Since in many tribes the preparation of corn was a vital aspect of a young woman's training--and of the survival of a tribe (see, for example, Corn Grinding Song in the Poetry section, Part III)-- young women were trained in the arts of grinding and preparing corn. Among the Zuni, the following legend became an integral part of female education processes and was included in late-eighteenth-century ceremonies celebrating the process.
Bibliography: Cushing; Niethammer.
Once, many generations ago, there lived a beautiful goddess of the ocean-- the "Woman of the White Shells," younger sister of the Moon. This goddess was the special patroness of beauty and grace and she imparted an attractiveness almost equaling her own to those into whose hearts she deigned to breathe. So that she would not be defiled, she lived in a cave.
One day when some maidens were passing near the mountain, suddenly the beautiful goddess appeared to them, sitting high up in the rocks, dressed in sparkling white cotton garments. She beckoned to the maidens to approach her, reassuring them with her friendly smile.
"Sit ye down by my side," she said to them, "and I will teach you the arts of women." Then with a sharp-edged fragment of jasper, she chipped out a mealing stone of lava. Next she fashioned another stone of finer rock, long enough to reach entirely across the mealing stone. Taking white shells and white kernels of corn, the goddess ground them together between the stones, demonstrating to her pupils a grace of movement before unknown to women. Now, leaning ever so lightly on her grinding stone and glancing slyly under her waving side-locks, she talked to the watching maidens, teaching them how to tease their lovers; then dashing the hair from her eyes, she turned back to