Astronomy and legend

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Begochiddy and the Fourth World A Navajo story of the creation

Once, long ago, there was a First World that existed far below the world we know now. It was a world of darkness; and in the darkness lived six beings: the First Man; the First Woman; Salt Woman; Fire God; Coyote and Begochiddy. Begochiddy was the child of the Sun, both man and woman, with blue eyes and golden hair. Begochiddy made four mountains in that dark world - blue, white, yellow and black.

Begochiddy created plants and insects. But the first beings were unhappy in that dark world, and decided to leave it.

They gathered together all the living things and went to a red mountain that Begochiddy had made in the centre of the world. There they climbed into a giant reed. As the reed grew, it carried them all up to the Second World. Here in the blue second world, Begochiddy created Swallow People and Cat people. But there was argument and fighting, and once more Begochiddy grew the great reed.

This time it carried them to the Third World - a yellow world with no Sun and Moon. The mountains gave it light; and in this beautiful world Begochiddy created rivers and springs, water animals and trees, birds and lightning. Begochiddy created the first humans - and they all spoke the same language. But the First Man brought disease anddiscord into the world; and the men and women quarrelled.

Finally Begochiddy separated the women and men with a great river. The men and the women were unhappy to live apart. So Begochiddy brought them back together, warning them that if there was more trouble, the Water Monster would become angry and destroy the Third World with a great flood.

Now Coyote liked to roam around the Third World; and one day he found a black-haired baby in theriver. Coyote lifted the baby from the water and hid it under his blanket. Four days later, there was a great noise. Someone had done wrong, and the promised flood was approaching. They all rushed to the giant reed and it began to lift them up. But the reed did not grow tall enough to break through into the Fourth World. The Locust had to break through with his hard head. Begochiddy found a world controlled by four powerful beings. Begochiddy made peace with each of them, and the water drained away, leaving a world of mud.

"The new world is a good world," said Begochiddy. "But it is not yet dry. Who will go and dry it?" First Badger tried, but his feet sank into the mud and badgers have black feet to this day. Then the winds blew, drying out the mud. First the Ant people, then all the others walked on the Fourth World. But the water was still rising below them. "Who has angered the Water Monster and brought the flood?" asked Begochiddy. Begochiddy saw Coyote wrap his blanket more tightly around himself. "Open your blanket", he demanded. Coyote opened the blanket and Begochiddy saw the water baby. "You must give the child back to the Water Monster," he said. When the water baby was dropped back to the Third World, the flood went down. Then Begochiddy began to make this Fourth World into the world we know today. Begochiddy put the stars in the sky and the mountains in their places. Begochiddy stole fire from the Fire God, and gave it to the people. Begochiddy told the people the right way to live happily together; how to speak their different languages; how to give thanks; and how to care for the world. But the other three worlds were destroyed; and Begochiddy warned that unless the people cared for it, they would destroy this world, too.

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