Moth Way


The Mothway origin story differs considerably from the usual pattern of Navajo ceremonial myths. There is no single hero who gains knowledge and power through his exploits. And punishment from transgression, usually emanating from supernatural sources, is here a self-destructive act representing the internal sanction of guilt resulting from incest. The story relates how the Butterfly People are led by a bisexual god, Begochidi, who was born at Riverward Knoll, the place where plants and butterflies originated and where the Sun fertilized both the male and female plants. Born of the Sun and flowers, Begochidi, in his turn fertilizes the male and female Butterflies so that they never need to marry aliens. After Begochidi leaves for another country where there is game, the Butterfly People decide it is better to commit incest than to marry outsiders. This, however, makes them go wild and, like moths, rush into some fires that had been built nearby. Later, when the healing ceremony is performed, they were "out of their minds," staggering about any old way. Coyote alone had medicines for cases of incest, and these were used to cure the supernatural siblings, Dawn Boy and Dawn Girl, who had emulated the butterflies' behavior and had also become sick. Pgs. 46-47


Hand Trembling, Frenzy Witchcraft, and Moth Madness, A Study of Navajo Seizure Disorders; 1987, Jerrold E. Levy, Raymond Neutra, Dennis Parker.