Avanyu is probably related to the Feathered Serpent of Meso America.


I also believe that the Amazonian River Serpent, Yakumama is another manifestation of this most powerful deity. Yakumama according to Amazonian Indigenous mythology brought the people down to earth from the Milky Way leaving them with food, plant medicine, and a way to contact her through visioning so that the People might thrive. Sachamama is the corresponding Serpent Guardian of the Amazonian Forest, the sister of Yakumama.


I personally believe that Avanyu has a serpent counterpart. Last spring I was struck by the number of snakes (both poisonous and non- poisonous) that I encountered in the spring. Those snakes carried a “charge” (energy spike) for me that indicated that the Water Serpent has a desert counterpart.


In most cultures the Serpent represents the Life Force.


In this time of Earth destruction and political insanity we would do well to honor the Spirit of Life while we still can.