Seasons & Months

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The traditional Navajo year follows the rhythm of the seasons as natural, cosmological order directs specific activities associated with each month for all forms of life on earth. The year begins with Ghaaji' (October), which marks the "dividing of the seasons": hai not only means "winter" but also means "the parting of the seasons," signifying the division between winter and summer. (The information on the seasons is based on material developed by Andy Bia in Roessel [1981:108-111]). In Ghaaji' the leaves turn to orange and yellow; animals grow shaggy winter coats and prepare of hibernation; birds migrate or store food; humans prepare for winter camp by harvesting and storing corn and other food and collecting wood and warm clothing. Nilch'it'osi (November) is the month for hunting and for the gathering of grass and plant seeds that will be ground into flour for bread cakes to be eaten in the winter. The sun's light grows dimmer as the winds become colder and frost and snow increase. Nilch'itsoh (December) is a time of heavy snow and intense wind as both animals and humans hibernate or seek shelter. Traditionally, planting sticks are prepared this month so that the wood will be smooth and well-seasoned when planting time arrives in the spring; women tan hides and make moccasins. Winter games - moccasin games and string games - are played to develop right thinking; stories are told to instruct children in the right way to live; and winter ceremonials are held. In Yas Nilt'ees (January) there are more ceremonials; preparations are made for the planting of corn; coyotes breed. 'Atsa Biyaazh (February) is the month of changeable winds as the "first chief of the winds" shakes the earth to awaken sleeping plants, bears, lizards, and snakes, and the first plants emerge from the earth. The ground and ice crack, as of the eagle's eggs. This is the last month in which it is proper to tell the sacred stories. In Woozhch'iid (March) white thunder begins to sound for summer rain as all living beings awaken from their long winter rest: animals give birth; birds sing once again in the canyons; and leaves burst forth. Ceremonials are held to bless the fields in preparation for planting. T'aachil (April) begins shi, summer, and is a time of growth and emergence as the days grow longer and warmer and the sun's light becomes stronger. Baby birds grow feathers; the sheep grow more wool; and plants sprout. Early T'aatsoh (May) is planting season, a time of rain and spring snow, wind, and thunder. Flowers blossom, plants produce pollen, and young birds learn to fly. In Ya'iishjaaschchili (June) the stories, songs, and prayers center on agriculture. Ya'iishjaatsoh (July) is a time of gathering seeds and guarding fields and of asking the earth and Holy People to bless the plants; the deer give birth. In Bini'ant'aats'ozi (August) wild fruits - strawberries, cholla berries, and yucca fruit - are gathered. The final month of the year, Bini'ant'aatsoh (September), marks the beginning of harvest as the first foodstuffs are stored for the coming of winter. . . . . . . . The seasons divide the year into halves, each with its own characteristics. In hai, winter, the earth and beings that live on its surface rest or die; in shi, summer, the earth and its inhabitants become active once more as they are restored to life. Changing Woman, who embodies the earth's powers of rejuvenation, goes through the same cycle of old age and restoration to beauty and youth, while Sky goes through his own seasonal changes. Again, we see the concept of dynamic order, or order being continuously recreated through time, as well as the pairing of complements, both essential to the order of the Navajo universe. Pgs. 77,78

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

The year is divided into twelve months, a division attributed to the Coyote, who questioned the wisdom of assigning twelve months each to the earth and sky. Upon this suggestion the Creators then assigned six months to the sky for winter, and six to the earth of summer. The Coyote, moreover, ordained that contentions should arise over the exact period of the first month, which they called:

Ghaji, "back to back," namely, when the white of winter and yellow of summer meet, turning their backs to each other, the one to proceed, the other to retrace its steps. The month of October, with which the winter months and the year begin. Pg. 58

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

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