Time of Day

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Because celestial entities, particularly Earth, Sky, and Moon, were endowed with inner forms and with the capacity to live, think, speak, and move, they had a means of guiding and regulating human life. The Sun regulates the cardinal light phenomena, for its apparent diurnal motion determines the sequence of these phenomena. The Dawn appears before the Sun; the Sun journeys over horizontal Skyblue; Evening Twilight follows the Sun; and the Sun returns to the east under the Darkness. Specific patterns of thought and behavior are associated with each time of day. In chanter Frank Mitchell's version of Creation, Coyote, in his role as native philosopher, discusses how the cardinal light phenomena are to guide the Earth Surface People: "Offerings made . . . [at dawn] will all be holy, and in the future young men and women who are to come into being will all be put in shape [so that] he [or she] who has walked in . . . [the dawn] will enjoy every [possession]." Coyote goes on to say that while daylight is good as a time to carry out the plans made at dawn, it can bring either good or ill fortune. Deaths that occur at this time are the payment required by the sun carrier for his travel: "Concerning . . . [daylight] although good to some extent it will remain two-sided. Whereas it will be a protection particularly for one's journeys, bad things [deaths] will repeatedly occur in that time . . . [so that] half of it will be good, the other half will not be good." The third light phenomenon, twilight, is a time of bringing people together again; thus, travel during that time is not proper. "The . . . [twilight] will also be good, and offerings too will be made in that time, it will be the time of bringing [people] together again. Should any of you not act properly, should anyone disbelieve and continue [travel] through it, that also will not be quite proper." The period of darkness, however, has more of whatever is bad. It is during this time that the Moon's demand for deaths as payment for his journey across the sky must be satisfied. "As for . . . [darkness], only a small portion of it will be good. Merely the resting part in this time period, in this small point only will conditions be good. Otherwise, there will be more of whatever is bad [death] in this time than in the others. And should you desire this . . . [time] above the others [that is, sleep too much], you will suffer want of everything. That is the purpose of these things." Coyote instructs the Earth Surface People on appropriate behavior for each time of the day associated with the cardinal light phenomena. By following these instructions for moderation, order, and balance, and by heeding other advice and warnings from the diyin dine'e, which are relayed by messenger winds, one can ensure that one's life will me barked by prosperity and abundance. Pg. 96, 97


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

Time is told by pointing out the position of the sun in the sky. The day begins with the dawn, and its principal parts are sunrise, midday and sunset, while the intermediary parts of the day, too, are expressed by positions of the sun. The day closes with sunset, or rather, with the approach of darkness, which also inaugurates the night. For the latter, however, no apparent attempt is made at a division of time beyond a mere guess at midnight, and the mention of the approach of dawn. The rise and decline of the moon does not serve as an indication of the time of night, but reference is at times made to the position of some constellations, such as the rise and setting of the morning and evening stars, the position of the Pleiades (Dilyehe), etc. The time at night is occasionally of importance as, for instance, in indicating the time for reciting the songs at dawn for the close of a ceremony, and the like. Pgs. 37, 38

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

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