04 January 2010

What Is The Wind Bringing To Life?

So far, this probably hasn't been the coldest winter we've had in these parts. But people seem to think, and sometimes it feels as if, it has been. The cold has been accompanied by wind or wetness. The last couple of days it's been the wind; before that we had snow.

What has that meant? That I haven't been riding and everyone's been bundled up. You can see why people get depressed: They're closed off from each other, literally and figuratively. One is less likely to be seen by, much less have contact with, someone else. (The fact that there's less daylight at this time of year doesn't lift some people's moods, either.) On the other hand, they're also less likely, for exactly the same reasons to commit violence on each other. Then again, some people are more likely to commit violence on themselves.

Anyway...All of the wind that's blown this way makes me think of a Navajo creation story. It begins something like this:

It was the wind that gave them life. It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow, we die. In the skin at the tips of our fingers, we see the the train of the wind; it shows us where the wind blew when our ancestors were created.

This story goes on to say that in the autumn, four beings appeared: White body, Blue body, Black body and a Yellow body. They told the people they would return in twelve days. In preparation for the gods' return, on the twelfth day, the people washed themselves thoroughly. The women dried their skin with yellow cornmeal; the men with white cornmeal.

(It seems that cornmeal has a similar role in Navajo and other Native American cultures to what rice plays in many Asian cultures.)

Soon the people heard the shouts of the approaching gods. Blue Body and Black Body each carried a buckskin; White Body carried two ears of corn, one white and the other yellow.

The gods laid one skin on the ground, with its head facing the west. Over it they placed the two ears of corn, with their tips facing the east. Atop the ears of corn, they spread another buckskin, with its head to the east. Under the white ear of corn, they slid a white eagle's feather; under the yellow ear, a feather from a yellow eagle.

Then the gods told the people to stand back and allow the wind to enter between the buckskins. White wind blew in from the east and yellow wind came from the west. As the wind blew, eight gods called the Mirage People walked around the assembled objects four times. As the gods walked, the feathers, whose tips stuck out from the buckskins, were seen to move.

When the Mirage People finished their walk, the upper buckskin was removed. The ears of corn were gone; in their place lay a man and a woman. The white ear of corn had become a man; the yellow ear, a woman. They were the First Man and the First Woman.

It was the wind that gave them life, and it is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow, we die.

I love the story. What makes it even more interesting, at least to me, is that in Navajo culture an implicit understanding that the wind, the life-giving force, is a kind of primordial mother: a creatrix, if you will. So that which gives us life, according to Navajo tradition, is female, and the Great Spirit, which is male, is the witness to the creation.

Hmm...It's just a little ironic, to me, that we've had the most prolonged stretch of windy weather I can recall at the beginning of my first winter in my life as a woman. I won't claim any cause and effect: I'm not that narcissitic!

I wonder, though, what the Navajos would make of the weather we're having. Could it be that a creative, chaotic, tumultuous and powerful time is beginning now? Or am I just seeing the world through the mirrors and prisms of my own life at this moment?

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