Various Worlds


The First world, Ni'hodilqil, was black as black wool. It had four corners, and over these appeared four clouds. These four clouds contained within themselves the elements of the First World. They were in color, black, white, blue, and yellow. The Black Cloud represented the Female Being or Substance. For as a child sleeps when being nursed, so life slept in the darkness of the Female Being. The White Cloud represented the Male Being or Substance. He was the Dawn, The Light-Which-Awakens, of the First World. Pg. 1

The First World was small in size, a floating island in mist or water. On it there grew one tree, a pine tree, which was later brought to the present world for firewood. Pg. 2

"and of the fifth world, the world we live in, which some call the changeable world." Pg. 1

39- Informant's and interpreter's note: The Four Worlds were really 12 worlds, or stages of development; but different medicine men divide them differently according to the ceremony held. For the narrative they call them the Four Dark Worlds, and the Fifth World, the one we live in. An old medicine man explained that the Sixth World would be that of the spirit; and that the one above that would be "cosmic," melting into one. Pg. 11

1- Informant's note: Five names were given to this First World in its relation to First Man. It was called Dark Earth, Ni'hodilqil ; Red Earth, Ni'halchi ; One Speech, Sada hat lai ; Floating Island, Ni'ta na elth ; and One Tree, De east'da eith. Pg. 1

The Dine': Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians, 1956; Aileen O'Bryan.

The four worlds of the Navajo correspond to our medieval cosmography of earth, air, fire, and water. In Navajo terms, as well as in present-day scientific interpretation, the First World was one of fire. As the fire (volcanic eruption) cooled, it gave birth to the second world of air. The First World gave man his "life heat," The Second World gave him his "life breath." The Third World of water (condensation of hot vapor) constituted man's internal "water system" his blood and watery passage system. As the Third World subsided, the fourth emerged, the world of earth, substance, matter. The Fourth World gave man his "earthlife,' the flesh of Mother Earth. Together, these four emerging worlds of the Navajo not only gave man his presence, his reality, but they also gave him his geologic history, as depicted in the Ways. Pg. 20

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

The Navajo Story of Creation traces the evolution of life through four such underworlds until The People emerged in this, the fifth and present world. As The People passed through each of the four first worlds, they went through a process of evolution, starting out as insects and finally becoming people as we know them today in the fifth world with the explicit aid of the gods. Above this fifth world there is yet another world where all things blend into one with the cosmos. Pg. 56

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

Momaday explained that the "aesthetic distance" employed by the nineteenth-century "nature poets" to look at nature and to write about it was a notion completely alien to Indians because, in their mind, nature is not something they push away so that they can focus upon it from a distance. Nature, instead, is an element within which Native Americans exist as an integral part. Pg. 60

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

Navaho cosmology comprises twelve worlds, or under worlds. The globe which we inhabit is slightly elliptical in shape, with a flattened base, and is wholly stationary. Moreover, it is entirely surrounded by four bodies of water flowing around it, and emptying into the west through an opening in the sky. The earth is covered with the sky which, in shape and size, is similar to that of the earth, and rests on pillars placed at the cardinal points and the center of the earth. The sky is divided into four vaults, one above the other, each of which is furnished with compartments for the various peoples inhabiting them. The entrance to these vaults is made through openings provided in the center of each vault. Beyond them, however, is space and an unknown region. The sky is considered male, the earth female, and both are in the relation of man and wife to each other. The earth may also be considered the mother of all living, insomuch as it produces vegetable life, and harbors many insects and animals in addition to being the abode of man. Pg. 35

The legends speak of twelve worlds, the home of various Peoples. These worlds were small in size, and are referred to as chambers, which are numbered as the people pass through and stand on the several vaults. Their speech in the several worlds, too, is recorded; hence, the roof or vault of the first world is called saad lai, the first speech; the vault of the second, saad nakhi, the second speech; similarly, saad tqaa, saad dii, saad ashdla, saad hastqa', saad tsostsed, saad tsebi, saad naast'ai, saad nezna, saad ladzada, saad nakhidzada, the third to twelfth speech, the latter of which we now occupy. Furthermore, these twelve worlds are subdivided into three divisions of four, the first four being referred to as ni'hodilqil, or the dark world; the subsequent four as ni'halchi, the red world, and the upper four as ni'hodotl'ish, the blue world. Some of the chant legends begin with events in one of these three groups of worlds. In this manner some speak of five, others of eight worlds, etc.
The above mentioned worlds are not spoken of as having been created, but as already existing. The first world is inhabited by the Ant People who are subordinate to chiefs or spokesman in the east, south, west and north. In the second world they find the Locust Man and Locust Woman. The third world being uninhabited all of these peoples travel to the fourth world where the following persons are found: First Man, First Woman, the First Made, the Second Made, First Boy, First Girl, and First Angry, or Coyote. First Man and his eight companions are the first witches, and the cause of sickness and fatal diseases. Nibil hodidezli, he who originated with the earth, is applied to First Man. The name corresponds with the sacred name of the kit-fox.
The Peoples of the four preceding worlds ascend to the fifth world where they are joined by the Grub Man and Woman. The sixth world is uninhabited. The seventh world they found inhabited by the Cat People. They also met Spider Man and Woman. The Cat People were, evil shooters (witches), who filled the bodies of their neighbors with evil by shooting. First Man removes this power from them and makes it his own property. , the eighth world, is the home of Salt Man and Woman, and also of Fire God. (In the legend of witchcraft the latter is introduced with First Man and his companions in the fourth world.) The Ant People, of whom mention was made first, also find another colony of Ant People with whom they immediately associate. The Snake People, are also introduced here, together with the Yucca People; and Cactus People, the Big Fly, a beautiful bird (Owl), and the Kit-fox. First Man erects the first hogan here, the type for the present hogan. He then displays all the material for the future sacred mountains, for the dawn, the sky-blue, the twilight and darkness, the future winds, rains, lightnings, the future gods, and so on. To each and every one he presents some of his evil power, so that all are possessed of witchcraft. But he also designates various herbs as a remedy for all evils, poisons and diseases which he has distributed, and designates the prayersticks and sacrifices necessary to remove them. All of the above mentioned peoples therefore require a sacrifice.
When First Man and his now numerous companions entered the ninth world, they found it in possession of the beautiful very small Yellow Ant, who were in communication with the small Black Ants of the tenth world. By fraudulent means First Man and Salt Man deprive them of their various juices or grease, their only possession and sustenance.
The place of emergence in the eleventh world, is called - whitish earth. The peoples of this world are very numerous, counting among their numbers a group of Cat People, the Bear and Deer Families, Foxes, Badgers, Skunks, Birds, Fishes, and finally Water Monsters. The people of the land are subordinate to the Big Wolf chiefs in the east and west, while the Wildcat chiefs are spokesmen in the northern and southern villages. These direct their subordinates in farming and the chase. The domestic labors and functions are assigned to the female portion. And all spare time is devoted to various sports, as the bouncing stick game, dice, hoop and pole, football, etc. (After the theft of Water Monster's babies, they dig their way to the twelth world to escape from the flood) The earth was small in size, and here and there small bodies of water were observed. Some of the people camped at the shores or banks of these lakes and were known as the people at the edge of the water; others made huts of mud; others camped below a ledge of rock, and so on, each being designated by a peculiarity of this kind. And when it developed that one of their number was missing a search was made for him. He was finally located in the place of emergence, but refused to leave, saying that the future people of the earth would return there. Therefore, the people of this earth return to there after death. The person remaining there sallies forth at times to collect food and pieces of broken pottery which have been left at the habitat of the deceased, for he promised his companion to do this. Pgs. 347-352

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

Lower worlds as the place of origin of the prehuman creatures who antedated the Navaho are discussed in Chapter 2. Here the derivations and occurrences in each world according to the different versions are abstracted from the myths, an attempt being made to keep the descriptions parallel-character of the world, kind of people encountered, advances toward human traits and customs.
The first world was red, small, and barren. Since there was an ocean in each direction, it must have been like an island.
It was inhabited by black insectlike creatures; among them was Bat. First Man, First Woman, and Black God were there. From cuticle a man and a woman, Water Monster, Salt Woman, Thunder, Big Frog, Crane, and a mentor were created. Water Monster was the chief of the eastern ocean, Crane (Blue Heron) of the southern, Frog of the western, and Winter Thunder of the northern ocean. These people moved to the edges of the world because, although the First Pair had made Cicada, Ants, and Horned Toads for food, they became intolerable to their creators.
The four chiefs had seeds, corn, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, tobacco, beans, cotton, muskmelon, gourd-all desired by the people living in the center of the world. The situation gave rise to a bitter struggle that ended in the flooding of the world. In one myth the people moved in circles to the sky, which they found smooth and hard; just before they finally gave up hope of getting through, Swallow showed them a hole through the sky leading to his home in the east. In another myth the chief who had sent the flood gave offerings to First Man, who allowed all to escape in a reed that grew from the water to the sky of the second world. Two young men appeared from a spring, were hidden by First Woman under her arm, and later, in the third world, became sun and moon bearers.
In the Wheelwright version, Coyote and Salt Woman, as well as the gods and the black insects mentioned by Matthews, existed; be'yotcidi was in charge of creation. He made the principal mountains, on which he planted vegetation. Black God set the world afire as a result of a quarrel with be'yotcidi because he also wanted to exert authority. be'yotcidi had the people escape through a reed to the world above, leaving the first world burning below (Matthews 1897, pp. 63-4; Stephen 1930, p. 88; Goddard, p. 127; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 39-41).

The second world was blue, dry, and cheerless. Because it was overcrowded, the people bewitched one another. It was inhabited by Swallows and other blue birds. All who came into the second world from the first had legs, feet, bodies, heads, and wings like (corresponding with) those of the second world's people. They understood one another's language and solicited friendship by using kin terms. According to Goddard, First Man, First Woman, Water Coyote, and Coyote appeared in the second world. According to Stephen, First Man made Talking God, xactc'e'oyan, Monster Slayer, and Black God, and placed them on the four main mountains, which were oriented as they had been in the world below. The gods had charge of the game that roamed the mountains.
The accounts of the second world feature light and color. The people of the first world found in the second world sun, moon, and the four colors, black, white, blue and yellow. From the colors First Man made day and night. When white and yellow met in the center there was day; when blue and black met there was night. Coyote came into being at the east from the contact of white and yellow light and Yellow Fox sprang from the yellow light at the west. Similarly, from the meeting of blue and black, Blue Fox originated at the south, Badger at the north.
First Man started a ceremony to which he invited strangers. They came, made friends, and taught the new people agriculture. The First Pair created twelve people, who became pueblo Indians. First Man planted the seed he had brought from below, and all kinds of people (animals) joined his group.
According to Matthews, the use of kinship terms succeeded in placating the people of the second world for twenty-three days, but again the intruders took the wives of the natives and were driven out. A second version gives First Woman's intercourse with Sun as the cause of their expulsion.
The Stephen version stresses instruction in evil (which became witchcraft) in the second world, including the separation of the sexes and the subsequent birth of the monsters. As the men were getting the women back across the river that separated them, Water Monster stole one of the children and Spider Woman hid it from him; he therefore sent a flood to destroy all the people.
Though the reasons for the departure are different in detail, they are similar in kind. Again the people came to the sky and were unable to find a passage through. Wind with a white face showed them a way through at the south; apparently these people flew up to the next world. According to Stephen, Cicada contested with the birds living in the third world and won the land; four people went through the hole and made arroyos and canyons so that the waters could run off. Then Winds dried the land, and the people, setting up long ladders in their reed, climbed to the third world.
The Wheelwright version continues its account with be'yotcidi as creator in the second world. He made the wasp-like insects and twin males and females, each pair called One-who-follows-the-other. be'yotcidi destroyed then restored them. He also created cotton, which 'became motion and sound,' clouds, and vegetation. Black God continued to quarrel with be'yotcidi and, when the latter would not let the people move to the mountains to enjoy the flowers, Black God burned the waters and the people moved up once more through the large reed to a third world (Matthews 1897, pp. 65-6, 216-7; Goddard, p. 128; Stephen 1930, pp. 95ff.; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 41-3).

The third world was yellow and barren, but had a river flowing through it toward the east. It was measured by sending couriers in all four directions; they reached land's end and returned to report in one day. Mountains had the same position they have in this world.
The people of the third world-grasshoppers, yellow ants, red ants, and black ants with red heads-were at first friendly to the newcomers. At the eastern side of the eastern mountain, Turquoise Boy lived with twelve male companions and Mirage People, who owned large reeds. At the west, Whiteshell Woman lived with twelve female companions and Heat People, owners of twelve female reeds. In the third world First Man appointed five chiefs-Big Snake, Bear, Wolf, Panther, and Otter.
Corn and agriculture are described for the third world. Turkey, who owned gray corn and lived at Gray Mountain, is introduced. White corn, created with First Man, was planted by him; First Woman planted her yellow corn, and Turquoise Boy planted his blue corn. Then First Man called Turkey, who danced and dropped gray corn, spotted beans, and seeds of watermelon and muskmelon from his wings.
In the third world, First Man established marriage and clan exogamy, and decreed that there should be transvestites.
Matthews says that the separation of the sexes, caused by First Woman's unfaithfulness to First Man, took place in the third world. Many lives were lost and First Woman blamed the misfortune on her husband's bad leadership. When she took over, a flood came up, caused by Water Monster, whose children Coyote had lassoed with a rainbow and kidnapped. First Man saved the people by causing a reed to grow from the top of the eastern mountain to the sky; by blowing he enlarged it so that the people could get into it. Woodpecker pecked a hole in the sky, through which Water Monster appeared to claim his children. Here a trade was made: Coyote gave back one child and kept the skin of the other (who did not necessarily die) to produce rain and vegetation. The Wheelwright version agrees substantially with this account.
According to Matthews' version A, the newcomers were ousted from the third world for abusing the hospitality of the residents. Red Wind showed them the passage, made by Whirlwind and twisted like a tendril, through the smooth hard sky. Matthews' version B has the people escape from the flood of the third world in a reed.
The third world was the last, according to Stephen. Here the Pueblos built their houses, the Navaho built hogans, and presumably their life on this earth began.
The Wheelwright version places the elements of the Goddard and Stephen versions in the third world-the Navaho living in peace with the Zuni, Hopi, and Taos pueblos; the separation of the sexes; the theft of Water Monster's child; the flood and escape through the reed. Before the quarrel the people acquired clothes, methods of hunting the institution of marriage, a language, and some ceremonies. There was no sun or moon, but the mountains gave plenty of light (Matthews 1897, pp. 66-7; Goddard, pp. 128-31; Stephen 1930, p. 102; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 43-51).

The fourth world resembled the others but was larger; the couriers took four days to return from their survey of it. By the time the people reached the fourth world many materials, techniques, customs, and institutions were known, since they they had been accumulating for a long time.
In Matthews' legend, the events of the fourth world that had occurred in the previous worlds of the other versions were: the appearance of Coyote and Badger where the sky colors met, the separation of the sexes, the theft of Water Monster's children, the flood, and the escape through the reed to the fifth world.
The people, now of many kinds, encountered the ancient pueblo people and, strangely enough created First Man and First Woman from corn which they produced.
The Goddard version contains many of the details already mentioned for the fourth and lower worlds and adds a detailed account of First Man's model of the earth and the seasons. In contrast Coyote spoiled plans for the future, such as the model of the moon and the pattern of the stars. In the Wheelwright version, be'yotcidi found Talking God, owner of the new world, friendly to the strangers. According to this version, the fourth is our world.
In various accounts there are brief references to two men who rose from a spring at some place or other in the upward journey; these were later chosen by the people to act as Sun and Moon, that is, the orb bearers (Matthews 1897, pp. 67-8; Goddard, pp. 131ff.; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 51-6).

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