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so' naalkaah navajo astronomy
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Phases of the Moon
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.

Sharing the Skies
This is a website that sells books, posters, flash-cards, and audio tapes/CDs on Navajo Astronomy. The information is provided and maintained by the Indigenous Education Institute (IEI) of Bluff Utah and the World Hope Foundation (WHF), with modern space information provided by NASA.

The word for constellations in Navajo is "So' Dine'é" or "Star People." As with Greek astronomy, certain star configurations represent images that have associated stories & meanings attached to them. Shown below is a brief description of a few constellations along with their meaning.

Some constellations are associated with figures in the Navajo String Game. Below is a video of my grandmother, Margaret Ray Bochinclonny, telling the story of Coyote setting the stars in the sky and showing some of the constellations associated with the string game.


Náhookos Bika'ii (Northern Male)
This figure is synonymous with the "Big Dipper" in its location in the sky. In the Navajo mindset, Náhookos Bika'ii is a man lying down on one his side. He represents the father & protector of the home.
Náhookos Bi'áadii (Northern Female)
This figure is synonymous with the Greek constellation "Cassiopeia" in its location in the sky. In the Navajo mindset, Náhookos Bi'áadii is a woman also lying on her side. She represents the mother of the home. This figure is also a figure in the "string-game."
Náhookos Biko' (Northern Fire)
This is the "North Star", surrounded by 4 other stars. Náhookos Biko' represents the fire in the center of the hogan (home), around which Náhookos Bika'ii & Náhookos Bi'áadii circle around. Together, all three constellations represent the family. This constellation is also a figure in the "string-game."
Hastiin Sik'ai'í (Squatting Man)
This figure is located among"Corvus", the stars of "Hydra," & the "Spica of Virgo." in its location in the sky. This constellation is better translated, "The Man With His Legs Spread Apart." Hastiin Sik'ai'í is a leader in the sky, which is depicted in that three other constellations follow his trail in the sky; Átse Etsoh (First Great One), Átse Ats'oosí (First Slender One), & Dilyehe (Planting Stars). This constellation is also a figure in the "string-game."
Átse Etsoh (First Great One)
This figure extends into several Greek constellations. It is situated near "Sagittarius" & "Libra." The star known as "Anteres," a star wtihin the constellation of "Scorpius," forms the heart of Átse Etsoh. Holding a cane in his hand, Átse Etsoh represents the elders. He represents the concept of "Sá'áh Naagháii Bik'éh Hózhóón," the concept that "with old age comes happiness or contentment." Though today's generation focuses on remaining young, the mindset of the elders back in the day focused on becoming an elder & gaining the wisdom & respect that came with it.
Átse Ats'oosí (First Slender One)
This figure is synonymous with the constellation "Orion" in its location in the sky. Átse Ats'oosí represents protection, as it is depicted in the sky as it moves ahead of the children that make up the constellation Dilyéhé, protecting them.
Dilyéhé (The Planters)
This figure is synonymous with the constellation "Pleiades" in its location in the sky. It is said that when some of the Holy People were coming to this world by a rainbow, these were children that were too busy playing & got left in the sky. These children represent youth. When this constellation appears over the morning horizon, it indicates it is time to plant. This constellation is also a figure in the "string-game."

This is called the "Planting Stars" because it determines when it is the proper time to plant crops. Once it is seen early in the morning, planting must stop or the crops will not be ripe by harvest.

Gah Haat'e'ii (Rabbit Tracks)
This constellation, which is part of the tail of "Scorpius", was used by hunters long ago go determine when the traditional hunting season would begin. When this constellation remained in one place, deer was not hunted because their young still still depend on their mothers for nourishment. Only until the star tips to the east did the hunting season "truly" begin.
  Yikáísídáhí (It Waits For Dawn)
This figure is synonymous with the "Milky Way" in its location in the sky. It represents tádídíín (corn pollen) that is sprinked when traditional Navajos pray in the morning. Ásdzáá Nádleehí (Changing Woman) showed the Navajos how to spread out tádídíín before themselves when they prayed, which remained in the sky as a remembrance. This constellation is also a figure in the "string-game," known as "Many Stars."

Some people call the Milky Way "eesis," which describes a belt buried in the ground.

  So' Tsoh (Coyote Star)
This literally translates to "Big Star," & is equivalent to the "Morning Star" seen very early in the morning. This constellation is also a figure in the "string-game," known as "So' Tsoh."

Some people call the Coyote Star "So' Doo Nídízíidii," which means "the star without a month" because it doesn't come in regular monthly star patterns. Others just call this star "Ma'ii Bizo'," which means "Coyote's Star."

Other lesser constellations:

  Navajo Name:     Translation:     Equivalent:  
  So' Ahóóts'i'í     Pinched Stars     Aldebaran  
  So' Bitsee' Nineezí     Star With A Long Tail     Halley's Comet  
  So' Hidilyeed     Stars Running After Another     Falling Stars  
  So' Nnalts'id     Falling Star     Falling Stars  
  So' Nídiilwod     Speeding Star     Falling Stars  


This information is both from my grandmother Margaret Ray Bochinclonny, & largely from Mike Mitchell, a Navajo Astronomy Teacher of the Chinle Unified School District.

"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