Sacred Mountains

View all products related to this legend


1. The Navajo wedding basket also reflects many values of traditional life and so often contains all six sacred mountains, including Huerfano and Gobernador Knob, though the size of the basket may determine the numher of mountains in the design. The center spot in the basket represents the beginning of this world, where the Navajo people emerged from a reed. This is where the spirit of the basket lives. The white part around the center is the earth, the black symbolizing the sacred mountains upon which are found water bowls. Above them are clouds of different colors. The white and black ones represent the making of rain. A red section next to the mountains stands for the sun's rays that make things grow. (Sacred Land Sacred View, Robert McPherson (1992)).


2. A word might be said regarding the symbolism attached to the design of Navajo wedding trays, for it is one of the few southwestern basketry decorations which probably has meaning. One very simple interpretation is that the inner black steps represent the underworld; the red band is the earth and life; and the outer black steps stand for the upper world. Fishler recites the following interpretation which he obtained from one of his Navajo informants. The center spot (often a tiny opening) in the basket "represents the beginning of this earth as the Navajo merged from the cane"; the white around this is the earth. Stepped black designs represent the mountains, boundaries of Navajo lands; water bags and rainbows are draped on the mountains, clouds also rise from thm. All the white in the basket represents dawn, all red the sun's rays, and all black the clouds, said the informant. Fishler adds much symbolism relative to numbers of coils; he then tells how Navajo legend relates that this wedding basket design was given to this tribe by White Shell Woman, and Thunder taught them to weave the water jar and carrying basket. The braided rim is explained by the Navajo in terms of this legend: A Navajo woman was weaving under a juniper tree, trying to think of finishing the rim in some manner different from that of the regular stitch. A god tore a small sprig from the tree and tossed it into her basket. Immediately she thought of the braided rim. (Indian Baskets of the Southwest Clara Lee Tanner (1983)).

The sacred mountains had been given their positions by First Man when he invited the various Peoples to contribute to the completion and beauty of the earth. Accordingly, the various animals planted the seeds of trees, shrubs, plants and grasses, which they had brought with them from the lower worlds. Thereupon, First Man breathed upon them so that they, too, might see and live. The clouds, winds and thunder were placed on the sky (yaidilqil) so that moisture might be supplied and vegetation secured. Pg. 353

An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navajo Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers.

Between the mountains-to-be White Shell was placed for Mountain Woman, and Water Woman was represented by River Clay. West of that there were four flints placed with a black one for Sand Hill Crane, Bittern and Curlew, a yellow one for the Ducks and Mud Hen, and White Flint for Egret and Snipe. On the Sky Medicine Bundle were placed Kingbird, Chickadee, Snowbird and Owl, which are the winter birds. People use Kingbird's tongue, which is notched, for divination. On the Earth Bundle they placed flints representing the Woodpecker and Yellow Bird, and the Sapsucker was added to the Winter Medicine Bundle, because he is spotted as if with snow; all these birds are used in the medicine pouch. Coyote observed everything, while First Man sang one hundred and two songs, alternating with the Woman, who sang one hundred and two Mountain Songs. First Man would sing a Sun Song and then call upon Mountain Woman to sing a Mountain Song, and all these songs were part of the Blessing Way, which must conclude all ceremonies.
Now, on the Earth side of Creation, First Man placed eight winds and on the Sky side eight thunders, dark mist and "he-and-she rains. Near Mountain Woman on the Earth side he placed Dark Mountain with beads of Jet for Dark Mountain, Abalone for Yellow Mountain, and White Shell for White Mountain. Then on the Dark Mountain he placed bands of Jet for the White Headed Eagle, on Blue Mountain another Eagle, on Abalone Mountain a Hawk, and on White Mountain the White Eagle and the Hawk. Next to Water Woman were two kinds of waves, and these became Spruce Hill and Huerfano Mountain. Then First Man covered the Creation with Dawn, Twilight, Sky Blue and Dark Sky from the four directions, and breathed four times on it; then he removed the coverings, and everything in the Earth and Sky began to move. Then he covered them again and breathed on them again, and they increased in size; but life had not yet come into them. Four times he repeated this process until they were big enough; then he took up the nine winds from the earth side and breathed with them on the prayer sticks and the mountains, and all the things that lie on the earth and sky and all the people and all the things breathed and stood up.
Then they decorated the mountains with the Holy Jewels, Mountain Woman with vegetation, and Water Woman with foam; Spruce Hill was covered with stuffs, and Huerfano Mountain with jewels. Pg. 44

Emergence Myth, According to Hanelthnayhe Rite; 1949, Mary C. Wheelwright

It is also said that soon after the Kiis'aani moved away Altse' hastiin the First Man and Altse' asdzaa' the First Woman decided to embellish this new world. So together with Bits'iis lizhin the Black Body, and with Bits'iis dootl'izh the Blue Body, they first set out to build the seven mountains sacred to the Navajo people to this very day. They built those mountains out of things they had brought with them: things they had taken from similar mountains in the fourth world below. In the east they made Sisnaajini', or Sierra Blanca Peak as Bilagaana now calls it. In the south they made Tsoodzil', or Mount Taylor. In the west they made Dook'o'oosliid, or San Francisco Peak as it is now called. And in the north they fashioned Dibe'nitsaa, or Big Mountain Sheep.
Those four mountains they built at the four cardinal points. They placed them where the water flowing from the fourth world gathered after it seeped up through the holes Altse' hastiin had made when he threw four stones in the four directions.
Also they made three mountains in the middle of the land. They made Dzilna'oodilii, or the mountain that Bilagaana would call Travelers Circle. They made Ch'o'ol'i'i or the mountain that some would now call Giant Spruce while others claim that the meaning is obscure. And they made Ak'idah nast'ani, or the mountain that the White Man calls Butte Piled on a Butte in his language.
Through Sisnaajini in the east they ran a bolt of lightning to fasten it to the firmament. Then they decorated it with white shells. They decorated it with white lightning. They decorated it with white corn. They decorated it with the dark clouds that produce the harsh and sudden male rain.
On the summit of Sisnaajini in the east they placed a bowl of shells. In that bowl they placed two eggs belonging to Hasbidi the Gray Dove', for they wanted feathers on the mountain. They then covered those eggs with a sacred buckskin so that they would hatch. Which explains why there are so many wild pigeons on that mountain to this day.
All that they had placed on Sisnaajini in the east they now covered with a sheet of daylight. And from small stone images which they had carried with them from the world below they fashioned Tse'ghadi'nidinii ashkii the Rock Crystal Boy and Tse'ghadi'nidinii at'e'e'd the Rock Crystal Girl. These two they stationed there to dwell forever as the male god and as the female god of Sisnaajini, or Sierra Blanca Peak as it would be called today in the language that Bilagaana the White Man speaks.
From top to bottom through Tsoodzil in the south they ran a great stone knife to fasten it to the firmament. Then they adorned it with turquoise. They adorned it with dark mist. They adorned it with many different animals. They adorned it with the heavy mist that brings the slow, gentle female rain.
On the peak of Tsoodzil in the south they placed a large bowl of turquoise. In that bowl they put two eggs of the Dolii the Bluebird, for they also wanted feathers on that mountain. They next covered those eggs with a sacred buckskin to make them hatch. Which explains why so many bluebirds dwell there to this very day.
All that they had placed on Tsoodzil in the south they now covered with blue sky. And from a portion of substance which they had brought with them from the world below they fashioned Dootl'izhii nayoo'ali ashkii, the Boy Who Is Bringing Back Turquoise. And they fashioned Naada'a'la'i nayoo'ali at'e'e'd', the Girl Who Is Bringing Back Many Ears of Corn. These two they stationed there to dwell forever as the male god and as the female god of Tsoodzil, or Mount Taylor as it is called in the language that Bilagaana speaks.
They used a sunbeam to fasten Dook'o'oosliid in the west to the firmament. Then they decorated it with haliotis shell. They decorated it with a variety of animals. It too they decorated it with the black clouds that produce the harsh, sudden male rain.
On the top of Dook'o'oosliid in the west they placed a large bowl of haliotis shell. Into that bowl they placed two eggs of Tsidiiltsooi the Yellow Warbler, for they also wanted plenty of feathers on this mountain. Then they covered those eggs with a sacred buckskin to be sure that they would hatch. Which explains why so many yellow warblers live on that mountain to this day.
All that they had placed on Dook'o'oosliid in the west they covered with a yellow cloud. And from material which they had obtained before they left the world below they fashioned Naadalgah ashkii the White Corn Boy and Naada'ltsoii at'e'e'd the Yellow Corn Girl. These two they stationed to dwell there forever as the male god and as the female god of Dook'o'oosliid, or San Francisco Peak as it would now be called in the language that the White Man speaks.
They fastened Dibe'nitsaa in the north to the firmament with a rainbow. Then they adorned that mountain with black beads.
They adorned it with many different kinds of plants. They adorned it with many different animals. And it too they adorned with the gray mist that brings the slow, gentle female rain.
On the highest point of Dibe'nitsaa in the north they placed a large bowl of black beads. Into that bowl they placed two eggs of ch'agii the Blackbird, for they believed that there should also be feathers up there. Which explains why so many blackbirds fly around on that mountain to this very day.
All that they had placed on Dibe'nitsaa in the north they covered with a blanket of darkness. And from a bundle of things that they had gathered while they were living in the world below they fashioned Ta'didiin ashkii', the Pollen Boy and Nahachagii at'e'e'd the Grasshopper Girl. These two they stationed to dwell there forever as the male god and as the female god of Dibe'nitsaa, or the Place of Big Mountain Sheep as it would today be called in the language spoken by Bilagaana the White Man.
After they had secured the mountains that marked the four cardinal points, they built the three central mountains.
Dzilna'oodilii they fastened to the firmament with a sunbeam. They decorated it with all kinds of things, including the dark clouds that bring the male rain. They put nothing on the summit, for they wished to keep it empty so that warriors might be able to fight there. But they placed Yodi neidiitsi ashkii the Boy Who Produces Goods there, and they placed Yodi nei dii tsi at'e'e'd the Girl Who Produces Goods there to dwell forever as gods.
Ch'o'ol'i'i they fastened to the firmament with a streak of falling rain. Then they decorated it with pollen and with the dark mist that brings female rain. On its summit they placed Ghoozhghaalii the Bullock Oriole, which is like those that are plentiful there to this day. And there they also put Nitl'iz neidiitsi ashkii the Boy Who Produces Jewels and Nitl'iz neidiitsi at'e'e'd the Girl Who Produces Jewels to dwell forever as male god and female god.
And finally they fastened Ak'i dah nast'ani to the firmament with a sacred mirage stone. It they decorated with many different plants', and with the black clouds that bring the male rain. On its summit they placed Nahachagii the Grasshopper, whose descendants are abundant there to this day. And there they also placed Tse hadahoniye' ashkii the Mirage Stone Boy and Yoo'lichi'i at'e'e'd the Carnelian Girl to dwell there forever as gods, it is said. Pgs. 86-90

Dine Bahane, The Navajo Creation Story; 1984, Paul G. Zolbrod

Mountains, though places, are so personalized that I have classified them as deities. They may be included in lists of Holy People mentioned in formula and prayer; they have an 'inner form,' 'something which lies inside' (bi' yi'sti'n), and stabilizes them, doubtless a counterpart of the Agate or Turquoise Man which makes a man invincible. When people in the lower worlds were forced by floods to leave, they took special care to bring tokens of the mountains with them. No Navaho conception of the world, whether in the past or the future, is conceivable without the contemporary arrangement of mountains. The mountain symbolism is due no doubt to the belief that they are homes of the gods, associated with hogans.
The outstanding mountains are discussed in Chapter 2, where the difficulty, even impossibility, of determining the precise geography is noted. Here an illustration of conflicting evidence is cited:
The provenance of the 'eastern mountain' is much discussed by Navaho chanters, but there is no agreement. sisnadjini', 'the-particular-one-that-is-black-belted,' is its name. Matthews said it was Abiquin Peak or the one next to Abiquin, which may be Pedernal Peak (*Matthews and others refer to 'Belted Mountain' as Pelado Peak, not marked with the Spanish name on modern U.S. Geological Survey maps). Father Berard accepts for the Navaho the mountain identified by the JicariIla Apache as Blanca Peak in Colorado, and Sapir-Hoijer, doubtless following his lead, also translate sisna'djini (their recording) as Blanca Peak. Father Berard's Navaho authorities, convinced that it was the Holy Mountain of the east, collected soil to be ritualistically employed later.

On the other hand, when in 1933 the Navaho decided to have the Rain Ceremony performed, the Rain Singer conducted a pilgrimage to Wheeler Peak (sisnadjini'), where they ceremonially collected waters. They explained, however, that "although Wheeler Peak is, as we know, pretty far east, it is the right mountain." From this and other conflicting remarks, we may well exercise caution in accepting any one as 'the right' mountain. From the Rain Singer's qualification I infer that' too far east 'indicates Pedernal or Pelado Peak as nearest the mythical location; Blanca Peak seems much too far north. Evidence of men who started out on a ritualistic quest without suggestion from whites is a bit more convincing than that of Navaho taken on a 'scientific' field trip. I do not by these remarks mean to imply that anyone was insincere-I mean merely to demonstrate that mythical places may be easily rationalized as 'scientifically' correct, even though one name be assigned to several (Ch. 2; Oakes-Campbell, PI. I, IV, V, VIII, X-XII; Haile 1938b, pp. 66-7; Sapir-Hoijer, p. 176).

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

View all products related to this legend

Printable View

Free Shipping on all orders $250 or more (USA only).

Shopping Cart
Your Shopping Cart is Empty

1-800-526-3448
Friendly people waiting to answer your questions.


Search

This site was last updated on November 19, 2017.

Subscribe to e-Mailer

Twin Rocks on Facebook @TwinRocks_Bluff on Twitter Twin Rocks on Google+ Twin Rocks on Linkedin

credit card acceptance marks