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Creation of First Man and First Woman

Washington Matthews
Washington Matthews

Using signs but without speaking, the gods tried to instruct the people, but they were not understood…. The gods appeared on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through signs.… On the fourth day when the other gods departed, Black Body [the god of fire] remained behind and spoke to the people in their own language: “…We want to make people who look more like us”…. When the gods appeared, Blue Body [the sprinkler] and Black Body each carried a sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, each covered completely with grains. … The white ear of corn had become the man, the yellow ear the woman, First Man and 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. The gods had the people build an enclosure of brushwood, and when it was finished, First Man and First Woman went in. The gods told them, “Live together now as husband and wife.”

— From “Creation of First Man and First Woman,” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

First Man and First Woman are characters in the creation myth of the Navajo people of the Southwest. This version, in which four gods come to bestow new life on humans (up until this point in the story they are deformed and share attributes with the other animals), was reported by Washington Matthews (1843–1905), a surgeon with the U.S. Army, ethnographer, and linguist known for his work with the Navajo.

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Washington Matthews
Washington Matthews

Using signs but without speaking, the gods tried to instruct the people, but they were not understood…. The gods appeared on four days in succession and attempted to communicate through signs.… On the fourth day when the other gods departed, Black Body [the god of fire] remained behind and spoke to the people in their own language: “…We want to make people who look more like us”…. When the gods appeared, Blue Body [the sprinkler] and Black Body each carried a sacred buckskin. White Body carried two ears of corn, one yellow, one white, each covered completely with grains. … The white ear of corn had become the man, the yellow ear the woman, First Man and 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. The gods had the people build an enclosure of brushwood, and when it was finished, First Man and First Woman went in. The gods told them, “Live together now as husband and wife.”

— From “Creation of First Man and First Woman,” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

First Man and First Woman are characters in the creation myth of the Navajo people of the Southwest. This version, in which four gods come to bestow new life on humans (up until this point in the story they are deformed and share attributes with the other animals), was reported by Washington Matthews (1843–1905), a surgeon with the U.S. Army, ethnographer, and linguist known for his work with the Navajo.

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Beautiful and the hardest thing a woman can ever do is love a man.

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