Thunder

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The Thunder people are very powerful and therefore potentially dangerous gods. Pg. 27

From Navajo Sandpainting Art, By Eugene Baatsoslanii Joe and Mark Bahti;


We explored Kiet Siel Canyon and its ruins for three days days of continual thunder and storm. We can never forget the temporary waterfalls which came down from the top of Skeleton Mesa, nor the blinding lightning which shook the earth and cracked rock walls with deafening crashes.
What did the ancient inhabitants think of all this when they lived here? What did Navajos think the Navajos who live here now, but who are ever so fearful of entering one of these ancient ruins? We were not able to answer, but we wondered just the same. Even after a limited experience of camping in these canyons, one is no longer surprised that these people should worship thunder, lightning, and rain and believe that sickness, health, and death are dependent on the mood and the will of the power behind these elements. Not being able to comprehend the enigma of the natural phenomena which often strike them with such suddenness and fury, they resort to imagination and create multiple gods, one for each of the manifold events of Nature. Despite our scientific knowledge, we ourselves developed veneration and respect for Nature as she demonstrated her colossal power and forced us to question the causes of her violent displays.

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

Thunder ('i'n'i') (U), an evil placated only with difficulty, is graphically represented as a kind of bird. When Reared-in-the-mountain visited Thunder, he found a man almost completely bald, with only a little tuft of hair above each ear.
In many Indian languages one word stands for both 'thunder' and 'lightning,' but the Navaho distinguish them: 'i' n'i' is 'thunder, that-which-moans-indefinitely,' a form emphasizing sound, whereas the words for 'lightning' stress light and form. 'atsinltlic is 'zigzag lightning,' xadjilgic 'forked lightning,' and xatso'olya'l 'flash or straight lightning.'
Lightning is prominent in the Shooting Chant, which counteracts the effects of things that move with lightning speed, often in a zigzag fashion-lightning, arrows, and snakes. The contest between Dark Thunder and Winter Thunder is one of the main themes of the Hail Chant, and Winter Thunder is an important character of the Flint Chant.
According to Stephen, Thunder was created in the first world by First Woman from a bit of her scalp skin. He was later sent naked to guard the home of Water Monster at the east, where he was given a garment and hat, both of feathers, representing forked-lightning armor.
Gray Eyes' myth describes Left-handed Thunder, Winter Thunder, Spotted Thunder, Left-handed Wind, and Spotted Wind as 'powerful' or supernatural, whereas the others are called 'Earth People.' JS says Winter Thunder is not represented in sandpainting because "he is a mean one; to draw him would bring trouble" (cp. Ch. 6).
A singer of the Rain Ceremony should not be paid with animals because, if he were, lightning might strike them. The Thunder People, who accompany rains, are boys just like the Navaho; they get careless and shoot animals and people.
Thunders have power to find things. Because Yellow Thunder knew every inch of space in the clouds, he was sent to hunt for Holy Boy, who had disappeared when he was seized by Fish.

When the brothers of the Visionary, seeking him, lost his trail at the river where he had entered the whirling log, they said, "Only the Thunder People, only those who dwell above in the clouds, know where our brother has sunk beneath the river." Thunder People then began to signal by means of lightning and, when they had located the boy, drove a rainbow stake into the river to show the gods where to look for him (Newcomb-Reichard, pp. 21, 39, 61-2, PI. XXIX, XXXIII; Reichard 1939, frontispiece, Fig. 6, 7, 8; Matthews 1887, p.405; 1902, p.175; Stephen 1930, pp.88-9; Hill 1938, p.74).

Winter Thunder ('i'ni' djilgai) (U) is the jealous husband, his wife the decoy woman, in Rainboy's life and that of Holy Boy, hero of the Flint Chant.
The wife lived in a white house-presumably a description of Winter Thunder's home-at the middle of which a rainbow was strung. The do or had a rainbow border. Inside hung another rainbow, and there was forked lightning like a blanket with a pattern of fire. There were numerous turquoise and whiteshell ornaments. The woman's white face, dark eyes, and subtle smile attracted Rainboy. When he, overcome with shame at his poverty, tried to leave, she drew him back four times-with a flash lightning, a rainstreamer, a forked lightning, and a rainbow. The rainbows referred to here are the so-called 'white rainbows' reflected from snow crystals.
Winter Thunder, seeing all that was going on from the top of La Plata Mountain, where he was hidden by a white cloud, sent a fierce hailstorm and lightning; as a result Rainboy was completely destroyed. The new was taken to the other Thunders, of whom Dark Thunder was chief. Blue, Yellow, White, Spotted, and Pink Thunders belonged to the faction, as did Big Dark, Big Blue, Big Yellow, and Big White Whirlwinds, and Dark, Blue, Yellow, and White Winds. During the council meeting, when it was decided to restore Rainboy, Spotted Thunder and Pink Thunder said nothing. When they were asked to agree, they grudgingly said, "All right!"
Rainboy got into one scrape after another, and each time was restored by a group of gods at a great ceremony. Dark Thunder led a war party against Winter Thunder, and there was a long struggle before Winter Thunder consented to help Rainboy. Even after he had promised, Winter Thunder had to be watched carefully to prevent him from nullifying the chant.

Winter Thunder represents all thunder. In the Flint Chant, it is summer thunder, in the Hail Chant, the thunder which accompanies hail and destruction, hence properly belonging to winter. White Thunder, appearing in summer, represents evil. In the Shooting Chant, thunder is pictured as Dark Thunder.
According to Matthews, Winter Thunder was the owner of the northern quadrant of the first world (Ch. 2, 4; Reichard 1939, p. 58 and frontispiece; 1944d, pp. 27, 43-5; Haile 1938b, pp.83, 127; 1943a, pp.24, 52, 56, 289, 3n; Matthews 1897, p.64).

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

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