Nayenezgani

Literally, ‘slayer of alien gods’. Along with Tobadzistsini, ‘child of the water’, the Navajo Indians say that Nayenezgani dealt fearful blows to the spirits of evil threatening the world. The two brothers, Nayenezgani and Tobadzistsini, may be seen as war gods, but they are more like cultural heroes. As the offspring of Estsanatlehi, ‘the woman who changes’, and Tsohanoai, the sun god, Nayenezgani appears to be a lord of light, while Tobadzistsini, moist and dark, is his opposite, a lord of darkness.

Once the two brothers encountered Naste Estsan, the benign Spider Woman. They were on their way to the house of the sun god when they noticed smoke rising from the ground. Looking closely they found it came from the smoke hole of a subterranean chamber, into which led a ladder. Having climbed down the rungs of this smoke-blackened ladder, the two brothers were greeted by Naste Estsan, who told them that their journey to the Tsohanoai’s abode would lead them past four places of danger. They were the rocks which crush the traveller; the reeds which cut him to pieces; the cacti which tear him to pieces; and the boiling sands that overwhelm him. To aid them in their quest Naste Estsan presented two charms: a feather to subdue enemies and a feather to preserve lives.

After many adventures, thanks to the magical feathers, Nayenezgani and Tobadzistsini reached the square house of the sun god and beheld its handsome occupants. Two young women there stood up without a word, wrapped the two brothers in a bundle, and placed them on a shelf. On his return Tsohanoai demanded to know who it was that had dared to call in his absence. His wife cautioned him, but the enraged sun god pulled the visitors from the bundle and proceeded to test their strength. First, he threw them on to sharp spikes, but the two brothers tightly clutched Naste Estsan’s feathers. Secondly, the sun god tried to steam them without avail. As a final assay he forced them to taste a smoking-pipe filled with poison. A caterpillar warned of the danger and gave them something to put into their mouths. Thus was Tsohanoai satisfied with the two brothers and he acknowledged them as his own sons. When he asked about the purpose of their visit, they told him of the anaye, ‘monsters or evil gods’, who devour men, and requested that he furnish them with divine weapons. Though he informed the two brothers that the chief anaye, the giant Yeitso, was also his son, Tsohanoai let them have powerful arms, including a chain-lightning arrow, a sheet-lightning arrow, a sunbeam arrow, and a rainbow arrow.

Nayenezgani and Tobadzistsini then left through the sky hole, yaga-hoka, and descended to earth via steep, shining cliffs in order to do battle. They encountered scaly Yeitso by a lake and slew and scalped the monster with a little help from Tsohanoai. Next Nayenezgani alone killed dreadful Teelget, a great four-footed beast with the horns of deer. Using a tunnel burrowed into the monster’s hide by a gopher, he succeeded in reaching Teelget’s enormous heart, which he pierced with an arrow of chain-lightning. The enraged anaye virtually ripped itself to shreds with its horns to get at Nayenezgani, before slumping dead to the earth.

The third kind of anaye to meet their doom were the Tsenahale, huge eagle-like beasts that almost crushed Nayenezgani in their talons. Again the lightning arrow found the mark and the hero was able to dispose of this terror: the parents were destroyed, their plucked feathers changing into smaller birds like wrens and warblers, while the young Tsenahale became the eagles from which later men obtained plumes for head-dresses. Nayenezgani’s other exploits were ridding the world of the Binaye Ahani, ‘the people who slay with their eyes’; the defeat of Tsenagahi, ‘the travelling stone’, a mischievous rock spirit; and the beheading of a ferocious bear.

One Response to Nayenezgani

  1. dr robert April 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    as Patti Smith once said..

    “up there, is a sea..
    of possibilities..”.

    this image and story reminds me of a beautiful song from Jane Siberry and K.D. Laing,

    “Calling All Angels”..

    This world dearly need’s someone to “deal fearful blows to the spirits of evil threatening the world”.

    and as it turns out, that some one, is us.. with a little help from our friends upstairs.

    thank you Nayenezgani!

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