American Indian Stories - The Age of Gods

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Native American Navaho

Go to: Age of Gods - Navaho Index

In the Age of Gods: The Twin Boys were cared for like their mother the White Bead Woman had been, each had a cradle, and when they first laughed gifts were given to all who came to the home. Not much is told about them until the fifteenth day. By that time they were young men.

note: Now the story is told in a chant. It was given to the Dîné for their marriage ceremony. The meal basket, the pollen, etc. And because First Woman was not invited to the brush hogan explains why a man must not look upon his wife's mother. This was given to the Dîné (the Navaho) as well as to the Apache, who also have this custom.

note: The "Twins" appear in Zuni mythology. It is explained that a lightning shaft and a rainbow are brothers to one another. So are the serpent worm and the striped measuring worm; also, the gods of war and thunderstorms.

First Man made bows and arrows for his two grandsons, and they played with them. One day when they were on the south side of the mesa they saw a strange animal with a long nose and a long tail, the coyote. Just as they took aim and were about to shoot, the animal went out of sight over the edge of the cliff. They hurried home and told their mother and First Man and his wife of what they had seen. They were frightened. The old ones said: "That was the spy of the Giant Elk, Anaye'tee'leget." Shortly thereafter when they were on the west side of the mesa they were frightened again, and again they hurried home and said: "We saw a great bird with a red bead flying towards us, but just as we took aim and were about to shoot it flew back to the mesa." The three older people were now frightened. "That was the turkey buzzard," they said. "He is the spy of Tse na'hale, the Giant Birds who devour people." They scolded the boys for having gone so far from home.

One day the boys returned from the north side of the mesa and they told of having seen a black bird with shining eyes. Just as they took aim it had flown away, they said. The White Bead Woman and her foster parents warned the boys again and said that the bird was the spy of the monsters. And again they scolded the youths for wandering so far. But they could not keep them at home.

Now the boys were afraid to go toward the south, west and north. The only safe place was the east, so they ran eastward chasing chickadees. And someone came to them and said: "Grandchildren, what are you doing?" This was Dotso, the All-Wise Fly who had spoken. He continued: "My grandchildren, your father is the Sun." He told them to ask their mother who was their father.

She will tell you that your father is ga'bege, the single barrel cactus. Ask her a second time. She will tell you that your father is hostage bini', the small bunch barrel cactus. Ask her a third time and she will say that your father is hoish da' gogie, the sour cactus. Ask her a fourth time to tell you who is your father and she will answer: "You are nothing but rock bastards." Then you must tell her that those things which she has named could not father human beings. Tell her that you know that the Sun is your father.

So when the boys asked the questions and received the answers that Dotso, the Great Fly, told them that they would receive, they spoke up and said that they knew that the Sun was their father.

This surprised the three older ones. They were speechless when the two boys said that they intended to go to the home of their father.

The Twins warned their mother and First Man and First Woman not to look at them as they left. With that warning they started out.

When the boys stepped outside the hogan they stood side by side. Each had lifted his right foot to take a step. They stepped on the rainbow and were immediately on top of the mountain Chol'i'i where their mother had been found. The next step took them to Sis na'jin. Then they found themselves way, way to the east in a country that they did not know, a country of nothing but rolling sand.

They found an old man there who asked them if they were the two boys whom he had heard were on the way to see their father. They told him, yes. The old man said: "My grandchildren, your father is fierce. He kills with many weapons. He will harm you if you are not careful." This old man was Au sayk' giddie, the worm with the sharp tail. He vomited and said: "My grandchildren, take this. You must use it when your father tries you with his tobacco." They took what the old man had given them and continued their journey.

After passing over many difficulties the Twins found themselves way, way, way east standing at the door of a great turquoise house. An old woman asked them where they were going. The boys said that they were going to see their father. She said: "Well, then you are my grandchildren. Come with me." She was the mother of the Sun. She took them to a room, and she wrapped them in the four coverings of the Sky, the dawn, the daylight, the twilight, and the darkness. After a while there was a loud galloping noise. It was the Sun returning home on his big turquoise horse.

When the Sun entered his house he said: "Why is there no one here?" His mother said: "Who would be here? There are only ourselves at all times." After asking this question four times the Sun said: "Why mother, at noon I saw two specks coming here. What are they?" Then came his wife who was a jealous woman. She told her husband that he had always said that he had been true to her during his journey to earth and back. "What you have seen are your bastard children coming here." Then the grandmother brought the Twins out to their father.

The Little Breeze sat behind the boys' ears and told them what to say. They spoke up: "Father, we have come a long way to get help from you." The Sun did not answer them. They repeated their statement four times, but still the Sun did not answer them. He reached up and took down his turquoise pipe. He brought out a sack of tobacco and, filling his pipe, he lighted the tobacco and handed the pipe to the boys. They smoked the pipe until all the tobacco was burned. They shook out the ashes. The Sun filled the pipe again and the boys smoked it a second time. He asked them how they felt, and they said that they felt well. Then their father filled it a third time, and he filled it a fourth time, and they had their fourth smoke. He asked them how they felt, and they answered: "We feel well." The Sun said: "I see you are my sons." He received them as his sons. But still he was not sure that they were his children. He said: "I will take you outside now."

The Sun prepared a sweat house for the two boys and he placed two, big, heated flint stones inside it. The grandmother gave the Twins four feathers," and said: "Your father has not much mercy on you. Put these feathers under each arm when you enter the sweat house." They stripped themselves and went into the sweat house. They sang four sections of a chant. And then they heard someone calling: "Are you warm by now?" They answered: "No, we are not warm yet." The question was asked a second, third, and fourth time. After the fourth time the boys said: "Yes, we are warm now." The Sun turned water on the stones which exploded the sweat house; but the boys, with the help of the feathers, landed to one side. The Sun then knew for certain that they were his sons. He took them inside his house, and calling his daughter, said: "These are your brothers, wash them."

The Twins were washed first in a White bead basket, secondly, in a turquoise basket, thirdly, in a white shell basket, and fourthly, in a black jet basket. They learned that this had taken four days. Each day they had been bathed in a different basket. After this their sister brought them to their father who stood them all side by side, their sister between the Twins. The, Sun shaped them, legs, arms, fingers and all, even their faces like their sister's. And he powdered them with white powder and their skins were made white. He put something black in a little bowl. It was hair ointment which he put on their hair. He pulled their hair down to their ankles and they had a great quantity of hair. Their sister dressed their hair for them and she dressed their persons.

The Sun showed the Twins over his turquoise house and asked them to choose whatever they wished. One of the Twins said: "Father, we do not wish for anything that you have inside the house." The other brother repeated the same thing. Then they went outside the house. Over toward the East the Sun showed the Twins all the different kinds of horses that he owned. He asked his sons if they wanted the horses, but they said it was not their wish. Toward the South he showed them all the domestic animals, cattle, sheep, etc. He asked them if they wanted these, but the Twins answered that it was not for these animals that they had come. Over toward the West the Sun showed them all the game animals and the birds, and he asked his sons if they were what they wanted. Again they said that they had not made the journey for these. He showed them the North and all the different kinds of stones, turquoise, white bead, red stone, and he asked them if these stones were what they wanted. But they said: "No, it is not for these that we have come."

Now on the outer wall of the Sun's house there hung a weapon. The Twins pointed to this weapon and said that that was what they had come for. The weapon looked like a bow and arrows, but in reality it was the lightning. The Sun asked them what they would do with this weapon. The boys told their father of the suffering on earth, and how men were eaten every day by monsters. They named the monsters, one by one, and they said: "Father, if they eat all the people on the earth, and themselves last, for whom will you travel? What will you receive as a gift for the price of your journey?"

The Sun sat with his head down and thought a great thought for Yeitso, the One-Walking Giant, was also his son. Then he spoke and told the Twins that the Giant was their half brother and that they would be slaying their elder brother. (That is why they say that brothers will sometimes kill one another.)

The Sun explained to the Twins that it was not safe for the people on the earth to possess this weapon they asked for. He said that the boys could use the weapon for a little while, but that he would have to reclaim it when they were through with it. "For of a certainty the people on the earth will destroy themselves if they are allowed to keep it," he said. He lifted down the weapon and continued: "Now let us go to the top of the middle of the earth where there is an opening in the sky." The Little Breeze whispered to the Twins: "Now he will ask you questions. He counts on your giving the wrong answers, and he plans on refusing to give you the weapons."

note: The boys were covered with the blankets of dawn, blue sky, yellow evening light, and darkness by their grandmother.

note: When they were thus equipped they were dressed exactly like their brothers, Black Thunder and Blue Thunder"

The Sun took the weapon and led the Twins to the opening in the sky above Tso dzil, Mt. Taylor. That is where the guessing took place. If the boys did not guess correctly the Sun's plan was to keep them up there and not let them return to earth.

First the Sun pointed to the East and said: "What is that object way down on the earth?" Then the elder brother began chanting:

What is that he asks me?
That is the mountain called Sis na'jin.
It is the White Bead Mountain.
It is the Chief of the Mountain.
It is like the Most High Power Whose Ways Are Beautiful.
What is that down below? he asked me.

The questions included all the sacred mountains. The questions and the answers were just like, in form, the first verse of the chant, that of the East. The Sun said: "My Sons, your guessing is all correct. I know today that you will kill one of the members of your family." He handed the Elder Brother his weapon, which is the lightning, and to the Younger Brother he also handed his weapon, which is also the lightning. The first weapon is called hat tslin it lish ka, the lightning that strikes crooked. The second weapon is hat tsol ilthe ka', the lightning that flashes straight. They were then lowered with their weapons to the center of the world.

note: The weapons are as follows: atsinnikli' ska, chain-lightning arrows; hatsilki'ska, sheet-lightning arrows; sa bit lo'lka, sunbeam arrows; natsili'tka, rainbow arrows; and pesha'l, stone knife club.

note: "Four articles of armour were given to each, and different kinds of weapons were given to them. The articles of armour were: peske' (knife moccasins), pesistle (knife leggings), pese' (knife shirt). and pestsa' (knife hat). The word "pes" in the above names for armour is here translated as knife. The term was originally applied to flint knives, and to the flakes from which flint knives are made. After the introduction of European tools the meaning was extended to include iron knives, and now it is applied to any object of iron, and, with qualifying suffixes, to all kinds of metal. . . Many of the Navahos now think that the magic armour of their gods was of iron. . . the armour was supposed to be made of stone flakes such as were employed in the making of knives in prehistoric days. The Mokis believe that their gods and heroes wore armour of flint."

note: In the guessing game, the four mountains were named as were the rivers. The Male River is the San Juan, the Female River is the Rio Grande.

Go to: Age of Gods - Navaho Index

Native American Myths
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