In this same
version Monster Slayer administers Witch Medicine to participants in the ceremony;
snake is naked and has no place to put the medicine so he puts it in his mouth
for safe keeping, and that is why snakes are poisonous. Pg. 160, Nightway
The parents offer their daughter to a stranger who knows hunting magic and helps
them find food; he shows them how to make buckskin clothing and to trade with
the Pueblos for pottery so they can boil their food. He is the son of Great Snake.
After a son is born the new husband departs of his home, telling his wife and
her family to follow him.
The family loses the trail and camps near a lake. For four days they play games
leaving the baby by the lake, and each day when they return for him they find
that he has been moved nearer the lake until finally he disappears. The messenger
fly tells them that great snake has taken the baby. The sister and older brother
are taken down into the lake by Talking God where they find fields of flowers
and birds. In response to offerings, the four winds pass a snake through four
hoops, splitting off the skin and revealing the lost baby grown to adult size.
The sister and brother learn medicines and various taboos - against eating intestines,
heart or lungs of deer, against sleeping in an arroyo, against lying with head
close to a tree - and return to earth.
On the hunt the older brother disregards the taboo against eating deer intestines
and becomes sick; his younger brother makes offerings to a wind who performs a
curing ceremony. Disregarding his brother's plea, the older brother then kills
and eats of a snake and is himself transformed into one. His sister's son with
help of supernaturals - wind monitor, messenger fly, Talking God, Fire God, Water
God - comes to his rescue and he is restored by being passed through three hoops.
Again the older brother disregards a food taboo and has to be cured by a wind
ceremony. Pg. 124, Big Star Way.
Chantway Myths, 1957; Katherine Spencer.
was called. They told him that because he could not travel the year round he
would be given a bag of medicine. and as he had no place to which he could tie
it, they put it in his mouth. First Man gave this to him and told him that should
the snake wish to hurt someone he should swell this poison and cast it out.
But for its possession he must pay by traveling but 6 months of the year. Pg.
Dine': Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians, 1956; Aileen O'Bryan.
been said of the quadrupeds in regard to worship, is true also of the reptiles.
The snake, with the exception of that listed as the track snake, each has its
prayerstick and corresponding song and ceremony, while the track snake figures
in the sand painting, which it encircles. The snake is ordinarily brushed aside,
and its venomous bite remedied with native herbs. The cure is applied with good
results to both man and animal, but is known only to a select few, who apply
the concoction without ceremonial ado. A dead snake is not looked upon, and
the skin shed by the snake is not touched. Pg. 155
Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navajo Language, 1929; The Franciscan Fathers.
came, as we know, and The People escaped through the reed, and they climbed
until they reached Hard Sky. When they got there, they tried to hold the water
down, but they were not able to do it. The water kept rising. Now the Snake
People worked hard to hold the water back they worked so hard, that they hugged
the water back until it froze off their arms and legs. This is why they have
remained armless and legless since that time. Pg. 89
In the Windway we see power of Great snake and his relationship to Lightning,
Thunder, and Wind. Medicinally, the myth and chant of the Windway help to cure
"snake infection," which includes a host of illnesses. Some of these
are heart and lung problems, stomach trouble, infection, body itching, and eye
trouble. Mythologically, however, the chant warns against the violation of the
ancient Navajo codes. As cited in the tale that follows, these include the eating
of an already dead, not freshly killed, animal; eating the intestines of that
animal; and ignoring the dominion of the Great Snake. The connection between
Great Snake and his representatives on earth, that is, all snakes, should be
noted, as well as the tie between Great Snake, Thunder, and lightning. Great
Snake's retributive power derives from being able to call forth Thunder and
Lightning. Symbolically, Snake, Lightning, and Arrow are closely related. In
sand paintings, the two-headed arrow looks like lightning. Snakes, which are
often designed as zigzags, or lightning like motifs, are sometimes shown with
lightning coming out of their mouths. Navajo mythology often depicts the snake
as a link between the worlds of Earth and Sky. The Feathered Serpent, part bird,
part snake, is perhaps one of the oldest archetypes of this ancient union. It
is interesting to note here, in the same context, that in Navajo sand paintings
the marking on Snake's back is the symbol for brotherhood, again emphasizing
the positive link between the worlds of earth and sky, man and reptile. Navajo
mythology shows the positive power of Snake, Thunder, lightning, and Wind. But
it also shows how, when human transgression is present, these forces work against
human will, and become detrimental. Pgs. 116, 117
Gift of the Gila Monster, Navajo Ceremonial Tales; 1993, Gerald Hausman
cross a snake's path unless you slide or shuffle your feet.
B. You'll have leg aches - other diseases - bad luck.
A. Don't eat in front of a snake.
B. When you get older, your throat will close.
A. Don't watch a snake swallow it's food.
B. Your neck will swell up.
A. Don't watch a water snake swallow.
B. You'll lose your voice.
A. Don't open your mouth when you see a snake.
B. He'll jump in.
A. Don't kill snakes or lizards.
B. It will make your heart small - dry up - you will get a crooked back.
A. Don't burn a snake.
B. You'll get sores - rash.
A. Don't kill a snake when it is raining.
B. Lightning will strike your house.
A. Don't put a snake in the open when dead.
B. The lighting will bring it back to life.
A. Don't put a dead snake on a rock.
B. You'll cause a thunderstorm - it will come back to life.
A. Don't kill a snake with your hand.
B. Your hand will swell up.
A. Don't go to the bathroom in front of a snake.
B. He will be jealous of your wife and turn her yellow.
A. Don't pick up things between two fingers.
B. Only snakes do that.
A. Don't watch snakes having intercourse.
B. You'll go blind.
A. Don't step on a snake.
B. Your legs will swell up - get crooked.
A. Don't draw in the sand with your fingers.
B. Snakes will come to it.
A. Don't talk about snakes.
B. They will come around.
A. Don't laugh at a snake.
B. It will bite you.
A. Don't make faces at a snake.
B. It will bite you some day.
A. Don't spit at a snake.
B. It will get after you.
A. Don't watch a snake crawl out of its skin.
B. You'll get sick or jump out of your skin.
A. Don't shoot an arrow at a snake.
B. It will go crooked - hit something else - be spoiled.
A. Don't run over a snake in your car.
B. You'll have a bad life.
A. Don't break snake eggs.
B. The snakes will get you.
A. Don't wear anything made out of snakeskin, especially boots or shoes.
B. You will get crippled.
A. Don't touch a snake.
B. It has nothing and it will make you have nothing.
A. Don't call a person a snake.
B. You'll be bitten by one.
A. Don't urinate on roads that cross each other.
B. That is the same as a snake trail
Taboos; Ernie Bulow, 1991.
Racer (tli'cka') (U) is said to be a slender snake, six feet long, red and blue
on the belly, striped on the back, that moves so fast that when it comes to
the edge of a cliff, it flies through space before reaching the ground. The
belief that it can actually soar explains why two snakes were able to lift Scavenger
after even the Eagles had failed. Sometimes it moves like a measuring worm.
Matthews had it identified as Bascanium flagelliforme (Reichard 1939, p.29,
PI. II; Matthews 1897, pp. 200, 250).
Snakes (tli'c) (U) dominate the Shooting and Wind chants. Accounts are conflicting.
Snake was one of the pets Changing Woman gave to her people, but it does not
seem to have done much for them. One account says, "Snake and porcupine
were of no use, but were a bother because they had to be carried along."
They were at last turned loose among the rocks.
One of Matthews' informants states that when the animals were people, the birds
and snakes built cliff dwellings, and he asks the rhetorical question, "If
they had not had wings, how could they have reached their houses?" He thus
explains why the snakes were able to help the Eagles and Hawks lift the boy
to the sky in the Bead Chant story.
Snake was a guard at the homes of Sun, Changing Woman, Thunder, and even of
Seeking Kicking Monster, Monster Slayer came to a mountain range where the one
called Chuskai rises. Beyond lay two huge snakes. He walked along the back of
one, then stepped from one to the other and went on. Since that time the two
snakes lie there, having been turned to stone.
Snake was forbidden in the Hail Chant (Ch. 11; Newcomb-Reichard, Ch. VI; Reichard
1939, pp. 30, 51; 1944d, p. 41; Kluckhohn-Wyman, Fig. 15, Pl. II, III; Matthews
1897 pp. 81, 119, 149, 153; 1887, p. 405; Goddard, p. 173).
Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950