Navajo Folk Art
8 1/2" x 42"
18- Informant's note: Ashon nutli', the Turquoise Hermaphrodite, later became masculine and was known as the Sun Bearer, Jo hona'ai. Pg. 5
rising and setting of the sun are sacred times for Native Americans. The strength
of the sun is believed to be at its most potent at sunrise. Therefore, prayers
and offerings are made to the Sun Father at this time. Offerings of cornmeal
follow the sun's path, going sunwise, in a circle from east, south, west, and
north. Navajos describe four colors of the dawn, including afterglow. Symbolically,
dawn is the beginning of the world; first light, the place the people have come
from their previous world of darkness. Pg. 192
Father Sun: Sun Father, Sun; not to be confused with the fiery orb of our solar system, Sun Father is a diety who carries the sun with him. Pg. 192
67. However, the Navajo seldom place a red color at the east the Red Ant Chant seems to be one of the few exceptions where this color occurs there. Perhaps, their general feeling about red east is best explained by Fishler's Navajo informant who said: "In the morning, if there is a red or gold color in the east, it foretells fevers, coughs or epidemics to come." In the Beginning, p. 11.
groups, such as the Zunis, devote most of their attention to the apparent recurrent
motion of the sun, which they call "Our Father the Sun". While the
sun is vitally important to Navajo thought, the Navajos consider the various
components of the heavens to be of equal importance and usually do not single
out any one celestial entity for symbolic parentage. Instead, it is much more
common to hear Navajos say, "The sky is our father" (yadilhil nihitaa').
The sun may be the main subject of a sandpainting, but more commonly it is but
one component of a night sky consisting of stars, sun, and moon.
Although the apparent daily motion of the sun is responsible for the four cardinal light phenomena, its annual motion is not significant for the Navajo. It is easy to understand why a people as geographically dispersed as the Navajo would focus on the annual motion of constellations rather than on that of the sun: constellations appear at about the same time within the approximately 18 million acres of reservation and lease lands, while the annual motion of the sun along the horizon varies with location. Pg. 64
First Man appointed He-Who-Returns-Carrying-One-Turquoise to carry the sun disk, Johonaa'ei . . . . . Another primary contrast, that of birth and death, came into existence because of the sun bearer's demand for payment for carrying the celestial disk across the sky. He says, "I will not go down without a man's death. Every time I make this journey, let a man's death occur accrodingly." In return, he agrees, "You [will] see whatever you may presently be doing on its [the earth's] surface, I will keep all of that visible for you, and wherever movable things occur, I will keep all of them recognizable for you." . . . . The sun and moon, in addition to supplying illumination, provide the orderly arrangement of time periods proposed by First Man: the light of the sun marks the beginning of day; its disappearance marks the end. . . . . The sun's movement along the horizon is responsible for the seasons, which are marked by the appearance of specific constellations. Pgs. 74, 75
The Sun's house was guarded by two Winds, Thunders, a pair of Snakes, and a pair of Bears. Located on the shore of the eastern ocean, this pueblo style house was made of turquoise. Rooms branching off from the central room served as showrooms for Sun's wealth: to the south a room housed his flocks, stores of blankets were stacked in a room to the west, while to the north were farms and corn. At each side of the house were twelve rattles composed of precious stones to sound and give forth lightning to herald Sun's arrival. Clothing and weapons were hung upon pegs on the walls while , on a special peg, Sun hung the sun every night. Pg. 135
Perhaps one of the most important symbols in the ceremony is that of the sun. The sun is conceived as a circle and projected symbolically. The ceremonial hogan is seen as a circle when it is blessed with corn pollen. When people enter, it is in a sunwise direction. They seat themselves in a circle. The racing is done according to the position of the sun in the sky, and the girl turns sunwise when she returns home. The cake is circular, "so it will be like the sun," and is baked in a circular pit. The baking is timed according to the passage of the sun. "All the people watch the time; during the summer, the nights are short. You go according to the sun. You give it enough time to bake right. In the winter, you wait till later. Someone has to direct that time schedule. Women are inside and outside keeping track." When done, it is cut in a sunwise direction. The center assumes anthropomorphic qualities attributed to the sun; it becomes a heart, and as a living thing, it may not be cut with a knife. The sun is a symbol of life, creation, blessing, and power. According to Reichard, this suggests a sun cult, a monism where in belief centers on universal harmony or destiny. "The sun is an agent of that monism, a central deity who correlates the nether and celestial worlds with this one, who exists to assist man to his final destiny. Changing Woman may possibly be the female manifestation of the Sun." Disappearance of the sun, as in an eclipse, initiates efforts to re-establish harmony. Taboos are in force during this phenomenon. Pg. 373-74
sun and the moon are borne across the skies by divinities. Trails, thirty-two
in number, have been created for their travels, and summer and winter solstice
occur as the divinities complete the total number and start their return from
the northern- or southern-most trail, respectively. Pg. 37
An eclipse is caused by the death of the orb, which is revived by the immortal bearers of the sun and moon. During an eclipse of the moon the family is awakened to await its recovery. Similarly, a journey is interrupted and work ceases during an eclipse of the sun. Songs referring to the Hozhoji, or rite of blessing, are chanted by anyone knowing them, otherwise the passing of an eclipse is awaited in silence. It is not considered auspicious to have a ceremony in progress during an eclipse of the sun or moon, and a ceremony is often deferred on this account. The rising generation, however, pays little or no attention to this custom. Pg. 41
The Sun represents fatherhood and masculinity. His aspects are distance, power, leadership, and discipline. Just as the earth, which Changing Woman symbolizes, is close and nurturing to all beings, the sun is symbolically a non-intimate energy source. The universe is in order when the Sun and Changing Woman, the sun and the earth, man and woman, father and mother, are united. Thus, the Navajos believe that day (union of the earth and the sun) is equal to good, safety, life, and growth. Night represents the separation of the sun and the earth and is therefore equal to danger and potential evil. Pgs. 13-15
Though previously they had been content with color, First Man and First Woman, when they arrived in this world, wanted light as well, probably because the world was large and many places existed far from the mountains that had previously furnished illumination. After due consideration the First Pair made the sun of a large turquoise disk surrounded by red rain, lightning, and various kinds of snakes. It was heated with fire kindled by Black God's fire drill. From a piece of rock crystal the First Pair made the moon, bordering it with whiteshell, forked lightning, and sacred waters; it is slightly warmed by rock crystal's light.
Among the supernatural company there were two men, one old, one younger, who had risen unexpectedly from a spring. For a long time the two had merely accompanied the people, not performing any usual deeds, but endearing themselves to the travelers. They had planted the reed through which the beings of the fourth world escaped to the fifth. When First Man and First Woman had finished making the sun and decided to place it in East Wind's country, they appointed the young man, who until then had no name, as the sun-bearer. Moving to the east with the orb, he became Sun. They put the old man in charge of moon and gave him the name Moon-bearer or Moon.
One version of the creation myth shows concern to account for Sun's position among the spheres. After the disk had been lighted by dint of great effort, it became too hot and burned the people because the sky and earth were too close together. First Man and First Woman raised the orb a short distance, but it was still dangerously hot. They then made two poles of turquoise and two of whiteshell, which they gave to Those-who-stand-under-the-sky [Sky Pillars]. The latter pried the sky far enough from the earth to prevent burning, but the heat was insufferable. Finally, they decided to stretch the world and, by blowing hard, expanded it until the temperature was comfortable for the inhabitants.
Sun's permanent home, a major symbol of the Male Shooting Chant Sun's House branch, is at the eastern quarter of the sky. In it is a rattle that warns of his return. When it sounds the fourth time, Sun arrives home, takes off the sun, and hangs it on a peg on the wall - on earth the sun sets. Formerly he moved from east to west and back in a day, pausing at the center of the sky [noon] to eat his lunch. Since Changing Woman has lived in the west, he stops there and rests at evening. On dark, stormy days he stays at home and sends out his lightning, which may do mischief. Sun thus carries out his daily schedule.
His seasonal journey begins at the winter solstice; he climbs the southernmost sky pillar and, as the season advances, reaches the northernmost; he retraces the route, spending an equal number of days at each pole. On the rare occasions when he becomes angry he hides his light partly or completely; the earth experiences a solar eclipse which presages misfortune. The Navaho believed the influenza epidemic of 1918 was caused by the solar eclipse of June 8.
Sun's cherished possessions, frequently pictured in the sandpaintings, is his
tobacco pouch. It is painted blue, with blue tapering flaps, a white border
of porcupine quills, and fringe of fawnhooves. The tubular pipe and the pipe
cleaner, kept in thepouch, are of turquoise. A black spot at the narrow end
of the pipe represents tobacco; a streak of white at the end represents a smoke;
a rock crystal lights the pipe.
Sun (djoxona'ai) (P),the deity, is to be differentiated from sun, a light which he carries. Usually, especially in the Shooting Chant, Sun is designated by the orb that gives life to the world. In one drypainting a person is drawn.
Sun is portrayed by numerous references to his ritualistic functions, specific details about his appearance, life, social relationships, and temperament. His symbol is a blue disk with eyes and mouth; it sometimes has horns. Surrounding the disk are colored lines that represent powers rather than persons, as do other appendages such as rain streamers, lightnings, and feathers. Sun is said to be a large person, having a huge foot, known because he left tracks when he visited Changing Woman.
In the Stephen version of creation, Sun and another young man arose in the first world. Both were carried by First Woman to the uppermost world, where the more powerful became Sun, the weaker, Moon. According to Matthews, two men, one old and gray-haired, one young, appeared when the people had given up hope of escaping from the fourth world, and created the reed through which they were delivered.
After the sun and moon had been made in the fifth world, as a great honor they were given to these men to carry, as they had endeared themselves to the people. Nevertheless, Sun and Moon exacted human lives as a reward for moving far enough away from the earth not to burn things on it.
Two contrasting impressions of Sun are developed, one held by the young women he seduced, one indicated by his behavior at home when confronted by his sky wife and those who claimed to be his children. To women he was so handsome that they dared not look at him; they bowed their heads in shame at their own inferiority. He appeared to Changing Woman suspended some two feet above the ground on a white horse with a white bridle. His clothing and moccasins were all white.
He did not ask women for what he wanted, he told them what to do, and, where the details are described, as they are for Changing Woman, guardians were only too glad to arrange for a romantic mating with Sun.
When, however, the results of these meetings, Sun's children, appeared in his home, a different side of the love story, one more familiar to Earth People, comes out. He had a permanent, acknowledged wife who was fat and jealous, and many children. Knowing that The Twins were hidden in his house; that things were not going too smoothly, he entered with blustering bravado and sometimes brought evil with him, causing an eclipse on earth. When accused by his wife of philandering, he simply did not answer.
Apparently so many children claimed him as their father that only the severest tests could prove their legitimacy.
The Twins' visit brings out details of Sun's powers. His house with its furnishings is described. Two Winds, Thunders, a pair of Snakes, and a pair of Bears guarded it. The house was of the pueblo type, white at the east, blue at the south, yellow at the west, and black at the north. In one version it is represented as a pueblo house made of turquoise standing on the shore of the great ocean; in another, it was said to be of whiteshell. Stephen describes rooms giving off from the central room as showrooms for Sun's wealth: at the south a room opened to exhibit his flocks; at the west were stores of blankets and at the north farms and corn.
Impressive features of the house were pistonlike devices made of barbed flints, which Father Berard translates 'trumpets'; the narrator said they were something like phonograph horns. The objects are mentioned in numerous myths, but details differ: Gray Eyes has the 'trumpets' of precious stones-turquoise at the east, abalone at the south, white-shell at the west, redstone at the north-and JS describes the houses of Sun, Moon, Black Wind, and Yellow Wind as of the same materials in the same order. On the other hand, JS says the 'trumpets' are of flint in sunwise circuit sequence: black, blue, white, yellow, and variegated at the center. RP's description of the colors was black, blue, yellow, white, whereas Slim Curley mentioned black, blue, yellow, and pink (serrated); Matthews' and Curtis' informants say the pistons are of jewels-whiteshell, turquoise, abalone; and jet.
In most versions, The Twins were hurled against the spikes; in RP's, they were put into the machine to be ground to bits. In all cases they escaped, thereby proving they were Sun's children.
At each side of the house, and composed of the same substances, were twelve rattles, which sounded and gave forth lightning to warn of Sun's arrival. On the walls were many pegs, upon which hung clothing and weapons; on a special peg the sun was hung every night when Sun returned home.
One of Sun's cherished possessions, frequently pictured in the sandpaintings, is his tobacco pouch. It is painted blue, with blue tapering flaps, a white border of porcupine quills, and fringe of fawnhooves. The tubular pipe and the pipe cleaner, kept in the pouch, are of turquoise. A black spot at the narrow end of the pipe represents tobacco; a streak of white at the wide end represents a smoke; a rock crystal lights the pipe.
Sun had a large number of other weapons, among them lightning arrows and flint clubs and armor which The Twins obtained and adapted to ceremonial purposes with the consent and instruction of their father.
Sun's wife, who kept his permanent home for him in the east, is identified as Dawn Woman or Whiteshell Woman. She was jealous of Changing Woman and nagged her husband about his behavior when he was away from home. Nevertheless, she protected the children of the other women from her husband's wrath. In Gray Eyes' version she harped on the time and care Sun bestowed upon the boys once he had proved them his own. She even suggested that he drive them out with a club, but Sun rebuked her severely and said that 'holy things were taking place.' When he wanted the Earth Twins to restore the Sky son from the bite of Watersnake, Sun apologized to them: "My wife sometimes uses poor sense when she gets to talking."
The Sky wife and Changing Woman probably represent the same woman in different guises. The affair with Changing Woman was permanent, since, after persuading her to move to the perfect house in the west, Sun visited her nearly every day.
The famous gamblers were Sun's children. One had won two valuable shells from the people of Blue House, a pueblo. Sun tried to get Gambler to give up the shells, but he refused until Sun provided another young man (the son of xactc'e'oyan) with the power to beat him.
Sun was vulnerable before his children. After The Twins had proved that he was their father, he pleaded with them:
"My children, be careful not to ask too much of me. If I offer certain things to you, be satisfied. Do not ask me for more that I can grant."
Nevertheless, the boys, prompted by their mentor, refused everything he mentioned and asked for his most precious weapons, which they needed to kill the monsters. When they had blurted out their demand, Sun, overwhelmed by their power, bowed his head and wept. Eventually recovering himself, he explained: ". . . he [Big Monster] was your older brother. Above all others I loved him. Be sure you let me make the first move; then I shall not regret it."
Sun was even the father of Navaho enemies. Two of his pueblo daughters were called Two-dawns-arrive. Their clothing consisted of four spirally arranged layers of jewels. They were killed by the war party led by Monster Slayer and, when Sun realized this, he rose red and trembling with sorrow and anger. When, however, the jewels were offered to him, he calmed down and steadied himself (Changing Woman, The Twins; Stephen ms.; 1930, p.93; Haile 1938b, PP. 91, 94, 99, 101, 105, 107; Goddard, pp.135, 140, 142, 154; Matthews 1902, p.213; 1897, pp.74, 80, 83, 111, 132, 223, 239; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; 1939, PI. XVI-XIX; Newcomb-Reichard, p.29, PI. XVII, XX; Stevenson 1886, pp.279-80).