Anaye

Variations: Alien Gods; Bil, Binaye Ahani, Ditsi’n, Hakaz Estsán, San, Sasnalkahi, Teelget, Tiein, Tse’nagahi, Tsenahale, Tsetahotsiltali, Ya’, Yeitso, and others

The Anaye or “Alien Gods” are a group of ancient monsters who plagued the Navajo. They were born as a result of a grand social experiment – the separation of the sexes. Early on in the history of humanity, men and women quarreled often. They tried living apart for a while, but boredom and starvation eventually reunited them.

It was not without repercussions. The women who had been separated from the men resorted to various implements to relieve their sexual frustration. The Anaye were “fathered” by those unnatural acts, and their parentage was expressed in various ways. Yeitso, who was “fathered” by a stone, had flint armor; the horned Teelget’s “father” was an antler; the Tsenahale inherited their avian nature from a pile of feathers; and the limbless Binaye Ahani came from a sour cactus.

Each of the Anaye was born and abandoned by their horrified mothers, but survived long enough to become a threat. They ravaged the land, killing and eating as they pleased.

The Anaye reign of terror was brought to an end by the hero twins Nayenezgani, “Slayer of Alien Gods”, and To’badzistsini, “Child of Water”. They were the sons of Tsohanoai the Sun-carrier by Estsanatlehi, “Changing Woman”, and Yolkai’ Estsan, “White Shell Woman”, respectively.

The hero twins grew up rapidly and soon decided to find their father and their purpose. Along the way they met Spider Woman, who gifted them with a calming incantation and life-feathers that would protect them in the direst of circumstances. From Spider Woman’s house they passed through a series of environmental hazards. These included Tse’yeinti’li, the “Rocks that Crush”, a narrow chasm that would clap shut and kill travelers; Lokaadikisi, the “Cutting Reeds” with knifelike leaves; Xoc Detsahi the “Needle Cactus”, a field of animate cacti with vicious spines; Saitád the “Seething Sands”, mountainous dunes that engulfed climbers; and Totsozi the “Spreading Stream” that would widen itself to drown swimmers. Each of those malevolent terrain features were outwitted and subdued into turn.

When the twins reached Tsohanoai’s house they came face to face with two bear guardians, but Spider Woman’s sacred words calmed them. They did the same with two guardian snakes, two guardian winds, and two guardian lightnings, appeasing each in turn. Once inside the twins were hidden by Tsohanoai’s attendants in the four coverings of the sky to await their father.

Tsohanoai’s arrival was tempestuous. “Who are the two who entered today?” he bellowed. But the sun-carrier’s wife responded craftily. “Who are you to speak? Two youths came here looking for their father. If you see nobody but me, whose sons are these?” In a rage, Tsohanoai seized the bundle of robes and shook them out – the robe of the dawn, the robe of blue sky, the robe of yellow evening light, the robe of darkness – and the twins came tumbling out. He threw them against spikes of white shell in the East, spikes of turquoise in the South, spikes of haliotis in the West, and spikes of black rock in the North, and throughout it all they clung to Spider Woman’s feathers and were unharmed.

“I wish those were indeed my children”, sighed Tsohanoai. From then on he came to recognize his sons, and aided them in their quest to rid the world of the Anaye. After slaying their first Anaye, the titanic Yeitso, Tobadzistsini returned home to care for his and his brother’s mothers. But Nayenezgani earned his name that day, and went on to slay the remainder of the great Anaye. After Yeitso, Nayenezgani killed the carnivorous elk Teelget, the Tsenahale birds of prey, the kicking monster Tsetahotsiltali, the Binaye Ahani and their lethal gaze, Sasnalkahi the tracking bear, and many more besides.

But not all of the Anaye were killed. Tse’nagahi, the “Traveling Stone”, was spared after it swore to do no more evil. There was also a number of minor Anaye still in hiding – wretched, lonely, threadbare creatures that inspired pity rather than fear. Each of them managed to convince Nayenezgani of its importance in the scheme of things.

When Nayenezgani went to find San (Old Age), he found a wizened old woman, white-haired, bent and wrinkled. “I have come on a cruel errand, grandmother. I am here to kill you”, he said apologetically. “Why would you kill me?” she said weakly. “I have never harmed a single person. If you kill me then the human race will stand still. Boys will not become fathers. The old will not die and make room for the young. If you spare me I will help you increase the people”. So Nayenezgani spared San.

Then he set out to find Hakaz Estsán (Cold Woman). She lived on the highest peaks where snow lies on the ground all year. She was an old woman, lean, naked, shivering from head to toe, teeth chattering, eyes streaming constantly, with only snow-buntings for company. “Grandmother, I shall be a cruel man and kill you, that men may no longer die of cold”, he told her. “Kill me if you must”, chattered Hakaz Estsán. “But without me it will be permanently hot. The land will become dry. Water will disappear, and the people will perish in turn”. So Nayenezgani spared her as well.

Next was Tiein (Poverty). This was not one but two creatures, an old man and an old woman, both clad in filthy tattered rags and crouching in an empty house. “Grandmother, grandfather, I shall be a cruel man, for I am here to kill you” he stated. “Do not kill us”, said the old man. “Without us nothing would change, everything would be static. But we make clothing wear out and make people go out and fashion new and beautiful clothes. Let us live that people may continue making new things”. So Nayenezgani spared the couple.

Then there was Ditsi’n (Hunger). This was the chief of the Hunger People, and he was a massive, obese man with nothing to eat but the little brown cactus. “I shall be cruel”, announced Nayenezgani, “and kill you that people may no longer suffer of hunger”. But Ditsi’n said “Do not kill us, for without us, people would not care about food, they would not cook and prepare meals, they would lose the pleasures of hunting and cooking”. And they were spared as well.

Of the other minor Anaye less is told. We know that Ya’ (Louse) pleaded for its life, arguing that its presence taught compassion, that people would ask their friends to groom them, and so it was spared. As for Bil (Sleep), it made its case in a more direct (and humiliating) manner – by touching Nayenezgani with his finger and sending the hero into a blissful slumber.

Only then, when Nayenezgani had returned from sparing the last of the minor Anaye, did he and his brother rest. They went to the valley of the San Juan River, and they dwell there to this day.

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.

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

Cactus Cat

Variations: Cactifelinus inebrius (Cox), Felis spinobiblulosus (Tryon)

Cactus Cat

Cactus Cats once lived in the wide-open Southwestern deserts. They were once found in saguaro country between Prescott and Tucson and in the Sonoran Desert as far south as the cholla hills of Yucatan. Nowadays the species is practically extinct following the exploitation and destruction of its desert home.

A cactus cat has thorny hair, with especially long, rigid spines on its ears and tail. The tail is branched like a cactus with scattered thorny hair. There are sharp bony blades on the forearms above the forefeet.

Cactus cats use their forearm-blades to cut deep slanting slashes at the base of giant cacti. One of those cats will travel in a wide circular path, 80 chains long, slashing every cactus it sees. By the time it returns to the first cactus, the sap oozing from the cuts has fermented into mescal. The cactus cat laps this alcoholic brew up hungrily. By the end of the second circuit the cat is thoroughly drunk and waltzes off in a drunken stupor. It yowls and rasps its bone blades together, a sound which carries through the desert night.

It is this fondness for liquor that was the downfall of the species. By following a cactus cat around, one could collect the mescal and deprive the cat of its sustenance. This was not an activity without risk, however. Thieves caught in the act were flogged to death with the cat’s spiny tail, leaving red welts deceptively similar to the effects of heat rash.

References

Cox, W. T. (1910) Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods with a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts. Judd and Detweiler, Washington D. C.

Tryon, H. H. (1939) Fearsome Critters. The Idlewild Press, Cornwall, NY.

Tsetahotsiltali

Variations: Tse’tahotsiltali, Tse’tahotsilta’li, Tse’dahidziqa’li, Tse’daxodzi’ltali, Kicker, Kicking Monster

Tsetahotsiltali

Tsetahotsiltali, “He [who] Kicks [people] Down the Cliff”, was among the many Anaye or “Alien Gods” slain by Nayenezgani. As with the rest of his brood, he was born from a human woman who, in the absence of men, had resorted to other means of stimulation.

Tsetahotsiltali was born at Tse’binahotyel, a high, wall-like cliff. He had no head, with only a long pointed end where the head should be. His mother, disgusted at the monster she had borne, put him in a hole in the cliff and sealed it with a stone. Tsetahotsiltali survived anyway.

As he grew, Tsetahotsiltali’s hair grew into the rock, anchoring him fast. He sat in place next to a well-beaten trail, his legs folded up, and anyone who passed by would be immediately kicked and sent tumbling down the cliff. Tsetahotsiltali’s children waited at the base of the cliff to dismember the offerings their father sent down. With three types of fruiting cactus growing nearby, a steady stream of victims was guaranteed. His spy was the turkey vulture.

That was where Nayenezgani found him. The hero followed the trail to the top of the high cliff, and beheld his enemy, much like a man in shape. Tsetahotsiltali was leaning back inoffensively, pulling at his whiskers, but Nayenezgani kept his eye closely on him as he walked past. Sure enough, Tsetahotsiltali kicked out suddenly, but Nayenezgani dodged the kick easily. “Why did you kick at me?” he asked the monster. “Oh, my grandchild”, said Tsetahotsiltali innocently, “I was tired and just wanted to stretch my legs”. Four times Nayenezgani passed by, and four times Tsetahotsiltali missed. Then the hero grabbed his stone knife and struck Tsetahotsiltali above the eyes, stabbing over and over until he was sure the monster was dead. But the body remained attached to the cliff, the thick cedar-root-like hairs holding it fast, so Nayenezgani had to chop through these as well before Tsetahotsiltali’s went tumbling down the same way his many victims had.

Immediately Nayenezgani heard a cacophony of squabbling voices. “I want the eyes!” “The liver’s mine!” “Give me an arm!” The sound of Tsetahotsiltali’s children fighting over their father’s body was a grim reminder of the fate Nayenezgani had escaped. The hero found another trail to the base of the cliff and beheld Tsetahotsiltali’s twelve hideous children, their father’s blood still streaming from their mouths. Only the bones and scalp of Tsetahotsiltali were left. Disgusted, Nayenezgani slew most of that vile brood. The survivors were spared, exiled, and, depending on the narrative, may have been transformed into Rocky Mountain sheep, owls, box turtles, or birds of prey.

Nayenezgani took Tsetahotsiltali’s scalp as a trophy and planted seeds in the surrounding area.

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.

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.