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In reference to the religion of the Navahos, I quote from “A Little History of the Navajos, by Oscar H. Lipps, 1909:
“Navajo mythology is replete with legends handed down from father to son telling the origin of every good and evil thing known to his simple life. While he does not contemplate a First Great Cause or its attendant effect, yet his legends contain the story of the creation of his present world—the sun, moon, stars, sky, rivers, mountains, cliffs and canyons. He has a legend of a flood which destroyed all the wicked people. There is also the Wind god, Rain god, War god, etc., to whom he attributes omnipotent powers.
“While the Navajo has produced no literature and has no great epics or pyrics, still he has created elaborate dramas. All of his dreams are founded on myths. Many of these myths are very long so that perhaps few Navajos know thoroughly more than two or three of the great myths. Like the myths of most all other people, they may be either explanatory, such as attempts to explain the mysteries of existence and universal life; aesthetic, those designed to elicit emotion and give pleasure; or the romantic myth, which displays the character of some favorite hero. In Navajo mythology may be found all of these classes of myths.
I insert a few of these myths and legends, taken from recognized authorities :
CREATION OF THE FIRST MAN AND
(By Dr. Matthews.) “The gods laid a buckskin on the ground with the head to the west; on this they placed two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, with their tips to the east; and over the corn they spread another buckskin with its head to the east; under the white ear they put the feather of a white eagle, under the yellow ear the feather of a yellow eagle. Then the white wind blew from the east and the yellow wind blew from the west, between the skins. While the wind was blowing, eight of the Mirage people came and walked around the objects on the ground four times, and as they walked the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded from between the buckskins, were seen to move. When the Mirage people had finished their walk, the upper buckskin was lifted,—the ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman lay there in their stead. The white ear of corn had been changed into a man, the yellow ear into a woman. The pair thus created were First Man and First Woman.
MYTH OF THE OLD MAN AND WOMAN
OF THE FIRST WORLD.
(By Stevenson.) “In the lower world four gods were created by Etseastin and Etseasun. These gods were so annoyed by the ants that they said: 'Let us go to the four points of the World.' A spring was found at each of the cardinal points, and each god took possession of a spring, which he jealously guarded
“Etseastin and Etseasun were jealous because they had no water, and they needed some to produce nourishment. The old man finally obtained a little water from each of the gods and planted it, and from it he raised a spring such as the gods had. From this spring came corn and other vegetation. Etseastin and Etseasun sat on opposite sides of the spring facing each other, and sang and prayed and talked to somebody about themselves, and thus they originated worship. One day the old man saw some kind of fruit in the middle of the spring. He tried to reach it but he could not, and asked the spider woman, (a member of his family), to get it for him. She spun a web across the water and by its use procured the fruit, which proved to be a large white shell, quite as large as a Tusayan basket. The following day Etseastin discovered another kind of fruit in the spring, which the spider woman also brought him; this fruit was the turquoise. The third day still another kind of fruit was discovered by him and obtained by the spider woman; this was the abalone sheli. The fourth day produced the black stone bead, which was also procured.
“After ascending into the upper world Etseastin visited the four corners to see what he could find. (They had brought a bit of everything from the lower world with them. From the east he brought eagle feathers; from the south feathers from the blue jay; in the west he found hawk feathers, and in the north speckled nightbird (whippoorwill) feathers. Etseastin and Etseasun carried these to a spring, placing them towards the cardinal points. The eagle plumes were laid to the east and near by them white corn and white shell; the blue feathers were laid to the south with blue corn and turquoise; the hawk feathers were laid to the west with yellow corn and abalone shell; and to the north were laid the whippoorwill feathers with black beads and corn of all the several colors. The old man and woman sang and prayed as they had done at the spring in the lower world. They prayed to the east and the white wolf was created; to the south, and the otter appeared; to the west, and the mountain lion came; and to the north, the beaver. Etseastin made these animals rulers over the several points from which they
“When the white of daylight met the yellow of sunset in midheavens, they embraced, and white gave birth to the coyote; yellow to the yellow fox. Blue of the south and black of the north similarly met, giving birth, blue to blue fox, and black to badger.
“Blue and yellow foxes were given to the Pueblos; coyote and badgers remain with the Navajo; but Great Wolf is ruler over them all. Great Wolf was the chief who counselled separation of the sexes."
THE CREATION OF THE SUN.
(By Stevenson.) "The first three worlds were neither good nor healthful. They moved all the time and made the people dizzy. Upon ascending into this world the Navajos found only darkness and they said, 'We must have light.'
“In the Ure mountains lived two women, Ahsonnutli, the turquoise hermaphrodite, and Yolaikaiason, the white shell woman. These two women were sent for by the Navajo, who told them they wished light. The Navajo had already partially separated light into its several colors. Next to the floor was white, indicating dawn, upon the white, blue was spread for morning, and on the blue, yellow for sunset, and next was black, representing night. They had prayed long and continuously over these, but their prayers had availed nothing. The two women on arriving told the people to have patience and their prayers would eventually be answered.
“Night had a familiar, who was always at his ear. This person said, “send for the youth at the great falls.' Night sent as his messenger a shooting star. The youth soon appeared and said: “Ahsonnutli, the hermaphrodite, had white beads in her right breast, and turquoise in her left. We will tell her to lay them on darkness and see what she can do with her prayers. This she did. The youth from the great falls said to Ahsonnutli, You have carried the white shell beads and turquoise a long time; you should know what to say.' Then with a crystal dipped in pollen she marked eyes and mouth on the turquoise and on the white-shell beads, and forming a circle around these with the crystal, she produced a slight light from the white shell bead, and a greater light from the turquoise, but the light was insufficient.
"Twelve men lived at each of the cardinal points. The forty-eight men were sent for.