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Native American Legends

Changing Woman

A Navajo Legend

Changing Woman comes closest to being the personification of the Earth and of the natural order of the Universe as to any other brief way of describing her. She represents the cyclical path of the Seasons, Birth (Spring), Maturing (Summer), Growing old (Fall) and Dying (Winter), only to be reborn again in the Spring.

The birth of Changing Woman was planned by First Man and First Woman. First Man repeatedly held up his medicine bundle toward Gobernador Knob at dawn. Somehow from this action Changing Woman was born and found lying on top of Gobernador Knob. She was found by Talking God who was sent to investigate. First Man then presented her to the diyinii, saying that you could see that this is the child of the young man and young woman of exceeding beauty who themselves had arisen from the same medicine bundle to become the inner form of the Earth.{*}

First Man raises and teaches Changing Woman. She grew from infancy to puberty in four days, thus acquiring the name Changing Woman. This occasioned the first puberty ceremony. The Holy People were called for and Talking God officiated at the ceremony.

Changing Woman was dressed in jewels (white shell, turquoise, abalone and jet), blessed with pollen from the dawn and from twilight, and with "pollen" from many jewels and soft fabrics, symbolizing her control over these articles. After this blessing, her hair was bathed with dews and she was instructed to run toward the dawn as far as she could see and then to return. As she ran, her dress of jewels jingled. She repeated this for four nights. On these days, when not involved in ceremonies, she occupied herself with planning for the future of the Earth. By the end of the ceremony she had made millstones, a whisk broom, pots and stirring sticks. The songs that were sung for Changing Woman as she ran are sung today for young women at their puberty ceremonies.

At Changing Woman's next menstration another puberty ceremony was held, similar to the first. But at this ceremony other procedures for the future were defined. These decree that no menstruating woman shall be present at any ceremonial. The order of songs at future Blessingway ceremonies was thus determined.

After this ceremony Changing Woman would go outside and walk on the trail which had been prepared for her. One day at noon a strange man walked up to her and spoke to her. He said "Prepare yourself for something that is going to happen, after a while I will visit you." This stranger was so dazzling that Changing Woman had to look away. When she turned back, he was gone. She returned home and reported this encounter to First Woman and First Man. It seems that First Man was expecting this occurence, which happened twice again. On the third time Changing Woman was told to fix her bed outside, with her head to the east. When she fell asleep a young man came and lay beside her. This happened again and she asked who he was. He replied, "Don't you know me? Didn't you ever see me? Don't you know that you see me all the time? It is I that takes care of all things, whatever there is on Earth. I am the Sun's inner form. In my very presence you came into being, in my presence you were put into shape, even I was among them!" He then indicated that First Man had directed him to do this. The next day she decided to bathe because the young man might visit her again.

While bathing the young man appeared again and with the collaboration of the dripping water impregnated Changing Woman. In nine [náhást'éí] days, twins were born to Changing Woman. These twins were to become Monster Slayer and Born for Water. These two also grew in four day periods and in twelve days they were grown young men.

At this point Changing Woman asked for and receives the medicine bundle that First Man had brought up from the previous worlds. She moves to a hooghan that was built for her at the base of Huerfano Mountain. Here she conducted the first wedding ceremony, the mating of corn. After this ceremony Changing Woman leaves for the house that her sons have built for her, at the direction of their father, the Sun, in the west, at or on the Pacific Ocean.

Here Changing Woman grew lonely and created the Navajo People from skin rubbed off various parts of her body. The four pairs of people created at this time are the ancestors of all Navajo today.

Changing Woman also caused the abduction of the two children of Rock Crystal Talking God. They were taken to her house in the west by way of a rainbow and a sunbeam. Here they were taught the Blessingway ceremony. They returned home to teach the ceremony to all of their people (the original Navajos saw the ceremony being taught to these children). The diyinii all gathered to learn the ceremony and to construct the original Mountain Soil bundle, containing soil from each of the sacred mountains, with which the ceremony is still conducted. The Holy People then said that, after their departure from this ceremony, they would never be seen in person again but that their presence would be manifest in the sound of the wind [níyol], the feathers [ats'os] of an Eagle, in various birds, the growth of the corn and other aspects of the world surrounding the earth surface people.The two children who had been taught the Blessingway ceremony then departed to live with the Holy People.

{*} The parentage of Changing Woman is described in several different ways by different informants; however these can be thought of as just different ways of saying the same thing. Some say that her father and mother are the Sky and the Earth. Others say her parents are sa'a naghái ashkii (boy) and bik'e hózh at'ééd (girl) as in this version. However the Sky is sometimes referred to as sa'a naghái and the Earth as bik'e hózh. In either case, Changing Woman is Earth's child, the child of the Sky and the child of the mountain. As she was planned for by First Man and First Woman and called forth by First Man, she is also their child.

Changing Woman Asdz nádleehé
Earth Nahasdzáán
Universe Yádihi Bii' Bi Haz'ánígíí
Seasons nináhágháhígíí
Spring daan dgo
Summer sh shgo
Fall 'ak'eed
Winter haigo
First Man Átsé hastiin
First Woman Átsé asdzáán
Medicine Bundle jish
Gobernador Knob Ch'óol''
Dawn hayíík
Talking God Haashch'éét'í
The Holy People diyin diné
white shell yoogaii
turquoise doot'izhii
abalone diichi
jet bááshzhinii
pollen tádídíín
twilight nahootsoii
dews dahtoo'
nights t'éé
millstones tsédaashjéé and tsédaashch'íní
whisk broom bee nahalzhoohí
pots 'ásaa'
stirring sticks ídístsiin
ceremonies kinaaldá
Blessingway hózhójí
rainbow nááts'íílid
sunbeam shábit'óól
Eagle 'atsá
birds naat'a'gii
corn naad

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