In Conclusion

So, as we have seen, the Navajo creation stories have significant influence in the Navajo culture, as well as how we can better understand them. Many of the Navajo ceremonies have to do with the creation stories in some way or another. Again, this would be expected as a people’s understanding of them-selves and why they are there is based on how they think they came about. Just as many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ceremonies and/or rites are based on their understanding of their history, so do the Navajo people. And it’s not just me saying this either!

http://navajopeople.org/blog/navajo-symbolism-and-sand-painting-rites/ this blog also shows the kinds of ceremonies that there traditionally are, and where they came from. As I read through this, I definitely could find connections to the creation stories. One particular connection that I find interesting is that all of the ritualistic symbols and physical things used are also in the creation stories, where they are first understood as sacred.

By way of where I came by this understanding of Navajo creation stories, here are my references:

http://navajopeople.org/navajo-legends.htm

First World

Second World

Third World

Fourth World

The White World

The Fourth World, the world that the Dine believe they live in now is the White or Glittering World, or Nihodihil.

1-4a Forth World

In the White world, the waters were still rising from the Yellow World. First Man and Woman asked the Water Buffalo why she was making the worlds flood, and Coyote showed the Water Buffalo’s children to her. He gave her back the male child, but he female child he kept for himself. During this transaction, many other sacred items were used. The children became known as the Male cloud (black cloud) and the White, Blue and Yellow clouds (Female clouds).

After this, First Man and First Woman made things in the world the way they were supposed to be. They rebuilt the mountains from earth from the Yellow World. They also started a fire with flint from the Yellow world and wood from the White world. The wood is still considered sacred, as well as the fire poker. They made a sweatbath and a sweathouse. First Man and Woman made songs and prayers for it and First Man was the first one to use them. Then they made hogans. First the Male hogan, only used for ceremony’s, and then the Female hogan to live in.

The First Man and First Woman made songs and ceremony’s to help the plants grow and the animals thrive. They had children, and thus the stories of the Monster Slayer (which I will not get into here). The main point of all of this, though, is that through these stories, and the understandings of these worlds of the Dine, we see what is important to them. We see where they get their traditions and ceremony’s, where they started, and why they are so important to the Navajo people.

The Yellow World

The Third World in the Navajo Creation Stories is the Yellow World or Nihaltsoh

 Navajo Third World

In the Yellow World, First Man, First Woman, Coyote, and the other creatures discover the sacred rivers, and the Sacred mountains. There were the four main Sacred Mountains, as well as other sacred mountains. Other animals were in the Yellow World, these were again just spirit beings, not yet fully animal. In the Yellow World, all of the creatures were happy. Until, that is, Coyote stole the Water Monster’s child. Water Monster caused a great flood that covered even Blanco Peak. First Man tried to help all the creatures to not drown, and so planted several trees (thus we first see trees as sacred) and finally planted a female reed that reached to the sky. All of the creatures climbed it, and thus they found themselves in the Fourth World where they all live today.

 

The Blue World

The Second World of the Dine creation stories is the Blue World or Nihodootlizh.

Nihodootlizh – Second World (Blue World)

When the First Man and First Woman came to the Blue World, all of the creatures that lived there were already fighting. Because of the war going on, First Man killed some of the creatures, but then sang songs and the creatures came back to life. As First Man looked at the Blue World he saw that creatures were not happy and wanted to leave the world for a new one. In compassion, First Man tried to help them leave by smoking “sacred tobacco” and blowing it to the four winds. This made the creatures feel better, but they still wanted to leave the Blue World. So, First Man continued to try different things to help the creatures leave. Finally, he made wands out of various materials: black stone, turquoise, shell and abalone. On these wands he carved four footprints. The creatures stepped into the footprints on the wands. They made an offering, and then went through the opening in the South.

Through this story, we see more creatures that are considered sacred to the Dine people. We also see stones, tobacco, and offerings that are still things considered holy today.

The Black World

The First World of the Navajo creation stories is the Black World, or Nihodilhil.

Navajo creation story – The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

In this world, First Man and First Woman come to an understanding of space (the four corners of the world), the elements, and color (the colors of the elements), and other beings than themselves. They understood maleness and femaleness through the Black cloud and the White cloud and everything that the clouds represented. In this world, First Man and First Woman meet each other, and decide to go through life (existence?) together. Together, they learned that they were not the first beings in that world, and that there were many other beings. I do say beings, not simply in a philosophical sense, but rather because they are said to only have the form of man and woman, but not yet man and woman fully. As more and more beings appeared and joined the First Man and First Woman, the world was small, and thus became crowded, so they moved on to the next world.

On Navajo Creation Stories

The Dine’ or Navajo have their own sets of origin stories. In these stories, we see what is held sacred by the Navajo people. The stories move through four different worlds: black, blue, yellow, and white. While the colors do seem to mean more than simply the color of the world that First Man and First Woman experienced, I have not yet found the symbolism. In each world, the First Man and First Woman encounter various beings who travel with them to the next world. Many ceremonies revolve around the experiences depicted in each world and story, as well as simply worldview and way of life understandings. Much of the symbolism that occurs in the stories affects how the Navajo understand the world around them, and understand how they should live. All people wonder where they came from, and why they are here. While the Navajo’s origin stories might not answer the second of those questions, they do answer the first.

Navajo Creation Story Painting by Kee Lee

As Westerners have their own ideas of where they came from and where they are going, so do the Navajo. What I find particularly interesting, is that in some way, the creation stories of the Dine reflect the Western understanding of the history of the world. While not being the exact duplicate of our Western stories, the creation stories do have certain elements that ring true to a more universal understanding of where we have come from. They also are particularly interesting as they are very specific to the Southwestern identity, and certain creatures and experiences that are very Southwestern. For example, the mountains that the First Man and First Woman encounter in the Third world are specific mountains in the Southwestern area (Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico specifically). And, just as the Western ideas of origin and creation shape how we think and act in the world, the Dine form their culture through their stories.

I find the creation stories interesting as they give an insight into how the Navajo people think about themselves and the world around them. Where we come from and where we are going is a major part of the human experience, and the culture’s answer to that question shapes how each person in the culture understands their place in the world. Understanding how a people thinks about themselves is key to understanding their culture and world view. A major part of the Navajo creation stories is the unity between the other creatures, the earth, and the First Man and Woman. Knowing that they understood themselves to all be equal, and even that the Humans were not the ‘first born’, (if you will), helps us to understand their desire to help preserve and take care of nature, and their feeling of unity, even today, with the environment.