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Native American Legends

Creation of First Man and First Woman

A Navajo Legend

The first people came up through three worlds and settled in the fourth world. They had been driven from each successive world because they had quarreled with one another and committed adultery.

In previous worlds they found no other people like themselves, but in the fourth world they found the Kisani or Pueblo people.

The surface of the fourth world was mixed black and white, and the sky was mostly blue and black. There were no sun, no moon, no stars, but there were four great snow-covered peaks on the horizon in each of the cardinal directions.

Late in the autumn they heard in the east the distant sound of a great voice calling. They listened and waited, and soon heard the voice nearer and louder than before. Once more they listened and heard it louder still, very near.

A moment later four mysterious beings appeared. These were White Body, god of this world; Blue Body, the sprinkler; Yellow Body; and Black Body, the god of fire. Using signs but without speaking, the gods tried to instruct the people, but they were not understood.

When the gods had gone, the people discussed their mysterious visit and tried without success to figure out the signs. The gods appeared on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through signs, but their efforts came to nothing.

On the fourth day when the other gods departed, Black Body remained behind and spoke to the people in their own language: "You do not seem to understand our signs, so I must tell you what they mean. We want to make people who look more like us. You have bodies like ours, but you have the teeth, the feet and the claws of beasts and insects. The new humans will have hands and feet like ours. Also, you are unclean; you smell bad. We will come back in twelve days. Be clean when we return."

On the morning of the twelfth day the people washed themselves well. Then the women dried their skin with yellow cornmeal, the men with white cornmeal. Soon they heard the distant call, shouted four times, of the approaching gods.

When the gods appeared, Blue Body and Black Body each carried a sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, each covered completely with grains. The gods laid one buckskin on the ground with the head to the west, and on this they placed the two ears of corn with their tips to the east. Under the white ear they put the feather of a white eagle; under the yellow the feather of a yellow eagle.

Then they told the people to stand back and allow the wind to enter. Between the skins the wind blew from the east and the yellow wind from the west. While the wind was blowing the eight of the gods, the Mirage People, came and walked around the objects on the ground four times. As they walked, the eagle feathers, whose tips protruded from the buckskins, were seen to move.

When the Mirage People had finished their walk, the upper buckskin was lifted. The ears of corn had disappeared; a man and a woman lay in their place. The white ear of corn had become the man, the yellow ear the woman, First Man and First Woman. It was the wind that gave them life, and it is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life.

When this ceases to blow, we die.

The gods had the people build an enclosure of brushwood, and when it was finished, First Man and First Woman went in. The gods told them, "Live together now as husband and wife."

At the end of four days, First Woman bore hermaphrodite twins. In four more days she gave birth to a boy and a girl, who grew to maturity in four days and lived with one another as husband and wife.

In all, First Man and First Woman had five pairs of twins, and all except the first became couples who had children. In four days after the last twins were born, the gods came again and took First Man and First Woman away to the eastern mountain, dwelling place of the gods. The couple stayed there for four days, and when they returned, all their children were taken to the eastern mountain for four days.

The gods may have taught them the awful secrets of witchcraft. Witches always use masks, and after they returned, they would occasionally put on masks and pray for the good things they needed; abundant rain and abundant crops.

Witches also marry people who are too closely related to them, which is what First Man and First Woman's children had done. After they had been to the eastern mountain, however, the brothers and sisters separated. Keeping their first marriages secret, the brothers now married women of the Mirage People and the sisters married men of the Mirage People.

But they never told anyone, even their new families, the mysteries they had learned from the gods. Every four days the women bore children, who grew to maturity in four days, then married, and in turn had children in four days.

In this way many children of First Man and First Woman filled the land with people.

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