The creation of constellations – A Navajo tale


Navajo’s story of the world’s creation.

When the world began, all animals gathered around the Great Spirit.

They were asked to fetch those pebbles lying in the river’s bed. Once all pebbles had been fetched, the Great Spirit took one of them, and placed it in the sky. The pebble started shining: and the first star was born.

The Great Spirit then explained how stars would always help animals find their way. The animals were asked to put other pebbles in the sky, so as to paint their own constellations according to their own image. They had until dawn to go freely from land to sky.

The Coyote, master of chaos, had not yet finished. But the Great Spirit asked the coyote to help the other smaller animals: they could only carry a few pebbles at a time, and thus had to go back and forth between land and sky many times to work on their constellation.

This took the Coyote a lot of time, and after a while it got angry, and threw the bucket with all the pebble-stars over its head. The pebbles scattered across the sky. This is why some of the animals’ constellations remain unfinished, and there is a stellar path that shines bright across the sky: the Milky Way.


The Cygnus constellation, excerpt from «’Urania’s Mirror » series, engraved by Sidney Hall, 1825


1. How was the Milky Way created, according to the Navajo story?


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