THE TWO MAIDENS AND THE WHITE BUTTERFLY
From the Navaho, The Wanderings
San'hode'di heard that there were two maidens in the village of Ken tiel who were guarded. These maidens were sacred. All the young men who came as suitors were sent away. The Beggar's Son said to himself: "So the young maidens will say: 'Eat my brains.'" He went to the top of the hill and he saw many people from the village gathering wood. Holding the flowers from the plant of many different colors before him he sang three sections of a chant. The first part is this:
When I arrived
I had in my hand these many colored flowers.
I am To che o whee tso dzil kin schleen young man.
note: These maidens were called Do'bede klad, Not Shone On By The Sun.
Now when they look my way
Their eyesight will hold different colors.
The reddest circle of the Sun is my feather.
All the Sun's circles surround me.
The Sun's pollen covers my body.
To che whee tso's pollen covers my body.
My feather's pollen, affects the mind.
My feather is looked at and is seen as beautiful.
All the beautiful goods in the home are in my hand.
(There are three sections of this chant.)
In the coat of the bluebird, San'hode' di flew over the people. Then he put on the feathers of the rock wren and went to all the houses. Then in the form of another little rock bird he went, and this time he flew to the opening in the roof of the house where the two maidens sat. The hole in the roof was for the purpose of letting sunlight into the dwelling.
(There are chants to tell just how he entered.)
He looked down through the opening and saw that the two maidens were sitting facing each other with their legs together. They were trimming a dress made from the skin of an antelope. Their legs were as shown in figure. The skin was spread across their knees.
Position of The Maidens' Legs
The man laughed, and the younger of the maidens said: "What a beautiful laugh!"
(Here the chant continues.)
The young man said: "What a beautiful laugh down below." And he named the one who had laughed. Then the two maidens looked up to where they had heard his laughter, and he told them his name and that he had laughed.
After this he stepped into the form called ho no gaille, the butterfly. It was a large one with many beautiful colors. He sat between the two maidens. The elder said: "Sister, what a beautiful thing has come to us. Look at all the beautiful colors. Right there is our design. We will use it for our pattern." The younger sister said: "No. Leave it alone. It might not be good for us."
note: kalu'gi, small butterfly; kalugi ya'zhe, large butterfly.]
(Here the chant begins with: "Sister, what a beautiful thing has come to us.")
The sisters tried to catch the butterfly. He flew this way and that, and all the beautiful coloring, the dust from his wings, filled the room. The maidens stumbled over their water jar and over their food in their effort to catch him. He flew through a crack in the door, and out they came after him.
She ta'ge, younger sister,
Lo la he'he, lo la he'.
The maidens ran outside and looked all about for the butterfly, but he had disappeared. A little yellow bird passed them and they ran after it. The little yellow bird hopped here and there in the pumpkin field.
The elder sister felt very had because the butterfly had gone. She was very sorrowful. So San hode'di left the form of the yellow bird and entered the form of another insect. This insect is called alt'an e, the ripener. It is small and greenish in color and looks somewhat like the locust when it is still in the ground. This insect sings a pretty song: "Tlo-o-o-o-o-o," in a high key.
(There are two sections of a chant here.)
The two maidens tried to catch this beautiful little insect. When they were among the pumpkin vines San'hode'di resumed his own form and stood up. The maidens felt ashamed and stood there looking down and twisting their bodies and feet, for he had asked them why they had followed him.
The elder sister turned to the younger and said: "Sister, let us go back." But the younger sister said that she had advised leaving the butterfly alone in the first place. "But now that we are here," she said, "we will stay and see what comes of it."
The man took the two maidens to his camp. He fed them the meat of the little birds he had caught with his own hair. When the elder sister tasted the meat of the birds she spit it out. The younger tasted the meat of the birds and swallowed it. She told her sister that it was not bad.
That night the two maidens sat down and slept hugging each other. The man jumped into the water and rolled in the feathers from the little birds and slept that way. He told the maidens that that was how he lived. He said that they had made a sorry mistake coming after him.
In the morning he started out for his mother's home. Before leaving he told the maidens that, should they wish to catch birds, by no means to break the hair snares. But when they caught a bird the hair tangled and the snare broke. And San'hode'di got soaked with the rain that poured down on him. When he returned to his camp he found the maidens cold and hungry. He told them that it was because they had had no fears that they were out there.
On the fourth night he lay with each of the maidens. And on that night he chewed his blue gum and he sang his chant. He blew to the four directions, and at once he had a beautiful home with all the beautiful goods inside it. He covered both girls with beautiful robes. Men the elder sister awakened she did not know where she was. She shook her sister and said: "Sister, look where we are. We are in a home now, a home better than our old home ever was."
San'hode'di told the maidens that they should return to their own home, for their father was cruel and so was their mother. He gave the elder sister the feather that had come from the Sun's mother; and he gave to the younger sister the top of the cattail rush. He told them that if they were in trouble they should use those two things."
He placed the two sisters on the rainbow and they found themselves standing in the center of the courtyard back of their house. But before they started out they asked themselves where they should place the feather and the cattail rush. One suggested that they place them in their hair. The other thought that the place to hide them should be their moccasins. The sisters knew that when they returned to their home they would be stripped of their clothing and punished. So the last thing they decided upon was to hold their treasures under their arms.
When the maidens were discovered in the courtyard out came everyone on the housetops. They noticed that the men brought bundles of willow switches. The sisters were stripped of all their beautiful clothing, not a stitch was left on them, and they were made to march around a circle of men. These men held the switches and they hit the sisters whenever they wished to do so. The sisters walked around the circle twice, and toward the end of the third time they could stand no more. The elder sister cried out: "Sister, where are our feather and cattail rush?" The younger sister threw down the cattail rush and blew four times at the people. Immediately they found themselves standing before San'hode'di in his home.
He was sorry that he had let them return and suffer such punishment. So he shot his arrow toward the village and down poured the rain and it thundered and the lightning destroyed all the people. However, his wives told him that, even though they had suffered, they were sorry for their people; so the man went to the village and made a certain medicine which restored the people to life. Then the chief, the father of the two sisters, said: "My son-in-law, you have strong medicine. You are a great man. All the houses are yours."
But San'hode'di lived at his home with his wives. He came to the village only now and then. Now one day when the three had been to the village and were on their way home, he sent his two wives ahead, and he went to see his mother, using the rainbow path. When he saw his mother the first thing that she asked him was: "Son, where are your wives?" The young man said: "Mother, I sent my young wives home from the village." His mother told him: "Quick, quick, my son, the White Butterfly will steal your wives if you are not careful."
San'hode'di returned to his home, but his wives were not there. He went at once to the place on the trail where he had left them. There he saw three tracks going East. He saw, too, that the three had kicked off the flowers along the way. He followed after the three until he came to the edge of the water. There he noticed a little home on one side. Smoke was coming out of the top of the home. An aged, red woman, the Spider Woman, came out and asked the young man what he was doing there. He told her that his wives had been stolen and that he was on their track. The Spider Woman said: "It was not long ago that I saw the White Butterfly with two beautiful maidens." The young man was about to start out again when the old woman said: "My son, the White Butterfly is dangerous. You cannot go to his place." But the young man said: "I will follow him; and I will eat his brains when I find him."
The young man ran on and he came upon a man hoeing in a garden. This was the old Frog Man who said: "Where are you going, Grandchild?" The young man said: "My wives have been stolen and I am on their track." The Frog said: "It has not been long, my grandson, since the White Butterfly passed here with two beautiful maidens."
Then the young man wondered and looked at the Frog Man and thought: "What a funny leg he has." The Frog answered though the young man had not spoken a word: "Yes, Grandson, I have a funny leg, and rough, isn't it?" Then the young man thought: "What funny eyes he has, popping out they are." And the Frog said: "Yes, Grandchild, I have funny popped-out eyes." Then the young man thought: "What funny humps all over his body." And the Frog said: "Yes, my Grandson, my body is covered with these funny things." And he continued: "Come inside, my Grandchild. The White Butterfly's home is a dangerous place. I will ask your father first to make all the sacred places known to you. Give me the thing you travel by, the rainbow path."
So San'hode'di let the Frog have the rainbow, and the old man just seemed to walk out of his home and come back. The young man asked: "I thought that you were going to take my story to my father."
The Frog said: "Yes, yes, Grandchild, every place is made known. Your Father and the rest of the Holy Beings said that it was time for the White Butterfly to die. You see I sent word with the sunbeam."
The young man was about to start off. "I will go now, Grandfather," he said. "Hold on", said the Frog. "Who will you make medicine to now? The Sun has set." The Frog had shortened the day.
There was nothing to do but spend the night with the old Frog Man. The next morning the Spider Woman, who had received a gift from the young man, brought her two daughters and all the people from the sacred places to the Frog's garden. The Wind had blown over the White Butterfly and he told them just how the White Butterfly was dressed. He had for his headdress a hummingbird plant which was covered with red flowers and a lot of hummingbirds. So they made one like it for the young man. Then the Spider Woman blew her web across the water and the people crossed over on it. The Wind blew and the people outside the village had their eyes filled with dust. So they were on the land of the White Butterfly before he knew it. They chanted against the White Butterfly so that when they reached his home the flowers on his headdress had wilted and the hummingbirds were almost dead. But the flowers on the young man's headdress were blooming and the humming birds were humming and he looked his best.
One of San'hode'di's wives was grinding corn. She was the younger sister and she looked up with tears in her eyes and said: "Did I not tell you that this person (the White Butterfly) was not our husband. There is our husband who has come for us. You have thought that there was no one like the White Butterfly."
It was decided that San'hode'di and the White Butterfly should go through the same games that the Great Gambler used. And the young man won each of the games. The bat was used again at the first. All was the same except the guessing game of the water jars. That was not there. The last thing was the foot race.
When the ram started the White Butterfly was ahead four different times. He had with him the weapon like the one carried by the Great Gambler. He threw it but missed the young man four times. Then, believing that he had harmed the young man, he sprinted ahead and told him that it was his last race, and to take his time. But the young man had recovered the weapon and he shot the black magic of the White Butterfly back into his body. This stiffened the White Butterfly and slowed up his pace so that the young man passed him and finished the race first. All the party of his friends were dancing and singing. The people of the White Butterfly were weeping.
Now when the White Butterfly came in he brought forth his ax. He told the young man to kill him while he was still warm. The young man stepped forward with his own weapon and split the head of the White Butterfly in two. Instead of brains his head was filled with all different colored butterflies, and out they flew. The young man caught one, and holding it in his hand he said: "Though you came out of the head of the White Butterfly you will not enter the brain of a man hereafter. You will be of little use to the people. Only when they catch you and put your pollen on their legs and arms and say:
May I run swiftly,
May my days be long,
May I be strong in arm.
Then the same person will live to see old age. But he must let the butterfly go without harm."
Then all the wives of the White Butterfly wept and cried out. San'hode'di spoke to these women: "What are you crying about?" he asked. "The White Butterfly either killed your husbands or made slaves of them."
Now there was a great tower that the White Butterfly had built, and a large house extending from it where he kept his wives. And at quite a distance from this there was another house into which he had thrown the bodies of the husbands that he had killed. The young man discovered this. And afterward he spoke to the people. He told them that they were free and could go to whatever country they wished.
San'hode'di brought back only his two young wives and the two daughters of the Spider Woman who had accompanied him. They came back across the water, but his two wives stopped at the lake to drink. The young man saw that they had tears in their eyes, for they were not happy. So when the two young women stepped down to drink their husband pushed them into the water, head first. All that the man saw was an animal with horns that came up out of the water. The young man said that the father of these two women should offer a prayer to the water.
The two maidens, the daughters of the Spider Woman, were brought back to this country and adopted by the Navaho tribe. Their descendants are many this day. Their hair turns gray early and they also lose their teeth.
It was for this purpose that the young man was born, and the White Butterfly stole the wives and lured their husbands across the water and killed them.
note: tqo'holtsodi, the water buffalo.
note: The Hopi and other tribes have medicine sticks planted near this spring and lake.