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Native American Legends

Glacier song of the Horses

A Navajo Legend

Before the Spaniards brought horses to the Dine (Navajo), they told about the Sun-God's walking across the heavens, carrying the sun on his back. When he reached the west, he hung the sun on a peg, so that it could cool off. He spent the evening with his family, resting after his long journey.

After he was rested, he removed the sun from its peg, apparently hid it in some way as he retraced his steps, and returned in the darkness. In the morning, he started on his westward trip again. Of course, the ancient story continued to be told long after the following one was created.

The Sun-God, Johano-ai, starts each morning from his home in the east and rides across the skies to his home in the west. He carries with him his shining gold disk, the sun. He has five horses--a horse of turquoise, one of white shell, one of pearly shell, one of red shell, and one of coal.

The skies are blue and the weather is fair, the Sun-God rides his horse of turquoise, or the one of white shell, or the one of pearly shell. But when the heavens are dark with storm, he mounts the red horse or the horse of coal.

Beneath the hoofs of the horses are spread precious hides of all kinds and also beautiful blankets, carefully woven and richly decorated. In the days gone by, the Dine (Navajo) wove rich blankets, said to have been found first in the home of the Sun-God. He lets his horses graze on flower blossoms, and drink from mingled waters. These are holy waters of all kinds--spring water, snow water, hail water, water from the four corners of the world. The Dine (Navajo) use such waters in their ceremonies.

When any horse of the Sun-God trots or runs, he raises not dust, but pitistchi. It is glittering grains of mineral, such as are used in religious ceremonies. When a horse rolls and shakes himself, shining grains of sand fly from him. When he runs, not dust, but the sacred pollen offered to the Sun-God is all about him. Then he looks like a mist. The Dine (Navajo) say that the mist on the horizon is the pollen that has been offered to the gods.

A Navaho man sings about the horses of the Sun-God in order that he, too, may have beautiful horses. Standing among his herd, he scatters holy pollen and sings this song for the blessing and the protection of his animals:

How joyous his neigh!
Lo, the Turquoise Horse of Johano-ai,
How joyous his neigh,
There on precious hides outspread, standeth he; How joyous his neigh,
There of mingled waters holy, drinketh he; How joyous his neigh,
There in mist of sacred pollen hidden, all hidden he; How joyous his neigh,
These his offspring may grow and thrive forevermore; How joyous his neigh!

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