THE GREAT GAMBLER
From the Navaho Age of Gods
In the Age of Gods: The giants and the monsters were still in the country when the people built their homes near Elk Mountain. Because of this they were not contented; they planned to travel to the place where they had emerged from the underworld and build their dwellings there. Now, as before, some of the people remained; but the chief and the main body moved on. They built Kin ty eli, Aztec, a great dwelling. But after some time they heard of a land of little snow and plenty of seeds that could be used as food, so the main body of the people moved again and built Kin dotl'ish, Blue House, so called because of its bluish color. It is above Farmington on the San Juan. They built again under a cliff which is opposite the town of Farmington. Then the main body of people moved to the Chaco Canyon and built Tse be'an y i, the Place Where There Are Poles that Hold Up the Rock, Pueblo Bonito, and many other dwellings.
They built Tse be'an y i for their chief who never stepped out into the sunlight. They had plenty of seeds and they grew good crops there. All the beads and the turquoise and the beautiful goods that they got below, where the Two Rivers Cross, they held sacred with their chief.
The Sun seeing this became jealous of this chief whom he had never seen. He wanted to own the beads that belonged to this person, even though he had the perfect turquoise; for, he was the Turquoise Boy.
At this time there was a very poor woman living near Tse be' na y i called As san' no ho tlo dei, She Goes Around Gathering Seeds. Another name for her was the Rock Woman. She belonged to the clan Hada'ho ni gee, Banded Rock or Rock with Rings. After her there were no more descendants of the clan. Now the Sun secretly visited this woman; and when the people noticed that she was with child, the men joked among themselves. They said: "That is going to be my baby." "No, it will be mine. I visited her first." Or: "She is related to me. I want a gift. What will you give me?" "After the gift is made to me, the child can be yours." And when she brought forth a baby boy the men continued to tease each other; they did not know that the child's father was the Sun.
As the boy grew his mother taught him to run a great distance each morning. When he reached young manhood he was beautiful and tall; but his mother being poor, he was poor also; and when he went about the people laughed at him, and the men still said: "No, he is not your son, I was there first."
There was a holy flylike insect called Dotso, whose face was white, and body hairy. One day this fly asked the boy: "Why don't you go to the home of your father?" Now this fly was all-wise and knew everything. And one day the Sun lowered the rainbow to where this young man stood. The youth stepped on the rainbow and was raised to the home of his father.
Now the Sun, who was the young man's father, had a great plan. He wanted to get hold of all the beads belonging to the people, together with their chief, whom he had never seen. First he gave his son two big, perfect turquoises, the shape and the size of a dollar, for his earrings. Then the Sun began to teach this young man all the gambling songs and chants, and also the chant with which to draw people to himself.
Another game was played with a stick the shape of the rainbow. When it fell one way, one side won; and the opposite. It was like matching coins.
The fourth game was that of kicking the stick. There were to be two tracks made, like the tracks on Chapin Mesa (Mesa Verde). One of these was to be for the Gambler; and the other was to be for the people.
The fifth game was that of hitting a ball against a pole, a good-sized pole.
The sixth game was the guessing game.
The seventh game was that of the two planted sticks. Where one stick was planted solidly the other was loose. Two runners run to the sticks and grab the one they think is loose.
The eighth game was the foot race.
When the young man had learned all these games the Sun sent him back to Tse be'na y i. At once he started to gamble. For a time the people tried to buy his turquoise earrings, they were so pretty. But he would always say: "If you can win them you can have them." When he chanted the people came to him. Soon he was called the Great Gambler, for he won all their corn and goods. He even won the children and the women and the men for his slaves. They worked for him and they built a great house for him. He had a great many wives and the men built homes for them also. Everyone worked for him. He, won the Male Rain, the Female Rain, the Rainbow, the rivers, the mountains, and all the earth. The rest of the land went dry for it only rained where he lived. He had good corn and beautiful flowers. He even won the wife of the chief and the chief himself, together with his prayer sticks and his beads. There was also a big, round turquoise that stood as high as a man, and it had 12 feathers standing around it. The Sun told his son that when he should win the great turquoise it should be his. It was the most precious of all. It was the last thing that the Gambler won from the people.
Then the Sun came down, and he said: "My son, this is what I want. This is the only thing that I want. Now give it to me." But the Gambler had grown to be a very strong man, and instead of turning the great turquoise over to his father, he said: "You will be the next I will gamble with. Come on."
The Sun was very angry. He said no word, but returned to his home. After he arrived at his home he was still very angry with Nilth wilth dine, the winner of Men, because he had not succeeded in getting the great, perfect turquoise.
Now over on a mesa near Farmington there lived another people called Hada hun estqin, the Mirage People. There was a woman there, one of the Mirage People, whom the Sun visited. Nine days after he visited her she gave birth to a baby boy. (Later the days became months, and women gave birth to children at the end of 9 months.) This boy grew to be a young man at the end of 15 days. (Later the days became years, and boys begin their manhood at 15 years.)
Now this boy was born because the Sun had another plan. He wished this son to win back all that the Great Gambler had won. After this boy grew to young manhood he was told that his father wished him to come to his home. So the young man went to the home of his father, the Sun. He found his sister there. She shaped him to the perfect form of a man, in fact the perfect image, or twin, of the Great Gambler. (Even today there is a saying: "I come. Will my sister shape me with her bread?" And the answer is: "Have you some pack rat's meat?" (In other words, Do you bring a small gift?)
The Sun made his young son six sticks. They had instead of a white face like the first set, a black face. The seventh stick was red and black. The Sun said: "Now my son, you shall use these against the Gambler. But first, before you begin to gamble, you must make me an offering which shall be a white shell basket with mixed chips of stone inside it. Place it where the bunch grass grows. Place it in the center of a bunch of this grass, and then say a prayer." The Sun taught him the prayer. After that the Sun told him to whom to offer gifts.
The young man was to take the skin of a baby buffalo to the bat as his gift. That is why the bat still wears a furry coat. The young man was to use the bat in the first game to be played with the Gambler.
Next he was to give a present to the Big Snake. His gift was to be a precious red stone. That is why the snake wears the red stone on his forehead, and the female snake, on the ears. The snake which the boy was to use in the ring game, was to take the place of the willow ring generally used. He had buckskin wrapped around him, with two little openings for his eyes. They were to throw the rings and to race after them, stick in hand, so that when the rings were about to stop rolling, they could cast their sticks at them. The snake was to roll over the boy's stick. But the boy must be quick to grab the ring or the Gambler, in anger, would throw it onto the rocks in the canyon. The boy must follow these instructions carefully so that no harm would come to the snake. When the Gambler casts his stick, the boy must cast his stick farther on and say: "Bit ade, bit ade. I will win, I will win." Since that time all gamblers say that when they cast their sticks.
The shape of the stick used in the third game is shown in figure 4. It is called wo nal'gili. The Gambler had weighted one side of his stick so that he would always win. The next step was for the young man to take black jet and present it to the measuring worm, wo'shiyishi. He was to go into the young man's stick and fall opposite the Gambler's side. It is because of the gift of the jet that the measuring worm's head is black.
The stick used in the Third Game.
Next the young man was to take white shell to na'at e'e, the brown rat. This rat was to enter the youth's ball used in the fourth game, so that the ball would roll into the hole. The youth was told not to hit the ball, but just behind it; then the ball would roll into the hole, and he would win.
The sign the Gambler used in the guessing game is shown in figure 5. It was a picture of one of the chief sacred beings that the Gambler had won. Ash'ke chili was his name.21 He had a bill like a crow, and in his hands he held pretty flowers, four in each. The first four circles are the water jars--the black, the blue, the yellow, and the white. They contain the Male Rain. The next four contain the vapors--black, blue, yellow, and white. They were the Female Rain. The ninth jar contained all the bad medicine that the Gambler used, his black magic.
The sign the great Gambler used In the Guessing Game.
The next game was that of the planted sticks (fig. 6). The youth was to present the woodpecker, tsil kal'i, a precious red stone, which he still carries with him. He was to be used in this game. Now the cutworm, nada'bich osh, was to dig down and cut loose the roots of the young man's stick, the planted part of the solid stick; and the Black Wind, nich i dilqil, was to enter the Gambler's stick, the loosened one, and blow and blow until the roots fastened firmly into the ground. A piece of jet was given to the cutworm for his trouble; and to this day he carries a black spot on his head.
The game of the Planted Sticks.
Now all was ready, all that was to be used by the young man.
By this time the people of the whole country were the slave's of the Gambler; they lived in a great community. They got together all the sacred beings, the Sun as the chief, and they planned to move against the Gambler.
The young man was to have two beautiful maidens to use to bet against the Gambler. They were the daughters of Hasjelti and Hasjohon. These two Yei gave their daughters in the Sun's plan; but they would not consent to do so for a long time. After they agreed they sent the Black Wind to the home of the Gambler to see how he was dressed. They dressed the young man like the Gambler. The young man had already been shaped like the Gambler in the house of the Sun so that he could win the world. Now the Yei dressed the young man like the Gambler from feet to headdress.
The people thought of the rolling ring game. They went to Hasjelti, and they asked him for his ring; but he refused to let them have it. "No," he said, "the Gambler would not look at mine; he has his own rings." But he told them to go to Hasjelbai, also called Tqo'neinili, the Water Sprinkler, who is the Delight Maker or Sacred Clown. He has these two names. He could be found at the end of the trail; and he would have his rings with him. When the messengers found him he was humming: "Han'y ogana, han'y ogana" (All alone, all alone). Away he went after his ring; he cast his stick, and then sat down. He crossed his leg over his knee and put his hand over his mouth. Now he had his rings well soaked, and they were quite wet. He gathered up his rings and gave them to the messengers. When they returned to Hasjelti he said: "The Gambler will not look at these rings; he has his own."
Now everything was ready and they set out for the Gambler's home.
They sent the bat ahead. He was to hide in the home of the Gambler. In the first game he was to catch the Gambler's sticks with one wing and drop the young man's sticks from the other wing. So to be ready for his part, the bat flew out in the night to hide in the Gambler's home.
They were all ready to be on their way when someone came. He was the mountain rat. He said: "I am still here. Why have you kept this secret from me?" They gave him white beads so that he would not feel badly for having been neglected. They were about to start off again when an owl hooted just ahead. He was offended because he had not been included in their plan. They gave him also white beads. All gamblers do this today. They place white beads in rats' nests and in owls' nests. This is to assure them luck when they want to gamble.
They started out again; but one said: "Wait a minute, the Gambler has many spies working for him." They took mixed chips of stone and presented them to the Black Wind. He was to blow dust into the eyes of the spies so that the people could go on their way without being seen.
Now it was the turn of the young man who was shaped and dressed like the Gambler to act. Each morning at dawn the Gambler's head wife came to the spring with her water jar. When the spies, eyes were full of dust the young man passed them, and hid in the spring and waited for the woman. She came to the spring and went down to the water. He followed her. He said: "Give me some water."
She reached down and gave him a gourd full of water, for she took him to be her husband. He sipped some of the water, and then threw the rest over her, over her clothing. She shook the water from her clothing and said: "This is one of your wicked deeds." She took him to be her own husband, and she went and lay down with him. The young man did this to "split the mind" of the Gambler.
When the woman carried the water home she found her husband asleep in their house. She said: "You naughty thing! You made fast time in returning." He jumped up and said: "Someone has been with my wife. Who is he?" She answered: "Someone like you came. I saw him, that is all." "No," he said, "someone has visited you." Now each day that the Gambler gambled he won many men; so he said: "Well, I may find him today. Then I will have him in my power."
When the young man returned to the people the little breeze, which is our life breath today, sat behind his ear, for the Sun had told his son that he would be with him in everything that happened.
They watched until they saw a big dust storm coming. The spies' eyes were filled with dust and they could see nothing. And there was a great crowd at the entrance of the Gambler's dwelling before he knew it.
The young man stepped inside the home of the Gambler. When he entered, the wife of the Gambler, whom he had been with that morning, was grinding corn. Just then she looked up and smiled. The breeze said: "She smiles because she knows that you are the man she met in the early morning." The breeze continued: "The Gambler saw this smile and he is getting up. He is jealous. He thinks that you are the man who was with his wife at the spring." The young man stepped up to the Gambler and said: "My Brother, I came for that big piece of turquoise called ha da thee." Now this was the most precious and the last thing that the Gambler had won, the turquoise that the Sun wanted. The Sun had told the young man that, when he won it, it was to be his.
When the Gambler got to his feet he saw the crowd of people. He said: "Where are those ugly things, the spies, that I placed around this dwelling?" He called them; and when they came to him they said that the dust storm was dreadful. They had seen no one pass.
The Gambler then turned to the young man and said: "Very well. It shall be as you wish; you are the one I will gamble with." With that he brought forth his basket and shook his sticks in it.