Shonto Begay - Hero Twins; On the Edge of Creation
- Medium: Acrylic on Canvas
- Size: 48'' x 48''
Artist's comments: As the season changes in the waning year, I hear once again the voice of my elder as the story of the great legends of Creation is retold. When our animal family begin their slumber for the winter, it is deemed safe to settle around the hearth of the hogan to embark upon this journey, again. To the blazing wood fire of winter’s night, to the aroma of Navajo Tea and cedar smudging, we await on the first lines of our origin. “Aal,kiida’, Haaji’na’b’daa de’.” After all the dramas of the first three worlds where beings were driven out due to their own desecrations; after the insects of the First World evolved into the smaller mammals of the Second and subsequently into larger animal beings like bears, elk and coyotes, the Fourth World opened into a greater drama: migration into the fourth level of consciousness and a test of our worthiness to occupy the new Glittering World. Thus sets the stage for the Hero Twins’ saga, the messiah legend of my people. The human form was created from blessed ears of white and red corn and smudged in black cloud beneath the cover of buckskin; holy wind of the four directions breathed life into them. For a while, people lived in peace as they went about their business of living in the new world. One day, far to the east, the earth rumbled and thunder clouds obscured the dawning. From the south, streaks of blue lightning coursed the horizon. And from the west, the sky turned crimson as from the northern direction, giant footsteps accompanied roars of distant and fearsome beast giants (Yeii’ tsoh’) as they disrupted peace for all. These were the days when people retreated underground and ventured out only when necessary. Often they were caught and devoured by the beast giants. These Yeii’ tsoh’ had specialized sets of skills that decimated the population. Fear pierced the hearts of men and names of monsters were whispered low. There were beast giants that killed just by their intense gaze. There was one that awaited you on precarious canyon trails to kick you into the yawning chasm. Various others took to flight, and from high above, delivered death and destruction. There were monsters that occupied the great bodies of water and thus controlled this life-giving element. There was even one that played games with you—always to its advantage—and many lives were given to this gambler. Out of this great chaos and these trials, the gods were petitioned earnestly, and when the great council met, salvation of the Fourth World was agreed upon. From the womb of White Shell Woman, gave birth to twins born of the sun and the water; miraculous conception. And within days, they grew into fine, strong young men. Shortly afterward, they were again blessed with knowledge of their birth. They were empowered by all the sacred elements of the Fourth World: turquoise, obsidian, white shell, abalone, salt and wind. Emboldened and enriched by the power of knowledge, and armored with the elements which included dloo’ (groundhog,) they ventured forth to seek the Father, Jo’hona’eii’ (Sun). There were obstacles they had to overcome. There were dangers unseen, whispered into their ears by the Wind Spirit. They passed all of these as they finally knelt at the door of Father Sun, Jo’hona’eii’. He, too, presented tests of worthiness, and again they passed four gauntlets with the help of the spirits accompanying them. Armed with arrows made of lightning, rainbows and sunrays, they descended back into the Fourth World on the powerful ribbon transport of Naa’tssi lid (Rainbow). Before they touched the earth, the first lightning bolt lit the thunderous sky as the first Yeii tsoh’, fell. Jo’hona’eii’ was saddened for these Yeiis were also his children. Massive roaring heads arose from the ground as each hideous monster exhibited its cruel power. Bathed in the glow of rainbow spectrum, the twins stepped into their roles and names: Na’ye’nez ghaani’ and Toh’ baa’jish chiin. Monster Slayer and Born-for-Water. The people retreated further into the earth as the great battle began. Mountain ranges fell and rose as great bodies of water drained and the ground shook as fire spewed form the belly of the earth. Great Beast giants fell and left their bodies petrified for all time. The malpais at the foot of Tsoo’Dzil is the blood of a great horned Yeii’ Tsoh’. The Sandia Mountains above Albuquerque, N.M., is the stilled blood of the great beast. When they were told the beasts will regain life if the blood crossed a certain point, the twins drew a line before the advancing blood—the Rio Grande valley below the Sandia Crest. Shiprock is the body of the great winged monster that crumbled to the ground, shuttered and forever petrified in our story. Coyote is said to have been active in this as well. He played both sides, but only to aid the Twins. Horned Toad earned his armor. It is said that from some of these beasts, helpful beings to the Dineh were given a place and spared that way. Some pathetic beasts were spared because it is said they will always be with us to advance us, to teach and strengthen us. Old age was spared; poverty and hunger were given a place. They pled their case effectively. When calm finally returned in full, ceremonies and observations were set to always remind us how and why it was that we were placed here in the Hozho’ of the Fourth World. There are many colorful casts of characters and lessons in words to this great legend. We were to be kind stewards of Dineh’tah’ (our Holy Land.) Today, we are once again confronted by new “monsters” in the form of addictions, family breakups, violence and especially desecrations from the outside we allowed in. Struggle for peace and reclaim the holiness from the Fourth World, for we are all blessed and armored in the knowledge.