Little Orphan Anaye

While not related to the winter holidays, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the Anaye, monstrous beings from Navajo mythology born through the use of sex toys. Admittedly, that’s not the only origin story. Some legends say they were born from the sexual union of the sun god and the spider goddess Naste Estsan.

At least, their leader Yeitso was, and then he fathered the rest with his own mother. Yeitso’s thing was that he would make the land into desert by drinking entire lakes.

Picture by Pushko
The more common explanation, however, is that there was a time when men and women separated from each other over an argument over which gender needed the other more, and the woman began pleasuring themselves with whatever objects they could find. Somehow, these objects made them pregnant with monsters. An antler used as a masturbation aid resulted in a woman giving birth to an enormous carnivorous antelope known as the Teelget, which was sometimes said to devour rain clouds and hence cause drought.

Picture by Flying Fox
Use of a pile of feathers resulted in the Tsenahale, feathered bird-creatures that also ate people, except the male only ate men and the female only women.

Picture by Sandra Duchiewicz
I think their mother was confused about how feathers are generally used for stimulation. And a cactus of all things was the father of the Binaye Ahani, twins with no limbs that killed their prey by shooting lightning from their eyes.

Picture by Lorenzo Angel Bonilla
The Tsetahotsiltali, or Cliff-Dweller, used his hair to anchor himself to cliffs, and kicked people down the sides when they tried to climb. And the Theelgeth was a hairy creature with no head. Others I’ve seen mentioned include a two-faced giant who rode a huge cougar and a water serpent that could turn into a rock and fling itself at enemies. These monsters terrorized the land for some time, until the hero Nayanezgani and his twin brother Thobadzistshini sought out the help of their father, the sun-bearer Tsohanoai, in slaying these scourges. Tsohanoai tested them by throwing them onto spikes, locking them in an overheated sweat lodge, and offering them poisoned tobacco; but they passed all the tests with some help from the spider goddess and a caterpillar. The sun-bearer then gave his sons a bow with a quiver of lightning arrows and a knife made of petrified sunlight.


A gopher aided the brothers in killing the Teelget by digging a series of tunnels leading right to the animal’s heart, allowing Nayanezgani to sneak in and shoot an arrow at the monster. The gopher then began wearing the Teelget’s furry skin. Nayanezgani took a bag full of Teelget’s blood to combat the Tsenahale, using it to trick the bird-monsters into thinking they had killed him. He then hid in their nest and killed first their babies and then their parents, somehow turning them into more peaceful birds. He threw salt in the fire in the Binaye Ahani’s hut, blinding them and leaving them vulnerable. Cutting the Tsetahotsiltali’s hair made it fall to the ground where it was eaten by its own offspring. The brothers gradually hacked the scales off the serpent. Yeitso was protected by armor that made him invulnerable to the brothers’ attacks, but Tsohanoai managed to knock off his armor, allowing the twins to behead him. He could have been revived if the blood from his body had reached his head, but Thobadzistshini cut pits in the ground with his knife to stop the flow. There are some other stories along the same lines, but it’s said that the twins left four Anaye alive: the spirits of Famine, Old Age, Cold, and Poverty. The gods were convinced that mankind would take life for granted if at least some bad things didn’t exist.

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