Navajo Big Snake Man

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Big-snake-man (tli'stso xasti'n) (U) lived with Big God (xa'ctce'tsoh), who may be a god of thunder or lightning. Both are described as evil. At the smokehole of their house were two large black rocks between which Big Fly, their guard, lived. These gods had a testy disposition and were not invited when the other gods got together.
When the gods had assembled to divide the spoils brought back by the Stricken Twins, it was specially stipulated that these two should not be invited. However, Big Fly found out about the meeting and its purpose and told his friends. At once Big Snake became angry and said, "Why was I not invited? Let us go over there. Come on!" Big God said, "No, I would do better alone. My mind is better [under control] than yours. I can speak better. I'll go alone and tell the gods what I think of them." Apparently Big Snake allowed him to attend to this affair.
When co had been brought into the gods' 'room of the masks,' a great noise of thunder was heard. It heralded the approach of Big Snake, who, because he had not been invited to the gathering, crawled along the rows of people, once around over their toes, then over their knees, across their chests, and finally, across their mouths. When he settled down in his own place he complained, "Why have you not invited me to this ceremony? This is the way you always treat me. You never let me know when you are having a good time." Monster Slayer, who was officiating, gave him a smoke and attended to other assorted unwelcome guests. When all had been ejected except a carefully selected group, Big Snake was among those remaining. Monster Slayer dealt out medicine to overcome witch power. He gave just a small pinch to each one present. They tied it carefully in little bags or in a corner of a shirt or robe. Big Snake's body was so smooth that he could find no place to stow it. He put it in his mouth and that is the reason he has venom there now.

Reared-within-the-mountain, accompanied by Wind, about to visit a place called Circle-of-red-rocks, found it guarded by two large rattlesnakes which made a rattling sound and threatened to bite, but let the travelers through without harm. Inside they found a bald-headed man, Big Snake, who had a little tuft of hair over each ear. He taught the hero how to make his prayersticks.
Big Snake features in encounters with Deer Owner, who either was Big Snake or had control over him. Deer Owner turned himself into Big Snake, which lay in a tempting ripe yucca fruit, but was overcome by the hero (Bear, Deer Owner, Snakes; Newcomb 1940b, p. 61; Sapir-Hoijer, p. 37; Matthews 1887, p. 405; 1897, p. 188; 1902, pp. 202, 257, 261).

 

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

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