Many Faiths establish a covenant between their founders and followers. That covenant, agreement or contract then becomes the guiding framework of the Faith.
In the Diné/Navajo tradition, and in the Baha’i Faith as well, covenants not only supply that guiding framework, but also provide for the protection and continuance of each spiritual tradition.
Continuing the ongoing conversation between Christopher Buck and Diné/Navajo Baha’i Bitahnii Wayne Wilson, BahaiTeachings.org examines the impact of those covenants on each religious community and their beliefs.
Q: Bitahnii, I have been reading the work of Linda S. Covey from Missouri State University, who has done some research on Navajo-Baha’i connections. In her book chapter, “The Navajo Tradition: Transition to the Baha’i Faith,” published in Images, imaginations, and Beyond: Proceedings of the 8th Native American Symposium, November 2009, Professor Covey wrote on the “Return of the Warrior Twins: Shaping Religious Ideology”:
… when responsibility for the world was given to the Nihookáá Diné (the First Navajos), Changing Woman and the other Diyin Dine’ē (Holy People) gave the First Navajos the components of their ancestral knowledge in songs, prayers, ceremonies, and stories. These together formed a charter for life, a contract or covenant between the First Navajos and the Holy People who gave them the right to live within Dinétah, the original Navajo land between the four sacred mountains in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. The Diné would be under the special protection of the Holy People as long as they stayed within the guidelines or boundaries of this covenant. – p. 69.
Would you please tell us more about this sacred Diné covenant?
A: Yes. But this is a very delicate topic! You have to remember that some of these teachings, stories, and methods are done slightly differently between some of our families and distant relatives, like the Apache, who have their own version of their origin stories that are similar to our own Navajo traditions.
These sacred stories vary from region to region, even within the Navajo Nation. So I will explain them to you the way my grandfather, the late John Burnside explained them to me.
My grandfather, John Burnside, taught me about Jish do dzil leezh do Ah tsaah—the sacred Medicine bag, Mountain Dirt Bundle (dzil leezh) and Pouch. That’s a ceremonial basket consisting of a deerskin pouch tied together into a bundle with a prayer and chants, that is made up of soil ceremonially taken from the mountain with a prayer offerings.
The Mountain Dirt Bundle connects first to ourselves through our mind, body, soul, the Earth, the mountains, the corn fields, the domestic animals, our soft goods, and our hard goods. Along with the ceremonial basket and other ceremonial instruments it becomes a physical and spiritual Diné/Navajo covenant that constantly reminds you about keeping your commitment—that is, your agreement by being truthful within yourself, which becomes your foundation of your commitment to the Great Spirit—that connects you from your Divine self to a Greater Divine Spirit.
Now, once again we are starting anew, because the Bab and Baha’u’llah have renewed the spirit of our sacred Navajo teachings and given us a new covenant.
Q: Thank you, Bitahnii. In her book chapter, Professor Covey went on to say:
The origin story of the Warrior Twins illuminates those ancestral teachings that influenced Diné Baha’is to accept the Bab and Baha’u’llah as the return of the Warrior Twins. Anthropologist Maureen Trudelle Schwarz tells the story of the Warrior Twins through the Diné creation stories of Áłltsé Asdazáá (First Woman), Áłltsé Hastiin (First Man), and Changing Woman. Changing Woman was found by the “holy spirit” Talking God as an infant, “lying under a dark cloud with a rainbow and soft, falling rain; strapped into a cradle made of rainbow, lightning, and sunbeams.” The infant was given to First Man and First Woman who raised her in a “miracle way” with “sunray pollen from clouds, plants and flower dew so that she matured miraculously, coming into womanhood within twelve days.” Changing Woman gave birth to the Warrior Twins named Monster Slayer and Born For Water who were fathered by the Sun. Later, Changing Woman created the Nihookáá Diné (First Navajos) brought to life by her breath and the Holy Winds entering into their bodies.
As young men, the Warrior Twins saved the world by slaying all Monsters except for Death, Disease, Hunger, Poverty and Old Age. The Monster Slayers then gave the weapons of sacred ceremonies and prayers to the Nihookáá Diné to use for “healing and the good life”. Archival material written by an anonymous Diné Baha’i explains that the Monster Slayers were expected to return to the Diné, “reborn by the iniquities of all humankind,” and give to all humankind “the spiritual weapons to battle and slay all the Monsters.” Spoken of as the “New Day” and signaled by “terrible trials for the Diné,” the Wise Ones knew that they would see “the death throes of the Old Era and the birth of the New Era.” – Ibid., p. 70.
Is the above description accurate? Are the Warrior Twins actually prophets—that is, are they “Indigenous messengers of God”? If so, would you please tell us more about the Warrior Twins? Are there prophecies of their return? Do you accept the Bab and Baha’u’llah as the “return” of the Warrior Twins?
A: When I first became a Baha’i, my inner spirit spoke and told me that the Bab and Baha’u’llah are the return of those ancient Spirit Beings of long ago before the Twin Warriors, they would be known as the Grandfathers of the Twin Warrior brothers.
Their names were Haash ch’eh waan (“First Calling and/or House Spirit”). They were known as Holy Beings who had their own spiritual prayers, songs, teachings, and ceremonies. The traditions tell us that the first Grandfather would make the announcement of the coming of another Holy Being, who would be represented within the symbols of the coming of the evening twilight, night, and moon.
In the Navajo traditions Haash ch’eh Yaalti’ (“First Talking Spirit”) is that Holy Being. He is represented within the symbols of the coming of the new morning dawn and the sun of a renewed reality. They brought his spiritual prayers, songs, teachings, and healing ceremonies to guide his grandchildren in living a good virtuous lifestyle—in obtaining and maintaining Hozho, or balance and harmony.
The Diné nine-night ceremonial chant mentions that this Holy Being has a house made of white dawn in the Eastern direction from where the sun rises. That is why all Navajo hogans face east, and why we have to get up early in the morning to say our morning prayers and give offerings of corn pollen or white ground corn for good blessings. Practiced throughout the Navajo Nation, this tradition is so similar to Baha’i dawn prayers:
I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God, and it becometh him that seeketh that shelter to abide within the Sanctuary of Thy protection and the Stronghold of Thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Day-Spring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of Thy favor. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 250.
In the Navajo spiritual tradition, the “Warrior Twins”—“Monster Slayer” and “Child Born of the Water”—were great spiritual teachers and warriors of our people long ago. The Warrior Twins also had brothers, named “Reared within the Earth” and “Changing Grandchild,” who were also ancient holy Twin warrior figures, who, when they appeared with Monster Slayer and Child Born of the Water, represent the four sacred mountains of Navajoland. These brothers also represent the female and male essences of their grandfathers, First Calling Spirit and First Talking Spirit—so, yes, I believe that a part of their essences have come and returned again in the advent of the Bab and Baha’u’llah, the twin prophets of the Baha’i Faith.
This return of the spirit establishes the foundation of the Baha’i “Twin Manifestations” concept, through what Navajos call Alkeeh Na Ashi’ or Naki’ Na ashi’—“The Two Who Follow One Another,” or “The Two Who Travel Together”—the Primordial Pairs. The Diné/Navajo people feel that the Warrior Twins of long ago have faded into nature and the universe to establish and verify the twin manifestations of God and/or Holy People within this day and age, who have reappeared as the Bab and Baha’u’llah. I have found that this is also much the same with in other ancient cultures.
It is through our way of being a true Diné/Navajo and practicing our indigenous way of life that I’m able to understand the Baha’i Faith, because the spirit of both methods and ways of life reflect the same qualities. These teachings are all from the Great Spirit—the Creator, Almighty God.