Creation of Light
In Night Way
the people moving up to the present earth world found only darkness. Changing
Woman (with her dual name of White Shell Woman) attempts to create light for them.
On the floor of the world hogan she spreads white for dawn; on the white she spreads
blue for morning; on the blue, yellow for sunset; and on it, black for night.
Then she prayed. But there was no light. Then she laid some turquoise and some
white shell beads on the darkness, and prayed again. Faint light appeared. Now
the twelve Holy People answered with help. They brought more beads and turquoise,
and made a magic circle embracing the whole. Over its face Changing Woman held
a crystal. And suddenly a bright blaze resulted. It was so bright and hot that
Changing Woman, the twelve Holy People, and the Earth Surface People had to keep
raising it, and spreading out the world, to hold it up at a safe distance. After
this ordering of light and darkness were created Yei-bet-chai, Water Sprinkler,
Humpback, and other gods who later appear as mountain sheep to the hero, giving
him the songs and dances of the ceremonial. Pg. 242
Gods, Navajo and Pueblo Ceremonialism: 1950; Frank Waters.
The People only had the three lights and the darkness from the lower worlds
in the Fifth World, First Man and First Woman thought they might form some lights
which would make the world brighter. After much discussion, they decided to
make the Sun and the Moon. For the Sun they made a round flat object, like a
dish, out of a clear stone. They set turquoises around the edge and outside
of these they put rays of red rain, lightning and snakes of many kinds. For
a while they debated putting four points on it, as they afterwards did to the
stars, but finally they decided to leave it round. They made the Moon of crystal
and bordered it with white shells. Upon its face they put sheet lightning and
all kinds of water. Then they held a council to decide what to do with the Sun
and Moon. The East Wind begged that they might belong to his land, so the people
dragged them off to the edge of the world where he dwelt. There they gave the
Sun to the young man who had planted the great reed in the lower world and appointed
him to carry it. To his father, the old gray-hired man, they gave the Moon to
carry. These men had no names before this, but now the young man was given the
name of Tsohanoai (or Tsinhanoai) and the old one was named Klehanoai. When
they were about to depart, in order to begin their labors, a great sorrow came
upon the people, for they were loved by all. But First Man said, "Mourn
not for them, for you will see them in the heavens." Pgs. 78, 79
of the Navajo; 1976, Raymond Friday Locke.
Man had made all things for the earth and sky, and given them stability, he
selected the Gourd children, of whom mention was made of above, to carry the
sun and the moon. These he placed on their shoulders, leaving their right hand
free to enable them to eat when traveling. Thirty-two trails (bitqin) were assigned
to the sun (johona'ai) for his daily travels. To compensate themselves both
the sun and the moon (carriers) stipulated one human life for every journey
(nalyehe, pay). First Man also placed pillars in the east, south, west, north
and center of the earth (biisis lagai, etc., white, blue, etc., body or pillar).
And raising the sky (yadilqil) he placed it as a cover over the earth, resting
it on the five pillars (niya nizini and yaya nizini, what is below the earth
and sky, pillars of the earth and sky.) He then blew the sun (and moon) beyond
the ocean (horizon). And breathing over the earth (and sky) he caused them to
expand (about eight inches in diameter). And breathing (biilyol, blew) the dawn
(hayolkhal) toward the east the sun rose (qaya) there; wherefore, the dawn is
always seen in the east. Since the earth was small, however, the heat of the
sun at its zenith became unbearable. After four unsuccessful trials the present
dimensions of the earth and distance of the sun were retained. Pg. 354
Dictionary of the Navajo Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers.
is generally considered to be the creator of the constellations; he is also
known as Fire God because he is responsible for all fire, including the fire
in the stars that is the source of their light. When diyin dine'e entered the
hogan of Creation, "the sky and earth lay on the floor of the hogan with
heads pointing eastward, the sky on the south, the earth on the north side.
Both had received the `breath of life' with various winds, though they were
not `dressed' yet."
In Haile's version taken from Upward Reachingway, Black God entered the hogan
with Dilyehe (the Pleiades) lodged at his ankle. When he stamped his foot vigorously,
the constellation jumped to his knee. Another stamp of his foot brought it to
his hip. He stamped again, bringing the constellation to his right shoulder.
The fourth and final time he stamped his foot, the Pleiades lodged along his
left temple where, he said, "it shall stay!" Thus, Dilyehe is located
on Black God's mask. In Haile's work, this constellation appears on Black God's
left cheek and on Black God's temple. In my experience, the Pleiades is usually
not visible on Black God's mask, either in Nightway sandpaintings of Black God
that I have watched being made or on the mask worn by the Black God Impersonator.
Chanter D explained that this is because Black God's face represents the entirety
of the heavens, and the Pleiades is very small in proportion to the entire sky.
Black God's feat of placing Dilyehe where he wanted it confirmed to the supernaturals
in the creator group that he had the power to beautify the "dark upper,"
as they called the sky, by producing and placing constellations. Moving in the
sunwise circuit, Black God first positioned Corvus in the east. In the south,
he placed Horned Rattler, Bear, Thunder, and `Atse'etsoh (the front part of
Scorpius). In the north he placed the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, Orion, the Pinching
or Doubtful Stars (Aldebaran, lower branch of the Hyades), Gah heet'e'ii (which
Haile identifies as a star cluster under Canis Major, but which today is generally
identified as the tail of Scorpius); and finally the Pleiades. Because none
of these constellations could shine without an igniter star to furnish their
light, he added biko', an igniter. Finally, he sprinkled the heavens with the
Black God, weary from the process of creation, was resting when Coyote snatched
Black God's fawnskin pouch, which contained the remaining unnamed and unplaced
star crystals. Coyote then flung these stars into the night sky where they were
scattered at random instead of forming the orderly patterns of constellations
for which they had been intended. According to Haile's consultant, "That
explains why only the stars put there by Fire God [Black God] have a name and
those scattered at random by Coyote are nameless." Suddenly, Coyote took
one remaining crystal and deliberately placed it in the south. This Coyote Star,
Ma'ii Bizo, was the source of confusion and disorder just as Coyote intended
it to be. Accounts disagree on the identity of this "Monthless Star,"
so called because it is in the heavens for less than a full month, as well as
on whether it is one star or three. Pgs. 85-87
is my Mother, Sky is my Father, Space, Time, and Astronomy in Navajo Sandpainting;
1992, Trudy Griffen-Pierce.
hogan was finished everyone rested.
The dwelling was occupied by Atse'hastqin, First Man, and Atse'esdza, First
Woman. All their belongings were piled inside. The woman lay with her feet to
the West, and the man lay with his feet to the East. Their heads crossed and
their thoughts mingled, and these thoughts were sacred. Now in the hogan there
were also two other persons: Atse'ashki, First Boy, and Atse'ataed, First Girl.
They were not the children of First Man and First Woman, but the Turquoise Boy
and the White Shell Girl who had come with the others from the underworld. Now
First Boy lay to the south side of the hogan, and First Girl to the north. They
lay down when they saw the period of darkness descending, and they listened.
First Man and First Woman whispered together, but First Boy could not distinguish
the words one from another. Each time the Dark Cloud covered them the four lay
down, and First Man and First Woman whispered. First Man and First Woman whispered
together during many nights. They planned with the help of the All-Wise-Coyote-Who-Was-Formed-in-the-Water.
They said that the Coyote, called First Angry, had brought unhappiness and spoiled
their life down below, and that he was not the proper person to have with them
at this time. He should be kept away. They spread a beautiful buckskin on the
ground. This was the skin of a deer not killed by a weapon. The Holy Ones asked
the Turquoise Boy to enter the great, perfect turquoise that was to become the
sun; and they asked the White Shell Girl to enter the great, perfect, white
shell that was to become the moon. The Turquoise Boy was to carry a whistle
made from the Male Reed. This whistle had 12 holes in it, and each time that
the Turquoise Boy would blow on his whistle the earth would move one month in
time. The White Shell Girl was also to carry a whistle. It was made from the
Female Reed, and with it she should move the tides of the sea. Pgs. 14, 15
Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians, 1956; Aileen O'Bryan.