First Man and First Woman

In the mythology of the Navajo of North America, First Man and First Woman, known as Altsé hastiin and Altsé asdzáá, respectively, were beings who prepared the world for the creation of people. Created when the winds blew life into two special ears of corn, the couple led the creatures that would become the Navajo on a journey from a series of lower worlds up to the surface of the earth. In some stories, First Man and First Woman are joined by two other original leaders: First Boy and First Girl.

In each of the lower worlds, the followers of First Man and First Woman discovered different resources. The couple taught their followers how to survive in the unfamiliar surroundings and urged them to learn new skills, such as planting beans and corn for food. The two helped their people overcome various crises, including a great flood that surged over the land in powerful waves. They also had to deal with the troublesome Coyote, who quarreled and played many tricks on the people.

In one of the lower worlds, First Man and First Woman had a bitter dispute about whether men and women need each other to live. As a result of their dispute, First Man led all of the men away from the women for four years. Following this period of separation, some of the young women gave birth to terrible monsters that preyed on the people. Eventually, the men and women realized that they needed each other, and they agreed to live together again.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

First Man and First Woman also raised the Navajo deity Changing Woman (Asdzáá nádleehé), whom they found as a child. They gave Changing Woman the medicine bundle of creation, a bag or collection of sacred objects that became the source of her power. Changing Woman and her sister, White Shell Woman (Yolgai asdzáá), gave birth to twins who became warriors and killed the monsters that threatened their people.

See also Changing Woman ; Corn ; Creation Stories ; Floods ; Native American Mythology .

deity god or goddess

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