……………………..Limits are for governments.

The Gift of Fire to Mankind: A Mythical Study on the Spiritual Significance of Coal, Part 6

Nahookos bokhoh, the Fire Star, a gift of the Holy People of Navajo legend. The man and woman constellations revolve around the Fire Star, to remind the people of the laws of life and the principles for health, happiness, and haromony. Image via APOD, copyright Daniel Lopez.

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

A mother and daughter color Coyote in Central Oregon

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2 responses

  1. December 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

  2. http://www.texasindians.com/albam.htm#myth

    “Fire was an important part of their religious tradition. Each house kept a sacred fire going all the time. At the main temple there was also a fire that burned all the time. These fires were built a special way. They would place four logs in the shape of a cross around the central fire. One log would point north, one east, one south and one west. As the fire burned the ends of these logs the people would push them in to the center. A home fire would have small logs and a dance ground, would have big logs to last longer. Fire was believed to be a part of the sun and the sun represented the highest God. Here is the Southeastern Indian symbol for fire and the sun.

    The arms are the logs and the small circle in the middle is the fire.

    For food these Indians farmed corn, beans, squash and other crops. They would also hunt deer and gather berries, roots, and nuts. They used bows and arrows to hunt larger animals in the forests like deer. One favorite food was bear. Bear meat must be very good to eat because the Indians and Europeans seemed to have liked it more than deer or beef when they could get it. To hunt smaller animals like birds and rabbits they used blow guns made from long lengths of cane.

    They did things to make hunting easier in the woods around where they lived and farmed. Early European explorers reported finding the woods cleared like a European park. This means the grass was short and the undergrowth was cleared away. The Indians did not have tractors or lawn mowers to do this. They would set fires in the woods to burn away the old taller grass and small shrubs and bushes without hurting the old trees with thick bark. If this is done every year or so, the fire keeps the undergrowth out. The Indians would do this in the fall and winter. In the spring new green grass would get more sun and grow better on the burned areas than in undergrowth. This tender green grass would attract deer and animals to hunt. These fires also made it easier to find acorns and nuts on the ground. The Southeastern Indians used a lot of acorns for food. So these fires were useful and not destructive. This is one way the Indians controlled their environment. Here is a Myth about how the Indians got fire.”

    “When Bear Lost Fire”
    from Texas Indian Myths and Legends
    by Jane Archer, Wordware Publishing

    Bear roamed through thick forests, eating sweet honey from bee hives, fishing in rushing streams, and sleeping through long winters in deep, warm caves. Strong and powerful, Bear owned Fire.
    Bear carried Fire everywhere, but one day Bear grew distracted by an abundance of tasty acorns. Bear set Fire on the ground, then gobbled up acorns with no thought to Fire.
    Soon Fire burned low and grew afraid, for Bear moved farther away under ancient trees, tossing acorns into massive jaws.
    “Help me!” Fire tried to burn brighter but with no success.
    Bear didn’t hear, having spotted a beehive. Thoughts of a thick yellow comb dripping with sticky sweetness danced in Bear’s head. Copyright, 2000, Jane Archer

    November 8, 2015 at 5:22 pm

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