Begochiddy


Some say that Bekotsidi made all the animals whose creation is not otherwise accounted for in the myths. Others say that he and the Sun made the animals together. Others, again, limit his creation work to the larger game animals and the modern domestic animals." (Matthews, Navajo Legends, Pg. 226.) On the other hand, a modern student of Navajo folklore, Stanley A. Fishler, records that in the beginning of time, when the Navajo were lining in the first of four worlds, the gods assembled in hogans and "talked of making the various animals." he informs us that the hogans where the gods assembled are said to have been located atop Crown Point (Gobernador) and Reversible (Huerfano) Mountain ­ mountains located in the present state of New Mexico. In a version of a Navajo creation myth he collected in 1950 from a Navajo medicine man named Frank Goldtooth, four gods called Begochiddy (Bekotsidi) of black, blue, yellow, and white colors are said to have created the game animals at this time. Goldtooth told Fishler that "the four Begos (Begochiddys) took various colored clays and earths and molded them into the shapes of the various animals. After each was formed, one of the Begos would say to the figure, 'You will be a ___________________,'" Telling the animal its name. Goldtooth explained that all the animals except the domestic animals "were created in this way," adding that "while the Begos made all the game, the other gods were making the sheep, horses, goats..." Since Goldtooth placed the creation of the game and domestic animals in his version, he does not include Sun among the gods who molded the horses for their own use in the other world. However, according to Goldtooth, one of the four Begochiddy deities ­ the one named Black Begochiddy ­ did show the unnamed gods creating horses how to bring life to their creations. Goldtooth said: "They were having a hard time making the animals come alive so Black Begochiddy went over and said, 'What is the matter here? Why don't you make the animals come alive?' He them said, 'Bego' and they became alive and stood up. After Bego did this, all the gods could make the animals come alive themselves." In Goldtooth's version of the Navajo creation myth, Black Begochiddy does an amusing thing. He finds so attractive the jackasses created by the gods who formed the domestic animals that he selects one of them for his own special mount. Perhaps the reason he fancied the jackass was that the appearance of the animal is said to have been rather different from what it is today - "very big with large hoofs, a long mane and tail." Nevertheless, his preference for the jackass made all of the other animals jealous. To restore peace and make the other animals happy with him again, the deity proposed that the animals race around the horizon, and Goldtooth said they consented to do so when Black Begochiddy said that he would give the winner a "special name." Secretly, Black Begochiddy favored the two jackasses running in the race, so he took particular pains to groom them before they ran. In grooming them to be winners, he changed their appearance considerably, which accounts for their present form. Goldtooth explained that he laid rainbow people under the feet of the two jackasses . . . . . then made their feet very narrow and said, "I have to do something about you. This will bother you while you run the race." So he pulled out part of their tails and left a little one. Then he began to take the hair from the mane. Each time he did this he said, "Some of this hair will be in your way, so I will tear it off." The jackasses' ears were still long, but the race was ready to start.

 

 

When the race started, it seemed for a while that Black Begochiddy had made a mistake in favoring the jackasses. They ignored the race until it was halfway finished, meandering around, "smelling the ground," while the other animals raced with all their might. But during the last lap, the jackasses got busy, made a record-breaking dash for the finish line, and came through as victors, "running with their noses in the air." Goldtooth related that Black Begochiddy rejoiced because he favorites won, but he confided that they won because the deity had put "rainbow spectrum underneath their feet." The late Gladys Reichard, longtime friend and interpreter of the Navajo, described be'yotcidi (the spelling she preferred) as the youngest son of Sun, "spoiled by his father, who put him in control of many things, such as game and domesticated animals." But she said the young god's job was to create antelope, mountain sheep, elk, cows, donkeys, jack-rabbits, cottontails, prairie dogs, and woodrats. Horses, mules, goats, sheep, and deer were left to Father Sun. Pgs. 17, 18

12. Washington Matthews, "Navajo Myths, Prayers and Songs," ed. P. E. Goddard, in The University of California Publications in American Archeology and Ethnology, V, No. 2 (Berkeley, 1907-1910), pp. 58-59. Hatali Natloi added that he thought Bekotsidi dwelt either in the sky or in Changing Woman's house in the western ocean (p. 59). In another myth collected by Matthews, Bekotsidi is identified as "the god who carries the moon." Matthews observes that in other instances Klehanoai is said to be the moonbearer, explaining that perhaps the "two names are for one character." See Matthews, Navaho Legends, p. 226, n. 78.

19. Gladys A. Reichard, Navajo Religion: A Study of Symbolism, Vol. II, Bollingen Series, XVIII (New York, 1950), pp. 387, 388-89 ­ hereafter cited as Navaho Religion. See also pp. 386-87 where Reichard throws more light on the many shadows surrounding the role of be'yotcidi in Navajo mythology. She notes that the translation of his name from Navajo means "One-who-grabs-breasts." He was conceived after Sun who had "intercourse with everything in the world" was "put away off so that monsters could not be conceived again." She explains that when Sun rose to go into exile, he "touched a flower, which became pregnant and gave birth to be'yotcidi." On the other hand, Fishler's informant told him that of the four Begochiddys deities of different colors, it was the yellow one who "went around holding woman's breasts," and that "they named him Begochiddy because of this." He does not explain why the three deities of other colors were also called Begochiddy. See Fishler, In the Beginning, p. 11.

The ubiquitous Navajo god Bekotsidi, as I earlier noted, is at times identified as the son of Sun and at other times as the moon deity. Another tradition places him as identical with the God of white men. Called Begochiddy of Bego Yellow by Fishler's Navajo informant, he is described as being a blue-eyed, yellow-haired god. In a Navajo myth collected by Matthews, it is recorded that he is "the god who carries the moon," and that "he is very old, and dwells in a long row of stone houses." Pg. 45

Others said that Begochiddy was the deity who had set up a "basic law" governing animal reproduction, and that he was the one who was supposed to carry out "the rules" concerning the number of horses and other animals. Pg. 165

They Sang for Horses: The Impact of the Horse on Navajo and Apache Folklore; 1966, La Verne Harrell Clark.

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.

When the Black Thunder people came to Tseh-yahteh-ih (Standing Rock), a place about nineteen miles east of Naschiddy, the leader of the Black Thunder people looked back at the long line of his people, and far off in the distance he saw a boy throwing dust and dirt high into the air. Black Thunder went on again and then a little later stopped once more and looked back, and again saw the boy throwing dust and dirt into the air. This happened four times and the leaders wondered what it meant. Finally they stopped and talked it over and at last, becoming very curious, they decided to send someone back to see what the boy was doing, so Black Thunder told some people to run back and find out, and when they arrived at the place where the boy had last been seen, they could find nothing there but a yellow worm about three inches long. The people all crowded together to look at it, and as nothing else was to be seen there they said it must be the boy. The leader told one of the men to pick up the worm, and as he reached down the worm leaped high in the air, as high as the men standing about. They were frightened at this and stepped back, and the worm jumped again and again until it had jumped four times, and at the fourth jump it turned into a man, and quantities of bees poured out of his mouth and lighted on all the people, getting into their hair, eyes, and ears, and stinging and frightening them badly. They begged the man to stop sending these bees to torment them, but he did nothing but laugh and laugh, and sent forth more bees in swarms until the people were in great agony. At last they gave the man a Yellow Kehtahn and he drew in his breath and sucked all the bees back into his mouth. This was the first time that any of the people had seen bees, and there were all kinds, honeybees, hornets, and bumblebees, and every kind of bee, big and little. Then they saw that the man was Begochiddy, and were greatly amazed. The Kehtahn which they gave him was filled with tobacco and the end stuffed with sacred pollen, and this has been Begochiddy's Kehtahn ever since. Begochiddy told the people that he would go with them and watch over them, and the people were glad and went on their way, when suddenly Begochiddy disappeared from their midst and they did not see him go, so they knew that he had gone up into the sky. Pgs. 15-16

As the individual god he is, as a rule, androgynous because uniting all factors of the Power. Thus Begochiddy, the Navajo Polaris, to show his feminine component, has yellow hair and blue eyes, both, in the Navajo system, female colors. His name means both "the Great God," and "the love which a mother bears her child." Pg. 120

The exit of Begochiddy is a forecast of the redemption of Niltsa-eshki; for Begochiddy, like his specification Niltsa-eshki, has come down from his seat on high to animate the earth fertility activities. By creating the first spring storm he has initiated the growing season. He is therefore free to return, and that he has effectively stimulated the inner-earth vitality is made manifest in the farewell scene by two episodes: a little dust-whirlwind sweeps up the dirt four times, and earth-wind ranks with thunder as an expression of activity in the inner-earth Power; and a yellow worm leaps four times into the air; but a worm is a symbol of the chthonic force, of considerable importance in China, and since it is yellow it is also directly related to Begochiddy, the yellow-haired, whose miniature pole emblem likewise is yellow

Begochiddy releases bees from his mouth as a demonstration of his cosmic place, for bees, which occur elsewhere in Navajo mythology, are almost certainly the host of stars, and Begochiddy, as Polaris, is Lord of Hosts.

Haile Chant and Water Chant; 1946, Mary C. Wheelwright.

Begochiddy said: "Possibly some day this world will be destroyed by flood, fire or cyclone, and then I will come again. The Rainbow will give you the signs, and if the Rainbow lasts all day long, that will mean that something dreadful is going to happen. Two other bad signs are a Rainbow around the Sun, which means rain or sandstorm, and if Giss-dil-yessi does not grow." Pg. 125

Navajo Creation Myth, The Story of the Emergence; 1942, Mary C. Wheelwright.

The only god of whom the legends speak as a creator is Bekotsidi, who created the domestic animals: sheep, asses, horses, swine, goats, fowls-and Mexicans! It is typical of the Navajo sense of humor to ascribe the creation of the Mexicans (white people) to a god who created domestic animals. Of course, they used to capture them for slaves and rear them along with domestic animals. This should not be construed as an insult to the Mexicans or to us, for animals are often deified in Navajo legends. Since the Navajo sings a prayer to Bekotsidi when he needs or wants some domestic animals, in earlier times he probably appealed to the same god for assistance when he was anxious to capture a slave. Bekotsidi is the rich man's god. Obviously he could not be a deity of the Navajo who has no sheep or goats!

When white men describe their Christian God as the Creator, the Navajos assume they are referring to Bekotsidi. This particular god never appears in Navajo sand-paintings, nor is he personified by the medicine men in their dances. He is described as an old man who carries the moon (therefore sometimes called Klehanoai or Moon-bearer) and lives in a long row of stone houses. The long row of stone houses is an indirect reference to the Pueblos or Mexicans, who lived in villages and who had domestic animals long before the Navajos. The primitive Navajo must have reasoned that Bekotsidi was partial to the pueblo or white people who had all the domestic animals. And he further must have deduced that the same god who created the beasts also created the people who possessed these luxuries which he himself did not have. Perhaps that is why Bekotsidi does not figure in Navajo sand-paintings and why there is no mask for him. Pg. 209

Navajos, Gods, Tom-toms; By S.H. Babington, 1950.

be'yotcidi, 'One-who-grabs-breasts,' (P), is a creature of versatile and conflicting characteristics. He is described as the son of Sun, who had 'intercourse with everything in the world.' That is the reason so many monsters were born. According to another version, Sun was put away off so the monsters could not be conceived again, but as the sun rose it touched a flower, which became pregnant and gave birth to be'yotcidi. He was Sun's youngest son, spoiled by his father, who put him in control of many things, such as game and domesticated animals. He was a transvestite and the first pottery maker.

He could move without being seen, and change into different forms at will-into rainbow, wind, sand, water, or anything else. He got his name because he would make himself invisible, then sneak up on young girls to touch their breasts as he shouted "be'go be'go." He also annoyed men who were hunting-just as a hunter was ready to shoot, he would sneak up, grab the man's testicles, and shout. He would behave similarly when a man and woman were engaged in intercourse

The description agrees with tla'h's when he said that the details of be'yotcidi's appearance were too 'dirty' to tell the interpreter, his niece, and me. He described be'yotcidi as a blond or red-haired god with blue eyes, dressed like a woman. He was in charge of insects, called them at will, and even sometimes appeared as a worm or insect.

When the Holy Ones, after great difficulty, had prevailed upon Dark Thunder to agree to the restoration of Rainboy and the two war parties had carefully prepared themselves, all the gods who were invited came except be'yotcidi. They started off, each party on a rainbow controlled by Talking God and xa'ctce'oyan, and moved toward each other. As Dark Thunder's party passed a placed called Strung-out-under-rocks, they saw a boy lying in the dust. He got up and mockingly threw dust upon the gods. Stopping, they wondered who it was. Then they moved on and looked back and the same thing was repeated. Talking God told them to look ahead and they saw an insect with a yellow head lying on the ground. Talking God said, "Here, fellows, is a worm," whereupon they all gathered round to inspect it. (tla'h here omitted the part too vulgar to tell us.)

"Pick it up! Kill it! Don't let it make fun of us!" the gods said. Just as they were about to pick it up, it turned into a man and ran off to the east. The party surrounded him and trapped him at the east, south, west, and north, When they caught him, hornets swarmed from his mouth, June bugs from his ears, and black mud beetles from his nose. Hornets flew into the hair of the gods, whom the insects bit unmercifully. They begged Talking God to do something. Then be'yotcidi drew all the pests back into his mouth and rolled about, laughing as had the decoy boy. He told them what prayersticks, prayers, and songs he wanted. The gods agreed to furnish these, and he said, "When Earth People have sores around the mouth, in the ears, nose, and on the body, I shall be the one to blame."

Then be'yotcidi joined them, but he kept stopping them with his capers; he jumped up and down or lay down in their path. Successively he changed himself into a grasshopper, yo'sitsini, yo'cigici', tc'oc ditlohi, and a cornbeetle. As soon as they would stop he would get up and accompany them as a man.

Matthews recounts several episodes in which be'yotcidi appears:

The defeated Gambler, when shot to the sky by the victor (a son of Sun), came to the home of be'yotcidi, the god who carried the moon. He was very old and dwelt in a long row of stone houses. He took pity on Gambler and made domestic animals for him-sheep, asses, horses, swine, goats, and fowl. He gave him bayeta and other valuable fabrics. He made a new people, the Mexicans, for Gambler to rule over and sent him back to earth to rule far away from his old home, that is, in Mexico. His people were builders and increased in population. They built towns along the Rio Grande somewhat north of Santa Fe, their northernmost limit. When they ceased building, Gambler returned to Mexico and became the god of the Mexicans.

One time be'yotcidi and Sun created the animals: be'yotcidi made antelope, mountain sheep, cow, elk, donkey, jack rabbit, cottontail, prairie dog, woodrat, and many others; Sun created horse, sheep, goat, deer, and mule. Matthews mentions 'identical details' corresponding with Hill's

When a Navaho wants a fine horse, he may sing a set of songs to be'yotcidi and describe the kind of horse he wants; he then expects to get it. Stephen notes that The Twins went to 'their father,' be'yotcidi, who gave them horses, identifying him with Sun, an interpretation the description of blondness makes reasonable--he lived high overhead and created the sky with the stars, the earth, and some of its people

tla'h told me that be'yotcidi had created everything, that he had another name, One-who-made-everything

In the Wheelwright version of tla'h's creation myth, be'yotcidi is all but identified with the Christian God, an interpretation hardly justified by the above

The following is abstracted from Wheelwright:

be'yotcidi, whose mother was Sunray and whose father was Sunbeam, was in charge of creation in the lower worlds, in the first of which he created antlike insects, in the second, wasplike insects, as well as a great many other things. In the third world he decreed the separation of the sexes, the final dominance of the men, the punishment of burning in the lower world for 'badness.' First Man ascended to heaven and told the people he would be back in two days. Upon his return he reported on heaven and decreed eternal punishment in hell or happiness in heaven for the people. He created a son, who was short, white-skinned, and had black eyes and black hair. Eventually the god and his son went back to heaven to stay.

According to one of Hill's informants, be'yotcidi made the animals, but their control was in the hands of Talking God and Black God; according to another informant, be'yotcidi was said to have been more important than the two in control; he was the god of game who taught men the game songs; be'yotcidi taught the stalking ceremony

Matthews suggests that Moon is identified with be'yotcidi. There is an association between First Man, Sun, be'yotcidi, and possibly Moon (Ch. 5; Matthews 1897, pp. 86-7, 226; 1902, p. 31; 1907, pp. 58-60; Stephen ms.; Reichard 1944a, pp. 16-25; 1944d, p.47; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 39-41, 47-9, 69; Hill 1938, pp.99, 123; cp. Wyman 1947).

Navajo Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950