The Gift of Fire to Mankind: A Mythical Study on the Spiritual Significance of Coal, Part 6
Introduction: This is a legend from the Navajo tribe of North Amercian Indians, speaking of the gift of fire to man and woman. They were meant to light it and sit together in its glow in their hogan in the evening. The legend is quoted in its entirety because I did not wish to truncate it.
“The Holy People made the sun from a perfect piece of turquoise and the moon from a perfect piece of white shell. Each was adorned with crystals for light,* feathers for flight, a spirit for life, then placed in the sky.
After Sun and Moon had been completed, there were bits of crystal remaining. Considering what might be done with these, the Holy People laid them out on a buckskin. It occurred to them that these brilliant gems might be used to help the people, yet to be created, know, understand and remember principles for health, happiness and harmony in balance with everything.
With this in mind, they arranged the crystals in patterns to represent the laws of life.
After discussing the matter, it was decided that the crystals should be placed in the sky where they would not be interfered with and where they could be seen by everyone in order to be constantly reminded, with beauty, of how they should behave. Constellations would be made in pairs with each pair representing important principles.
First they put up Nahookos bokhoh, the Fire Star (now commonly called Polaris, in Ursa Minor) where it would always be visible to guide people. On one side of the fire they placed Nahookos bika’ii, Revolving Male (Big Dipper in Ursa Major), and on the other side Nahookos ba’aadii, Revolving Female (Cassiopeia). This pair, parents of the other stars, demonstrates the balance by their positions, and, along with the Fire Star people are reminded of the importance of spending time at home, in their hogans, with their families, doing the things they should do together.
Coyote saw the sky begin to change: brilliant jewels shining off to one side. Disturbed at being left out of this important work, he went off looking for those who were doing it.
Meanwhile Black God put op his own stars, the ones shown on his mask, naming them Dilyehe, the seven stars (Pleiades). They symbolized all the stars thet were being created. They added Atse’ets’ozi, First Slim One (Orion), keeper of the months. This pair would be key to the calender…A common Navajo saying is ‘Never let Dilyehe see you plant.’ If you plant before the Pleiades disappear in the western evening sky, late frost might kill the young plants. If you wait until after they are back in the early morning sky as day breaks, you will likely not get a mature crop before freezing weather comes in the fall.
Coyote found the Holy People and watched as they placed another pair in the sky: Hastiin Sik’ai’i, Man With Legs Ajar (Corvus and other stars) and Atse’etsoh, First Big One (front part of Scorpius and other stars), the pair representing divination of illness, clear seeing, and long life and happiness through good living into old age.
Moving among them Coyote expressed dismay in being shunned in this work, demanding a star that he could put up. The others were reluctant, knowing that Coyote tended to create chaos where order was intended. However, Coyote was a Holy Person in those days, and they could not deny him. He placed his star in a peculiar place, down low in the south where it would just hump over the horizon ever so briefly, then set again.
‘Isn’t it beautiful,’ he said, ‘that is So’doo ndizidii, Coyote Star.’ The others paid him little attention, being busy putting up Gah heet’e’ii, Rabbit Tracks (tail of Scorpius), the hunter’s guide. There remains debate about the identity of the Coyote Star, but it is likely Canopus….
The Holy people rested, admiring what they had done and thinking about how they should complete the work. Coyote rested too, for that was his favorite activity, but he was thinking, ‘this shouldn’t take so long, it isn’t very difficult.’ He crept over and looked down at the buckskin where the remaining crystals lay. Stooping, he took hold of the corners, then, swiftly flung the rest of the stars in the sky. ‘There,’ he pronounced loudly, arousing the others, ‘it is finished, and a fine job too. My way was faster than yours. Aren’t you glad I came along?’
The Holy People were not glad. They were devastated. Coyote had spoiled it again, as he always did. There were some proper patterns that would guide the people, and it was, indeed, finished. It would remain that way, partly ordered and partly chaotic. The mark of the Holy People was there and the mark of Coyote was there as well.
Without knowing it, Coyote had written and important principle onto the sky. His motion spread most of the stars in a pathway bisecting the heavens: Yikaisadahi, ‘Awaits the Dawn,’ the luminous trail that represents the principle that one should arise early and walk in first light, saying prayers, spreading meal and pollen in a motion that resembles the Milky Way in the sky, and contemplating things that should be done in order to live a long and happy life, enjoying balance and harmony with all things.”
~Von Del Chamberlain