The Zuni tribe of New Mexico honors many spirits, including the ocean spirit, Kolowisi. This great serpent lived in a sacred spring at the foot of a mountain. There was a village nearby called Home of the Eagles. It was a thriving community led by a chief who had a lovely daughter. Her only flaw was that she couldn’t stand to be dirty. She was so focused on staying clean that she insisted on having her own room, away from her family.
When she couldn’t stand feeling dirty any more, she would go to Kolowisi’s spring to wash her clothes and bathe. She did this so often that Kolowisi got tired of having his spring fouled with soap and silt. He thought of a way to punish her.
The next time the maiden returned to the spring, she found a small baby, all alone in the water. At once she felt a powerful attachment to the child. She took it with her when she returned home. She went straight to her room to care for it.
Imagine the surprise when an unmarried maiden turned up with a baby! The daughter explained everything to her father, and wouldn’t be parted with the child for any reason. The chief was very confused, for he knew no mother would just leave her baby in the middle of a spring. But he was also a wise man. He decided to wait and see what would happen.
That night, the maiden put the baby down to sleep. Then she lay down, too, after such an exciting day. Once she fell asleep, the baby began to transform. He stretched out his legs, and then his arms, longer and longer until they became the coils of a serpent. It was Kolowisi, serpent of the sea! All that night, he rested his giant head near hers as she slept. When the dawn came, he stole her away to the spring.
Although Kolowisi was irritated by having his spring disturbed, he had become fond of the maiden. He asked her to be his wife. And since the spring was her favorite place, she gladly agreed.