Mythological Girls: Changing Woman

Modern statue of Changing Woman.

Modern statue of Changing Woman.

In the traditional Navajo creation myth, Changing Woman is both Mother and the personification of the Earth. She epitomizes the cyclical paths of the seasons: Birth (Spring), Maturing (Summer), Growing (Fall), and Dying (Winter), only to be reborn again in the Spring. Changing Woman also represents the Navajo girl’s journey through puberty, motherhood, and as elders of the tribe.

First Man continually held up his medicine bundle toward Gobernador Knob at dawn. From this action, Changing Woman was born to First Man and First Woman. She matured quickly, in just four days’ time. At the time of her first menstruation a puberty rite was held to which all creatures came. This is the rite, called the Kinaald, which is still held for Navajo girls entering puberty. Dressed in white shell and molded into the most beautiful of maidens, Changing Woman was given to the Sun. Navajo girls, in their puberty rites, are allegorically made into Changing Woman and are consequently wellsprings of beauty and reproduction.

The mythological tradition of Changing Woman continues to be relevant in Navajo culture. The Changing Woman Initiative pursues to draw on cultural assets to reintroduce indigenous birth knowledge and healing through holistic approaches and community empowerment. This Initiative would start the process of developing collaborative relationships between Native American health professionals, health policy advocates, community health workers & organizations, and tribal governments to address the lack of culturally appropriate care in women’s health.

Changing Woman is a central part of the Navajo creation myth. She is a representation of both an ideal mother and of the Earth itself. Her imagery has lived on not only in Navajo cultural tradition, she has continued to maintain an important symbolic presence to the modern Navajo woman.

-Victoria Parnell
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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