Monsters

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Big Centipede (UP) is mentioned by Matthews in his subsidiary list of monsters that arose from the blood lost at the birth of the first monsters. Wheelwright describes the creatures as having the form of huge centipedes which, by humping themselves up in the middle, could leap a great distance to bite their victims. The name she gives seems to refer to the praying mantis. The largest could not penetrate the flint armor of Monster Slayer, who killed it and all the smaller ones except two which he bade never to harm anyone. He took the scalp of the largest for a trophy (Matthews 1897, p. 224, n. 71; Wheelwright 1942, p. 95).

Big-gray-monster (ye' 'i'tsoh Ibahi) (UP) was overcome by Coyote in the Endurance Chant. There is some reason to believe that a reference to 'gray gods' or 'gray monsters ' is to evils in general, gray being the color symbol for lack of control and the color feared by evils (Ch. 12, Gray).
At a place called Earth-upper-mountain-ridge lived those who devoured the chiefs of the Earth People. Today you can see burnt earth appearing among the rocks where the gray gods used to roast their victims.


In the War Ceremony myth, Monster Slayer encountered Big Gray gods and slew all with his club. Their faces were striped in all colors; they looked fearsome, like yellowjackets, gray bees, bumblebees, and spider ants (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Haile 1938b, p. 131; cp. Wheelwright 1942, p.99).


Big Monster (ye' 'i'tsoh) (UP), the prototype of all monsters, the most feared of all, came 'first' in all myths. He was in charge of all man-destroying monsters. Sun, who fathered him, wept when requested to kill him, for he loved the monster as an oldest son, though some say Big Monster's father was a rock. He was also called Big-monster-who-travels-alone (ye'i'tsoh la'i na'yai), and possibly Big Gray Monster is the same (Haile 1938b, pp.55, 79, 85, 106, 110-1; Matthews 1897, pp. 115-6, 231; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Endurance Chant ms.; cp. Wheelwright 1942, p.70).
The most consistently emphasized fact about this god is his huge size. He lived at a place called Hot Springs near Mt. Taylor. When The Twins saw him, his face was striped, he had a perfect agate disk on his head, a perfect turquoise around his neck, a perfect whiteshell over his shoulder, and he was armored in flint; the precious stones were later taken by Sun as a reward for helping to overcome the monster. Big Monster had a quiver like a burden basket. He stooped four times to drink from the lake and by the time he was finished it was nearly empty. The Twins were motionless with astonishment at the sight of him, but as he took the last drink, they advanced and he saw their reflection in the water. He raised his head and taunted them as he shot at them. However, they were standing on a rainbow which they could bend and, warned by Wind, they bent it in a direction opposite to that toward which the arrows were aimed so that they escaped four times. Just as the monster was about to draw his fifth bolt, he was hit on the head by lightning, the first shot fired by Sun. The Twins then took their turn and, at the fourth shot, he fell to the ground, unable to get up. The lightning arrows shattered his armor, which later became flint deposits useful to people (Matthews 1897, pp.115-6; cp. Haile 1938b, pp.110-1; Wheelwright 1942, pp.85-6).
In one version The Twins threw Big Monster's head to the east, where it became Cabezon Peak; in another, the lava from the coagulated blood is said to be a spur that runs out from Cabezon Peak [The Spanish often named places by translating Indian names (cabezon, Spanish 'head').

Coyote was Big Monster's messenger and seeker of Earth People. After Coyote's report of the existence of The Twins, Big Monster visited Changing Woman in her home. She laid her poker in the ashes when he asked her the first time where the boys were; the second time she picked it up and stirred the ashes with it; the third time she laid it by her side. The fourth time she hit him in the shins with the poker and scolded him, whereupon he bowed his head and wept, signifying that he was to be overcome. Then she chased him out.
This scene is exceedingly interesting in view of the fact that Changing Woman did not have power to look upon the trophies of the conquered monsters or listen to talk about them.
In the Endurance Chant myth, Coyote was required by Changing-bear-maiden to kill Big Monster (called Gray God in Matthews' version). Coyote pretended to have power to make the monster a fast runner, but betrayed him. Only half as tall as the tallest pine tree, he was not as formidable as the creature killed by Monster Slayer. Changing-bear-maiden, to whom Coyote brought the scalp, could not fail to recognize it because it, like all the gods at that time, had long yellow hair (Matthews 1897, pp. 91-3, 234; Haile 1938b, pp.111, 253, 38n; Newcomb-Reichard, p. 26).

Bony Bear (cac di'ts'ini) (UP) seems to be distinct from Tracking Bear and not merely a place name for what was left of the latter. It was a mountain in the form of a reclining bear with yawning jaws which devoured anyone who come near; Wind blew people into its mouth. When Monster Slayer felt Wind dragging him toward it, he forced his flint club between its jaws. An echo was heard, indicating that Bony Bear had been conquered (Haile 1938b, p. 127).

Burrowing Monster, Horned Monster (de'lye'd) (UP) originated as offspring of a daughter of an early chief who abused herself with a fuzzy elk antler. He was thrown into a gully and raised by the winds. Although the round misshapen monster lacked a head, he had four destructive horns with which he dug up the earth. In one version he is described as an enormous gopher. He watched all directions and was such a fast runner that no one could escape him.
Monster Slayer killed him with the aid of Gopher, who was rewarded with bits of the monster's hide. Other rodents were similarly rewarded; their skins were transformed into those they have today, and they in turn contributed properties for future ceremonial aid.
Monster Slayer took the heart for a trophy of the Male Shooting Chant, the horns for the War Ceremony. In both, the paunch full of blood became helpful in conquering Cliff Monster.
In the Wheelwright version, Burrowing Monster was guarded by twelve fierce antelope, which had to be overcome before Monster Slayer could get at the monster itself. The antelope were decoyed by burning torches and finally reduced to a state useful to mankind. The rodents helped just as in the other versions. The trophies taken by the hero were the scalp, neck and leg sinews, horns, and paunch filled with blood. Gopher is said to be a small imitation of Burrowing Monster (Haile 1938b, pp.77, 113, 116-8; Matthews 1897, pp.80, 117-8; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Wheelwright 1942, pp.70, 80, 89).

Cliff Monster, Throwing Monster (tse' nenaxa'li') (UP), conceived by the self-abuse of a chief's daughter with a feather quill, was thrown after birth into an alkali bed. He became the monster He-throws-against-the-rocks, named from his habit of catching people in his long sharp claws and throwing them to his children lower down among the rocks. He had a long beak and large eyes; something like feathers grew on his shoulders. The male caught his prey, carried it to the highest ledge of a rock like Shiprock, and threw it down to his wife, who wore beautiful earstrings. The children waited for their food below the mother.
Monster Slayer carried the paunch filled with Burrowing Monster's blood as bait for Cliff Monster. The male, seeing Monster Slayer traveling with it slung over his shoulder, swooped down and carried him high, then let him fall to the nest at the very top of the cliff. Monster Slayer was saved by a life feather given him by Spider Woman, and the blood flowing from the broken paunch made the monster think the boy had been killed. Monster Slayer found himself among the young, from whom he learned the parents' names. Monster Slayer killed the mother and father monsters, tossing them down to the children to eat, just as many Earth People had been treated.
The subjection of this monster as recounted in the myth of the Shooting Chant differs in that Monster Slayer did not use the blood bait, for he killed Kicking Monster before Cliff Monster. His helpers were Bear and Snake, and there are ritualistic differences.
The father monster was transformed into Shiprock, which is thought to look like a poised eagle. The young were transformed into the eagles and owls that today furnish many forms of ceremonial property. Monster Slayer took feathers for his trophies. After all these things had happened, he found himself high on a ledge with no way to get down. Bat Woman appeared, carried him down, and was rewarded with a basket of down feathers that subsequently became birds (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, pp.80, 119-21, 236, 138n; Haile 1938b, pp.117-23; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 70, 89-92).

Cold (xaka'z 'asdza') (B) lived at the top of a high mountain where there were no trees and the snow never melted. She was a spare old woman who sat on bare snow, without clothing, food, fire, or shelter. She shivered from head to foot; her teeth chattered; water streamed from her eyes. Snow buntings, her messengers to announce storms, played around her. Her argument for life was: "If you kill me, the weather will always be hot; the land will dry up; the springs will cease to flow; the people will perish. It will be better for your people if you let me live" (Matthews 1897, p. 130; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Crushing Rocks, Crushing Mountains (tse' 'axe' tsa, dzil na'kigoh 'axe' 'ndilgoh) (D) were said by Matthews' informant to be real people who could think like men, but were enemies of the pre-Navaho. They were innocent-looking rocks or mountains which, as soon as someone tried to walk between, clapped together and crushed the intruder.
The Twins fooled them by pretending to enter the passage between, then withdrawing four times. Eventually, by means of a ceremonial arrangement of their weapons-clubs, bows, and arrows-The Twins kept the rocks apart long enough to get through. In Matthews version, they got through with a formula Spider Woman had given them. In the Wheelwright version of creation, Monster Slayer wedged the horns of Burrowing Monster between the rocks, then built a fire under the rocks and, when they were hot, struck them with his club so that the pieces flew in all directions. The burning rock changed to all colors; eventually it became the rock now used in sandpainting (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, p.109; Haile 1938b, pp.97, 125; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 95-6).

Cutting Reeds (loka', loka' digij) (D) grew in a large patch on the way to Sun's house. They had large leaves as sharp as knives that would attack with a sizzling sound anyone who tried to pass through them. Black God once helped The Twins by burning the reeds. The few that survived became materials for prayersticks. In some versions The Twins were able to pass them by reciting Spider Woman's formula or with her gift of life feathers (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Wheelwright 1942, p. 96; Matthews 1897, p. 110; Haile 1938b, p. 99).

Eye Killers (bina' ye' ayani, bina' ye' 'ayani) (UP) were the result of the self-abuse of a chief's daughter with a sour cactus; when born, they were cast away instead of being properly raised by a family. Winds brought them up. They were later found at the place where they were born. The first Eye Killers were twins. Roundish and tapered at one end, they had no limbs or heads, but were provided with depressions somewhat like eyes. They could, however, kill by staring at their victims without winking. As they did so, their rudimentary eyes grew into the eyes of those they were killing. They lived in a conical hogan at the foot of Mt. Taylor. Monster Slayer found them as an old couple with many children. Lightning flashed from their eye sockets. People would try to light a fire to save themselves, but were destroyed before they succeeded. Monster Slayer made a fire with his fire drill and threw into it salt given him by Salt Woman. An explosion threw sparks and salt in every direction, and the monsters were obliged to shut their eyes. The hero was then able to hit them with his flint club and killed all except two, one of which became an elf owl that warns of an approaching enemy, and one a screechowl which makes things beautiful on earth.
According to the Shooting Chant myth, the parents became cacti. Monster Slayer cut off all tips wherever he found them (even though the creatures had no tips!) and made passes with them in all directions, and they became antelope (Haile
1938b, pp. 77, 123; Matthews 1897, pp. 81, 123, 236, 146n: Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; 1942, p. 94).

Hunger (ditcin) (B): people so called were found by Monster Slayer when he was looking for evils. Their leader was a big, fat man, though he had nothing more than the little brown cactus to eat. When Monster Slayer threatened him, he said, "If we die, people will not relish their food. They will never know the pleasure of cooking and eating nice things, and they will not enjoy hunting" (Matthews 1897, p.131; Sapir-Hoijer, p.129; Wheelwright 1942, p.99).

Kicking Monster (tse' daxodzi'ltali') (UP) lived where two bluffs stood one above the other. At the rim of a narrow passage he sat with his legs doubled up. At the entrance of the passage leading to this place there was fruit of three kinds of cactus to entice people into it. The monster lay on his back, innocently pulling out his whiskers, but as soon as anyone came near, he stretched out his huge leg and kicked the stranger down for his children far below to devour. When Monster Slayer pretended to come, the monster said, "Oh! I was just stretching to get the cramp out of my leg." After Monster Slayer had pretended to pass four times, he struck the monster between the eyes again and again but, although he seemed to be dead, the body did not fall down because the hair had grown fast between the rocks. As soon as the hair was cut, the body of the old male monster fell and was fought over by his children, who waited below to consume it.

Kicking Monster had a wife and children, who, when subdued, became owls. In one version Monster Slayer pursued the smallest, who was very fast, and found him a disgusting dirty boy. Monster Slayer decreed that the boy should be the ancestor of the Paiutes, who would henceforth live a despicable and precarious life. In still another version, one child became a water animal, perhaps Water Horse, and the other became Box Turtle.
The old man's hair became a trophy. In the myth of the War Ceremony, Monster Slayer did not take a trophy, but broadcast seeds of various plants so they would grow in the vicinity where Kicking Monster had been overcome (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, pp. 122-3; Haile 1938b, p. 125; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 92-3).

Louse (ya') (B) was one of the minor evils threatened by Monster Slayer. He begged off, saying, "If you kill me, people will be lonesome. They will have no one to keep them company." Louse was allowed to live (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Sapir-Hoijer, pp. 17, 129; Wheelwright 1942, p. 99).

Old Age (sa, sacdijo'l) (B) was an old woman who walked slowly with the aid of a cane; her back was bent, her hair white, her face deeply wrinkled. According to Sapir, Old-age-lying-in-a-heap was a man, so old he could not move out of his place. He was lying like an animal, curled up, seemingly helpless. However, he was holding his stone ax, which, like Frog's, would destroy anyone who took hold of it. When approached, he begged for life, saying, "If you kill me, everything will stand still. There will be no births; young men will not grow older; worthless old people will not die. It is right that people should grow old and die to make place for the young" (Matthews 1897, p.130; Sapir-Hoijer, pp. 128-31; cp. Wheelwright 1942, p. 99).

Poverty (te'e'i, te'e'i) (B) was represented by an old man and an old woman, clad in filthy, ragged garments and having no possessions. They argued with Monster Slayer, saying, "If we did not exist, people would always have to wear the same clothes and would never get anything new. If we live, things will wear out and people will make beautiful new garments; they will have possessions and look nice. Let us live to pull their old clothes to pieces for them."
Poverty will spit and throw dirt on a late riser (Matthews 1897, p. 131; Sapir-Hoijer, p. 131; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Wheelwright 1942, p.99; Hill 1938, p. 19).

Rock Swallows (UP): their destruction is one of Monster Slayer's lesser exploits. The Rock Swallows were so swift in attack that even the hero's lightning arrow could not touch them. At first his flint armor protected him. Meanwhile, the warning prayerstick, guarded at home by Child-of-the-water, began to burn. The younger Twin, accompanied by Cyclone, Hail, and Thunder, hastened to his brother on a white cloud. As the birds swarmed after Monster Slayer like giant bees, all except two were killed by the storm; the survivors became useful to man (Wheelwright 1942, p.97; cp. Matthews 1897, p.237, 153n).

Sleep (bil) (B) was found by Monster Slayer living with Hunger, Craving-for-meat, Poverty, Desire, and Want in the most sordid circumstances. To Monster Slayer's unmitigated shame, Sleep overcame him with a peaceful weapon, his finger (Ch. 5; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Wheelwright 1942, p.99).

Slipping Sands, Seething Sands (saita'd) (D) were great sand dunes which looked like a range of mountains. Just as a person climbing was about to reach the top, the sand would slide and bury him. Wind himself, according to the Shooting Chant myth, carried The Twins safely across this hazard. In Matthews' version, the sands rose, whirled, and boiled like water in a pot. The Twins passed them by reciting their names and a formula given them by Spider Woman. In the War Ceremony story, The Twins were protected by life feathers, gifts of Spider Woman (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, p. 110; Haile 1938b, pp. 97-9; cp. Oakes-Campbell, p. 38, PI. II).

Spreading Stream (totsozi, tseko'*) (*This word, the name given by Father Berard and Miss Wheelwright, refers to the bottom of the arroyo, hence, its contents or stream.) (D) was 'as narrow as the string with which the trader ties up sugar,' but whenever anyone tried to cross it, it spread so wide that the person was destroyed.

The Twins, arriving at Spreading Stream, found their rainbow too short to span it. Measuring Worm carried them across on his long rainbow; they rewarded him with a song (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; cp. Haile 1938b, p. 97; Wheelwright 1942, p. 96).


Stalking Antelope (UP) were among the monsters to be overcome, two females who killed women, two males who killed men. Monster Slayer found Coyote trying to subdue them with a torch made of yucca strips tied to his tail. Having lighted it, he drove the antelope toward Monster Slayer, who shot them with his lightning arrow. He plucked a hair from each tail, one from the region of the heart, one from the tip of the ear, and one from each nose. Monster Slayer threw the hairs to the ground, transforming them to deer-a buck, a doe, and two fawns (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 70, 88).

Syphilis People (tcatc'oc, tce'tc'oc dine'e') (UP) had pretty decoy women belonging to Deer Owner's family, who tempted Monster Slayer. When Monster Slayer and Deer Owner went hunting together, the deer changed to flies. Eventually, the old man turned the flies into deer. Sunbeam told Monster Slayer not to eat the meat lest he become a sorcerer. Monster Slayer accused the Syphilis People of being the vilest of venereal diseases. He was about to burn them up when they pleaded for their lives. They said that people who catch these diseases have no sense anyhow, that telling and teaching the people does no good, but for this reason, they, not the Syphilis People, should be punished. They concluded, "Therefore we shall be the last resort of painful instruction. If we become extinct, the major monsters which you have already killed will come into being again." Monster Slayer thought their reasoning good and permitted them to live (Haile 1938b, pp. 131-5).

Tearing Cactus, Needle Cactus (xoc de'tsahi') (D) was much like the Cutting Reeds. When a person tried to pass through them, they ran their needlelike points into him. The Twins got through them safely with the aid of their life feathers and the formula given them by Spider Woman (Haile 1938b, p. 97; Matthews 1897, p.110; cp. Wheelwright 1942, p. 97).

Tracking Bear (cac na'alka'hi) (UP), a monster from whom there was no escape, was born because a chief's daughter abused herself with a smooth stone and a piece of leg sinew. He lived in a cave in the mountains.
Monster Slayer, pursued by Tracking Bear, was protected by the rattle of a slim-leaved yucca fruit held in his left hand and some twigs of hard oak in his right. He shot the monster, cut off its claws and large canine teeth, and took the gall and windpipe as trophies. In one version, the nipples became pinion nuts, half of a piece of fat cut from around the tail ran off as a bear, the other half came toward him as a porcupine. In another version, Monster Slayer cut the head in three pieces: one became the broad-leaved yucca, one the narrow-leaved yucca, and one the mescal. People are now forbidden to eat bear, though they may eat porcupine.
Twelve Tracking Bears helped Deer Owner, the sorcerer. Self Teacher of the Night Chant killed them all.

The relationship between Tracking Bear and Changing-bear-maiden is not clear; they seem to be distinctive. On his way to kill Tracking Bear, Monster Slayer met the Maiden and on the way back he killed, then restored her. The transformations of the Endurance Chant have a certain similarity to those of Tracking Bear. Some results of throwing away Changing-bear-maiden's body-parts are not mentioned in Matthews' version of the tale (Haile 1938b, pp. 77, 127; Matthews 1897, pp. 124-5, 189; Wheelwright 1942, p.98; Reichard, Endurance Chant ms.).

Traveling Rock (tse na'yai) (UP) had as another name 'The-one-having-no-speed' ('adin dja'dgo). If he saw a person in the distance he would start in pursuit. If the person stood still, Traveling Rock would pass him, then return and roll over him, cutting him to death. As Monster Slayer circled this creature, planning how to attack it, Coyote came up and offered to help. He struck the monster with a heavy rock. Then Monster Slayer clubbed Traveling Rock four times. Pieces flew off it in every direction and became various kinds of rocks, now ground for sandpainting pigments. The bone became white rock; the flesh, blue pigment; the hair, black coloring matter; the mouth and blood, red pigment; the intestines, yellow ocher. All parts of the creature's body that had moisture-urine, tears, mucus, and perspiration-be-came wet spots caused by moisture oozing from rocks.
According to Matthews, Traveling Rock lived in a lake and escaped Monster Slayer three times by rolling into the water. The fourth time he appeared under the water gleaming like fire and surrendered. He promised Monster Slayer to cause rivers to flow; he became Water Monster.
Because he stepped on the chips that flew off Traveling Rock, Monster Slayer was in such great danger that the warning prayerstick left with First Man began to burn. As his strength failed and he breathed with difficulty, his twin brother caused a plant to spring up near him and rain to fall upon him, whereupon he revived (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Matthews 1897, p.125; Haile 1938b, p. 138).

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

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