Gestation myths are typical of the Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache tribes of the southwestern United States. The earth is though of as a primal womb; the underground mountain suggests pregnancy; the twelve-step ladders correspond to the birth canal.
In the beginning nothing was here where the world now stands; there was no ground, not earth–nothing but Darkness, Water, and Cyclone. There were no people living. Only the Hactcin existed. It was a lonely place. There were no fishes, no living things.
All the Hactcin were here from the beginning. They had the material out of which everything was created. They made the world first, the earth, the underworld, and then they made the sky. They made Earth in the form of a living woman and called her Mother. They made the sky in the form of a man and called him Father. He faces downward, and the woman faces up. He is our father and the woman is our mother.
In the beginning there were all kinds of Hactcin living in the underworld, in the place from which the emergence started. The mountains had a Hactcin, the different kinds of fruit each had one, everything had a Hactcin.
It was then that the Jicarilla Apache dwelt under the earth. Where they were there was no light, nothing but darkness. Everything was perfectly spiritual and holy, just like a Hactcin…
Then those four, White Hactcin, Black Hactcin, Holy Boy, and Red Boy, brought sand. It was sand of four colors. They brought pollen from all kinds of trees. . . They leveled off a place so they could work with the sand. They smoothed down the place with eagle feathers.
They had earth of four colors there too: black, blue, yellow, and glittering.
First they laid the sand down evenly. Then they made four little mounds of earth with the dirt. In each one they put some seeds and fruits. . . The mounds of earth were in a row extending from east to west. The first one was the one of black earth, next the one of blue earth, then the one of yellow earth, and last the one of glittering earth.
Before the mountain started to grow, the Holy Ones took a black clay bowl and filled it with water. They did this because water was needed to make the mountain grow. How could it grow that tall without water? When they did this there was still no single tall mountain there. But they put the clay bowl of water there and then added all the things. . . and the mountain began to grow. . .
Then the two Hactcin and Holy Boy and Red Boy started to sing. They sang and sang and after a while all the fruit began to grow in these piles of earth. . .
Every time the mountain grew there was a noise . . . All the four mounds of earth, as they grew, merged and became one mountain. . .
All those who were present helped. They all worked to make the mountain grow. It was getting larger. The people wanted to travel on it. The mountain had much fruit on it now. There were cottonwood and aspen trees on it and streams of water flowed from it too. It was very rich in everything. Yucca fruit and all other fruits were growing on it by this time, all kinds of berries and cherries. . .
Now all the people came together. . .and sang, and the mountain began to grow again. It grew just a little higher. It grew four times and then it wouldn’t rise any more.
The four Holy Ones went up the mountain. . . They saw that the top of the mountain was still a little way from the sky and from the hole through which they could see the other earth. So they all held a council to decide what they would do next.
They sent up Fly and Spider. The spider put his web all around, and the fly and the spider went up on it. That is why in February or March, when the first warm weather starts the flies appear, they come on the sunbeams, which stand for the spider’s web. You will see the sun’s ray come through the window and the fly will come in on it, right into the house.
Those two went up where the sun was. They took four rays of each sun, each of a different color, and pulled on them as if they were ropes. They pulled them down to the mountaintop. The ropes came down, black, blue, yellow and glittering, one on each corner of the opening. From these rays of the sun the four Holy Ones made a ladder. Out of the same material they made twelve steps and placed them across. . .
Ancestral Man was the first of the people to ascend. Ancestral Woman followed and was the first woman to emerge. Both walked up with age sticks in their hands. They were dressed as White-Shell woman and Child-of-the-Water dress for the girl’s puberty ceremony now. The other people followed. The men were to the east, the women to the west, and the children to the north and south.
After the people the animals came.
The people emerged from a hole in a mountain. At that time this was the only mountain on the earth, besides Flint Mountain to the east. The other mountains grew up later. . . Some say that the emergence of mountains lies north of Durango, Colorado. Others say it is near Alamosa, Colorado. It was called Big Mountain.
Sky is our father, and Earth is our mother. They are husband and wife, and they watch over us and take care of us. The earth gives us our food; all the fruits and plants come from the earth. Sky gives us the rain, and when we need water we pray to him. The earth is our mother. We came from her. When we came up on this earth, it was just like a child being born from it’s mother. The place of emergence is the womb of the earth.