How Ocean Woman Made the Land

With the help of Coyote...

According to the Chemehuevi, there was a mythic time before our time, and that is when everything came into being and the patterns of relationship were established. It started when Ocean Woman dropped from the sky onto the water in the form of a worm, like a caterpillar might hang by a strand of web from a tree branch.

There was no land anywhere.

She crumbled a little earth and dumped it onto the water, where it floated. Then Ocean Woman, being a worm, went out onto it. She spread the dirt - mud really - with her hands. When it was getting wide, she spread it with her feet.

Then she made Coyote...

...out of the sweat and dirt from her crotch and sent him out to look at the earth, to see how wide it was getting. Coyote went to look in all directions. When it took all day to go and return upon the earth, Coyote told Ocean Woman that it was big enough.


Now Ocean Woman made Wolf and Mountain Lion. Coyote, Wolf, and Mountain Lion were brothers. Although Coyote was made first, he became the “youngest” brother and Wolf became the oldest, because he was sensible and Coyote had no sense.

 

 

 

 

The Chemehuevi say,

"Had mankind chosen to follow Wolf,
.....men would be as gods - 

...but we followed Coyote.”



To learn more about the Chemehuevi and their creation myths, check out Mirror and Pattern or The Chemehuevi, both by Carobeth Laird (published by Malki Museum Press) or listen to “Following Mythic Coyote,” a 30 minute podcast by Catherine Svehla, PhD and Myth in the Mojave.

You can contact Catherine with comments or questions at drcsvehla@mythicmojo.com

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Navajo Legends

The Coyote and the Milky Way

In ancient times, the night sky was pitch black.

The darkness made it very hard for anyone to find their way at night. The Navajo Fire God decided that he would create Stars and place them in the night sky so that travelers could find their way. To do this, the Navajo Fire God created a bunch of stars in his village and then he carried them out into the desert at night in his blanket so that he could illuminate the night sky.

coyote2c.jpg

Coyote,
the trickster,
followed the navajo fire god
out into the darkness.

The Fire God began placing the stars into the night sky one-by-one - lighting each star on fire as he placed it. The Fire God also made the constellations this way, by carefully arranging the stars in the sky to form patterns which travelers could follow during their travels. He lit the constellation stars on fire in the same manner. With each star the Navajo Fire God placed in the sky and lit, the night sky got brighter, and brighter, and brighter! 

Coyote became very impatient
with the Fire God.

Coyote decided that it was taking way too long to light the entire night sky - one-star-at-a-time! So, Coyote sneaked up behind the Fire God, grabbed his blanket and tossed all of the remaining stars into the night sky - all at once! - thus forming the Milky Way - the path of stars across the night sky. 

The Fire God was unable to light all of the stars that Coyote had tossed into the sky. That is why some stars in the Milky Way are dimmer than others, still to this day.

Now, Coyote is always getting into trouble,... but I'm not sure whether we should thank Coyote this time - or not! You'll just have to go outside on a star-filled night - look up - and decide for yourself! And while you are out there, in the desert, under the stars - listen carefully - and maybe you'll hear Coyote - he still likes to roam the desert at night...

...under the light of the Milky Way. 

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Bear heads back home to his den in the fall

Why does Bear follow the North Star?

If you look up in the sky you will see many stars.

But, if you look closer, you will begin to see that the stars are grouped together into constellations. This is no accident. All of the stars and constellations were placed there long ago by the Navajo Fire God. Once he placed the stars and constellations into the night sky - they became alive. Still to this day, each has it's own unique journey across the night sky. 

One of the most recognizable constellations is the Bear. We call it the Big Dipper today, but it's really the Bear. No really! Look closely. If you watch the Bear every night (as they did in ancient times), you will see that he stays close to the North Star. And if you watch for long enough, you will see that he makes one entire revolution around the night sky each year. The ancients knew this to be true. 

Winter is a time for resting and staying warm. Bear spends the winter sleeping deep within the earth - hidden from view of the night sky. As winter begins to come to an end, Bear begins to poke his head up to check for signs of spring. Bear is getting hungry and he needs to nourish himself on seedlings and what little vegetation he can find hidden within the snowy landscape.

By spring, Bear is rested, nourished and strong. He is eager to begin this years journey across his domain in the night sky. Also, he's tired of eating seedlings - and he wants to find better nourishment. But that means he will have to leave the safety of his winter den. Night by night, he emerges a little further - rising higher, and higher, in the sky.

Bear ventures out further, but...

in order to find his way home,
Bear always
keeps an eye on the North Star
(so should you)

Bear is smart. He knows that as long as he can see the North Star, he can find his way home. You see, the North Star is unique in the night sky. It never moves from its position. It is in the same place every night. In fact, it has not moved from where it was placed by the Navajo Fire God in ancient times.

As bear rises in early spring, he moves further and further up into the night sky. But there is danger. Bear has been spotted by three indians (the three red stars).

The chase begins. 

The indians chasing Bear are, quite literally, ON HIS TAIL. But Bear is fully nourished. Bear is powerfull. Bear is strong. Bear is Fast! Bear makes a run for it - running high up into the sky - always keeping a watchful eye on the North Star so that he can find his way home. But the indians are strong as well - and they continue to chase him and match his pace up into the night sky.

As summer begins, Bears runs across the sky so that he can stay close the North Star. Bear crosses above the North Star - higher in the sky - followed closely by the three indians 

As the long summer comes to an end - Bear is growing tired. The pace of the three indians has not diminished. Since Bear has been watching the North Star, he knows where his den is, so he heads back down to earth to seek shelter.

As fall arrives, Bear is very weary, but he is getting close to home. He can see his home (guided by the North Star). Unfortunately, the indians do not seem to tire - and as fall arrives - the indian's arrows find their mark. Bear is hit. You can see for yourself when you see the leaves on the trees turn red in the fall - this is because Bear is hit and bleeding as he heads back down to earth.

Bear finally falls back down on earth - into the safety of his den. Fortunately, Bear is not mortally wounded. He is safe back home for winter - where he can rest, nourish himself and regain his strength.

During Winter, Bear does not poke his head out again for quite awhile, when again, he emerges looking for food. And as spring arrives, Bear is nourished again. Feeling healthy and strong, Bear makes a run for it - again - up into the sky. But, the three indians are on-his-tail. They have also re-gained their strength over the winter.

bears journey through the night sky - bear pokes his head out in winter.

...and so the cycle continues. 

So, Look for Bear the next time you are out under the stars at night.

How he is doing? 

Is he running strong? ...heading straight up into the sky? (spring) Or is he running high across the sky? (summer) Or has he grown weary and now heading back down to earth? (fall) If you cannot find the Bear in the night sky, then you know that he is safe in his winter's den, resting and regaining is strength - before his journey begins again.

Be Smart, like Bear, and let the North Star guide your travels as well - so that you can find your way safely back home.

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