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In the BeginningThe Navajo Genesis$
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Jerrold Levy

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780520211285

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520211285.001.0001

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The Underworlds

The Underworlds

(p.39) 3 The Underworlds
In the Beginning

Jerrold E. Levy

University of California Press

Like the creation myths of many of the New World's agricultural societies, the Navajo creation myth describes an emergence of all life from within the earth. In common with the myths of the Pueblos of the Southwest as well as those of the Aztecs, the myth observes a number of formalities: the cardinal directions have colors and characteristics; four, or multiples thereof, are ever present—there may be four underworlds, and deities often appear in four manifestations; and deities are often presented as male and female pairs. Emergence myths are found among most of the agricultural tribes of North America, and are based on an analogy to the cycle of germination and growth followed by maturation, death, and rebirth. Uniquely Navajo is the great emphasis placed upon the tension between male and female that culminates with the separation of the sexes in the third underworld.

Keywords:   North America, emergence myths, creation myth, agricultural society, Navajo

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