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| Changing Woman / Estsanatlehi
from Goddesses and Heroines
|Exerpt from Goddess & Heroines by Patricia
[Used by permission. This text is NOT included in the Goddess Oracle]
The Apache called the earth goddess by this name, for she never grew old. When her age began to show, she simply walked toward the east until she saw her form coming toward herself. She kept walking until her young self merged with her aging self and then, renewed, returned to her home. Among the Chiricahua Apache, the name of this eternal goddess was Painted Woman. "Turquoise woman" was the Navaho sky-goddess, wife of the sun. She lived in a turquoise palace at the western horizon, where each night she received her luminous husband. Sister (or twin or double) of Yolkai Estsan, the moon's wife, Estsanatlehi was able to make herself young each time she began to age, thus her name, which means the "self-renewing one."
Here is her story: the ancestral goddess Atse Estsan, discovering Estsanatlehi on the ground beneath a mountain, reared her to be the savior of earth's people. When she was grown, Estsanatlehi met a young man; each day they went to the woods to make love. When her parents looked on the ground and saw only one set of footprints, they knew their daughter had taken the sun as a lover.
Delighted at the honor granted their family, they were delighted again when Estsanatlehi gave birth to twins, who grew so miraculously that eight days after birth they were men, ready to seek their father. But when they found his house, the twins found another woman there. Angry at the intrusion, she threatened them with their father's anger as well.
Undeterred, the twins remained and won from their father magic weapons, which they needed to clear the earth of monsters. This they did. After dancing with their mother in celebration, the twins built Estsanatlehi a magnificent home at the sky's end, so that the sun could visit her again.
But the twins' wars with the monsters had depopulated the earth. Estsanatlehi brushed the dust from her breasts. From the white flour that fell from her right breast and the yellow meal from her left, she made paste and molded a man and a woman. Placing them beneath a magical blanket, Estsanatlehi left them. The next morning they were alive and breathing, and Estsanatlehi blessed the creation. For the next four days, the pair reproduced constantly, forming the four great Navaho clans. But the creative urge of Estsanatlehi was not fulfilled. She made four more groups of people, this time from the dust of her nipples-and the women of these clans were thereafter famous for their nipples.
Feeling her creation to be complete, Estsanatlehi retired to her turquoise palace from which she continued to bestow blessings on her people: seasons, plants and food, and the tender sprouts of spring. Only four monsters survived her sons' wars on evil: age, winter, poverty, and famine, which she allowed to live on so that her people would treasure her gifts the more.
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Published by Llewellyn, copyright 1997. Used by permission of the author.