THE TWELVE MONTHS OF THE YEAR
From the Navaho Order of Things, Animal Heroes
October is the first month of the year and of winter, which is called qai. October's name is Gah'ji, meaning Back-to-Back, or the Parting-of-the-Seasons. It is the time when the deer come, the time to hunt. Nalashi, the tarantula, is its feather or headdress. Nlchi achi, little cold, is its heart. The blue hanging haze is over this month. Women shell corn, thrash, and store food for the winter. It is the month when mountain sheep breed.
The Calendar Stone: The plan of the twelve months of the year. A, Sun; B, Moon. 1, January; 2, February; 3, March; 4, April; 5, May; 6, June; 7, July; 8, August; 9, September; 10, October; 11, November; 12, December.
November is the second month. It is called Nlchi'tso'si, the month or Time of Slender Winds. Its heart is Nlchi'tso'si, Slender Wind. Its feather is Hastin sakai (Orion), the Old Man with Legs Spread. It is also a month for hunting. The women gather certain grass and plant seeds on warm days, which later they dry and grind into flour for the different bread cakes eaten in winter. The antelope breed.
The third month of the year is December. It is called Nlchi'tso', the Great Wind. Its heart is also the Great Wind. Its feather is Atse'etso, the Big First One. Digging sticks are prepared in this month. They are made with the stone ax; and the wood is dried in the dwellings so that when the planting time comes the sticks will be smooth and well seasoned. The women make moccasins, and they tan the hides from the hunting season. It is the time to begin to tell the sacred stories. The deer breed.
note: First Man made the marks on the buckskin. Later the people of Blue House had the Calendar Stone in their keeping. A medicine woman guarded it. The story of the sun and the moon and the 12 months were upon it.
January is the fourth month. Its name is Zas'ntl'tis, Crusted Snow. Its heart is Tqin, Ice. Akaisda'hi, Which-Awaits-the-Dawn, is its feather. This is the Milky Way. The young men hear the sacred stories and learn to become hatqa'li, Singers or shamen. This is the time when preparations are made for the coming growing season. There are many ceremonies. The women cook the food and take part in certain rituals. The coyotes breed.
February, the fifth month, is called Atsa'biyazh, Baby Eagle. Nol'i, the Hail, is its heart. Its feather is Gahat'ei, the Rabbit Tracks (star cluster in Canis Major). It is the month of the changeable winds. The First Chief of the Winds shakes the earth and awakens the sleeping plants, the bear, the lizards and the snakes. The first plants start to come up. After this month the sacred stories must not be told to the young people. The rabbits breed.
The sixth month, March, is called Wozhchid. It is the month when eaglets chirp in the shell and the antlers of the deer drop. Its heart is Becha na'chil, Sudden Spring Storms. Its feather is Dede'nii, the mountain sheep bird. When you see these birds in the canyons it is spring. The mountain sheep drop their young. Nlchi'dotlish, the Blue Wind, moves over the earth and the first leaves come forth. Ceremonies are held to bless the fields before the seeds are planted.
April, the seventh month and the beginning of Shiji, summer, is called Da'chil, the month of little leaves. Its heart is Niyol, Wind-in-Action. Bit'aa, meaning little leaves, is its feather. Rabbits have their young. Nlchi'dilqil, the Black Wind, shakes the earth and it thunders. The leaves grow bigger and darker in color; and the people make ready for the planting.
May is the eighth month. It is called Dotso after the All-Wise Fly in the sacred legends. Its heart is Ayei'ne'denaiyote, meaning a mixture of rain and spring snow. Nlchi'dilqil, the Black Wind, is its feather. The grass becomes a darkish green. The antelope drop their young. Nlchi'litsui, the Yellow Wind, shakes the earth and it thunders. The flowers come forth and plants open their leaves. It is the time to plant. The early part of this month is called the planting time.
note: Atse etso, the Big First One; part of Scorpio.
The ninth month, June, is called Yaish jash'chili, When-Few Seeds-Ripen. Its heart is Hado'yazhe, Little Heat. Jadi'yazhe, Little Antelope, is its feather. The women gather the first edible seeds, and they are used as the first fruits of the season. They gather the cactus fruit. This is the month of the first rain ceremonies.
July, the tenth month, is called Jas'tso, the great seed ripening. Big Heat, Hado'tso, is its heart. Nltsa'najin, Dark Streaks of Rain, is its feather. It is the time when people gather many seeds and guard their fields. The deer drop their young. Dilye'he, the Pleiades, are seen in the early morning; and the fawns have their pattern on their rumps.
The eleventh month, August, is called Binint A'tso'si, Little Ripening. Its heart is A'tso'si, Light Ripening. Nltsa'bakha', the Male Rain, is its feather. The ears form on the corn and everything ripens. It is the time when wild fruits are gathered--the sourberry, the chokecherry, and yucca fruit.
The last month of the year and of summer is September. It is called Binint a'tso, the Harvest Time. Binint a'tso, Great Ripening, is its heart. Nltsa'baad, the Female Rain, is its feather. Nuts are gathered. The corn is harvested and taken to the dwellings. The first foodstuffs are stored for the winter. And the Ceremony of All Blessings is held in thanksgiving.
When everything was in readiness they called Hashche'zhini from Heavy Rock where he lived. He came to heat the turquoise that was to become the sun. The Turquoise Boy stepped into the sun with his whistle, which was made from the male reed. This whistle had 12 holes in it; and each time he blew on it the earth would move one space or month. First Man heated with his crystal the Great White Shell that was to become the moon. The White Shell Girl stepped into the moon. She carried her whistle, made from the female reed, which also had 12 holes in it. And whenever she blew upon it she would help move the earth and the tides. These two Holy Beings were to form the seasons and the months and the days.
The Turquoise Boy asked to have 102 trails; and the White Shell Girl asked to have 100 trails. They were to cross in the months of March and September. The Sun was to turn back in June, and again in December.
The Turquoise Boy said: "Everything is right so far, but I will not travel for nothing. I will travel if I am paid with the lives of the people of the earth, all the human beings, the animals which have four legs, the birds and insects of the air, the fishes and all the people of the under-water." And then the White Shell Girl repeated the same thing. She also wanted to be paid with the lives of the living.
note: Some medicine men believe the original plan was for 13 months.
After everything was finished and four circles made around the whole, the Coyote, Atse'hashke', went to the great yei, Hasjelti, and demanded to know why he had not been allowed to have a part in the planning. He said that the others had tried to keep it a secret, but that he had known all that had happened. This made Hasjelti very angry, and seeing this, the Coyote ran away. He ran straight to the place where the others were planning and appeared in their midst. He asked First Man why he had kept everything a secret. He turned to First Woman and asked her why she had kept this thing from him. Then he told them everything that they had planned. He said that they had even set the month when he should visit his woman. He warned them that be had come for the purpose of spoiling their plan.
Atso'haske' drew five lines over other marks he had made in the sand. He told the people that unless they could guess their proper meanings they would suffer greatly. Now the little Breeze whispered in First Man's ear and told him what to say. The first line was made of turquoise and it represented the green leaves. The second line drawn was of white shell. First Man said that he thought of ripe leaves and falling leaves. The third mark was made of jet; and he said that it stood for the dark, black mountains after the leaves had fallen. The fourth line was made of white bead. First Man said that it was the snow on the mountains. The fifth mark was of crystal, and its meaning was of snow and ice on the frozen rivers and lakes.
The Coyote spoke, "All right, everything you have guessed correctly. I thought of all those things as I made the five marks. By your guessing you have made the summer months six, and the winter months six; and you expect to count by the changes of the moon. But I will put in some extra days so that the months will not be even. Sometimes frost will come early, and sometimes it will remain late. First plants will sometimes freeze, and so also will animals. Sometimes the full moon will come before the end of the month; and at the end of the year you will find that you have 13 moon periods instead of 12." The Coyote continued. "You have in your minds that it was I who spoiled your way of living down in the underworlds. It was not my plan."
Atse'hashke' the Coyote's five marks: 1, The turquoise mark; 2, the white shell mark; 3, the jet mark; 4, the white bead mark; 5, the crystal mark.
Then he addressed First Woman. "Why did you keep this sacred thing from me? When you asked me to steal the Water Buffalo's babies you said that you had suffered many things because of your husband's plan. Everything was well when I did as you wished. I have kept the female Water Buffalo baby; and by keeping her I am able to call the male rain and the female rain and all the different clouds and vapors. It is well. I followed your desires so that the people might have the seasons and the flowers and all that grows from the earth during the different times of the year. Your plan was for the benefit of those to come. But now I will place the female child back into the River. Whenever you wish rain you will have to go for the Water Buffalo's girl baby; and after you have used her power you will have to return her to the River again." He told them where they would find her; and he said that they would know when they should use her. "Now go ahead with your plans, Brothers," he said, and with that he left them.
After the Coyote had departed the others spread the blue sky above the earth. In the East they placed a black pole to hold up the eastern end of the sky. A blue one was planted in the South, a yellow one in the West, and a white one in the North. A hole was placed in the sky and sealed with water. Around the outer edge of the sky was placed a white ring, a yellow ring, a blue ring, and a black ring. They formed the border. They were placed there for the purpose of protecting the sky so that it would remain solid forever. No power on the earth or above the earth should harm it. And around the four posts they placed the same colors.
After all was finished they placed the sun in the sky, and also, they placed the moon there. And they placed Dilye'lle, the Pleiades there; and Atse'etso, the Big First One; and the Coyote's Feather, Atse'etso'si, which is also called the Slender One; and Baalchini, the children of Dilye'ha and Atse'etso'si; and Hastin sakai, The-Old-Man-with-Feet-Apart; and the Rabbit Tracks, Gahat'ei; and Akaisda'hi, Moving-toward-the-Dawn; and Nahokhos bokho, The-Main-Pole-which-Holds-All; and Nahokhos bakhai, The-Revolving-Male-Warrior-with-his-Bow-and-Arrows; and his wife, Nahokhos baadi, Who-Carries the-Fire-in-her-Basket.
note: The Coyote used the word "brother" first and last in all speeches after this.