Odyssey of the 8th Fire is the true tale
of an epic pilgrimage for the Earth
across North America

by people of all colors and faiths.

  - A creative non-fiction book in online evolution - ◊
© - 2007 by Steven McFadden

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Odyssey of the 8th Fire,
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"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind."

- Albert Einstein

Day 162 – Friday, December 1, 1995 – The weather is favoring the walkers as they proceed through New Mexico, just now striding along the roadway through El Malpais, the badlands.

El Malpais consists of infernally rugged volcanic terrain over a vast area—choppy lava flows with bad footing, spatter cones, lava tubes, pressure ridges, ice caves, lumpy outcroppings, ancient cairns, and prehistoric ruins in a high desert environment. With Turquoise Mountain (Mount Taylor) looming over it, the widespread lavaland of El Malpais is designated as a National Monument.

Our walk is entering Navajo territory now, and the people here have teachings to share, stories and understandings of how creation unfolded for them, and how El Malpais came to be as it is.

Navajo Twins - One of 144 pieces of Atomic Art created by the late New Mexico artist Tony Price from scrap metal cast off by the Los Alamos National Lab.

As held in Navajo understandings, in ancient times the people were plagued by monsters which roamed ferociously over the land. Many of the monsters lived on Tsoodsil, Turquoise Mountain, the mountain now known as Mount Taylor.

In those early days when the monsters held sway over the territory, the benificient Earth goddess known as Changing Woman gave birth to the Hero twins: Born for Water, and Monster Slayer. As they matured, the twins gained skill and wisdom from the spirits to prepare them to confront the monsters. The twins also acquired lightning and flint armor to help them in their mission.

In an epic struggle, the twins were able to overcome Ye’iitsoh, the biggest and fiercest of the monsters. As the stuggle unfolded on Tsoodsil, the earth trembled, they say, and great, fearsome roars and rumbles filled the sky. Finally, with the monster defeated, the earth became safe for the human beings again. The blood of the great monster Ye’iitsoh gushed out, and turned to lava which spread out wildly, scaldingly across the countryside and in part formed El Malpais, a place of difficult walking.

The lava fields that characterize the vast, jagged badlands of El Malpais are the dried, hardened blood of Ye’iitshoh, the monster slain by the Navajo Hero Twins.

Corn Pollen and Darkness - Rug designed and woven by Irene Benally, of the Big Mountain community. Handspun wool throw with cotton warp.


In another part of the Navajo creation story, the people were warned not to touch a yellow substance that they called ‘cledge,’ a substance now known as uranium or yellowcake. The early people were instructed to leave cledge in the ground, for digging it up it would cause it to become a monster—nayee—something which gets in the way of a successful life.

Corn pollen

The Navajo were given a choice of substances. They could choose yellow corn pollen, which is a blessing, a beauty way that enhances the positive elements of life. Or they could choose cledge (yellowcake). a heavy material substance which, if dug up, would summon a life-annihilating serpent, who would bring death and suffering into the world.

Through songs and stories, it is said, the people had a choice between the corn pollen way or the yellowcake way. The Navajo chose corn pollen, the beauty way.


Yellowcake uranium

According to Esther Yazzie-Lewis and Jim Zion, who authored an article entitled, A Navajo Cultural Interpretation of Uranium Mining,  there is an ancient Navajo tradition that people should not dig into the earth, especially not with steel tools or machines.

“How do you slay or weaken a monster?" they ask. "First, you know it…If the monster feeds on disrespect and abuses of power, use respect and group action as weapons."

Native Who Sold His Island For A Nuclear Test - One of 144 pieces of Atomic Art created by the late New Mexico artist Tony Price from scrap metal cast off by the Los Alamos National Lab.


Uranium is a metal, the heaviest naturally occurring element on Earth. It had no commercial value before the 1940s, when it was discovered that scientists could make atomic bombs with it. Only then did human beings start mining uranium for itself and not as a byproduct of something else.

All the uranium dug up from Mother Earth winds up as either a nuclear weapon or as an energy source that ultimately becomes highly radioactive waste that endures in toxic form for thousands upon thousands of years.


El Malpais - the badlands near Grants, New Mexico, the dried blood of Ye'iitsoh.

Remembering much of this as they stride along the smooth highway through El Malpais, with Tsoodsil looming to the north, the walkers prayed. They put down tobacco in the places that called out for it. They remembered the thousands upon thousands of human beings who have suffered since cledge was dug out of the Earth Mother's breast.

According to our instructions as pilgrims, the prayers included everyone and everything, no exceptions. The Sunbow walk continues through El Malpais in the direction west.


Copyright 2006 by Steven McFadden

Read Day 163 -- Odyssey of the 8th Fire

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  With thanksgiving — Steven McFadden


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Odyssey of the 8th Fire Copyright © 2006-2008 by Steven McFadden