Navajo Legends - For the Navajos, each song is a prayer to the Holy People -or supernatural beings- who take care of them. Navajo songs are sung in ceremonies to cure the sick or to protect their families, homes, crops or herds. Every Navajo ceremony includes a "Blessingway Song". It provides a blessing for a long and happy life. It is also used to bless a new hogan or a new marriage.
The Navajo creation story
The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now live.
The Navajo were given the name Ni’hookaa Diyan Diné by their creators. It means "Holy Earth People". Navajos today simply call themselves "Diné", meaning "The People". The Tewa Indians were the first to call them Navahu, which means "the large area of cultivated land".
Changing Woman lived alone. One day she received inspiration to go up on a hill and build a wickiup with four poles, where the first rays of the sun would strike in the morning. Is dzán naadleeshe' went inside and lay there and as the sun came up, the sun shone between her legs. One of his rays went into her. This caused her first menstrual period. After that she became pregnant. She conceived a son and called him Nayé nazgháné; (Slayer of Monsters). Four days later she was impregnated by Water- Old Man and gave birth to Túbaadeschine (Born of the Water-Old Man). These were the first Apache people.
In the world below there was no sun and no moon, and therefore no light, yet vegetation in innumerable forms and the animal people thrived. Among the latter were
Gray Wolf people, Naklétso;
Mountain Lion, Nashtuítso;
Pine Squirrel, Klozĕslskái and Klozĕslzhí̆nĭ;
Blue Fox, Mai-Dotlí̆shĭ;
Yellow Fox, Mai-Iltsói;
four different varieties of the Hawk people, and many others.
Their world was small. At its eastern rim stood a large white mountain, and at the south a blue one. These formed the home of Ástsĕ Hástĭn, First Man. A yellow mountain in the west and a black one in the north harbored Ástsĕ Ĕstsán, First Woman. Near the mountain in the east a large river had its source and flowed toward the south. Along its western bank the people lived in peace and plenty. There was game in abundance, much corn, and many edible fruits and nuts. All were happy. The younger women ground corn while the boys sang songs and played on flutes of the sunflower stalk. The men and the women had each eight chiefs, four living toward each cardinal point; the chiefs of the men lived in the east and south, those of the women in the west and north. The chiefs of the east took precedence over those of the south, as did those of the west over those of the north.
One day, led by their eight brave chiefs, all the men went off on a hunt. It occurred to the head-chief when they had been gone but a short time that the women should have been instructed to clean the camp thoroughly and bake a quantity of bread while all the men were away; so he despatched the youngest of the four chiefs of the south to the camp to make known his wishes, but instead of doing as bidden, the young chief visited with the head-chief's wife. The hunters were gone four days, at the end of which time they returned with much game, weary and very hungry. To their surprise they found the camp in a very unkempt condition and no bread baked in anticipation of their return. The messenger was called before the head-chief at once and questioned as to the directions he had given the women. He explained that he had told the chief of the women what they were expected to do, but she refused to listen to him, and he was powerless to do more. Then the head-chief went to his wife and demanded to know why she had refused to issue his orders to the women. She curtly replied that that was her business and not his; as it was, the women did more work than the men, for they tilled the fields, made the clothing, cared for the children, and did the cooking, while the men did practically nothing, so if they chose to spend a few days in idleness, it was nothing more than they had a right to do and no one's concern but their own. The chief became angry, and during a quarrel that ensued he was told that he and all his followers might leave if they would, for the women could get along better without them.
Evening in the Desert
With a large stone knife Locust cut off the horns of the Monsters one by one. With those from the one toward the east he made a long sweep with his arm in that direction, and in the distance sprang up an ocean. In like manner he formed oceans to the south, west, and north with the horns of the remaining three. The creation of rivers followed: with a wave of the hand the Rio Grande, the San Juan, the Colorado, the Little Colorado, and others were made. Hair pulled from the bodies of the Monsters was tossed to the winds and from it sprang frogs, snakes, lizards, and reptiles of every kind.
While Locust was doing this the remainder of the people came up. They stood about on the small bare spots of ground wondering what to do. Among them were the four Winds (Ní̆lchi), Black, Blue, Yellow, and White. Each blew toward his respective cardinal point and soon much of the water dried up, leaving a quantity of bare land. But not a sign of vegetation was there at any hand; all was as barren as the desert sands. Luckily each had brought seeds of many kinds from the world below. These they began planting, finishing the task in four days.
After the planting, First Man, First Woman, Wolf Chief, and Mountain Lion Chief each made a speech advising the creation of a number of mountains similar to the ones they had had in the lower world. This was agreeable to all, and accordingly the work was begun. The handfuls of earth caught up hurriedly from the tops of the mountains below as they were driven off by the rising flood were taken to the cardinal points and deposited in the same relative positions, an equal distance apart, as were the submerged mountains from which the earth had been taken.
First Sí̆snajĭnĭ, the White Mountain, wasmade in the east;
then Tsótzĭlh, the Blue Mountain, in the south;
next Dokóöslit, the Yellow Mountain, in the west, and
lastly Dĕpé̆nsa, the Black Mountain, in the north.
Having yet portions of each handful of earth remaining, two more mountains, called Chóĭli and Tzĭlhnúhodĭhlĭ, were made near the point of emergence in the middle of the rectangle formed by the creation of the other four. To give each mountain color, white shell, turquoise, abalone, and jet were used for those at the cardinal points, while the middle two were colored with a mixture of all these substances.
- Navajo Symbolism and Sand Painting rites
- Navajo Sandpainting Mountain Chant Ceremony First Day
- Navajo Sandpainting Mountain Chant Ceremony Second Day
- Navajo Sandpainting Mountain Chant Ceremony Third Day
- Navajo Sandpainting Mountain Chant Ceremony Fourth Day
Books and Posters
The Legend of the Navajo Hero Twins Book Review
Changing Woman Protects Her Sons
The Holy Beings Teach the Navajo Twins Poster
Navajo Winter Storytelling Poster
The Navajo Hero Twins Receive Their Weapons – Poster
Tsidil – Navajo Stick Game
Book Review of ”The Legend of the Horse”
Legend of the Horse Poster
K’é – Diné (Navajo) Kinship System