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oolj' baa hane' navajo phases of the moon
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Navajo Constellations
A description of various constellations, and their significance.

Coyote & The Setting of the Stars
The Navajo story of how First Man & First Woman tried to set the stars in the sky, & how Coyote had ruined their plans.

Navajos of the past were able to measure the months by the phases of the moon. Very few of our elders still living are still able to do this today. A very simplistic chart is shown below of the Navajo names of a few moon phases. More names exist for names between each of the phases shown. The moon itself is either called "T'honaa'" or "oolj."

The moon along with certain constellations were used to measure the coming of seasons, to signal when to plant, to harvest, when certain weather patterns were expected, and when certain ceremonies should occur. My relatives say that my great-grandfather, Dzitahnii Ray, was an expert at using the moon to tell when babies would be born. He used to be accurate to the day, dajin (they say).

The first day of the month begins with the moon phase "Dahiit", which is shown to the right, and ends with "Yi Deezh'zh", which a complete disappearance of the moon. Yi Deezh'zh literally means "traveling together." During this time (dah nth gne'), the moon is said to be visiting the sun, just as the sky visits the earth in the form of a fog. Click here to read the Navajo story of how the sun, moon, and stars were set by the Holy People.

A figure of the moon phases are shown below, followed by a table of their English translations.

 

  Moon Phase Name:     Navajo Name:     English Translation:  
  unknown     Dahiit     New Moon  
  Waxing Cresent     T'' Nbiyook     It's moving back again  
  First Quarter Moon     Hanbzji' Anbisk     It's half-way towards Full Moon  
  Waxing Gibbous     Niteel Ndlee     It's returning to it's wider state  
  Full Moon     Hanbz     Full Moon  
  Waning Gibbous     Bik'z Ndlee     It's returing to it's half state  
  Last Quarter Moon     Dahiitihji' Anbisk     It's half-way towards New Moon  
  Waning Cresent     Andiih     It's disappearing again  
  New Moon     Yi Deezh'zh     Traveling Together  

The coming and going of years is also measured by the moon. Navajo "New Year" is marked with the start of October and the year ends with September. Planting was determined by both the position of the moon, along with the appearance of certain constellations.

Note: I'd like to thank Michael Meyers for allowing me to use his moon pictures on my site. If you'd like to view his moon pics, click here to see them all in their full-sized formats.

"And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from th night, and let them be signs and tokens [of God's provident care], and [to mark] seasons, days, and years.
And let them be lights upon the earth. And it was so.
And God made the two great lights - the greater light (the sun) to rule the day and the lesser light (the moon) to rule the night. He also made the stars."

Genesis 1:14 - 16