Comparison and Contrast of the Navajo and the Bible Creation Stories
Creation stories exist universally. The Navajo/Diné Native American culture has a unique viewpoint of creation which I have paralleled with the Bible’s Genesis creation narrative. There exist many differences and similarities between the Navajo and the Genesis creation narrative. The Genesis Creation narrative is a Deus Faber which means it is a story about only one God – the Maker. The Navajo Creation story is an Emergence story involving the first individuals who traveled from previous worlds and arrived into this world emerging from a cramped space. Both the Navajo and the Genesis creation story teach their cultures to behave correctly and be thankful for their lot.
While there exist huge differences between the Navajo/Diné and Genesis creation stories, there are some moral codes which are similar in both civilizations. The Navajo story discusses the issues around adultery. Many of the men were at fault, but so were the women. This makes known the morals of the Navajo culture because the culture makes it apparent that adultery was not tolerated or pardoned on any level. Throughout the Navajo creation story, the Air-Spirit individuals are outcast and denied entry to the earth’s four corners because of their conduct. Just like in Genesis, “a high impassable wall of water” submerges the Air-Spirit individuals (Baym 31), much like the flood that wiped out those who displeased God. This was supposed to destroy the Air-Spirit individuals, but they survived it by entering into a separate realm. Sadly, they cannot remain there because they are unable to control their actions even though they were accepted as family. They continue migrating into other realms until they stumble upon the holy people who invited them to settle with them (Baym 29). They further learned that even though people attempt to be good, there are those among us who are capable of doing wrong things (Baym 29).
The Navajo story depicts that transformation is attainable for everyone as they journey through life and its various stages. Who we are and the things we are accepting of transform as we shift from childhood into adulthood. Who we are and what we perceive as white or black at eighteen may be a shade of grey when we are in our forties (David Adams 78). Similarly, what we were taught concerning the great flood in Sunday school became more in-depth compared to the generalized teachings of kindergarten or preschool. The great flood in my view is a story of transformation, reason being, the earth was reformed by the flood, and after that, it underwent many changes to support life. The capability of sustaining life is not solely about the physical, but the emotional and spiritual as well. Thus, it is possible that we all have our creation myths (Lindow 56).
The Genesis story has repetitive aspects. After parts of the world are created by God, He looks back and says “it is good” (New International Version Genesis 1:31). This very repetition is present in the Navajo story when he asserts that “he smiled as he created them.” What is the significance of this repetition? I believe by repeating such phrases, we as individuals start believing in them. Creation was inherently a good thing. Begochiddy was content with his work, and thus, the people are persuaded to believe the things he created are good and beneficial (Baym 30). Repetition is also advantageous as the reader gains trust in the creator. These creators are confident in what they are doing, and they are further confident in the outcome.
Another similarity between the two cultures is that women are targeted for blame. We know that Eve was cunningly deceived by the serpent and acted disobediently by eating from the forbidden tree. Consequently, God punishes all humans and they are now sinful (David Adams 83). Similarly, in the Navajo narrative, the young wife ignores her duties and trouble comes next. Begochiddy punishes the women and men by separating them. From the two narratives, I noticed that females are targeted for blame. Could it be because they are viewed as the weaker sex? Or maybe it has something to do with the reality that although most “Gods” are not given a specific gender, it is standard to assume they are male. Either way, female or male, they both were created by one creator and eventually punished by the same creator. So does it matter who was to blame originally?
The Navajo creation story talks about how the four worlds were created. In the first world, the first woman, man, coyote, air spirits (beetles, locusts, ants, dragonflies), and first angry (who introduced witchcraft into the world) were created. They then climbed into the second world, and here, they found various types of birds (Baym 27). They remained here for three days until an air spirit attempted to lay with the Sparrow Chief’s wife (Baym 28). In the fourth world, the first women made more people by birthing five sets of twins, who eventually bore children too (Baym 29). Finally, the people entered the fourth world before the creation of the moon and the sun, and with assistance from the Wind God; they successfully spread out and left the island (Baym 29). Finally, first man and women were able to settle and constructed the first Hogan (Baym 29) a type of house
The Bible’s creation story starts with one God who created everything that exists in seven days. He created light on the first day, Heaven on the second, the Seas and Earth on the third, and on the fourth, He created a greater light for the day, a lesser light for night, and aligned the stars. He created living creatures of the air and sea and commanded them to multiply on the fifth day. He created the earth’s beasts on the sixth day and rested on the seventh (New International Version Genesis 1:1-26). He then created man using the earth’s dust, breathed life into his nostrils, and named him Adam. He created a companion for him using the side of his rib and named her Eve (New International Version Genesis 1:27). He then created a garden for them where they ate from but prohibited them from eating from a tree in its center. The serpent came, deceived Eve, and caused her to eat the prohibited fruit. Eve then convinced Adam to eat the fruit (New International Version Genesis 1:3-6), and from that point, they ruined their relationship with God and fell into sin.
When comparing and contrasting the Navajo and the Genesis creation stories, the symbolisms that crop up between them is very similar considering the gap between the two cultures. The two cultures depicted within these distinct myths of creation lived miles apart but still had various striking similarities between their myths. Nonetheless, although the Navajo and Genesis creation stories had their similarities, they also had dramatic differences between them which distinguished the two narratives. No matter what creation story you believe in, none knows for certain how humans came to inhabit the earth.
Baym, Nina, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. A. New York: Norton, 2012. Print
Leeming, David Adams. Creation myths of the world: An encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Abc-clio, 2010.
Lindow, J. 2002. Norse mythology: A guide to the gods, heroes, rituals, and beliefs. New York: Oxford University Press
New International Version. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 5 April. 2018.