Nancy Chilly Yazzie loves digging in the dirt, playing with fire, and climbing trees. From the clay, she shapes exquisite pottery bowls. With fire, Nancy hardens the pottery into ceramics and, with pitch from the trees, she seals them and makes the pottery watertight. The designs Nancy impresses into the pots are drawn from her traditional upbringing. Navajo Holy People, Sacred Plants, and symbols abound on unique creations.
Every creature, every aspect of nature has its holy people . . . . even the stinkbug. Sometimes you can see them, if only for an instant. They are represented, some of them, by colors: the blue sky, the evening dusk, the night these are holy people and one prays to them. There are iron people, crystal people, then the other rocks " and such people." There are dawn people, twilight people, air, thunder, and cloud people. One does not talk about such things in nature when they and their holy people are present.
When a point (arrowhead) is found, the person inhales the air around it four times and asks for protection from the spirit accompanying it. Although some believe that arrowheads are made by horned toads that blow on a rock and chip it into a form with its breath.
Head shape symbolizes the male-female distinction: male figures tend to have round heads while females have square heads. In some cases this reflects a sexual distinction, but at other times, where both round and square heads are used indiscriminately of both genders, the round-headed figures represent deities with dominant power, a male characteristic. In still other sandpaintings, however, such as those of the Mountainway, the association of power and head shape does not hold. Lightning marks, arrows, and snakes may also indicate gender. Crooked lightning on the legs, arms, and body of a figure indicates that it is male while the straight form indicates a female bearer. Male/female color symbolism is complicated in Navajo sandpainting, and many exceptions exist for a discussion of possible color combinations and their meanings). This is because sex pairing that is, the powers that are dominant (male) and secondary or weaker (female) vary from chant to chant. Usually, however, black or yellow symbolizes male figures in sandpaintings and blue or white symbolizes female figures; this holds true for the following chants: Big Starway, Nightway, Big Godway, Navajo Windway, Hand Tremblingway, Beadway, and half the paintings in Plumeway. Another common arrangement, seen in the Shootingway and Beautyway, is black and blue for males, white and yellow for females.
Navajos who have seen Holy People will offer proof of this in the appearance of a single footprint in the sand. Pg. 62
The rainbow is the path of the Holy People, or Yei, and is depicted in sand paintings. During the stormy summer months, rainbows are an almost constant phenomenon, stretching very clear and bright across the vast sky, sometimes two or three rainbows appearing at the same time. Pg. 62
As one might expect, the origin and transformation of the present Navaho world are more fully described than any of the nether regions; it will be discussed below. Two higher realms of the universe are depicted in broad lines, and conceivably there are other wolds above those. The sky is a world just like this one; in it Sun, Moon, and stars are visible to us as they move through the space between the world hemispheres. Above the stratum into which we look, the heavely bodies have their homes, living much like the people here on earth. The better-known Thunders also live in the sky realm.
The Land-beyond-the-sky is inhabited by extra-powerful storm elements Winter, Pink and Spotted Thunders, Big Winds, and Whirlwinds. They run a school for novices learning the ritual of the Male Shooting, Hail, Water, and Feather chants; the pupils are conducted thither and back by other gods.
Dawn, Dawn People (yikaih, yikaih dine'e) (P) are referred to incidentally in relation to Sun's sky wife. They are manifestations of the Holy People and there may be a chant in which they are leading characters.
A group of people killed at Taos were Sun's children. The two chief ones, girls dressed in spiral strings of jewels, were called Two-dawns-arrive (Haile 1938b, p. 163; Goddard, pp. 139-40).
Female Gods (xa'ctce' ba'a'd, yei' ba'a'd) (P) are described by Matthews as female representations of the more familiar gods. The masks and dress of Female Gods differ from those of their male partners. I am not sure whether they are always the same or are modified according to the males with which they are paired. They function only weakly in the chants with which I have dealt most (Matthews 1902, pp.16-9, PI. III, D; Curtis, p.110).
Fringed Mouth (zaxado'liai, zaxa'do'liai) (P) is a major character of the Night Chant, whose costume and properties are conceived in great detail. It is, however, difficult to get a clear idea of his function. The name is taken from the mask, which has fringe around the eyes and mouth. There are two kinds of Fringed Mouths, Land Fringed Mouths (tsentci' zaxado'ltsa') and Water Fringed Mouths (ta'tla'dii zaxado'lia'i). The few references indicate that they are the lifting force of lightning.
When the log containing Self Teacher was stuck at a falls in the San Juan River, the gods labored in vain to release it until the Water Fringed Mouths roped the log with the lightning onto their bodies, and lifted it.
When the log containing the Visionary was stuck in an eddy, the Land and Water Fringed Mouths found out who was responsible and offerings were made to Beaver, Otter, Fish, and Water Coyote to release it.
The Eagles of the Bead Chant found difficulty in lifting the earth boy, Scavenger. When they tried, he spun round so that they were not able to rise. Wind took the news to Land Fringed Mouth, who came with Talking God. The Eagles had wrapped the boy in a dark cloud attached with lightning and rainbow strings. It was dark inside; Talking God and Fringed Mouth put a crystal inside to furnish light and gave him a yellow tube of reed through which to breathe. They placed Fringed Mouth's headdress on Scavenger's head and a reed wand in his hand. The Eagles were able to raise him, so prepared, to the sky (Matthews 1897, pp.168, 170, 215; 1902, p. 11ff., 178; Sapir-Hoijer, pp.157, 505; Curtis, p.108; Reichard 1939, p.29).
Gray God (xa'ctce' lbahi) (P) is specifically envisaged. Though he is not described, his functions are referred to in the Night Chant. With Talking God and Female God he performs the ritual of the circular prayersticks; he participates in the ritual with the Night Chant talisman and he, instead of xactc'e'oyan, may administer the medicine. He is one of the begging gods.
He conducted the Stricken Twins on a part of their journey. When they came to the House of Gods, he held up two fox-skins; as he pulled them apart, cloud curtains rolled back and the twins entered.
According to Sapir (probably through Father Berard), Gray God, Water Sprinkler, and xactc'e'do'di' are three names for the same deity (Matthews 1902, pp.69, 94, 126, 130, 238; Sapir-Hoijer, p.511, 91n).
Hard-flint-people (be'c ntlizi') (P) seem to be a personification of flint and are probably the mythological prototype of the Black Dancers of the War Ceremony. Their noisy behavior was shocking to Monster Slayer, but it was not dangerous because their leader, a woman, had medicine in her quiver which would prevent the enemy from hearing the noise. An unexplained remark doubtless refers to the fearsome flashing of flint- 'reddish light shone through her leg tendons.' Flint People were dressed in flint and protected by lightning, sunrays, and rainbows. They had arrows of heat and cold; they stole food from the gardens of the enemy. Monster Slayer had to admit that their power was greater than his (Ch. 12, Red; Haile 1938b, pp. 159-62).
Male God (xa'ctce' baka', yei' baka') (P) perhaps means 'some male god or other.' He doubtless has different specific aspects and functions in the various ceremonies in which he appears. So far as I know, he is not a part of any of the chants to which the Shooting chants are most closely related.
Male God, paired with Talking God, is a part of a corn-planting rite of the Night Chant, probably another manifestation of Talking God (Matthews 1902, pp. 15-7, 202).
Pollen Boy (ta'didi'n 'acki') (P), symbol of the male generative element, is of prime importance in blessing and protective rites. He is paired with Cornbeetle Girl, one of the group, otherwise composed of birds, that brings and accompanies happiness. The names of both occur in all the formulas I have found (Newcomb-Reichard, Fig. 10, PI. II, B, D, XXI, XXII; Wheelwright 1942, Set II, 4).
Racing Gods (ta' dza'sti'n, 'He-simply-lies,' and 'acki' nde'sgai, 'Boy-radiating-white-streaks') (P) are vivid examples of the 'Dirty Boy' theme. They were treated as inferior creatures to be despised and mocked. The one is described with some detail; the other is said to be like his brother. The office of the meal sprinkler in the Fire Dance is one of great honor. Two are chosen, carefully decorated, and given wands and fawnskin bags containing meal. Since these couriers have to cover a great deal of ground in order to invite people, even strangers, the office requires speed and endurance for which only exceptional persons can qualify. The fullest version of the mythical couriers is in the myth of the Mountain Chant.
When those having charge of the chant sung over Reared-in-the-mountain on the fifth day asked for volunteers to carry out the meal-scattering, no one responded, and even though the young men were coaxed, all refused to go. At night an old woman entered the hogan where the elders were arranging the ceremony and announced, without preliminaries, "I will send my grandson as a meal sprinkler." The people were so astounded that they thought the offer a great joke. The old woman lived near by and whenever anyone visited her hogan, her grandson lay on the ground asleep. He never went out to hunt, and the people concluded he was lazy and worthless. His hair was unkempt, short, and matted; he was dirty, lean, and bent. Because of their low opinion of the boy, the people did not reply to the old woman's offer except with laughter, significant looks, or silence. After the fourth offer, the leader told her to bring in the grandson to show him off. The old woman waited until morning.
When in the morning the boy appeared among the group of singers, he was the ideal Navaho youth. His hair was thick, glossy, and so long that it fell below his knees; his legs were strong and firm; he held his head erect and walked with poise and self-confidence. His brother, no less handsome, came in and sat opposite him. The men in charge were so astonished that, without a word, they began to prepare the youths for the journey.
After careful instructions the boys walked slowly away from the hogan. Those left behind gave way once more to misgivings, saying that the young men would never accomplish their mission. The lads went out of sight just as the sun rose. Those left behind continued to make fun of the runners as, waiting, they played games. About the middle of the afternoon-ordinarily the runners do not return until night-the two couriers were seen returning, one from the north and one from the south. The people said they must have forgotten something and were coming back for it, meaning they had not even got started.
The boys entered, handed their bags to the chanter, and sat down. One pouch contained some corncakes baked in ashes that were still warm, the other some maguey jelly, proving that the couriers had reached their respective destinations, had sprinkled the meal, and received tokens of acceptance from those invited. Not until night did they tell the story of their trip, for they waited until the people who 'had no sense' had gone out. This time they wore valuable jewelry and embroidered blankets such as the gods once wore but which man no longer sees.
Later in the evening when the guests had all arrived, a chief went among the crowd and found the old grandmother sitting humbly apart. He spoke to her: "Your grandsons have done a great honor to us. . . . Tell me, won't you, how they accomplished this wonderful deed."
The old woman explained, "They are Holy People. For many years my grandson has risen early every morning and run clear around Mt. Taylor time and again before sunrise. That is the reason people have not seen him in the daytime; he has been asleep. At the base of Mt. Taylor are numerous rockpiles, all made by my grandson, who dropped a rock every time he ran around the mountain."
The well-dressed young men, after reporting to the singers, went about the camp visiting and flirting with the wives and sweethearts of those who had mocked, and everywhere the woman fell for their blandishments. There was nothing for the men to do but sulk.
In the myth of the Stricken Twins, the Holy Ones from Red-rock-projects were said to be the best runners and acted as couriers to carry the news of the success of the boys in their attack on Awatobi. The names are not given; these may have been Red Gods (Matthews 1887, pp. 411-5; 1902, pp. 25, 256; Reichard 1944d, pp. 89-93; Haile 1943a, p. 31).
Red God (xa'ctce' ltci") (P) seems to be a particular manifestation of Racing God.
Red gods were dispatched to find the hero of the Night Chant after he had been gone unduly long.
At their home, Where-red-rock-stands-up, Red gods refused to help the Stricken Twins: "It is not our province to cure. We are the bearers of the whip, the Racing People. It is our duty to punish the runners who lose in the race" (Matthews 1902, pp. 194, 223).
Round Darkness (tcaxalxe'I didjoli') (H) and Round Wind were called by First Man to celebrate The Twins' victory over Big Monster. They sang and danced with much spirit. Round Darkness was said to have been a dwarf (Haile 1938b, pp.113, 252, 41n).
Round Wind (n'ltc'i didjoli') (H) informed Monster Slayer about the fierceness of Burrowing Monster (Haile 1938b, p.113).
Shooting God (xa'ctce'oltohi) (P) succeeded in persuading Changing Woman to move to the west when other armored gods had failed.
In the Night Chant, a man wearing a female costume is called Shooting God. According to Stephen's manuscript, Shooting God was a berdache. One lived at each of the sacred mountains with Talking God and xactc'e'oyan (Newcomb-Reichard, pp. 34-5, Fig. 4, PI. XVI; Matthews 1902, pp. 24-5).
Sky (ya' dilxil) (P) is paired with Earth as the origin of all things. It is black, with the chief heavenly bodies depicted on its body, the stars and constellations and their positions differing at various times of the year (Newcomb-Reichard, p. 37).
Sky Pillars (yaya' nzini) (H), 'Those-who-stand-under-the-sky,' had their origin in the difficulties of getting the sun into the sky. Changing Woman lit a turquoise disk with a crystal (even though up to this time there had been neither light nor heat!) and it became heat incarnate. The heavens were so close to the 'people' that they could hardly stand upright. When the people looked up, they saw two rainbows crossed. There was so little space between the earth and sky that the heads and feet of the rainbows almost touched the heads of the people. As the people were vainly trying to raise the sun, First Man and First Woman suddenly appeared. The First Pair raised the sun somewhat by means of a sunbeam, a crystal, and a rainbow, but their power gave out before the heat was ameliorated.
Then they made two poles of turquoise and two of white-shell, and with the four poles the twelve men at each of the four cardinal points raised the sun still higher. Even this was not sufficient to prevent burning, and the men were driven to stretching the earth by blowing, a device that finally succeeded in getting the sun into a place that allows for a satisfactory temperature. Earth's position depends upon the support of the Sky People, assigned their duty by Changing Woman. When The Twins visited Sun, he led them out to the edge of the world where the sky and earth come close together and beyond which there is nothing. Here sixteen poles-four of whiteshell, four of turquoise, four of abalone, and four of redshell-reached from earth to sky. A deep stream flowed between the party and the poles. When asked on which ones they would ascend, The Twins, prompted by Wind, chose the red poles, since they stood for war.
The earth's center (xadji'na'i, ni' alni") is a holy place, indicating the Place-of-emergence, which has various geographical locations, none actually fitting the description. The corresponding point in the sky is the Skyhole, the place to which Sun led The Twins when giving them their geography test of the world. It was edged with four smooth, steep, shiny cliffs of the same precious stones as the poles that supported the sky. Sun sat at the west side of the hole, the boys at the east. Even keeping their places would have been impossible, had not Wind blown up through the hole and kept the youths from slipping down through it.
The number of Sky Pillars varies.
One time First Man ground rock and broadcast it; rocks stood up in a line. Then the four People-who-stand-under-the-earth began to sing and, moving away from each other, stretched out the earth.
These supporting people are pictured in a sandpainting of the Hail Chant with the explanation that the twelve people, six males at the north, six females at the south, hold up the earth. Their names are ni' yo'tso, 'Earth-big-whiteshell,' and yaya' nzini, 'Those-who-stand-under-the-sky.' The same kind of pillars-of reed or precious stones-hold up earth and sky.
The Wheelwright creation story describes the Earth Columns as twelve Big Winds in each direction, explaining that all kinds of winds were sent to support the sky and the stars (Stevenson, pp. 276-7; Matthews 1897, p. 113; Goddard, p. 137; Reichard 1944d, p. 103; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 66-7; 1946, p. 192).
Superior God (xactc'e' 'ayoi) (P) is mischievous and only incidentally helpful. In one myth he seems to be identified with the Visionary of the Night Chant.
His offerings are described. He made a device to hinder the progress of the whirling log of the Night Chant, pretended to be friends of the Holy Ones concerned with its progress, but did not help them.
In two myths of the Night Chant, Superior God kidnaped co, the hero.
Superior God, accompanied by Talking God, met the Stricken Twins at a crater in the vicinity of Mt. Taylor and told them that anyone trespassing on the territory of Superior Gods would be whipped and would never again return to his own people (Matthews 1902, pp. 162, 181, 204, 237).
The Brothers (dine na'kitsa'da) (P), 'the twelve people,' are idealized individuals who control rare game and game lore. According to Matthews, there were eleven, who lived with and provided well for their only sister; according to my version, there were twelve. Both stories concern The Youngest Brother more than the others; the life of the older ones is suggested rather than revealed. One was named Reared-in-the-earth by the Holy Ones because they had hidden him in the earth to spy upon his sister. This name, which was given also to a counterpart of Monster Slayer for other reasons, suggests that The Brothers may be duplicates of The Twins. There is reason to conclude that all are children of Sun and Changing Woman.
In my version of the myth, The Brothers fear Coyote; in Matthews' version, they openly flaunt him. Although they were destroyed in the contest with Coyote, Changing Woman restored them; their remark puts them in the class of intermediaries: "We do not visit the people, but we stand on the mountains and watch them."
The twelve snakes on each side of the center of the Grinding Snakes' painting are said to represent the Twelve Brothers, as are twelve Medicine People on each side of the Hole-of-emergence in an unpublished painting (Matthews 1897, pp.92-9, 103, 149, 226; Reichard, Endurance Chant ms.; 1939, PI. XV; Newcomb-Reichard, PI. IX; Huckel ms.).
Turquoise Boy (do'tliji' 'acki') (P) appears in a curious description by Sandoval:
In the third world, at the east side of the eastern mountain, lived Turquoise Boy, with twelve male companions and the Mirage People. After First Man had decreed many things about this third world, including the months and seasons, he said to Turquoise Boy, "Step inside the sun and put the reed flute with twelve holes under your shirt. Let the Mirage People step inside with you to keep you invisible to Earth People." Turquoise Boy agreed and said that whenever he passed by he should be recompensed by the death of a person. Whiteshell Boy was put into the moon for the same purpose.
There is perhaps some connection between this happening and the gift of the agate or turquoise 'man' Sun gave The Twins, represented by the pollen ball in the Shooting Chant (Pollen ball, Con. B; Goddard, pp.128, 135).
Water Horse (te 'Ii") (U), depicted in sandpainting and occasionally referred to in myth, was said to be Water Monster's pet; the name means literally 'deep-water-pet.' He was the guardian of Water Monster's home.
When The Twins were about to visit Hanging Cloud, the assembly which was to consider the matter of originating chants was announced by Water Monster and Water Horse, and was held at their home (Newcomb-Reichard p. 62, PI. XXIX, XXXIII; Matthews 1897, p.168; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).
Water Monster (te'xo'ltso'di') (U) is said to look much like an otter with fine fur, but has horns like a buffalo. The young look something like buffalo calves, but have spots of all colors, yellow hands, and a generally strange appearance. In sandpaintings Water Monster resembles Thunder, but has an elongated body. Monster Slayer transformed parts of the subdued Traveling Rock into Water Monster, who promised to keep mountain springs open and rivers flowing.
Water Monster was a character of the lower worlds.
Spider Woman stole Water Monster's child in the second world and it has been lost to this day.
Water Monster kept following the people to get back his child. The people made Spider give it back and Water Monster returned to the world below.
Water Monster is everybody's friend.
After the separated men and women agreed to live together again, a woman and her two daughters were left behind. The men promised to fetch them the next morning, but the women were so eager they jumped into the water. The mother drowned and the daughters were seized by Water Monsters. The people, aided by White Body (Talking God) and Blue Body (Water Sprinkler), went under the waters to the home of Water Monster. Coyote sneaked along. The monster refused to return the girls and Coyote stole two of his children, concealing them under his robe. He thereby caused the floods that drove people out of the fourth world.
Water Monster represented a large group of Water People who grabbed Self Teacher as he traveled in the whirling log. He defied Water Sprinkler, who came after the youth, but gave up to Black God when he set fire to the waters. An incident of the War Ceremony, in which Coyote and Owl sing, represents the conquest of Water Monster by Monster Slayer. In another version, Monster Slayer, attacked on his way to Sun's home, overcame Water Monster with a prayer. When I first wrote of sandpaintings l called this creature Water Ox, because I thought the horns distinguished him from Water Horse. The name was unfortunate, for horns do not characterize, but symbolize, power. The name means 'One-who-grabs-in-deep-water' (Newcomb-Reichard, p.62; Matthews 1897, pp.73-7, 168-70, 212, 8n; 232, lion; Wheelwright 1942, p.55; Stephen 1930, pp.100-i; Goddard, p.131; Haile 1938b, pp. 127-8).
Water Sprinkler (to ninili', to neinili') (P) often accompanies Black God, but he appears too with Talking God. Water Sprinkler, said to be the 'same' as Blue Body of the fourth world, is the rain bringer and water-carrier of the gods. The jar of collected waters is his symbol in story and sand-painting, though, curiously enough, he does not carry it in the masked impersonations. He controls rain and waters. He causes rain by sprinkling the collected waters in his jar in the four directions. He can separate and walk through deep or underground waters.
In the Night Chant, he is impersonated as a clown. His clothing is of inferior quality because he 'might get wet.' He is usually out of step with the other dancers. He gets in their way, peers about while the others concentrate on song and steps, moves away to inspect little things among the audience, or sits on the ground with his hands clasped around his knees and rocks his body to and fro. Sometimes he dances with the group, concentrating so seriously that he does not notice they have left the dance place; then discovering that he is alone, he runs after them as fast as he can go. Sometimes he carries the skin of a small animal which he drops and pretends not to notice. Suddenly he hunts everywhere for it in great agitation, although it lies in plain sight. When, after much tomfoolery, he finds it, he jumps on it as if trying to kill. At length he lifts it like a heavy burden and carries it away on his back. He is said to act like this because he is pleased with what is being done in the ceremony.
One of Water Sprinkler's duties, besides separating deep waters, is to extinguish fire made by Black God; in addition, he is often sent to investigate things in the water. He went to see what stopped the whirling log at an eddy and found a dam, but could not find the people who had made it. When the Fringed Mouths discovered it had been the Flat Tails, he helped to negotiate with them. When the log stopped again, Water Sprinkler found the people who had made the dam.
Water Sprinkler taught the Visionary of the Night Chant how to prepare and preserve the products of his garden.
Nearly all the gods officiate in some capacity at the bath rite of novices. At one of Rainboy's baths, numerous gods participated: the yucca roots had been pounded on one side and they were supposed to stand upright. Water Sprinkler volunteered to hold them up. Changing Woman made suds while Talking God sang, Water Sprinkler poured water into the basket, and Changing Woman removed the yucca roots.
Water Sprinkler lived at Big Willow, a long distance from Talking God's home in the canyon, but when anything happened that concerned them both, they met for consultation in between (Matthews 1897, pp. 68, 166, 168, 170; 1902, pp. 29, 175, 178, 180, 189-92, 208; Curtis, p. 106; Reichard 1939, p.31; 1944d, p. 79).
Water Woman (to 'asdza"n) (P) lives in the water and presides over all small tributaries. Rain is her child (Stephen ms.).
Water's Child (to biyaji) (H) is said by Father Berard to be spring water and by Matthews to be the splash of rain falling into a quiet pool (Haile 1938b, p. 254, 98n; Matthews 1902, p. 311, 22n).
Whirlwind (niyol) (U) is a common phenomenon in the Navaho country. If a person sees one coming toward him, he may rush toward it and say "s-s-su!" (the Navaho equivalent of "Scat!") and the whirlwind will turn in the opposite direction and subside.
Whirlwind and Flint Boy helped Youngest Brother when he was hidden in the fireplace, watching Changing-bear-maiden and Coyote. They made tunnels for him to hide in, gave him weapons and the monitors, Wind and Darkness (Matthews 1897, p. 101).
Whistling God, Sucking God, Squeaking God (xactc'e''idiltso'si') (U) is quite well described by Matthews. He gets his name from the sucking noise which the Navaho compare with that of a mouse. He has a black face and dwells in a cave in which there is a white rainbow; he is considered 'bad.'
He joined Superior God in hindering the progress of the whirling log.
Whistling Gods released the cave trap which had caught the Stricken Twins. These gods moved very fast and carried a four-stranded yucca whip. One of them told the Stricken Twins that every one who came to their house, even the gods, must be whipped; naturally they had few visitors.
Offerings are described for Whistling God.
There are some hints that Whistling God may be related to Wind (Sapir-Hoijer, pp. 177, 185, 224-7, 511, 93n; Matthews 1902, pp.181, 215, 236).
xactce'o'yan, xactc'e'oyan (P) is an untranslatable name of the weaker companion of the pair dominated by Talking God. Matthews translates it 'House God,' and strangely, his translation has been followed by all his successors except Goddard. Sandoval from Shiprock, who worked with Goddard, thought the misconception very amusing. Tla'h, who was from Newcomb, thought the translation ridiculous, but was more annoyed than amused by it. The informants at Ganado agreed in not attaching a meaning to the name.
xactc'e'oyan is minutely described by Matthews. What has been said of Talking God to the effect that symbols are emphasized, not exclusive, holds for his companion as well. xactc'e'oyan is represented as having charge of farm songs and is the god of evening or sunset.
Two origins are given for him: Yellow Body stood for xactc'e'oyan in the third world; he is said to have been created by Whiteshell Woman from a yellow corn ear.
As the gods flocked around the Visionary marveling at his turkey, he explained every symbol of its body. When he finished, the youth said to xactc'e'oyan, "That is the way my pet turkey is dressed. Tell me now, how is your pet turkey dressed?" The god answered, "I have no pet turkey. Things that belong to the water are mine.
Water Boy is said to be the son of xactc'e'oyan. The young man pitted against the sometime successful Gambler, the one who finally overcame him, was the son of xactc'e'oyan, whose name is not given; he was a young married man who had no children.
The god xactc'e'oyan is mentioned as often as Talking God, usually as his companion. xactc'e'oyan helped the Visionary by negotiating with the Water People, who impeded the whirling log; he blew upon the rainbow on which the Visionary moved his crops to start it. xactc'e'oyan was severe to the Stricken Twins until they had obtained the treasures of Awatobi; later, he was prominent in the ceremony for their treatment.
xactc'e'oyan is concerned with fees: Sun told his son by Rough Woman, groomed to beat Gambler, to get the stakes for betting from xactc'e'oyan. After everything had been prepared and the young man was ready to start off, the god asked about his fee. When it was promised, xactc'e'oyan advised the party to wait yet another day in order to make the mind of Gambler 'forked,' that is, to keep him from concentrating on his games; an additional fee was paid for this information.
When Monster Slayer caught his first eagle, he gave twelve choice tail feathers to Talking God and twelve tail feathers of the second eagle to xactc'e'oyan; these may now be seen in their headdresses and as rays of the rising and setting sun.
According to Stephen, xactc'e'oyan lives with Talking God inside La Plata Mountain; both guard the game animals.
When the gods took co, hero of the Night Chant, on a round of visits to the gods, they came to the home of one of the xactc'e'oyan (one of these gods was in the party but the house was not his). It was made of blue sky. On top of it grew four spruce trees: at the east, a white one with a pigeon on its tip; at the south a blue spruce with a bluebird; at the west, a yellow spruce with a pygmy owl; and at the north, a black spruce with a yellow-shouldered blackbird.
During their wanderings the Stricken Twins, with the conivance of Talking God, came into an assembly led by xactc'e'oyan at Broad Rock. The house was among the rocks; on its front there was a rainbow of two colors; as soon as the boys touched the rock,it flew open and they entered an empty chamber. On the opposite wall they saw an arched door of three rainbow colors, which also flew open. They continued through three rooms, each of which had one more color in the arch of the secret door, until they entered the fourth door, over which was a rainbow of five colors. The door itself was covered with beautiful rock crystals glittering like stars. When they entered the fourth room, they were confronted with so many Holy People that the lame boy was abashed and hung his head (Matthews 1897, pp. 68, 82-3, 225; 1902, pp. 10, 16, 179, 192, 208, 218, 263, 316, Pl. III, B, VI; Stevenson, p. 227; Goddard, pp. 142-3; Newcomb 1940b, pp. 63, 73; Stephen ms.).
xactc'e'do'di (P) is said to be another name for Water Sprinkler and Gray God.
When the Stricken Twins approached the gods' home, their dog barked. xactc'e'oyan, sent by Talking God to investigate, led the twins in.
xactc'e'do'di had a blue face and a quiver of puma skin, and accompanied Monster Slayer and Child-of-the-water in a rite.
When the Stricken Twins returned with the treasures of Awatobi, xactc'e'do'di' accompanied xactc'e'oyan as he went to meet them.
xactc'e'do'di helped Water Sprinkler to get sand for a sandpainting.
Possibly xactc'e'do'di is identified with Crane (Sapir-Hoijer, p. 511, 91n; Matthews 1902, pp. 230, 232, 256, 263; cp. Haile 1943a, p. 22).
xa'dactcici' (P), associated with yucca, appears in some forms of the Night Chant. His home is called Narrow-yucca-spreads; he carries a yucca plant on his back and a whip of yucca fiber in his hand. Whipping with yucca, believed to relieve lumbago or headache, is his only power.
xa'dactcici' conducted the Stricken Twins into one of the homes of the gods.
One of the mountain sheep that turned into gods became xa'dactcici' (Matthews 1897, p. 251, 266n; 1902, pp. 14-5, 233; Stevenson, p. 283).
The Supernaturals also warn him of taboos connected with the use of corn. It should not be cooked until it is ripe nor eaten before it is fully cooked, or frost and floods will damage the crop. In the "vigil of the corn" ceremony the corn is fed with dried meat; if it were to be fed with corn it would thus consume itself, just as feeding meat to the masks would cause men to eat each other. When giving this warning Talking God refers to the time that ugly woman fed corn to the corn with result that " the people starved and men ate the flesh of other men." Pg. 170, Plume Way.
Talking God to White Shell Woman and Turquoise Woman: Talking God expresses approval when he learns that the wives still have the corn he had given them, "It is your symbol of fertility and new life." Pg. 194, Eagle Way.
Sickness will occur if one lies down in a corn field.
From the vegetables brought back at this time the Navajo first acquired seeds of corn and pumpkin. Pg. 171, Plume Way.
Four Sacred Plants are assigned to the cardinal points, and amongst the Navajos Maize is the plant of the North, Beans of the east. This means that both are male and as both are grown for edible seeds, recognition of the physiological function of the male was probably involved in the selection. This is entirely possible since the convention could have been established only very late, after settlement in America. Squash, for the Navajos, is the plant of the South, which is fitting since its fruit is called "eight-sided" and the eight-sided earth (an alternative to the square earth, taking account of the diagonal directions) is female. Also the stalk is angled in sections, a feature deliberately exaggerated when the plant is depicted in sand paintings, and crooked things are female. Tobacco, which the Navajos put on the west, is female because it is used to make smoke which is blown out with the breath, and that is female. Below the Plants are white roots, the significance being that these plants still have their roots in the lower world.
First Man called the people together. He brought forth the white corn which had been formed with him. First Woman brought the yellow corn. They laid the perfect ears side by side; then they asked one person from among the many to come and help them. The Turkey stepped forward. They asked him where he had come from, and he said that he had come from the Gray Mountain. He danced back and forth four times, then he shook his feather coat and there dropped from his clothing four kernels of corn, one gray, one blue, one black, and one red. Another person was asked to help in the plan of the planting. The big snake came forward. He likewise brought forth four seeds, the pumpkin, the watermelon, the cantaloupe, and the muskmelon. His plants all crawl on the ground. Pg. 6
7- Informant's note: Rarely is much white or yellow corn planted at one time because it is the most sacred. Pg. 103
Corn Boy, Corn Girl, Cornmeal Carrier: Corn is the most sacred of all Native American plants. Originally, it came from native grasses of Mexico and Guatemala and was brought to Turtle Island by Mexican Indians and Carib people. Standing straight and tall, corn resembles human beings standing in rows. White corn is thought, by the Navajo, to be male, yellow corn is female. Round-headed corn symbols are men, square-headed are female. Food made from corn especially cornmeal is symbolic of the goodness of Mother Earth and Father Sky. Corn Pollen is used in many blessing ceremonies, as is cornmeal. Strings of hardened corn kernels are made into necklaces. Corn, as Jay de Groat has put it, is "Mother Earth's workmanship." Pg. 191
Harry Walters explained that corn is a metaphor for human life because both of through the same stages of life. Both corn and humans reach a stage of fruition when they blossom: the corn bursts forth with pollen while humans also achieve a peak of development associated with sa'a naghai bik'e hozho. Harry Walters (personal communication, 1990) described this state of being: "Every time he talks, thinks, or acts, he does so in radiance, in a state of wisdom and perfect harmony." Just as the corn disseminates its pollen for the continuation of corn plants, so too humans have been entrusted with sacred responsibility to disseminate their knowledge for the benefit and continuation of future generations. Because both corn and humans need nurturance from the four directions (four cardinal light phenomena) in order to reach old age, both possess knowledge from the four directions; it is this knowledge that they take into their beings and then have a responsibility to return to those that come after them.
Corn, the symbol of food, fertility, and life itself, is of major importance. "Corn is more than human; it is divine; it (is) connected with the highest ethical ideals." Pgs. 375-76
The old sunwise and other ceremonial ways of planting have almost disappeared, but most Navahos still use the Indian method of planting corn in hills rather than in rows. Planting dates are determined by various means at Navaho Mountain, for instance, by the position of the Pleiades and simple folk rites continue to be a basic part of agriculture. Pg. 30
Many ritual practices are an everyday adjunct of agriculture. Seeds are mixed with ground "mirage stone" and treated in a variety of other ways. To prevent early frosts, stones from the sweathouses are planted in the fields or at the base of fruit trees. If the crop is being damaged by wind, the wind is called by its secret name and asked to leave the corn alone. Cutworms are placed on fragments of pottery, sprinkled with pollen, and given other "magical" treatment. When the harvest is stored, a stalk of corn having two ears is placed in the bottom of the storage pit to ensure a healthy crop for the next year. At intervals while the corn is growing the farmer should go to his field, walk around and through it in a special way, singing the appropriate song. Not every Navaho farmer follows every one of these of the hundreds of other negative or positive agricultural folk rites which could be mentioned, but the writers have not known any Navaho families who do not observe some simple rituals. Pg. 143-144
From the Puebloans they gained their first knowledge of corn and soon learned to grind it and use the meal for food and for ceremonial purposes. In order to save the best corn for themselves the owners created a taboo that the Navajos must not touch any ears except the two small ones that grew at the very top of the cornstalk, and these were likely to be small nubbins. The other, larger ears were said to belong to the gods. Pg. XXII
A Navajo from Coalmine stated that "cased" squirrelskins were also sometimes used as containers for ceremonial materials. Bags of this type were made by both men and women and were used for storing sacred materials such as the seed corn to be planted ritually first in the center of the field.
Parched corn has been mentioned as an effective absorptive device. Cake [sweetened cornbread baked in a pit oven] is a treat of the Girl's Ceremony and the Flint Chant; in both it is an offering to Sun.
Farm songs belong to the entire tribe and are sung for the planting and maturation events rather than for a particular ceremony. The initial song refers to seed planting; it describes the place for planting, the seed, and offerings made to the seed [or perhaps to the earth]. The verbs are first in the form "I wish it to be...." and change later to 'It is becoming....' The second song repeats the sentiments of the first, but in the form 'It has become so.'
The songs of the second interval refer to the sprouting of the corn in terms corresponding with those of the first interval. Time is allowed for growth, then song indicates the appearance of tiny blades above the ground, another the fresh yellow-green appearance of the field; another celebrates the normal growth of the corn; a song states that the 'corn loves me' and is therefore doing well under my hand; another, that the leaves are large enough to touch one another when the wind blows; still another, that some plants are large and cast uniform shadows over the field, that red silk has appeared, that pollen has formed. Subsequent songs refer to the harvested ears, emphasizing the crackling sound made when the fully developed stalks are pulled. There are songs to describe the plucking of the ears and the piling of bundles gathered and dumped in the center of the field. The next song describes the extension of the piles of corn -'It increases by spreading'; another summarizes by describing the harvest as a whole. The pattern does not change for the husking, which is again described by sound--'now from my hands it gives forth a sound' - or for the drying, which completes the harvest.
Several versions ascribe human beings to a supernatural transformation of corn which existed primordially with First Man. Sun was said to be corn's father, Lightning its mother. According to one version, the results of the transformation were persons called First Man and First Woman, who are also referred to as `our ancestors.' From this account we may conclude that First man and first woman not only had corn in the early worlds but also were corn and came to symbolize transformation into human form. One origin is attributed to the transformation of turquoise and whiteshell images by deific ceremonial. Since, however, the jewels were laid beside corn ears, the significance is in the association between corn and precious stones rather than in the gems themselves. According to Navajo interpretation, the two would be the `the same'.
However, in contrast to the numerous etiologies of corn, accounts of the origin of particular plants are few. In some myths corn is considered primeval, for First Man had some in the first world. Other myths account for it as the gift of a god or a neighboring people. Whatever its origin, its value is constantly emphasized. According to one myth, Talking God gave corn to Whiteshell Woman and her sister, Turquoise Woman, saying, "There is no better thing than this in the world, for it is the gift of life." Later, when he visited them again and they told him they still had it, he said, "That is good, for corn is your symbol of fertility and life."
The hunting animals carried packs of corn on their backs, for they had charge of the corn-growing rite of the Fire Dance.
The complementation of corn by game is brought out by Talking God, who, in the myth of the Night Chant, instructs the her: "Never give corn to eat of its own substance. If you give it, corn will thereafter ever eat corn until all the land is destroyed. Then men will starve and have to eat one another, and thus destroy their own race. Give corn flesh to eat. For like reasons corn must be fed to the masks in the ceremonies. Should meat be fed to them, men would, thereafter, eat men." The masks of sacred buckskin represent game animals. According to tradition punishment was inevitable if the injunction was disobeyed.
Once, many years ago, when the ceremony of the corn was taking place and a young virgin was grinding meat to feed the corn, a wicked woman went out from the lodge and fed corn to the corn hanging on the poles of the drying frame. That year the people starved and men ate the flesh of other men.
Corn (na'da'), in myth and ritual at least, is reaffirmed as belonging to the Navaho from time immemorial and there is probably no rite or ceremony in which corn does not function in some form or other. The feeling about corn is expressed:
"Corn is more than human, it is divine; it was connected with the highest ethical ideals."
When Talking God gave corn to the lonely sisters of the Eagle Chant legend, he directed that they should never give it away. "Because," he explained, "there is no better thing in the world, for it is the gift of life." Later, when through ritualistic instruction their lot had improved, he said again, "Corn is your symbol of fertility and life."
Of the many representative references that might be given, a few follow: Hill 1938, pp. 20-95; Newcomb 1940b, pp.51, 71, 73, 76; Matthews 1897, pp. 137, 140, 183; 1902, pp.27, 29,106, 187-93; Haile 1938b, pp. 87, 191, 231; 1943a, pp. 162, 313, 174n; Reichard 1939, pp. 27, 30, 34, PI. IV-VII; 1944d, pp. 19, 81, 91, 113, 135; Shooting Chant ms.; Sapir-Hoijer, p. 31; Goddard, p. 174; Wheelwright 1942, p. 122, Set I, 1-4; II, 2; III, 1-4.
Corn meal (na'da'ka'n) is one of the commonest forms of corn in ceremony. It is coarsely ground, white for a man, yellow for a woman, mixed if there is a patient of each sex. Sometimes it must be ground by a virgin or at some particular place or time in the ritual cycle. It is invariably used for the hogan blessing, for sandpainting sprinkling, and as a drier after the bath in all the rites I have seen, Evil as well as Holy. Often it serves as a substitute for pollen, since corn meal is plentiful and pollen is scarce. It usually denotes the same thing, life and success along the road, exemplified by footprints laid in corn meal.
With Big Fly's help, people overcome by Spider Man heaped corn pollen and white corn meal on Spider Man until he could no longer move. Big Fly took some of these substances for future rituals.
The corn-meal drier of the Night Chant bath was said to stand for the patient's body and blood (Haile 1938b, pp. 180-3; Sapir-Hoijer, p. 251).
Corn smut (da 'a' tca'n, 'corn excrement') was the paint for the black hail spots of the Shooting Chant figure painting.
Hill describes cooked corn smut as a food. The eater applied some to his feet with the formula, "We are going to have much rain and large crops, but hail will not ruin the crops."
Corn smut was a part of the Feather Chant blackening.
Cornsmut Man was one of the Eagle Chant characters; he blackened himself with corn smut before starting to catch eagles (Hill 1938, p. 46; Newcomb 1940b, pp. 63, 65).
Alice Williams, Silas Claw, Stella Claw, Datso Bitsi, and the Tso family are active Navajo potters. They use their pottery for cooking, ceremonies, pipes, and drums, and do not consider it an art form. Public acceptance is not a motivation; in fact, the Navajo makes every effort to maintain privacy and anonymity. However, the Navajo are a large group and that leaves ample opportunity for exception to this social custom. Pg. 182
Unlike most of the neighboring Indian tribes, the Navaho are not conspicuous as potters and make a very rude and inartistic kind of pottery, which in every respect is vastly inferior to that of the Pueblo. Their traditions, however, point to a time in which pottery is said to have been in nowise inferior to that of the Pueblo with whom they lived. With the exception of cooking pots other fabrics, such as waterpots, waterbags or bottles, bowls and earthen spoons or dippers, were all beautifully decorated with figures of birds, rainbows, deer, antelope, rabbits, ducks, cloud effect (kos ishchin), or any figure not tabooed, as snakes, lightning, bear, badger, hawks, and the divinities.
As in the decoration of the basket, so also the decorative line encircling the body of the pot was left open for the reason that the potter, like the basket weaver, supposedly encircled herself with this decoration and, lest she trifle with her life, must not close this circle about her, but leave an exit for herself. The early waterpots were shaped much like the wicker bottle, with two loops or eyelets on the sides, and were similarly carried on the back. One side of the rounded body of the pot was made flat so that in carrying it might rest better. These waterpots have now entirely disappeared, though the legends speak of the white, blue, yellow and dark waterpots for conveying the sacred waters of the cardinal points.
The water bottle was provided with a loop, or finger handle, near the neck, so that it might be conveniently grasped in pouring out its contents. They were shaped much like an ordinary pitcher, omitting the spout and handle, and with a narrower neck than that of the waterpot. Later they were entirely abandoned and displaced by bottles purchased from the Hopi and other tribes whose fabrics, though slightly differing from the Navaho ware, were found just as serviceable. Of these many were provided with an additional loop near the bottom of the bottle so that it might easily be suspended from a cord and carried in traveling. Some maintain that the Navaho never made water bottles but always purchased them from the Pueblo. Early history and tradition, however, discredit this strongly, though at present Navaho made water bottles are very scarce.
Earthen spoons or dippers were in shape like the gourd ladle, and were, like it, used for the purpose of dipping out liquids. The bowl would seem to have been a substitute for the basket at the home. Its name, letsa', earthen basket, indicates both its shape and purpose. While all of these were ornamented with beautiful figures, the asa', pot, was completely devoid of ornamentation since it was used for cooking purposes, and in the preparation and boiling of dyes or medicines. No particular care was taken to form them shapely, and though made in different sizes, all were made after the same pattern with rounded bottoms, a hardly perceptible neck, and a slightly flaring rim. A serpentine line, or a few scallops along the outside rim, in addition to depressions made into the body of the pot with the finger or a stick, were the only decorative features about these pots, which in substance remain unchanged to this day.
The crucibles now in use by the silversmiths of the tribe are in effect cooking pots in miniature, and are provided with one to three spouts at the rim for pouring the molten silver into the matrix. The ceremonial pipes are conical in shape, and stemless, as the smoke is drawn through a small hole provided in the bottom of the pipe. This comparatively small variety of pottery made by the Navaho, and their apparent indifference to the art, finds a ready explanation in the great facility with which more shapely and serviceable pottery could be obtained from the neighboring Pueblo Indians. More recently, too, brass, tin and enameled wares promptly found favor with them as far superior to, and less difficult to acquire, than the native or extra-tribal pottery, so that comparatively little earthenware is used at present.
Pottery making is a woman's industry, and to-day the Navaho potter may still be found among the older women of the tribe. As the molding and drying process require a large amount of attention and care some unoccupied hogan, or other secluded place, is selected, where the potter might be undisturbed. As a material for most earthenware, a very sticky mud and white clay are used, which may be found almost everywhere, while for the pots a bluish clay, which in certain localities may easily be dug out, is preferred, and from its use in making pots is known as pot material. Small pieces of broken pottery, with which the Navaho country is in places fairly strewn, are crushed and ground to a fine sand, and added to the clay. The whole is then mixed with water and thoroughly stirred until a stiff mud of equal consistency throughout is obtained. A lump of this mud is then taken between the hands and rolled out into long, slender pieces, or ropes; this done, a flat, round cake of the desired circumference is made of a lump of the mud, and serves as the bottom of the pot around which one of the rolls of mud is wound and made fast by pressing and gently kneading with the fingers. A vessel containing water is kept near by into which the fingers are occasionally dipped to prevent the mud from clinging to them, as also to prevent the finished work from drying too rapidly. Another roll is added and fastened in the same way, by which process the potter is enabled to give the pot the desired shape and size.
The molding completed, the whole is then thoroughly smoothened by rubbing the exterior with a corncob, while the back of a gourd dipper is used in smoothening the interior surface of the pot. When still moist small indentations are made in the body of the pot with the thumb or a small stick, and such scallops made around the rim as strike the fancy of the potter, who at times substitutes a narrow serpentine line made of thin strips of mud. No other decoration is added. The whole is then covered with a coating of gum to further its density, after which the pot is placed over a slow fire, made of sheep or cow dung, and allowed to remain there for several hours until thoroughly baked, after which it is ready for use.
After baking, the pottery (excepting cooking utensils) was decorated with colored figures, the color being applied with a brush of yucca fiber, and prepared from black, red, yellow and white clays or earths, mixed with water. This, however, has long since been discontinued as too tedious. The cooking pot is still largely in use, both for domestic and ceremonial purposes. In the well known war dance the pot is quickly converted into a drum by stretching a piece of goat-, sheep- or buckskin across the mouth of the pot and securing it just below the flaring rim. This is tapped with a small round stick producing a dull sound which is kept up incessantly during the entire dance The earthen pot is also required in the preparation of medicines productive of emesis in the course of some ceremonies. Pgs. 285-289
The underlying explanation is that the harmful sounds of the slain monsters were beaten into the earth and the War Ceremony compensates the earth for the evils left over from prehistoric times. To make it successful, the enemy is sung and beaten into the earth. Beating the pot drum is beating the face of the enemy. With each beat of the stick on the pot drum the minds of enemy ghosts are drawn down toward the earth.
When the pot drum was prepared for the War Ceremony, the jewels stood for the 'floor of the drum's home,' into which the sounds were pounded.