Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé (Changing Woman)

Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) comes closest to being the personification of the earth (nahasdzáán) and of the natural order of the universe (yádiłhił bii bił hazánígíí) as to any other brief way of describing her. She represents the cyclical path of the seasons (ahéé ahaagoh níłchi ąą ánáánííł – literally:   through circular time as in a year, air changes):

only to be reborn again in the spring (daan).

The birth of Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) was planned by First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) and First Woman (Áłtsé Asdzáán). First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) repeatedly held up his medicine bundle (jish) toward Gobernador Knob (Chóolį́) at dawn (ayííłką́ – to dawn (the day of the event)). Somehow from this action, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) was born and found lying on top of Gobernador Knob (Chóolį́). She was found by Talking God (Haashchééłti) who was sent to investigate. First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) then presented her to the Diyinii (the one(s) who are holy, Diyin Dine), saying that you could see that this is the child of the young man and young woman of exceeding beauty who themselves had arisen from the same medicine bundle (jish) to become the inner form of the earth.1

First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) raised and taught Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé). She grew from infancy to puberty in four days, thus acquiring the name Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé). This event brought about the first puberty ceremony. The Holy People (Diyin Dine) were called for and Talking God (Haashchééłti) officiated at the ceremony. Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) was dressed in jewels:   white shell (yoołgai), turquoise (dootłizhii), abalone shell (diichiłí), jet mineral (bááshzhinii), and blessed with pollen (tádidíín) from dawn (ayííłką́) to twilight (nahootsoii), and with "pollen" from many jewels and soft fabrics, symbolizing her control over these articles. After this blessing, her hair was bathed with dews (dahtoo) and she was instructed to run towards the dawn (haidinilkááh – to start to dawn) as far as she could see and then to return. As she ran, her dress of jewels jingled. She repeated this for four nights. On these days, when not involved in ceremonies, she occupied herself with planning for the future of the earth (nahasdzáán). By the end of the ceremony, she had made millstones (lower millstone – tsédaashjéé, and upper millstone – tsédaashchíní), a whisk broom (éé bee yilzhóhí), pots (ásaa) and stirring sticks (ádístsiin). The songs that were sung for Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) as she ran are sung today for young women at their Puberty Ceremony (Kinaaldá).

At Changing Woman's (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) next menstration, another Puberty Ceremony (Kinaaldá) was held, similar to the first, but at this ceremony, other procedures for the future were defined. The Holy People (Diyin Dine) decreed that no menstruating woman shall be present at any ceremonial. The order of songs at future Blessingway ceremonies (Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí) was thus determined.

After this ceremony, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) would go outside and walk on the trail which had been prepared for her. One day at noon, a strange young man walked up to her and spoke to her. He said, "Prepare yourself for something that is going to happen, for after a while, I will visit you." This stranger was so dazzling that Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) had to look away. When she turned back, he was gone. She returned home and reported this encounter to First Woman (Áłtsé Asdzą́ą́) and First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin). It seems that First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) was expecting this occurence, which happened twice again. On the third time, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) was told to fix her bed outside, with her head to the East. When she fell asleep, the strange man came and laid beside her. This happened again and she asked who he was. He replied, "Don't you know me? Didn't you ever see me? Don't you know that you see me all the time? It is I that takes care of all things, whatever there is on Earth. I am the Sun (Jóhonaaéí). In my very presence you came into being, in my presence you were put into shape, even I was among them!" He then indicated that First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) had directed him to do this. The next day, she decided to bathe because this dazzling young man might visit her again. While bathing, the young man appeared again, and with the collaboration of the dripping water, impregnated Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé). In nine days, twin boys were born to Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé). These twins were to become Monster Slayer (Naayéé Neizghání) and Born for Water (Tóbájíshchíní). These two also grew in four day periods and in twelve days they were grown young men.

At this point, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) asked for and received the medicine bundle (jish) that First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) had brought up from the previous underworlds. She moved into a home (hooghan) that was built for her at the base of Huerfano Mesa (Dził Náoodiłii). Here she conducted the first wedding ceremony, the mating of corn (naadą́ą́). After this ceremony, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) leaves for the home (hooghan) that her sons had built for her, at the direction of their father, the Sun (Jóhonaaéí), in the west, at or on the Pacific Ocean. Here Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) grew lonely and created the four original clans:

of the Navajo People (Diné) from skin rubbed off various parts of her body. The four pairs of people, representing the four original clans, created at this time, are the ancestors of all Navajo (Diné) today.

Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) also caused the abduction of the two children of Rock Crystal Talking God (Haashchééłtií Tséghádińdínii). They were taken to her home (hooghan) in the west by way of a rainbow (náátsíílid) and a sunbeam (shá bitłóól). Here they were taught the Blessingway Ceremony (Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí). They returned home to teach the ceremony to all of their people. The Diyinii (the one(s) who are holy, Diyin Dinee’) all gathered to learn the ceremony and to construct the original Mountain Soil bundle, containing soil from each of the sacred mountains (dził da diyinigii, sacred mountain – dził da diyin), with which the ceremony is still conducted. The Holy People (Diyin Dine) then said that after their departure from this ceremony, they would never be seen in person again but that their presence would be manifested in the sound of the wind (níyol), the downy feathers (atsos) of an eagle (atsá), in various birds (tsídii), the growth of the corn (naadą́ą́) and other aspects of the world surrounding the Earth Surface People (Nihookáá Dine). The two children who had been taught the Blessingway Ceremony (Hózhǫ́ǫ́jí) then departed to live with the Holy People (Diyin Dine).

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  1. The parentage of Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) is described in several different ways by different informants; however, these can be thought of as just different ways of saying the same thing. Some say that Changing Woman's (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) father and mother are the Sky and the Earth. Others say her parents are saa naghái ashkii (boy) and bike hózhǫ́ atééd (girl) as in this version. However the Sky is sometimes referred to as saa naghái and the Earth as bike hózhǫ́. In either case, Changing Woman (Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé) is Earth's child, the child of the Sky and the child of the mountain. And she was planned for by First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin) and First Woman (Áłtsé Asdzą́ą́) and called forth by First Man (Áłtsé Hastiin). She is also their child.

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URL: /Changing_Woman.cfm
Creator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Dated Created: 12/05/2011
Version: 2.0
Updated: 05/17/2014
Curator(s): Harrison Lapahie Jr.
Resource(s): Blessingway by Leland C. Wyman, Navajo Blessingway Singer - The Autobiography of Frank Mitchell edited by Charlotte J. Frisbie and David P. McAllester, The Main Stalk - A Synthesis of Navajo Philosophy by John R. Farella
Questions/Comments: Harrison Lapahie Jr.

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