The Navajo teachings of the four worlds provide a cosmological framework that describes the creation and evolution of the world as understood by the Navajo people. Prior to the present world, known as the Glittering World or the Fifth World, the Navajo believe in the existence of four previous worlds. Here is a synopsis of the Navajo teachings regarding these four worlds:
First World (Nihodilhil) - The First World was a dark and chaotic realm inhabited by various supernatural beings. It was a time of emergence and creation, where the foundation of life was established. However, due to a series of cosmic disturbances and imbalances, the First World was destroyed and came to an end.
Navajo origin stories begin with a First World of darkness (Nihodilhil). From this Dark World the Dine began a journey of emergence into the world of the present. It had four corners, and over these appeared four clouds. These four clouds contained within themselves the elements of the First World. They were in color, black, white, blue, and yellow.
The Black Cloud represented the Female Being or Substance. For as a child sleeps when being nursed, so life slept in the darkness of the Female Being. The White Cloud represented the Male Being or Substance. He was the Dawn, the Light Witch Awakens, of the First World. In the East, at the place where the Black Cloud and the White Cloud met, First Man, was formed ; and with him was formed the white corn, perfect in shape, with kernels covering the whole ear. Dohonotini is the name of this first seed corn, and it is also the name of the place where the Black Cloud and the White Cloud met.
Thing in the Black World 1. Insects – Ch’osh a. Black Ants – Wo’ia’zhini Dine’è b. Bee People – Tsi’s’na’ Dine’è c. Wasp People – Na’azozii Dine’è
1., Divine Spirit 2. First Talking God 3. Second Talking God 4. Coyote 5. Primordial Dawn 6. Primordial Blue Sky 7. Primordial Twilight 8. Primordial Darkness 9. Everlasting life and happiness
Second World (Nihdootlizh) - After the destruction of the First World, the Second World emerged. In this world, the Navajo people believe that the emergence of the first human-like beings took place. These beings possessed supernatural abilities and had close connections to the natural world. However, as with the First World, the Second World eventually faced its own destruction, this time through floods.
In the Blue World Blue Bird Blue Hawk Blue Jay Insects Cicada Crickets
Holy People Zigzag Lightening Stright Lighting Rainbow
Animals Wolves Wildcat Kit Foxes Mountain Lion
Many beings lived in the Blue World. There was Blue Bird, Blue Hawk, Blue Jay and Blue Heron. Big insects also lived there. Wolves lived in a white house in the east. Wildcats lived in a blue house in the south. Kit foxes lived in a yellow house to the west. Mountain lions lived in a black house in the north.
The powerful swallow people lived there also, and these people made the Second World unpleasant for those who had come from the First World. There was fighting and killing. The animals of the Blue World were at war with each other. First Man knew this, and he killed some of them. For doing this, First Man received certain songs and prayers. He said the prayers and sang the songs. When he did, the animals came to life again. ()
Coyote also lived in the Blue World. Coyote traveled all over. He went to all four directions. On his trips, he saw that the beings were not happy. They wanted to leave the Blue World. When First Man heard this, he tried to help them leave. He smoked some sacred tobacco. He blew the smoke in the four directions. This made the insects feel better, but all the beings still wanted to leave. First Man tried again to help them. He tried many things, but he could not find a way for them to leave.
Finally, First Man found a black stone, called jet. He made a wand with the jet. He made three other wands. One was made of turquoise, One was made of abalone, and one was made of shell. Then First Man carved four footprints on the wands.
The beings climbed on the wands. The wands took them through an opening in the south. Before they left they made an offering. This was their way of thanking the Holy People for helping them leave. Today, people still make offerings like this.
Third World (Nihaltsoh) - Following the devastation of the Second World, the Third World emerged. It was characterized by a new set of physical and spiritual conditions. In this world, the Navajo people believe that the first true human beings were created, and they inhabited this world alongside various animals and spiritual beings. However, the Third World also faced destruction, this time by fire.
The Yellow World was large. Many new things were there. A great river crossed this land from north to south. It was the Female River. There was another river crossing it from east to west, it was the Male River. This Male River flowed through the Female River and on and the name of this place is tqoalna’osdli, the Crossing of the waters.
Animals in the Yellow world a. Squirrel b. Chipmunk c. Mice d. Turkey e. Foxes f. Deer g. Spiders h. Lizards i. Water Monster
Others in the Yellow World 1. Water Monster 2. Turquoise Boy 3. While Shell Woman 4. Coyote 5. Rivers that Cross 6. Separation of Sexes
In this world there were six mountains. These are the mountains that are important to Navajos today.
The Four Sacred Mountains
In the East was Blanco Peak Sisnaajinii, the Standing Black Sash. Its ceremonial name is Yolgaidzil, the Dawn or White Shell Mountain. In the South stood Mount Taylor Tsoodzil, the Great Mountain, also called Mountain Tongue. Its ceremonial name is Yodoltizhidzil, the Blue Bead or Turquoise Mountain. In the West stood the San Francisco Peaks Dook’oslid, Its ceremonial name is Dichi’li dzil, the Abalone Shell Mountain. In the North stood the La Plata Mountains Debe’ntsa, Many Sheep Mountain. Its ceremonial name is Bash’zliinidzil. Obsidian Mountain.
Other Sacred Mountains
ln the middle was Huerfano Mesa. Dzilna’odili, the Upper Mountain. It was very sacred, and its name means also the Center Place, and the people moved around it. Its ceremonial name is Ntl’isdzil. Precious Stone or Banded Rock Mountain.
Near this was a cone-shaped mountain called Gobernador Knob, called Chori’i or Dzil na’odilicholi, and it was also a sacred mountain.
Different animals lived around these mountains. Squirrel, Chipmunk, Turkey, Deer, Snake and Lizard lived there. But these animals looked different from animals we see today. They were spirit beings.
The beings were happy in the Yellow World. Then one day something happened. Coyote took Water Monster’s baby. Water Monster was very angry. He was so angry that he decided to make it rain. lt rained and rained. The water rose higher and higher. Then the water began to flood. The beings did not know where to go to escape the flood. First Man tried to help them. He told them to come to Blanco Peak. But the water kept rising. It rose higher than the mountain. First Man wondered what to do. He planted a cedar tree. But this did not grow higher than the water. He planted a pine tree. But the pine tree was too short. He planted a male reed. The reed was still too short. Finally, First Man planted a female reed. This reed grew to the sky. The beings climbed onto the reed. They started to climb up. When they got to the top, they found another world. This was the Fourth, White World. This is the place where all beings live today.
Fourth World (Nihalgai) The present world is the Fourth World or the Glittering World. According to Navajo teachings, after the Fourth World's destruction, the Navajo people emerged through a re-creation process to inhabit this current world. The Fifth World is seen as a time of challenges, balance, and harmony, where humans must maintain a harmonious relationship with the natural and spiritual realms. The teachings and wisdom from the previous worlds continue to guide the Navajo people in navigating their existence in the present world.
The Locust, was the first to reach the next world. He looked around, and saw that the world was covered with water that glittered and everything looked white. This is why they call it the Glittering World or White World. The other beings followed Locust, and everyone came into the White World. The place where they came is called Hajinei. Many people say this place is somewhere in the La Plata Mountains, in Colorado.
Note:(Locust also means grasshopper, cicada)
Even though they escaped the water in the Third World, the beings were not safe. The water kept rising up after them. First Man asked the Water Buffalo why she had come and why she had sent the flood. She said nothing. Then the Coyote drew the two babies from his coat and said that it was, perhaps, because of them.
The Turquoise Boy took a basket and filled it with turquoise. On top of the turquoise he placed the blue pollen, from the blue flowers,and the yellow pollen from the corn; and on top of these he placed the pollen from the water flags, and again on top of these he placed the crystal, which is river pollen. This basket he gave to the Coyote who put it between the horns of the Water Buffalo. The Coyote said that with this sacred offering he would give back the male child. He said that the male child would be known as the Black Cloud or Male Rain, and that he would bring the thunder and lightning.
The female child he would keep. She would be known as the Blue, Yellow, and White Clouds or Female Rain. She would be the gentle rain that would moisten the earth and help them to live. So he kept the female child, and he placed the male child on the sacred basket between the horns of the Water Buffalo. And the Water Buffalo disappeared, and the waters with her. Soon, First Man and First Woman began to make things the way they were supposed to be. The Holy People helped them. Their first job was to rebuild the mountains. They had brought soil from the Yellow World. With this they made mountains in all four directions. Then, the people made a fire. To start it, they used flint. The flint also was brought from the Yellow World. The fire was started with four kinds of wood: fir, pinyon, spruce and juniper. lt is said that these kinds of wood should be treated with respect, even today. They should not be misused.
The fire made a loud noise. The noise was so loud that some of the beings were afraid. One of them broke a branch from a tree, and stuck the branch in the fire. This made the noise go away. Because of this, a song and a prayer were made for the tree branch. This branch was the first fire poker. To this day, the poker is respected.