Storytelling is a favorite pastime among Navajos, and this activity takes place primarily during the winter months. Our stories have lessons in them as well as entertainment. They say it is the stories that keep us, take care of us, and it's the stories that will live as long as our people live. There are certain people among us who keep the stories for us, and we can go to them if we have a need to gain insight or if we need a blessing. These stories are like a mirror for us and also tell our history.
When some of the animals go to rest or hibernate for the winter months, then we can talk about them because they cannot hear us. But the coyote - - - we can talk about him anytime; he never goes anywhere and is always here; he never leaves us, and we can never get rid of him. We are told that Coyote Is Us! All our trickery, all our double-talk, all our mischievousness, and even our playfulness, reflect back to us through Coyote. In fact, our winter stories are all about the adventures of Coyote and all the other animals with whom he interacts.
The reptiles will go underground along with the ants and prairie dogs as well as many others who will be living in the "other world" for a time. They teach us about how to go within our deeper selves to seek deeper things in life. They teach us that this world where they go exists along with ours and that we can travel there and back if we so desire.
The bear, for instance, represents the West cardinal direction or the place of the spiritual realms. The bear, the protector symbolically, is a powerful creature who does not back down from anyone. You do not want to get between the mother bear and her cubs. Like him or her, when we go within ourselves to the space where our reservoir of spirit and the will to go on are located, we seek greater power and gain our strength. If we learn to use it we will then have the power of both worlds.
We can talk about the bear (while he is away), and he will not do anything to us from this "distance". They say when you are talking about the bear you might will him to come to you, which is not a good thing. We cannot abuse the spiritual energy of the bear. He or she is too powerful for the people. There are "things" that we are told to leave alone for our own good. It is like the west is a place to go "down" like the sun, and the east is a place for rising or returning. We can tell our stories about any of the creatures that are in that place of resting. It is out of respect for them that we do not mention them in our stories and in our trivial conversations at other times. These animals will be "asleep" until after the first thunder in the springtime.