First Pair

View all products related to this legend

First Man ('atse' xasti'n) and First Woman ('atse' esdza') (U) were transformed from two primordial ears of corn. The gods decreed marriage for them and four days later hermaphrodite twins were born to them. After four more days a normal boy and girl were born, and later other twins until they had five pairs. The first boy and girl mated with each other, as did the members of each succeeding pair; the hermaphrodites alone were barren.

Four days after the last pair of twins was born, First Man and First Woman were taken to the east where the gods dwelt. They were brought back after four days and all their children were taken for a similar sojourn. When they returned, they sometimes wore masks like those Talking God and xactc'e'oyan now wear and they prayed for blessings such as man desires. However, in addition to the knowledge of good, they acquired also the secrets of witchcraft, "for," states the myth, "witches always keep such masks with them and marry those too closely related to them."
After their return from the east, the siblings separated and, keeping their unlawful marriages secret, took mates from the Mirage People, had many children who intermarried with the ancient pueblo people and those who had come from Underground, and aided in populating the earth. Their immediate descendants made rapid cultural progress. First Man was chief of all people in the fourth world, except the pueblo people who lived there before the Navaho came. He was a great hunter. His wife was very fat and her favorite food was greasy meat. One time, after thoroughly enjoying a hearty meal of fat venison, she wiped her hands on her dress and gave thanks to her vagina. When First Man asked why she did this, she replied that she was only acknowledging the motive for everything that men do. This and her subsequent argument made First Man so furious that he jumped over the fire and remained by himself in silence all night. The next day the men and women agreed to separate (Matthews 1897, pp. 69-73, 218, 32n; cp. Ch. 2 and Stevenson, p. 284).

According to the Goddard version, the First Pair existed in the lowest world, where the perfect corn ears, white for male, yellow for female, came into being with them. The corn was of whiteshell and abalone. The two beings met up with Water Coyote and Coyote, and the group of four stuck together in later times. Because of witchcraft, they left the two lowest worlds, and in the third, First Man decreed marriage and exogamy, the legitimacy of the hermaphrodite's life, and chieftainship. Various cultural advances were made. First Woman angered First Man and all the other chiefs by her unfaithfulness (with Sun, says Matthews) and, because of her offense, the women were separated from the men.
When the men and women eventually came to live together again, and First Man had got the people through to the fourth or upper world, he was accredited with the transformation of the earth, customs, and cultural progress. First Woman tried to lead in sexual matters. For a long time there was no leadership, but rather wrangling and trouble. When, however, Changing Woman was found by First Man, Mirage Talking God decided that the 'mind' of the baby, Changing Woman, was to be the ruling power.
The First Pair cared for her, calling her 'daughter' and regulating her life ceremonially. When Changing Woman announced that Sun (whom she did not know) had appeared to her, First Man did exactly as Sun directed, thus co-operating in the conception of The Twins. After they were born, the First Pair helped care for them; First Man made them bird arrows and occasionally gave them advice.
After The Twins had rid the earth of the monsters, First Man and First Woman went to a place at the east beyond Narrow Water.

These accounts indicate that considerable good is to be ascribed to the First Pair, but there is also an underlying suggestion that they may take the bad side instead.

Gray Eyes' myth makes the First Pair wholly bad, for when The Twins, with whose birth they had nothing to do, were young and innocent, First Man and First Woman were allied with Coyote. All were man eaters who lived at Earth Mesa. Crow was their messenger to spy out new humans for their food. After all possible evil had been corrected, the First Pair were assigned a home in the northeast, where evil and danger originate, 'because they are mean (ba'ate).'

The legend of the War Ceremony represents the First Pair as quite the opposite of 'mean,' for First Man is so concerned with the successful outcome of The Twins' adventures that he creates and breathlessly watches the warning prayer-sticks for their safety.
The incidents representing the First Pair working against man almost certainly refer to the undesirable practices of witchcraft the couple learned when they visited the gods at the east. The Stephen version shows some causes of offense, but does not define actual sorcery practices.

First Man and First Woman existed in the first of the three worlds described. By rubbing cuticle from different parts of their bodies they created a man and a woman (called Biting Vagina), then formed Water Monster and Salt Woman. From a small piece of his tongue First Man made a wing, which he placed on his ear. When the wind blew it told him what was to happen. He made also Big Frog and Crane. First Woman created Thunder. After Spider Woman had made ants, the four beings Water Monster, Frog, Salt Woman, and Crane moved to the ends of the world quarters so they would not be annoyed by the ants; their houses were shaped like rainbows and sunrays. When First Man and First Woman looked at these, they prayed for clouds and rain. First Woman sent Thunder to be a guardian for Water Monster, Water Horse to guard Frog's house, Water Sprinkler to guard Salt Woman, and Fish [Turtle?] to guard the bird at the north. Each had a water vessel. When First Man and his wife saw these jars, they were somewhat jealous, but First Man said that if they were wise enough they could have just as many things.
He thereupon went to each creature and borrowed a little water from each of the four directions. He 'planted' the water and raised a spring around which grew five kinds of plants. One was a reed with twelve nodes, from which wind blew, making music because it was a flute. Wind became troublesome; the guards of the four houses could not subdue it and finally gave up the attempt. The First Pair were still praying for something to eat, and when First Man went to look at his spring, he found corn. Water Monster had pumpkins and squash, and Salt Woman beans and cotton. First Woman saw that Frog had watermelons and tobacco and that muskmelons and gourds grew at the north. In the spring First Man also found growing fruit, which Spider Woman changed to whiteshell.
By this time the First Pair had everything, but those living at the edge of the world had no corn. When they asked for it, First Man gave them pollen which grew into small plants, like onions, without ears. Water Monster complained that when First Man had wanted water, he had let him have it and now First Man would not return the favor by furnishing corn seed. Water Monster sent Thunder to strike First Man with lightning, but Horned Toad protected him. Frog sent Water Horse, but Spider Woman spun a web to protect him. Salt Woman sent Water Sprinkler with salt and lightning, but Black God saved First Man.
Then First Man sent Black God against these, his enemies. He went into their houses and broke the water jars so that water ran in all directions, met in the west, and caused a great flood. First Man was not afraid of water. He and his party were able to take symbols of their possessions and float on the water in a large reed. The four enemies sent for help; as a result, Cicada got a bow and two arrows from Water Monster; Black God accepted from Frog a tobacco pouch of water scum beautifully embroidered with beads:
Spider Woman received a nice cotton blanket from Salt Woman; Horned Toad was given a flint shirt and cap. These offerings made them all friendly and First Man let their donors get into his reed. As, with prayer, they bade farewell to their spring, two young men came out of it. First Woman hid them in her blanket.
When the First Pair arrived in the second world, First Man laid down the mountains as they are in this world. He made Talking God, Monster Slayer, and Black God, and placed them on the sacred mountains. He made sky covers for the mountains and fixed day and night. Then the First Pair made people and put chiefs in charge of them. First Man taught Coyote all he knew; the latter quarreled with Wind and carried back lies to First Man.
After the separation and reunion of the sexes, with which the First Pair had nothing to do, and after the people had come up to this world, First Man made sun, moon, and stars as described in the other version (Stephen 1930, pp. 88-104; cp. Stevenson).

There always seems to be some undesignated cause of dissatisfaction that keeps the First Pair in a bad temper regarding man. Perhaps they are only fumbling. They have an inkling of what is good and some desire to bring it about, but because of ignorance, the mixed character of such knowledge as they have, and the absence of harmony, they move back and forth between good and evil in a kind of experiment with the cosmos. For these reasons they belong in the class of Undependable Deities.

According to the myth of the Endurance Chant, First Man and First Woman lived with Sun and Moon. JS says that at the very beginning they lived with Earth Woman, Sky Man, First Boy, and First Girl.

It is certain that much more could be found in Navaho lore, some of which would make clearer the position of the First Pair in the pantheon.
Although the Wheelwright creation story gives the First Pair merely a minor position in the emergence and transformation of the world, it has the only graphic representation of them published so far. They are shown sitting before their house, in which burns the fire Coyote stole from Black God. First Man has a shirt of various colors; First Woman wears brown, the color of Earth and of Earth People (Goddard, pp. 127, 156; Matthews 1897, p. 217; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.; Endurance Chant ms.; Haile 1938b, p. 123; Stephen 1930, pp. 86-104; Wheelwright 1942, Set II, 3).

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 29, 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