Yeitso

Variations: Ye-i-tso, Ye’i-tsoh, Ye’i-tsoh Lai’ Nayai

yeitso

Yeitso, “Big Monster”, was the greatest, the most feared, and the largest of the Anaye, or the “Alien Gods” who were the bane of the Navajo. The giant met his end at the hands of the hero twins Nayenezgani and To’badzistsini. He was either an oldest son of the sun god Tsohanoai, or was born as the result of unnatural practices by a frustrated Navajo woman. In the latter case, his “father” was a stone.

Size was the primary distinguishing feature of Yeitso. His stride stretched as far as a man could walk from sunrise to noon. He lived near Tsoodzil (Mt. Taylor), at Tosato (Warm Spring, near Grants, New Mexico), and was the leader of the Anaye. He was covered with valued rocks and minerals: in addition to the scaly flint armor, like stone knives, coating his body, he had a perfect agate disc on his head, a perfect turquoise around his neck, and a perfect whiteshell over his shoulder. His face was intimidatingly striped. He carried a basket that functioned as quiver for lightning bolts. Coyote was his messenger.

Yeitso came close to discovering and devouring the hero twins in their infancy, but they were saved by the quick thinking of their mothers. Yolkai’Estsan hid the boys beneath piles of sticks, while Estsanatlehi confronted Yeitso. “There are no boys here” she told him. “Then whose footprints are these?” rumbled the giant. “Mine”, she said bravely. “I get so lonely that I make footprints and pretend I have company”. She made tiny prints with her hand as proof, and Yeitso lumbered off, disappointed.

The adult twins, after conferring with their father Tsohanoai, set out to confront Yeitso at Tsoodzil. They heard the sound of his footsteps, followed by his head appearing over an eastern hill. Then his head and chest showed up over a southern hill, and his body above the waist over a western hill before he appeared over Tsoodzil. He stomped down to the lake and drank from it four times, draining it visibly each time until it was almost completely dried out. Then he noticed the twins reflected in the water and bellowed. “What a pretty pair you are! Where have I been hunting not to have seen you before? Yiniketoko!” Yeitso and the twins exchanged taunts four times until Yeitso hurled four lightning bolts at them. The twins, riding on a rainbow, dodged the bolts easily before Tsohanoai struck the giant with lightning, which was followed up by four bolts of chain lightning from the twins. Yeitso’s scaly armor was shivered to pieces. The giant collapsed, tried to get up, fell back on his face, and moved no more.

The twins scalped Yeitso and threw his head to the East, where it became Cabezon Peak. The blood flowing from it would have revived Yeitso if it reached any of the other Anaye, so it was redirected with trenches dug by Nayenezgani’s knife. This is the origin of the ridges and cliffs of volcanic rock near Cabezon Peak today. As for Yeitso’s flint scales, they were used by the Navajo as armor, knives, and arrowheads.

References

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Reichard, G. A. (1950) Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York.

Haakapainiži

Variations: Hakapainije; Nikama (Giant); Aatakapitsi (Chemehuevi); Taünara; Grasshopper

Haakapainizi temp

Haakapainiži, the Grasshopper as he is known to the Kawaiisu, is an unpleasant ogre from Southern California, although he lives on a rock in a Nevadan lake. His counterpart in Chemehuevi folklore is Aatakapitsi, and their tales are parallel.

Haakapainiži takes several forms, but the best known is that of a giant grasshopper walking on two canes, with a basket on his back. His legs are armed with viciously sharp spikes. His legs are long enough to allow him to walk the 20 miles between Inyokern and Onyx in one step. He also appears as a giant, a harmless-looking old man, and a swarm of grasshoppers. Haakapainiži sings as he walks, hiding his evil intentions.

Children are Haakapainiži’s prey, and he stuffs them in his basket for devouring later. As such he is correctly classified as a bogey, and parents will quell children with warnings of “Haakapainiži is coming!”

Once Haakapainiži met a young girl. He coughed up mucus into his hand and presented it to her, saying “Come get this fat, grandchild”. When she did, he tossed her in her basket and carried her off to Nevada, where he ate her. He repeated the same trick with a little boy, but the lad grabbed onto an overhead branch and escaped the basket.

Another time, Haakapainiži slept alongside the Quail Sisters, who saw no reason to doubt the singing insect’s words. “I will sleep above your heads, and don’t worry, I won’t stretch during my sleep”. Sure enough, the sisters woke up in the morning unscathed. “What a nice old man”, they said to themselves, before Haakapainiži stretched his spiked legs and gouged out their eyes.

The Yucca Date Worm girls fell afoul of Aatakapitsi in the same fashion. Their husband Kwanantsitsi, the Red-Tailed Hawk, restored their eyes, then set out to avenge them. Yet every time he approached Aatakapitsi, the giant seemed to shrink until he disappeared entirely, leaving nothing but a swarm of grasshoppers. Exasperated, Kwanantsitsi hunted down the grasshoppers with a stick until they were all dead. This time, when he backed away, he saw the giant’s lifeless body.

Haakapainiži was killed by Mouse, who heated an arrow-sharpening stone in a fire and tossed it into the grasshopper’s mouth. “Close your eyes and open your mouth, I’ll feed you one of my children”, said Mouse, and allowed the heated rock to burn Haakapainiži’s insides. Both Mouse’s home and the petrified remains of Haakapainiži can be seen at Inyokern.

References

Laird, C. (1976) The Chemehuevis. Malki Museum Press, Morongo Indian Reservation, Banning.

Zigmond, M. L. (1980) Kawaiisu Mythology. Ballena Press, Socorro.

Binaye Ahani

Variations: Bina’ye Ayani, Nayie A’anyie, Bina’yeagha’ni, Eye Killers, Evil Eyes

Binaye Ahani

The Binaye Ahani, or “Eye Killers”, were among the many Anaye that were slain by Nayenezgani. As with the other original Anaye or “Alien Gods”, they were born from human women who had resorted to unnatural practices. Their “father” was a sour cactus.

The Binaye Ahani were twins born at Tse’ahalizi’ni, or “Rock With Black Hole”. They were round with a tapering end, no limbs, and depressions that looked like eyes. Their horrified mother abandoned them on the spot, but they survived to grow into monsters; as they were limbless, they remained where they were born. Instead of hunting prey actively, they could fire lightning from their eye sockets and fry anyone who approached them. In time eyes developed in the depressions on their head, and they could kill with their eyes as long as they kept them open. Magpie was their spy, and they had many children who took after them in the worst way.

Nayenezgani prepared for his fight with the Binaye Ahani by taking a bag of salt with him, and found the old twins in a hogan with their offspring. The monsters immediately stared at him, lightning shooting from their bulging eyes, but Nayenezgani’s armor deflected the beams. He responded by throwing salt into the fire, which spluttered and sparked into their eyes, blinding them. With the Binaye Ahani in disarray, Nayenezgani waded in and killed all but the two youngest. He took the eyes of the first Binaye Ahani as trophies.

“If you grew up here, you would only become things of evil”, he told the survivors, “but I shall make you useful to my people in years to come”. To the older one, he said “You will warn men of future events, and tell them of imminent danger”, and it became a screech owl. To the younger he said “You will make things beautiful, and the earth happy”, and it became a whippoorwill.

In other versions the surviving children become a screech owl and an elf owl, while the parents are turned into cacti.

References

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Reichard, G. A. (1950) Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York.

Tsenahale

Variations: Tse’nahale, Tse’na’hale, Tsanahale

Tsenahale

The Tsenahale were two of the Anaye, or “Alien Gods”, who plagued the land of the Navajo. They were born after men and women were separated, and the women resorted to unnatural practices as an outlet. In the case of the Tsenahale, the “father” was a pile of feathers; their mother must have been particularly desperate.

When the first Tsenahale was born, it was a misshapen creature with feathers on its back and shoulders. Its mother abandoned it in horror, but it survived and grew into a monstrous, bird-like creature likened to a huge eagle or a harpy. By the time Nayenezgani, the “Slayer of Alien Gods”, set out to rid the land of the Tsenahale, the Tsenahale were two in number, male and female. The male preyed solely on men, while the female hunted women. Raven was their spy.

Nayenezgani found the nest of the Tsenahale on Tse’bit’ai, the “Winged Rock”, or Shiprock as it is also known. As he approached, the male Tsenahale dive-bombed him, his huge wings whipping up a whirlwind as he swooped at him from four different directions. He seized him in his talons on the fourth attempt. The bird flew off with him and dropped him into the nest from a great height, but Nayenezgani was protected by his life-feather, and was unharmed. He cut open a bag of Teelget’s blood and let it spill, convincing the Tsenahale that he was safely dead.

As the two Tsenahale chicks approached him, Nayenezgani tried to silence them. “It’s not dead! It said ‘Sh!’ to us!” they screeched. “That’s air leaving the body. Just eat it”, snapped the father, before winging off.

Of course, Nayenezgani miraculously came back to life as soon as the Tsenahale was gone, and confronted the chicks. They were blue as a heron, with big eyes and sharp eagle beaks. “When will your father return?” asked Nayenezgani. “When we have a thunderstorm, he will be on that rock”, answered the chicks. “And your mother?” “When we have a rain shower, she will be on that crag”.

Soon a great storm formed, with thunder and lightning, and the male Tsenahale flew out of the clouds and perched on the rock as expected. Nayenezgani slew him with a single lightning arrow. Then the mother arrived in pouring rain, carrying with her a dead Pueblo woman in beautiful turquoise finery. Nayenezgani shot her in turn.

“What about us?” cried the chicks. “Are you going to kill us?” But Nayenezgani spared them. “You are not grown, and would grow into killers; but I will make something useful of you”. He picked the older chick up and told it “You will provide feathers for rites, and bones for whistles”. He swung it around four times and threw it into the air, turning it into a majestic eagle. Then he picked up the younger chick, telling it “Your voice will tell the future; sometimes you will lie, sometimes you will tell the truth”. He swung it as well, and it turned into an owl, which he threw into a crevice in the cliff.

As for the feathers of the Tsenahale, Nayenezgani took the largest from each wing as trophies. The others were plucked, and were metamorphosed into sparrows, warblers, chickadees, wrens, and all the little birds of the world.

References

Alexander, H. B. (1916) The Mythology of All Races v. X: North American. Marshall Jones Company, Boston.

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Teelget

Variations: Teel get, Teelgeth, Delgeth

Teelget

As one of the Anaye, the “Alien Gods” of Navajo folklore, Teelget was born from a human woman who resorted to unnatural and evil practices. In this case, his “father” was an antler. The creature born was round, hairy, and headless, and was cast away in horror; it was this creature that grew into the monster known as Teelget.

The origin of Teelget’s name is not known with certainty, but the “tê” makes reference to his horns. He is like an enormous, headless elk or antelope, rounded in shape, hairy like a gopher, with antlers he uses as deadly weapons. Coyote was his spy, and between him and the other Anaye they laid waste to the land, slaughtering many.

It was Nayenezgani, “Slayer of Alien Gods”, who finally put an end to Teelget’s reign of terror. Armed with his lightning arrows, the hero tracked Teelget down, finding the monster resting in the middle of a wide open plain.

How was Nayenezgani to sneak up on Teelget without being noticed? The grass offered no cover, and Teelget was sure to detect him and retaliate. As he considered his options, he was greeted by Gopher. “Why are you here?” said Gopher. “Nobody comes here, for all are afraid of Teelget”. When Nayenezgani explained that he was here to destroy Teelget, Gopher was more than happy to help. He said that he could provide a way to reach Teelget, and all he asked for as payment was the monster’s hide.

Gopher then excavated a tunnel that led right under the sleeping Teelget’s heart, and dug four tunnels – north, south, east, and west – for Nayenezgani to hide in after Teelget woke up. He even gnawed off the hair near Teelget’s heart, under the pretext that he needed it to line his nest.

That was all Nayenezgani needed. He crawled to the end of the tunnel and fired a chain-lightning arrow into Teelget’s heart, then ducked into the east tunnel. Enraged and in agony, Teelget gouged the east tunnel open with his antlers, only to find that Nayenezgani had moved to the south tunnel. He destroyed that, then the west tunnel, but he only managed to put an antler into the north tunnel before succumbing to his injury.

Nayenezgani couldn’t tell if Teelget had died or not, so Ground Squirrel volunteered to inspect. “Teelget never pays attention to me”, he explained. “If he is dead, I will dance and sing on his antlers”. Sure enough, Ground Squirrel celebrated on top of the fallen monster, and painted his face with Teelget’s blood; ground squirrels still have streaks on their face after that day. In some retellings Chipmunk fills this role, painting stripes down his back.

A chunk of antler and a piece of liver were taken by Nayenezgani as trophies, but Gopher went to work at once skinning Teelget. “I will wear his skin, so that when humans increase once more, they will be reminded of Teelget’s appearance”. And to this day, rounded, hairy gophers still wear the skin that Teelget once wore.

References

Alexander, H. B. (1916) The Mythology of All Races v. X: North American. Marshall Jones Company, Boston.

Locke, R. F. (1990) Sweet Salt: Navajo folktales and mythology. Roundtable Publishing Company, Santa Monica.

Matthews, W. (1897) Navaho legends. Houghton Mifflin and Company, New York.

O’Bryan, A. (1956) The Diné: Origin Myths of the Navaho Indians. Bulletin 163 of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.