I've always loved the various Dineh accounts of a deity named Changing Woman. According to one creation story, the Navajo people are birthed when Changing Woman, the sacred presence who indwells the Earth, is massaged either by the Holy People (Yeis) or by her own hands. As the story goes, Changing Woman was married to the Sun, but she lived in the West and only saw him each day at sunset. She felt lonely and wanted more consistent companionship. Soon her breasts, hips and abdomen swelled, and she realized that she would give birth to some companions.
In one version of the story, the Holy People come and lay her down with her head pointing west. They massage and rub her beautiful body into perfection. By their rubbing and massaging of the skin of her breasts, back and underarms, the Holy People enable Changing Woman to create the Navajo clans from this skin (see Leeming and Page, "Goddess").
In another version of the story, Changing Woman - in her White Bead Woman form - does the caressing herself. Here, she takes a white bead stone and grinds it to powder. She puts this powder on her breasts and between her shoulders, over her chest and on her back; and when this powder becomes moist she rubs it off her body and rolls it between her fingers and on the palm of her hand. From time to time a little ball drops to the ground. She then wraps these little balls in black clouds. They arise as people.
(M. Schwarz, "Molded in the Image of Changing Woman.")
I love the sense I receive from this tradition that the creation occurs by means of a sacred caress. In fact, I regularly imagine elements of this story as I move throughout the day, feeling each perception, emotion and event as a series of fingers moving within the softness of my heart. I then envision them as a participation in the self-caress of the Sacred Feminine, a kind of massage that runs across, between and among all things, tying them all together into a single, multi-faceted Whole.
Photos: Bisti De-Na-Zin Badlands, NM (May 30, 2016), and an artist's rendering of Changing Woman.
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.