All Animals

View all products related to this legend

After completion of the ceremony the twins return to teach it to earth people and then depart to become guardians respectively of the thunder storm and of animals. Pg. 164, The Stricken Twins.


Navajo Chantway Myths, 1957; Katherine Spencer.

A bear claw necklace, an eagle feather bonnet, a mountain lion skin quiver, all give their possessor some measure of the characteristics of those animals - strength, cunning, ferocity, the ability to soar. Pg. 38

Navajo Taboos; 1991, Ernie Bulow.

Navaho zoolatry includes practically the entire native fauna, which accordingly enters largely into ritual and worship by the use of skins, feathers, claws, tissues, and the like. Then, too, the figures of many animals appear in the sand drawings, as that of the eagle, the deer, the antelope, prairie dog, turkey, and others. Still, the most general method of animal worship consists of a sacrifice in the shape of a prayerstick, the colors of which correspond with those of the animal, and which subsequently is deposited near its habitat. The stick is therefore "dressed" for the animal, that is to say, it is colored and decorated with plumes, fed with tobacco, which is symbolically lighted, and then placed into the hands of the patient or, if there be many prayersticks, they are lined in their order of precedence in the ceremonial basket. The singer then proceeds to dedicate them by song and prayer, in the course of which he invokes the divinity by its own sacred name. A list of these names is herewith presented, with such translations as were available, though frequently their meaning becomes clear only through a detailed legendary account. The names of the male and female usually correspond, excepting that jikhae nat'ani, maiden and chief, is substituted for dzilkhae nat'ani, youth and chief. Pgs. 171, 172


The squirrel, an inhabitant of the mountains, is eminently fitted for the role assigned to it in various legends, of prying into the secrets of the enemy. Pg. 141

The felines, too, are found in the mountains. The aboriginal Navaho used the skins for their costume, though at present little use is found in them. Occasionally a quiver made of mountain lion skin is still to be seen. Pg. 140

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

Each animal has a place in the universal scheme. The rare game animals (dini') - deer, antelope, elk, and mountain sheep - are especially valued ritualistically, even though today they are so scarce that many children have never seen one. Throughout mythology and ritual, vegetable and flesh food are felt to belong together. Contrary to many remarks in the literature on Navajo ritual, there is no such thing as a corn or a game ritual, since one involves, if only implicitly, the other. When Changing Woman placed on the forehead of Monster Slayer a black stick which grew and symbolized deer antlers, he felt three kinds of seeds in his hand. The story of the contest with Deer Owner is pointed up so as to contrast and eventually associate the advantages of meat and vegetables as a diet, for the hero who overcame him traded knowledge of agriculture for the release of the rare game animals.

The hunting animals carried packs of corn on their backs, for they had charge of the corn-growing rite of the Fire Dance.

Mountain sheep, as valued game animals, play a major role in mythology and ritual. Many characteristics of the Hunchback God are like those of the mountain sheep. If Hunchback God is not actually the animal, he at least had supernatural control over it, and the hump on his back, like those of the hunting animals, is made of clouds containing seeds of all types of vegetation.

Beaver (tca") (H) is depicted as a well-meaning helper.

Beaver Man and Otter Woman gave their skins to The Twins when Sun tested them by freezing.

Beaver came to Rainboy for some tobacco, then asked, "Why did I come here? What do you need?" After discussion she found out that the gods had not given him the formula for the Hail Chant incense, a part of which was a bit of flesh from Beaver's leg. Incense is feared by Winter Thunder (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; 1944d, p.139).

Chipmunk (xazaitsosi') (H)(*Rodents have not been scientifically identified. The translation, are colloquial) was a helpful rodent comparable with Rat.

It was customary for him to crawl out to the very end of Burrowing Monster's horn and, when Monster Slayer had supposedly killed him, Chipmunk ran out to be sure he was dead, and reported by his usual sound, tso's tso's tso's tso's. As a reward he was allowed to streak his face and stripe his body with Burrowing Monster's blood.

Chipmunk's function in the Endurance Chant was essentially the same. He told Youngest Brother how to kill Changing-bear-maiden by her own methods, and later hopped about on an oak tree, making his sound to give Youngest Brother the sign that he had found the place where her vital parts were hidden.

Chipmunk fed Rainboy from the inexhaustible yellow bowl, and was rewarded with Measuring Worm's tobacco (Haile 1938b, pp. 115-7, cp. Matthews 1897, p. 118; Reichard 1944d, p.139; Shooting Chant ms.; Endurance Chant ms.).

Ground Squirrel (xazai) (H) was originally all yellow. After Monster Slayer had killed Burrowing Monster, he was weak and faint from smelling the blood and sweat. Ground Squirrel restored him with medicine, whereupon Monster Slayer dipped his hand in the blood and rubbed it over Ground Squirrel's back and face. "After that he was better looking" (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Pocket Gopher (na'azisi) (H) helped at the slaying of Burrowing Monster by digging the four protective tunnels under him.

Gopher lived under Burrowing Monster and, being small, was accustomed to use the fur from over the Monster's heart for her nest. After Burrowing Monster had been killed, Gopher warned Monster Slayer lest he be overcome by the blood, and gave him Gopher medicine, which became the War Ceremony incense. As a reward, she was given the monster's skin. According to Matthews, it was to show people of the future how the monster looked.

Gopher gnawed the roots of the tree for the winning side in the tree-pushing contest (Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Haile 1938b, pp. 115-7; Matthews 1897, pp. 84-5, 118).

Rat, Bushrat, Woodrat (le"c'tso) (H) are not accurately differentiated in the myths. Different animals may be meant; the names are rarely given. Matthews identifies what he calls the 'bushrat' of the Mountain Chant as Neotoma mexicana, commonly called 'woodrat.'

According to Sapir's informant, Rat lived in a spiny cactus. He warned the hero of the story against Owl.

The Mountain Chant myth describes Rat as a little old man who was cleaning cactus fruit. He had a sharp nose, small bright eyes, and a little mustache on each side of his upper lip.

Rainboy of the Hail Chant was helped by rats. Rat Man brought in wood, and Rat Woman, wood and a cook pot, in which she made unseasoned gruel.

Later, Rat Woman brought Rainboy various kinds of food, three of which he was warned to refuse. Finally, he ate the fourth kind of food, gruel made of yellow corn meal. She covered him with a squirrelskin blanket. Another time she brought yucca fruit baked with roasted corn, some of which he ate.

After Monster Slayer had killed Burrowing Monster, Yellow Rat, a poor wretch, nothing but skin and bones, was among the rodents who came for a reward (Matthews 1883, p.384; 1887, p.400; Sapir-Hoijer, pp. 43ff.; Reichard 1944d, pp.89, 137, Shooting Chant ms.).

Wolf (ma'i'tsoh, ma'i'tsoh, na'tle'tsoh) (U) is a contrast to Coyote in that he is considered dependable. He is the leader of the hunting animals.

Wolf, as a chief of the second world, behaved very much like First Man. He quarreled with his wife about sex matters and brought about the separation of the sexes.

In the Flint Chant, Wolf represents different animals:

Dark Wolf represents Bear; White Wolf, Wolf himself; Yellow Wolf, Mountain Lion; Pink Wolf represents all those mentioned as well as Otter (Newcomb-Reichard, p. 64, Fig. 3; Reichard 1939, p. 33, PI. V-VII; Stephen 1930, p.97; Haile 1943a, p. 54).

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

Friendly people waiting to answer your questions.


This site was last updated on September 27, 2020.

Subscribe to e-Mailer

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

credit card acceptance marks