Navajo Changing Woman

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These four visit Changing Woman in her home in the west and see how she changes her age and form as she passes through doors at each of the directions. She decrees her gifts to earth people Cloud, rain, pollen, dew and gives them prayersticks. She tells them that now "there is no meanness left" in her : however First Man and Woman who went east are mean, and from them will come epidemics, colds, and coughs to be cured by offerings of white corn. Pg. 118, Male Shootingway.

 

 

Navajo Chantway Myths, 1957; Katherine Spencer.

Through the birth of Changing Woman, the emergence into the Fourth and final World becomes complete. With the addition of Changing Woman's beneficent creative power, which is stronger than that of any other deity, life is arranged permanently, order is achieved over the previous worlds of chaos. The Fourth World, the one we live in today, is where the new race of beings were born out of Changing Woman's Mother Earth's body. This new race is known as Dineh, The People, The Navajo. Pg. 22

The Gift of the Gila Monster, Navajo Ceremonial Tales; 1993, Gerald Hausman.

At the end of four days Changing Woman went to the top of Ch'oolii and met the Sun, who asked her to come away and make a home for him in the West. She agreed on the condition that he would build her a house as beautiful as the one he had in the East, which her sons had told her about. "I want it built floating on the western water," she said, "away from the shore so that in the future, when people increase, they will not annoy me with too many visits. I want all sorts of gems white shell, turquoise, haliotis, jet, soapstone, agate, and redstone planted around my house, so that they will grow and increase. Then I shall be lonely over there and shall want something to do, for my sons and my sister will not go with me. Give me animals to take along. Do all this for me and I shall go with you to the West." He promised all these things to her, and he made elk, buffalo, deer, long-tail deer, mountain sheep, jackrabbits and prairie dogs to go with her. When she started for her new home some of the divine people went with her to help her drive her animals, which were already numerous and increasing daily. At Black Mountain the buffaloes broke from the herd and ran to the East; they never returned and are in the East still. Sometime later the elks went to the East and they never returned. From time to time a few of the antelope, deer and other animals of the herd left and wandered East. After a while Changing Woman arrived at the great water in the West and went to dwell in her floating house beyond the shore. Here she still lives, and here the Sun visits her, when his journey is done, every day that he crosses the sky. Pgs. 127, 128

The Book of the Navajo; 1976, Raymond Friday Locke.

The mother of the Twins is Changing Woman, one of the most fascinating and appealing of the diyin dine'e. A lthough she is often paired (as a contrastive complement) with Sun, she is never drawn, unless the representation of Earth in sandpaintings can be said to symbolize her. With her powers of senescence and rejuvenation, she symbolizes the annual cycle of the earth, which renews itself in spring and gradually dies with the coming of winter, only to begin anew the pattern of seasonal rebirth the following spring. Pg. 134

Earth is my Mother, Sky is my Father: Space, Time, and Astronomy in Navajo Sandpainting; 1992, Trudy Griffen-Pierce.

A house had been built for her, designed in various colors on the outside, and inside a ladder had been provided (like a Pueblo house). at this ladder a rattle had been set which would shake to let it be known that people had entered. White shell had been spread out and the floor space was white shell. In various places her footprints of white shell had been placed. And along the shore (of the Pacific Ocean) white shell (food) had been washed on the banks with turquoise, abalone, and jet. The purpose of this was that she would live by the strength of this food. and too a white shell cornstalk and a turquoise cornstalk were set at her entrance and were made as uprights of the entrance. Their purpose was to make all things known to her. Pollen flowed down on the one to the east and on the one to the west. So at the tip of the one a bluebird regularly gave its call, at the tip of the other a cornbeetle regularly called. One would call regularly in the morning, the other at noon, one in the evening, another at midnight, and one at dawn. They had been made to do just that.

Blessingway; 219 1970, Wyman: University of Arizona, Tucson.

When she was sixteen years old, they had the Maiden Ceremony for her called Hozhonigi, or Making-the-Path-of-Life-Beautiful. They dressed her in white shell shoes, fine deer-skin robes and the finest sort of shell and turquoise ornaments. Her hair was parted in the middle and hung down tied at the back half way to the ends. They invited Kay-des-tizhi, the Man-Wrapped-in-a-Rainbow, and he came and brought many different shell dishes and food, and also he brought her a baby lamb; and all the gods came; also the Yeh. The ceremony began with a race between the Salt Woman and the girl before sunrise every morning for four days. On the night of the fourth day, they sang the Creation Song, which has twenty-four verses. Etsay-Hasteen sang it first and the others after him, and they sang until daybreak. Etsay-Hasteen also had a song he sang while the girl and woman raced before sunrise, which is called Sheyash-estsa-sohni, or Young-Woman's-Race. They told the Earth Spirit about this ceremony and he sent the white and red paint with which they painted her cheeks red, and they painted two small white stripes on each cheek. They sang of painting the maiden, Zhan-sheya-yanez-nuchee. Begochiddy told the people that he wanted them to paint their faces in the same way. Those who begin the painting of their faces at the top and paint down to the chin signify that they are asking for rain; those who paint from the chin up to the forehead are asking for anything that grows. So they painted their faces, and brought many robes and piled them in a heap on top of one another at the door of the Mirage Hogahn where the girl lived.
Then she lay face down flat on this pile of robes and her hair covered her whole body. Estsa-assun stroked her hair and face and body to make her fine and strong. After that they gave her the lamb which Kay-des-tizhi had brought her, and she held it to her breast as she lay on the pile of blankets. Begochiddy asked the people what name they were going to give this girl but they all stood silent. And while they watched her she grew older and older until she was a bent old woman, and even as they watched her, she grew a little younger again, and before their eyes she changed four times from youth to age, but at the fourth change she remained about twenty years old, and she was very beautiful. Begochiddy named her White Shell Woman, Yolthkai-estsan, and the rest of the people called her by that name. From this time onward, she would always be able to grow old or young as she desired and so she was called also Estsan-ah-tlehay, or Changing Woman. Then she rose from the pile of robes and gave the lamb back to Kay-des-tizhi, the Man-wrapped-in-a-Rainbow. And the people turned their backs to her, and she went to each one in turn and took their heads in her hands and lifted them a little to thank them for their gifts. Begochiddy gave her a big basket full of flowers and she gave the flowers to the people who put them in their hair, and all went away again very happy and thankful. In the basket of flowers which she had passed around, there were a lot of poison weeds named Johnjilway, Toh-owhetso, Asgai-binee, Ajah-tohee, but no one received them; they only received the good flowers and the poison weeds were taken back into the hogahn. Pgs. 76-77

The person for whom the ceremony is given sits south of it (sandpainting) and sings, holding what I believe to be the symbol of Estsan-ah-tlehay, the Changing Woman, who never appears in any sandpainting, though she is very holy. This symbolic object is an ear of corn, wreathed in strings of turquoise, white shell and other beads. . . . Pg. 166

Hasteen Yazzi, a Medicine Man who live son the eastern side of the reservation gave the following mythic origin of the sandpaintings used in his ceremony of the Blessing Chant:
"The story begins with the White Shell Woman. The earth people had the chants and prayers belonging to the Hozhonji, but because they had no paintings to guide them they constantly made mistakes. The White Shell Woman told them that she would help them and have a `sing' over herself and teach them the paintings. First she took them to a field of white corn. She made her foot prints in yellow pollen and then seated herself beneath a cornstalk. This stalk of corn she had planted in the center of the cornfield. Here she said all the chants and prayers and when she had finished, a bluebird came and perched upon the flower tassel of the corn and sang. In this way she knew that she had done everything perfectly. Throughout the night the White Shell Woman prayed and the next day she made the second painting of her house of the clouds. Again she made the house of the clouds and the seat and place for the medicine basket. This done, she took the seat and placed a medicine basket full of suds in front of her and taking off her clothes, washed and bathed her body and hair. She finished by chanting and prayers and then told the earth people that she had now taught them the paintings and to use them hereafter for blessings, crops, more children, or anything of that kind." Pgs. 171-172

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

There is yet another way to show how the events of creation are paradigmatic for Navajo lifeways. This centers on the importance in Navajo culture of the possession of a mountain-soil bundle. After the world was created, but before it was made suitable for habitation by Navajo people, a girl child was created. Her parents are said to be the beautiful youth and maiden, Long Life Boy and Happiness Girl. This child had the remarkable ability to grow older through time, to reach old age, and to repeat the cycle of life again and again. Because of this she was called Changing Woman. Changing Woman was given a medicine bundle containing objects and powers that created the world. The bundle was the source of her own existence, since her parents were the personification of the powers it held. Changing Woman was also taught the creation rituals. With the bundle and the Blessingway songs and prayers Changing Woman at once holds and represents the power of creation. She personifies the perfect beauty secured in the creation. She is identified with the newly created earth. She is the source and sustenance of all life. She is time. She is the mother of the Navajo people. After her birth Changing Woman used her creative powers to make the earth ready and suitable for the Navajo people. She created the plants and animals and cleared the world of the monsters who had come to threaten human life. Having made the earth a suitable place, she created the Navajo people. Her final act before departing from the Navajo world was to pass the knowledge of Blessingway on to the Navajo people. In doing so, she charged them with the responsibility to maintain the world in its state of perfect beauty by the use of the Blessingway. She warned them that the Blessingway songs should never be forgotten, for Navajo life depends upon them.
Changing Woman is wholly benevolent and of such beauty that she is rarely represented in any visual form in Navajo ceremonies. But she did snow the Navajo how to make a bundle modeled on hers; this was the origin of the mountain-soil bundle. It is made with soil ritually collected from the four sacred mountains which stand in the quarters of the Navajo world. The soil from each mountain is wrapped in buckskin. Maintaining the directional orientations, these four bags are placed around stone representations of Long Life Boy and Happiness Girl. A buckskin is wrapped around all this and the bundle is secured. The mountain-soil bundle is the nuclear ritual object in Blessingway. Many Navajo families keep bundles as guides to the Navajo way of life and as sources of long life and happiness for the family. The bundle holds the powers of creation. It is the source of life and the paragon of perfect beauty established by Blessingway. Pgs. 22, 23

Native American Religious Action: A Performance Approach to Religion; 1987, Sam Gill.

Great Water of the sunset. In the creation myth to which he referred it says: "When all the Indian tribes had been established on this present earth, the Sun said to Changing Woman, `Your work here is finished; you must now go to the place of the sunset, where, far out over the great waters, I have built a house for you. I will send powerful guards with you the Hail, the Thunder, the Lightning, and the Water Ruler. The Wind, the Rain, the Clouds, and the Light have helped me make a beautiful house for you, and I wish you to live where I can meet you in the evening.' This house was built on a beautiful island called `Land that Floats on the Water.' In it were four rooms on each of its four floors, for which there were ladders of black jet, white shell, turquoise, and abalone on the four sides. On top of the house there was a multicolored thunderbird, larger than any that has ever been see, who was the chief of all thunderbirds. On his back he carried small thunderbirds of all the ceremonial colors. In the center of this palace was a large room with an altar decorated with all the colors of every flower that had bloomed and faded on earth, and with the spirits of all the birds. The main entrance was toward the east and was guarded by a white-shell rattle which gave the alarm whenever a visitor approached. To this place Changing Woman came to live forever and meet the Sun in the evenings." Pgs. 203-204

Hosteen Klah, Navajo Medicine Man and Sand Painter; 1964, Franc Johnson Newcomb.

Changing Woman (often referred to with the suffix "-mah") is also called Earth Woman and White Shell Woman. She is the source of life, the giver of sustenance and destiny to all beings. As the Earth goes through seasonal changes - from the growth of spring and summer to the dying of fall and the coming of winter - so Changing Woman can attain old age, die, and be reborn. She is the symbol of the Female Rains and the presence behind the beauty of lakes, rivers, and mountains.
In the beginning, Changing Woman was found as a baby by First Man; she was reared by First Man and First Woman. She matured quickly, and at the time of her first menstruation a puberty rite was held to which all creatures came. Each creature offered groups of songs to bring Earth Surface People into being and to enable Changing Woman to create this new race and give them the power of regeneration. This is the rite that is still held for Navajo girls entering puberty. Dressed in white shell and molded into the most beautiful of maidens, Changing Woman was given to the Sun. Navajo girls, in their puberty rites, are symbolically made into Changing Woman and are therefore wellsprings of beauty and reproduction.
Concerning Changing Woman, the Sun made the following decree: "She will attend to her children and provide their food. Everywhere I go over the Earth, she will have charge of female rain. I myself will control male rain. She will be in control of vegetation everywhere for the benefit of Earth People."
The symbol of the mother as the giver of life is most important. Out of the womb of the Earth, the Holy People emerged; from the womb of Changing Woman the ancestors of the Navajos came; from the womb of the Navajo woman the Navajo race comes. All relationships are traced through the womb of the mother. The father brings about conception, but it is through the mother that he is related to the children. Brothers and sisters are related to each other through their having been borne in the same womb. There is a word in Navajo, not found in English, which means "those who came from the same womb" and which places the emphasis of parentage on the mother rather than on the father. Pgs. 12-13

Sitting on the Blue-Eyed Bear, Navajo Myths and Legends; 1975, Gerald Hausman.

The reason that Whiteshell Woman and Turquoise Woman are doubled for Changing Woman is aesthetic as well as ritualistic.

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

Changing Woman, so named because she renews her youth as the seasons progress, was created and trained to bring forth twin sons, who freed the earth from the monsters. Old, gray-haired, wrinkled, and bent in the winter, she gradually transforms herself to a young and beautiful woman. Restoration to youth is the pattern of the earth, something for which the Navajo lives, for he reasons that what happens to the earth may also happen to him. Regaining strength after disease due to contact with strangers, attack by evil or offended powers, or loss of ritualistic purity is interpreted as rejuvenation like that of Mother Earth.

Vegatation is considered the `dress' of the earth and the mountains, a gift bestowed at creation, a function of Changing Woman's annual rejuvenation.

Changing Woman ('asdza' na'dlehe') (P) is the most fascinating of many appealing characters conjured up by the Navajo imagination. Sun is attractive, his character obvious and clear. Changing Woman is Woman with a sphinxlike quality. No matter how much we know about her the total is a great question mark. She is the mystery of reproduction, of life springing from nothing, of the last hope of the world, a riddle perpetually solved and perennially springing up anew, literally expressed in Navajo: ". . . here the one who is named Changing Woman, the one who is named Whiteshell Woman, here her name is pretty close to the [real] names of every one of the girls."
Although Sun and Moon are represented graphically by the figures of their type symbols, Changing Woman is perhaps only verbally described, unless the delineation of the Earth in sandpainting represents her. Her own words seem to be evidence that Changing Woman and Earth are one, and her rejuvenation suggests it: "There will be people, so I cannot remain here and have myself tramped upon." Sun's decree concerning Whiteshell Woman, another name for Changing Woman, also contributes to my opinion: "Whiteshell Woman will go where I live. . . . She will attend to her children and provide their food. Everywhere I go over the earth she will have charge of female rain. I myself will control male rain. She will be in control of vegetation everywhere for the benefit of Earth People."
Mirage Talking God and xactc'e'oyan decorated her with all kinds of herbage and flowers wherever they grew.
In sandpainting Earth is set off against Sky, the two making a pair, whereas Changing Woman is really a contrast to Sun. In myth Earth and Sky are primordial, having given rise to Coyote and Badger.
The identification of Changing Woman with Whiteshell Woman is frequently indicated and sometimes they seem to he the same as Turquoise Woman. On the other hand, stories such as that of the Eagle Chant are completely against such an interpretation, for the two `jewel women' are the wives of Monster Slayer, a marriage the Navajo would hardly sanction, since the morals of Changing Woman are beyond criticism; nowhere is she remotely connected with incest. The stories of Earth and Sky, of Changing Woman's transformation from corn or whiteshell, and of her supernatural origin as a baby on the sacred mountain tc'ol'i'i must be considered separately and as unrelated until more material shows a connection between them. I therefore describe White-shell Woman and Turquoise Woman as individuals, as well as counterparts of Changing Woman (Sapir-Hoijer, p. 295; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Goddard, pp. 156-7; Newcomb-Reichard, Fig. 5, p. 37; Matthews 1897, p. 71; Haile 1943a, p. 16; Newcomb 1940b, pp. 50-77; cp. Kluckhohn-Leighton, p. 150).

One story represents Changing Woman as the first and ideal baby, found under supernatural conditions.

First Man reported to his wife that for four days a dark rain cloud had hovered over tc'ol'i'i, the central sacred mountain; finally, the mountain was covered with rain, an indication that supernatural events were taking place. With song he approached the place and he heard a baby cry. He discovered the baby in a cradle consisting of sky messengers-two short rainbows lay longitudinally under the baby; cross-wise at its chest and feet were red sunrays. A curved rainbow arched over the face. Wrapped in a dark cloud, the infant was covered with dark, blue, yellow, and white clouds, held in by side lacings of zigzag lightning with a sunbeam laced through them.
First Man did not know what to do with the baby and took it home to First Woman who, with the aid of Mirage Talking God, reared it.
The eyes of the newly found babe were black as charcoal and there was no blemish (impurity) anywhere on its body. First Man and Talking God agreed that it should be fed on collected pollen moistened with game broth and the dew of beautiful flowers. According to Matthews, Salt Woman said she wanted the child and, presumably, it was given to her. It is thought that since there was no one to nurse it, Sun fed it on pollen. Nourished on such supernatural fare, it grew remarkably fast, developing with miraculous speed.

Changing Woman's adolescence ceremony was the first and most elaborate ever performed, and set a precedent for the future. Ceremonially dressed in whiteshell, the young girl was named-there was an argument about the names Changing Woman and Whiteshell Woman; both were retained-and she was modeled by kneading and pressing; thus she became the most beautiful maiden that ever existed. The entire effort was to make her pleasing to Sun; a cake was baked for his benefit and for him she ran several times to the east. At the appearance of her second menses there was a ceremony at which she raced for Moon's benefit. A rainbow, undoubtedly Sun's messenger, indicating approval of the ceremony, spoke to her: "This is truly Whiteshell Woman" (Goddard, pp. 148ff.; Matthews 1897, p.230; Haile 1938b, pp.85-9). Since from this point on, various tales agree about the essential features of Changing Woman's life and attainment of power, we may pause for a moment to consider a different story of her origin.

The people had been wandering and so many had been devoured by the monsters that only four, an old man and woman and their two children, a young man and woman, were left. They found a small image of a woman fashioned in turquoise. Talking God appeared to the people, bidding them to come to the top of tc'ol'i'i in four days. There they found an assembly of the gods. The Navajo had brought the turquoise image with them, and White Body, the counterpart of Talking God, had one nearly like it made of whiteshell. Talking God and xactc'e'oyan transformed the turquoise image into Changing Woman, the whiteshell image into Whiteshell Woman. At the same time they transformed an ear of white corn into White-corn-boy and an ear of yellow corn into Yellow-corn-girl. Then the company dispersed, the gods taking the boy and girl with them and leaving Changing Woman and Whiteshell Woman alone on the mountain.

The stories include Changing Woman's attempt to have intercourse by exposing herself to sunlight and water. People did not yet understand sexual relations, but the girl who had just reached puberty in the one case, the two maidens in the other, had sexual desire. After Changing Woman had had intercourse with Sun, First Woman warned her of the danger in going away from home alone. She answered, "I am not entirely without knowledge," indicating that Changing Woman was endowed with supernatural power which did not depend upon instruction. Going to gather seeds, she met the white creature on a white horse with white trappings who turned out to be Sun. He instructed her to meet him in an especially prepared brush shelter. First Man built this for her and Sun visited her four successive nights, after which she became pregnant (Ch. 3; Goddard, p. 153; Haile 1938b, p. 91; Matthews 1897, pp. 105, 231; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Until the world had been cleared of monsters, Changing Woman's home was at tco'l'i'i. Numerous references agree that living was hard and required a great deal of labor, subsistence consisting primarily of seeds, berries, and small rodents. The story after the first departure of The Twins concerns Changing Woman slightly. For some time she evidently pursued an ordinary woman's life, keeping the home to which the boys returned to report, to rest, and to get new strength and information about the next adventures.

After they had killed the worst of the monsters, Monster Slayer and Child-of-the-water made a second visit to Sun because there were still numerous lesser evils which had not been overcome. Sun gave them five hoops-black, blue, yellow, white, and varicolored-to each of which a large knife of the same color was attached; in addition, he gave them four great hailstones colored like the first four hoops, telling them to ask their mother what to do with them. Changing Woman, protesting that she had never been visited by Sun but had seen him only at a great distance, said she would try to do something with the hoops. By means of the hoops, hailstones, and knives she caused a fierce storm calculated to find every evil and danger no matter how well hidden. She said that now all evil was conquered; when Wind whispered the name of Old Age into Monster Slayer's ear, she would answer no question about it, even when asked the fourth time. The episode led to the tolerance of the powers 'somewhere between good and evil' (Ch. 5; cp. Gold, Hunger, Old Age, Poverty; Matthews 1897, pp. 130ff.; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Although she had borne the children destined to kill the monsters, which feats made them the chief war gods with power against all foreign dangers, Changing Woman stood for peace.
When the gods assembled to consider the war between Dark Thunder and Winter Thunder, Changing Woman was the first to enter. As soon as the subject was broached, she said decisively, "I did not bear these children to go to war, but to rid the world of monsters." Thereupon Monster Slayer stood up and said, "I shall not go to war with you. My mother is not in favor." Child-of-the-water refused to go for the same reason.

RP explained that the Holy People were children of Changing Woman in an existence subsequent to the one in which she bore The Twins (Huckel ms.). JS put it: "Changing Woman had Monster Slayer and Child-of-the-water for the monster story (na'ye''e'), Talking God and xactc'e'oyan for the blessing story (xojo'dji), and the Holy People for the chants-according-to-holiness (xata'lkedji)."

Changing Woman participates in many events, but it is impossible to get them into temporal sequence; indeed, it is not necessary to do so, since she and her decrees are immortal. A secondary theme, the removal of Changing Woman to the west, is almost as important as the primary.

The Twins had overcome the major obstacles to human life upon the earth, and Sun, in reallocating many of the gods, particularly wanted Changing Woman to live in the west, where he had provided a luxurious dwelling for her. Numerous attempts were made at persuasion, the house being described as unusually beautiful, a duplicate of Sun's house at the east. A horse made of a jewel substance belonged to each of the respective directions; there was a jet horse in the center at the root of a perfect cornstalk, which had twelve ears on each side. On the cornstalk's top sat a black songbird. Food was to consist of pollens, the precious stones, and sacred waters. As a final inducement, eternal youth and the road of perfection (sa'a na'yai bike xojo'n) were offered, but even these did not affect Changing Woman.
The gift of power over rain and vegetation, the enumeration of the most desirable garments and ornaments all failed to move her, as did even the disrespectful words of Monster Slayer's counterpart, Reared-in-the-earth, when he told her she had no sense. When, finally, war power-flashing, rattling flint armor and threatening words-was invoked, she consented.
The leader of the party spoke to her gently and told her that she was frustrating her own plan, for she herself had suggested the assignment of the Holy People to different places. She put up a plaintive plea, although she had actually given in: "Perhaps there is no one there and I may be lonesome." She was assured that the Holy Sky People would often meet at her place, and final directions were given for the removal.

The establishment of Changing Woman in the west is an important feature of the myth of the Male Shooting Chant Holy, more briefly referred to in other versions. In Matthews' version, Sun asks her consent as a reward for his help to The Twins. Her control over her powerful husband and sons is demonstrated by her indignation at the thought that the boys could make a promise for her or that they should think that anything Sun had done would benefit her. In this version Changing Woman described the house she would accept in the west. She wanted it to be on an island reasonably far from shore, so that numerous people would not bother her. She would have the animals for company. Sun granted all requests.
Changing Woman's power over reproduction and birth extends to all that exists on the earth. Becoming lonely in the home in the west, she created new people and directed them how to reach their relatives in the east.
Many of Changing Woman's gifts are rites or ceremonies, not fully enumerated here. Her decrees are kind. She gave man many songs, created the horse, decreed fertility and sterility. She was present at Rainboy's chant, where she made suds for his bath and laid out his clothes, and at another time brought in ceremonial food. Her presence at an assembly of the gods is pointed out with special respect; other gods bow their heads when she comes in.
The simple rite in which the chanter leads the patient onto the sandpainting of the last day of the Shooting Chant represents the perpetual rejuvenation of Changing Woman.
The Eagle Chant story includes an incident of creation. Changing Woman was living on Whirling Mountain, where her five hogans have since become rock. She rubbed epidermis from under her breast and created two women, Whiteshell Woman and Turquoise Woman, who became the wives of Monster Slayer.
RP's Bead Chant story explains that Changing Woman was the mother of five daughters, one of whom was Bead Woman, whose son was Scavenger, hero of the chant.

According to the fragment of a tale noted by Stevenson, the people, upon arriving in this, the upper world, lacked light.
They sent for two women, Changing Woman and Whiteshell Woman, who lived at Ute Mountain. Changing Woman (and here the text reads 'asdza'nadle'he xa'ctce'oltohi, 'Changing Woman, the Shooting God') had white beads in her right breast and turquoise in her left. From these the sun was created, but the people could not raise it far enough from the earth to prevent scorching, until helped by First Man and First Woman, who miraculously appeared.

Another of Stevenson's tales makes Changing Woman and her sister, Whiteshell Woman, the creators of shells. Changing Woman was said to have a beard under her right arm, and Whiteshell Woman a ball under her left, from which they made beads. The Twins had eyes of shell with which they could see far-distant objects (cp. Ch. 3; Monster Slayer; Reichard 1939, p. 26; Newcomb-Reichard, pp. 32-4; Matthews 1897, pp. 133, 150; Goddard, pp. 157, 164; Newcomb 1940b; Stevenson, pp. 275, 279; Stephen 1889, p. 135).

Earth Woman (naxa'asdza'n, naxo'osdza'n, naxo'sdza'n) (H) is addressed in formulas and prayers, the word probably being another name for Earth or Changing Woman. According to RS, Earth Woman is the same as sa'a na'yai. JS says she is the mother of Changing Woman and that Earth Woman and Sky Man brought about creation by smoking tobacco. Earth Woman's spirit represents growth (Wheel-wright 1942, p. 63; Reichard 1944d, pp. 87, 101).


Whiteshell Woman ('asdza' yo'lgai) (P) and Turquoise Woman have been considered in the characterization of Changing Woman. There can be no doubt that in some situations the three names stand for the same individual (tla'h and JS say they are the same). However, in some cases Whiteshell Woman seems to be distinct.
According to Stevenson's fragment of the story of The Twins, Whiteshell Woman was the sister of Changing Woman, who The Twins believed was their mother, although she was really their mother's sister. When they journeyed to the east, they found the house of Sun's wife, which is of whiteshell. It is impossible to tell whether this wife was the same woman who, living on the earth, advised them to go to Sun, or whether there are more than one of a kind. However this may be, she was angry at Sun when he returned at night, and questioned him about his behavior on earth, an attitude stereotyped for Sun's sky wife.
After the creation from the stone images, Whiteshell Woman lived with Changing Woman (who, because she was created at the same time, was her sister) on Whirling Mountain, and was the mother of the younger 'Twin,' Child-of-the-water. Whiteshell Woman figured in the life of the children only in a minor capacity. One day, after the children had been discovered and Big Monster had been deceived by Changing Woman, Whiteshell Woman went to the top of a hill to look about and saw a number of monsters hurrying in the direction of their home. She reported to her sister, who raised such a storm that the monsters had to turn back. When Changing Woman was ready to depart for the west, Whiteshell Woman chose to go to La Plata Mountain. For five days she wandered about, consumed with loneliness, until Talking God and the other gods took pity upon her and created more people from corn. Perhaps to indicate that this is a secondary or subsidiary creation, the text continues:
"No songs were sung and no prayers were uttered during the rites, which were all performed in one day."
Whiteshell Woman took the young man and woman to her hogan, which has since become a little hill. She married Corn Boy to Heat Girl and Corn Girl to Mirage Boy, who started new lines of descent. Their story helps to explain the origin of the Navaho clans. Sometime later Talking God came to Whiteshell Woman and spoke secretly to her. She slept with a little girl who was her favorite. After the second visit of Talking God, she said to the child, "I am going to leave you. The gods of tseyi' have sent for me, but I shall not forget your people. I shall often come to watch over them and be near them. Tell them this when they waken."
The next morning the people looked for her in vain. They believed she had gone to tseyi' where she stayed for a time before she went to La Plata Mountain to dwell forever in the house of whiteshell that had been prepared for her. The little girl had a dream in which Whiteshell Woman came to her and said, "My grandchild, I am going to La Plata to dwell. I would take you with me for I love you, were it not that your parents would mourn for you. But look always for me in the gentle rain when it comes near your dwelling, for I will be in it."

In the Eagle Chant, Whiteshell Woman is the sister of Turquoise Woman, both created by Changing Woman from epidermis rubbed from under her breast. Theirs, like the story of all these primordial women, is a tale of wandering and hiding to escape monsters, of a quest for food meagerly rewarded, and of incredible loneliness. Eventually Talking God and xactc'e'oyan gave them corn. Monster Slayer visited their camp and taught them the use of game, eventually taking them to his home as his wives. He showed them how to cleanse themselves ritualistically and gave them beautiful clothes. He provided them with long hair and eyebrows, bright eyes, and smiling mouths.
The rivals of the wives were Corn Maidens, wily pueblo girls who were really a decoy to entice Monster Slayer into the home of wizards who had control of the game and knew the secrets of eagle catching. When he had overcome these old men and learned their powers, he returned to his Navaho wives, the girls of the mountain. Later, they all started forth on interminable wanderings to place eagles in the Navaho country and to make the Eagle Chant a success by repeatedly performing it. As a part of it, these women were instrumental in originating the rites of building the ceremonial hogan. They finally went to one of the sacred mountains and Monster Slayer went to his old home.
The Corn Maidens, who with their urban pueblo tricks won Monster Slayer away from Whiteshell Woman and Turquoise Woman, looked exactly like them, and it was only by their bold manners that they could be distinguished from the Navaho girls. Here, then, is an instance of sub-identification: Changing Woman made two girls who were close models of herself and they were for a long time superseded by two other girls sent by Deer Owner who were their replicas (Stevenson, p. 279; Matthews 1897, pp. 105, 108, 135-6, 139, Newcomb 1940b).

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

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