Navajo Legends

The Navajo creation story involves three underworlds where important events happened to shape the Fourth World where we now live.

The Navajo were given the name Ni’hookaa Diyan Diné by their creators. It means “Holy Earth People”. Navajos today simply call themselves “Diné”, meaning “The People”. The Tewa Indians were the first to call them Navahu, which means “the large area of cultivated land.”

Diné Bahaneʼ is the Navajo Creation Story. It describes the prehistoric emergence of the Navajo, and centers on the area known as the Dinétah, the traditional homeland of the Navajo. This story forms the basis for the traditional Navajo way of life.

Important Characters in Navajo legends:

Niłchʼi Diyin (Holy Wind) – created as the mists of lights which arose through the darkness to animate and bring purpose to the four Diyin Dineʼé (Holy People), supernatural and sacred in the different three lower worlds. All these things were spiritually created in the time before the Earth existed and the physical aspect of humans did not exist yet, but the spiritual did.

Niʼ Hodiłhił (The First or Dark World) – was small and centered on an island floating in the middle of four seas. The inhabitants of the first world were the four Diyin Dineʼé, the two Coyotes, the four rulers of the four seas, mist beings and various insect and bat people, the latter being the Air-Spirit People. The supernatural beings First Woman and First Man came into existence here and met for the first time after seeing each other’s fire. The various beings on The First World started fighting with one another and departed by flying out an opening in the east.

Niʼ Hodootłʼizh (Second or Blue World) – which was inhabited by various blue-gray furred mammals and various birds, including blue swallows. The beings from the First World offended Táshchózhii, (Swallow Chief), and they were asked to leave. First Man created a wand of jet and other materials to allow the people to walk upon it up into the next world through an opening in the south.

Niʼ Hałtsooí(Third or Yellow World) – there were two rivers that formed a cross and the Sacred Mountains but there was still no sun. More animal people lived here too. This time it was not discord among the people that drove them away but a great flood caused by Tééhoołtsódii when Coyote stole her two children.

 Niʼ Hodisxǫs(The fourth world) – was covered in water and there were monsters (naayééʼ) living here. The Sacred Mountains were re-formed from soil taken from the original mountains in the Second World.

First Man, and the Holy People created the sun, moon, seasons, and stars. It was here that true death came into existence via Coyote tossing a stone into a lake and declaring that if it sank then the dead would go back to the previous world.

Yoołgaii Asdzą́ą́(First Person born in the Fourth World) – matures into Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé, in turn, gives birth to the Hero Twins called Naayééʼ Neizghání and Tóbájíshchíní. The twins have many adventures in which they helped to rid the world of various monsters.

Multiple batches of modern humans were created a number of times in the Fourth World and the Diyin Dineʼé gave them ceremonies which are still practiced today.

 Spider Woman (Spider Grandmother) and Spider Man knew how to weave the fibers of cotton and hemp and other plants. First Woman asked Spider Woman and Spider Man to teach people how to weave the fibers of plants so they would not have to depend on animal skins for clothing.

Spider Woman is also said to cast her web like a net to capture and eat misbehaving children. In another myth, Spider Woman aided the twins (born of the Sun and the Changing Woman) in killing the monsters that were endangering The Earth surface People by giving them feather hoops that protected them from attacks.

Áłtsé Hastiin – First Woman

Haashchʼééshzhiní (Black Yéʼii) – the God of fire.

Tsé Nináhálééh Monster Eagle.

Tsé dah HódziiłtáłiiThe Monster Who Kicks People Down the Cliff.

Binááʼ yee Agháníthe Monsters That Kill with Their Eyes.

Yéʼiitsoh (Big Giant) – hid along paths, and killed and devoured travelers.

Déélgééd the Horned Monster. 

Téʼéʼį́ Dineʼé the Poverty Creatures.

Tóbájíshchíní Child of the Water.

Tó Neinilí (Water Sprinkler) –

Monster Slayer Twins

Changing Woman

Water Sprinkler – the Rain God.

Related Links:

Famous Navajo Indians

Navajo Tribes Today

Navajo Nation

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Dine (Navajo) Creation Story

AUTHOR: Dine’ or Navajo creation story, legend, myth, oral story

There was once a First World below the World as we know it. Everything was black and it had in it only six beings. They were First Man, the Son of Night and the Blue Sky over Sunset; First Woman, the Daughter of Day Break and the Yellow Sky of Sunset; Salt Woman; Fire God; Coyote and Begochiddy. Begochiddy had blue eyes and golden hair and was both man and woman.

Spider Rock, a Navajo legend

Spider Rock stands with awesome dignity and beauty over 800 feet high in Arizona’s colourful Canyon de Chelly National Park (pronounced da Shay). Geologists of the National Park Service say that “the formation began 230 million years ago.

Windblown sand swirled and compressed with time created the spectacular red sandstone monolith. Long ago, the Dine (Navajo) Indian tribe named it Spider Rock.

Stratified, multicolored cliff walls surround the canyon. For many, many centuries the Dine (Navajo) built caves and lived in these cliffs. Most of the caves were located high above the canyon floor, protecting them from enemies and flash floods.

Spider Woman possessed supernatural power at the time of creation, when Dine (Navajo) emerged from the third world into this fourth world.

At that time, monsters roamed the land and killed many people. Since Spider Woman loved the people, she gave power for Monster- Slayer and Child-Born-of-Water to search for the Sun-God who was their father. When they found him, Sun-God showed them how to destroy all the monsters on land and in the water.

Because she preserved their people, Dine (Navajo) established Spider Woman among their most important and honoured Deities.

She chose the top of Spider Rock for her home. It was Spider Woman who taught Dine (Navajo) ancestors of long ago the art of weaving upon a loom. She told them, “My husband, Spider Man, constructed the weaving loom making the cross poles of sky and earth cords to support the structure; the warp sticks of sun rays, lengthwise to cross the woof; the healds of rock crystal and sheet lightning, to maintain original condition of fibres. For the batten, he chose a sun halo to seal joints, and for the comb he chose a white shell to clean strands in a combing manner.” Through many generations, the Dine (Navajo) have always been accomplished weavers.

From their elders, Dine (Navajo) children heard warnings that if they did not behave themselves, Spider Woman would let down her web- ladder and carry them up to her home and devour them!

The children also heard that the top of Spider Rock was white from the sun-bleached bones of Dine (Navajo) children who did not behave themselves!

One day, a peaceful cave-dwelling Dine (Navajo) youth was hunting in Dead Man’s Canyon, a branch of Canyon de Chelly. Suddenly, he saw an enemy tribesman who chased him deeper into the canyon. As the peaceful Dine (Navajo) ran, he looked quickly from side to side, searching for a place to hide or to escape.

Directly in front of him stood the giant obelisk-like Spider Rock. What could he do? He knew it was too difficult for him to climb. He was near exhaustion. Suddenly, before his eyes he saw a silken cord hanging down from the top of the rock tower.

The Dine (Navajo) youth grasped the magic cord. which seemed strong enough, and quickly tied it around his waist. With its help he climbed the tall tower, escaping from his enemy who then gave up the chase.

When the peaceful Dine (Navajo) reached the top, he stretched out to rest. There he discovered a most pleasant place with eagle’s eggs to eat and the night’s dew to drink.

Imagine his surprise when he learned that his rescuer was Spider Woman! She told him how she had seen him and his predicament. She showed him how she made her strong web-cord and anchored one end of it to a point of rock. She showed him how she let down the rest of her web-cord to help him to climb the rugged Spider Rock.

Later, when the peaceful Dine (Navajo) youth felt assured his enemy was gone, he thanked Spider Woman warmly and he safely descended to the canyon floor by using her magic cord. He ran home as fast as he could run, reporting to his tribe how his life was saved by Spider Woman!