Saturday, April 5, 2014

Heng, God of Typos

Q: I found a reference to an Iroquois Storm God named Heng. Can you please tell me which Iroquois tribe this god came from because I cannot find anything else about him anywhere.

A: We're pretty sure this is a typographical error. The thunder god is named Hinon in Iroquois mythology (pronounced similar to hee-noan or hee-noon, with a half-pronounced "n" sound as in French.) This name is spelled many different ways, partially because of dialect differences and partially because all the Iroquois languages were traditionally unwritten: Hino, Hinu, Hinun, Heno, etc. In some orthographies, particularly those used by linguists, the character "ǫ" is used for the nasal vowel at the end. Most likely, somebody at some point misread "Henǫ" as "Heng," or even just mistakenly printed a "g" instead of an "o" (this kind of error happens all the time in OCR texts converted from old anthopology books.) It's definitely not pronounced Heng in any of the Iroquoian languages.

Tribes whose traditional mythology included Hinon, in any of his spelling variants, include the Mohawk, Wyandot/Huron, Seneca, Cayuga, and Tuscarora.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
The Iroquois tribes
Native American gods