CHAPTER IV. THE NAVAHO (Continued).


Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER III. THE NAVAHO. Next: CHAPTER V. THE HAVASUPAI.


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Theory of Origin of Man — Man-eaters or Monsters — Slayers of the Enemies or Monsters—Woman Who Becomes a Bear —The Flood — The Chants — The War Dance—The Girls' Dance—Blackening of the Patient — Public Exhibitions or Dances—Mountain Chant—Origin of — Fire Play.

William E. Curtis, in “Children of the Sun,” 1883, tells of the Navaho theory of the origin of man, as follows:

“The Navajos, a mighty tribe which inhabits the country between the Zunis and Moquis, and around them both, have their own novel theory of the origin of man. It goes that in the beginning all men lived in the center of the earth. One day a Navajo accidentally touched the top of the cave and heard a hollow sound, which awakened their curiosity and tempted them to dig through the ground. After digging some distance they found they were nearing the top, and they sent a raccoon up as a pioneer. He failed to make any progress, and, coming down discouraged, an earth worm was put in his place. He bored a hole through the earth into the air, and sat down to rest awhile, when he discovered four great swans at the four cardinal points, each bearing an arrow under its wing. The swan from the north first rushed upon him, and


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having thrust his arrow through the body of the worm, retired. This was repeated by the other three. The worm being frightened, went back into his hole with the arrows still through his body. This made the hole large enough for the raccoon to climb up, and after him followed the men. At that time there was no heaven, neither were there sun, moon nor stars. It was determined that these were essential to the comfort and convenience of the Navajos, so a council of old and wise men was called to manufacture them. When the sun was finished it was placed in position on the top of a rock, and the priests puffed smoke in its face. It commenced to rise, and they kept blowing until it reached its present position.”

Continuing from “An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language”:

THE MAN-EATERS OR MONSTERS.

“The manner in which the sun and moonbearers carry out their threat of taking a human life on every journey of theirs is shown by the introduction of man-eating monsters. Similar monsters are said to exist in the Pueblo legends, since they flourished when both tribes were united.

“The big yei, was the son of the Sun. He slew his victims with various knives, which he thrust at them. The young of the water monster is described as a plump, but fleet, quadruped, having two horns on its snout. The monster crane, which dwelt on the cliffs of the winged rock, or Shiprock, was made by the Sun from a white eagle and white thunder. The


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wandering stone was an offspring of one of the water monsters of the lower world. The three last mentioned monsters were the pets of the sun, who lowered them, together with his son on the summit of Mount Taylor. The son of the Sun made this his abode, while the others sought another vantage ground.

“The pricking vagina was formed by the sun and moon out of the marrow of human bones. She is the parent of the following monsters, giving birth to them by coition with various animate and inanimate objects: The one who kicks from the cliff, and the greyish giant, she conceived by a heap of stones. Those who killed by the charm of their eyes, she conceived by the big dark star. The overwhelming vagina, who crushed their victims with this organ, she conceived of the cane cactus. The cliffs which crushed together, she bore by combined dark boulders. The tracking bear, was her offspring by the mountain. In a similar manner she brought forth: The twelve antelopes, by plants; the slicing reeds, by reeds; the impassable crevice, by fireclay; the whirlwind of sand by the rainbow; and, finally, the impassable snake.

“As the names imply, most of these monsters pursued their victims to death; all, however, were bent on the destruction of mankind to gratify the sun and the moon.

“In addition, many evils are personified, as: Starvation, hunger, poverty, lousiness, filthiness, (some mention cleanliness as a necessity); old age, decrepitude; sleepiness; drowsiness; the big gray god, and the beetle; the water ox and the water horse.


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“The monsters usually figure in witchcraft, and are native enemies in distinction from foreign or human enemies

THE SLAYERS OF THE ENEMIES OR MONSTERS.

“The mother of the Slayers of Enemies is the child of the Sky and Earth. The nubile ceremony was not performed over her. She was impregnated, however, by the adulterous Sun, and also conceived of the trickling water of a fall. She gave birth to two children, the child of the Sun being called the Slayer of the Giants (monsters), while the other was called the Child of Water. When they discovered their descent in early youth, the children journeyed to the sun in order to enlist the aid of their father in ridding the earth of its monsters. Though the petition included his own offspring, the Big yei, the Sun granted it. In turn Slayer of Enemies slays all the monsters, and thus obtained his name.

“Both divinities occur in many of the legends. The Slayer of monsters is invoked as ‘the one who cuts.’ The Water Child is invoked as ‘he who renews everything,’ or, ‘he who is versed in all things.’

THE WOMAN WHO BECOMES A BEAR.

“The holy girl previously referred to, and described as the mother of the bearers of the sun and moon, is again introduced as the tingling maiden, or the maiden who makes a noise. Her brothers, twelve in number, are great hunters. Eventually she married the coyote, who, in turn,


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is slain by some of the neighbors. The coyote had taught her how she might change her form into that of a bear, and in this disguise she slays her brothers, with the exception of the youngest, who slays her. The members of her body, which he scatters in the four directions, are changed into bears of various kinds.

THE FLOOD.

“A flood, destroying all the animals and inhabitants of the earth, is attributed to the sun. The Slayer of the Monsters and his brother, again journey to the sun in quest of riches which their father had promised. He grants them on condition that they slay all the inhabitants on the earth for him. Which condition they finally agree to. The sun then causes it to hail and rain for twelve days and nights, so that the waters covered the highest peaks. The Holy People, however, had hurriedly carried many of the inhabitants of the earth to a place of safety, and their descendants now people the earth. The waters were removed by the heat of the sun, but the traces of that flood are yet visible throughout the Navaho country.

THE CHANTS.

“The origin of Navaho chants is more or less a subject of conjecture and uncertainty, though the native theory is by no means favorable to their foreign origin. But leaving the question of origin aside, the subject of Navaho chants is, we believe, sufficiently intricate and varied to be of absorbing interest to the lover of folklore, as it is practically virgin soil, offering unlimited


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possibilities. Wonderful results have indeed been achieved by such eminent students as Dr. W. Matthews, U. S. A., and A. M. Stephen, whose published and unpublished works have been of valued assistance. Yet a glance at the subjoined list of chants should suggest that comparatively little has as yet been achieved by way of offering a comprehensive study of Navaho mythology which, in reality, forms the basis and ritual for the chants, since the origin and motive of each chant is based upon its own peculiar legend. And it must be a cause for regret that very few of the singers now living in the tribe are conversant with the chant legends, and, as a matter of record, are very indifferent to acquire such information. In consequence, many of the chants are becoming extinct, and the singers conversant with legends, songs and prayers are fast disappearing without a possibility of filling such vacancies. It is also well established that much singing and exorcising are continuously practiced by a class of inferior and ignorant apprentices, whom the Navaho designate as azaoniligi, who offer a mouthful, implying that they make a few prayersticks accompanied by a song or two. Then, too, much of this material is subject for dispute, especially among that set of singers who fabricate legends to suit their own pretensions. Hence, the extinction of the existing and more difficult chants is conceded as inevitable by the remnant of conservative and studious members of the chant lodges, for want of proper pupils. Efforts are consequently being made to obtain a complete account of the various legends with a view of supplementing those already existing,


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such as the night and mountain chants, by Dr. Matthews.

“The various chants may properly be divided into such as do not deal directly with the yei, or Gods, and such as originated with and from the Gods.

“Among the first class, or earlier chants, the ‘moving upward,’ forms the basis for the others, as its beginning is with the lower worlds, continuing with the emergence from them up to the time of the creation and dispersion of the Gods. The order of the chants would be about as follows:

“The ‘moving upward,’ a chant which in its various forms is still largely in demand. It is often designated as the ceremony for dispelling witchcraft.

“The chant ‘for dispelling foreign enemies,’ more popularly known as ‘the war dance.’ “The rite of the godmen, which was extensively in demand on raids and in war, though at present rarely in use.

“The rite for dispelling monsters. This is also referred to as ‘the blackening against witches or native enemies,’ in distinction to ‘the blackening against foreign enemies,’ as the Utes, Comanches, Americans, and the like. The two are war dances, though ‘the blackening against foreign enemies,’ is ordinarily meant when speaking of a war dance. As both are branches of the ‘moving upward,’ and the monsters figure largely in this rite, the designation ‘native enemies,’ is not far fetched.

“The ‘renewal’ and ‘rite of benediction,’ is essential to every Navaho chant. Accordingly,


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the nine night ceremonies set one night aside for this blessing, which is referred to as the vigil, while the five and one night ceremonies subsequently require a special set of songs for their completion. Outside of its connection with the chants, it appears as a one night ceremony of blessing upon the hogan, the members of the family, their chattel and real estate, their crops and occupations, such as weaving and singing, their propensities to greed, at the nubile ceremony, or the birth of a child, the dedication of a new set of masks, for the purification of the ceremonial paraphernalia, in fact, for almost any phase of domestic life.

“The rite for dispelling the darts of the males, such as lightning, reptiles, and the like.

“The ‘owl chant,’ which is not in vogue.

“The ‘hail chant,’ is also extinct.

“The ‘big star chant,’ is still in vogue.

“The Navaho ‘wind chant,’ is much in use. The winds are personified and injurious.

“The ‘coyote chant,’ is disappearing. The rite for the removal of mania and prostitution, which is part of it, is still in vogue.

“The ‘feather chant,’ is sometimes in demand. The requisites, however, in the shape of numerous baskets, buckskins, and the like treasure, as well as the great amount of labor entailed in the preparation of numerous prayersticks, do not add to its popularity.

“The ‘water chant,’ is not mentioned frequently.

“The ‘corral rite,’ for corralling antelope and deer, was largely in use at the chase at large, which has subsided at present.


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“The female branch of the ‘lightning chant,’ is still in vogue.

“The rite for trapping eagle, the ‘Eagle or bead chant,’ is also in demand.

“The other chants, which begin after those just mentioned (or, rather, after the emergence), are usually designated as ‘the happenings of the Holy Ones,’ as they relate largely to the yei, or Gods.

“The ‘branch mountain chant of the maiden becoming a bear,’ (the mountain chant of Dr. Matthews). This, with the chant of beauty (relating the metamorphoses of the bear and copperhead, by which they inveigle two beautiful maidens into marriage with them), are designated as chants of the same legendary branch, which finally meet again.

“The ‘night chant branch.’

“The ‘branch of the claw dance.’

“The ‘feather shaft dance,’ which is often designated as the ‘knife chant,’ or ‘life chant.’

“The ‘branch of the mountain chant of those sending forth darts.’

“The ‘bead’ or ‘eagle chant of the rock promontory.’ This is the bead chant partly described in the Legends of Dr. Matthews, while the bead chant mentioned above, begins with the monster eagle of Shiprock.

“The ‘one day song,’ which is so called from the legend in which a person is slain by a bear and revived in one day. This is extinct.

“In addition to these, the ‘red ant chant,’ and the ‘big god chant,’ are much in vogue. The latter is often designated as the ‘tooth-gum wind chant.’


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“In addition to the three branches mentioned for the Lightning chant, the mountain chant, too, has several variants. Ordinarily, the male mountain chant, is meant when speaking of the mountain chant as such. There exist, also, a female mountain chant, and another variant designated as the mountain chant to the small birds.

“Divination, as preparatory to various chants, is also practiced in one form or another. Divination by sight, or star reading, consults the stars and such animals whose sight is very marked, as that of the turkey, or magpie. Divination by touch consults the winds and such animals whose sense of hearing is highly developed, as that of the wolf, or felines in general.

“Of the chants in existence, some are conducted for nine nights, others for five, and a few for one night only. Thus the night chant, the mountain chant, the wind chant, the coyote chant or the feather chant, the water chant, the big god chant, and the lightning chant, are nine night ceremonies.

“The Bead, or eagle chant, and the wind chants, and rites of divination, as the big star, and by touch, as well as the prostitutes' chant, are also conducted for five nights, while the witchcraft chant is now always conducted for five nights only, though formerly nine nights were required. Similarly, the red ant chant, and the beauty chant, are five night ceremonies.

“The blessing, is now a one night ceremony, though originally of four nights duration. The knife or feather-shaft chant, and the Chiricahua wind chant, too, are of one night's duration.


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“The list, while fairly comprehensive, may possibly be increased by some extinct chants, such as the earth chant, and others.

THE WAR DANCE.

“The so-called war dance, extensively in vogue with the Navaho to-day, originated with the mother of the Slayer of Monsters and the Child of Water. For, it is said, when they had slain the monster, the sun of the Son, they carried his scalp as a trophy and hung it on a tree previous to reporting it to their mother. While relating to her of the encounter with the monster, they swooned and lay unconscious, whereupon, it is said, their mother prepared a concoction from herbs struck by lightning, sprinkled them with it, and shot a spruce and pine arrow over their bodies, thus reviving them.

“Accordingly, to-day, this ceremony is conducted in cases of swooning, or weakness and indisposition attributed to the sight of blood, or of a violent death of man or beast, especially if this has occurred to a pregnant woman, or even to a husband or father during the period of her pregnancy. While no special season seems to be prescribed, the ceremony is most frequently conducted in the summer and fall of the year. The singers performing it are known as the anaji, enemy, or war singers, as in addition to this ceremony they were also in possession of all the rites prescribed for the warpath and raids.

“The special features of the war dance are the carrying of the rattlestick, the dance of the Navaho girls, and the blackening of the patient.


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“The rattle consists of a jumper stick about a yard long, or the length of a cord held at arm's length from the tip of the left hand to the right nipple. This stick is held upright in the left hand, the fist resting on the knee, while with the finger-nail of the right thumb incisions are made in zigzag form to represent a bow. As custom varies, some of the old people supervising this function insist that the opening of the bow, or the end where the bowstring is slipped over the notch, be made at the upper right hand corner, while others require the opening in the opposite, or lower right hand corner. Similarly, the incision made on the rear of the stick, to represent the queue, varies with the opening made for the bow. Such as make the opening of the bow in the upper right hand corner make that of the queue in the lower left hand corner, while the opening in the lower right hand corner of the bow requires a similar opening in the upper left hand corner of the queue.

“This done, the singer applies a mixture of animal tissue to the stick and blackens it with the ashes of burnt weeds. He then places a bundle of weeds at the point of the stick, together with a yellow tail feather of a turkey. He crosses the base of the bundle with two eagle feathers, and adds a buckskin thong previously spliced in four and knotted with the small toes of deer, to dangle at its side. The whole is then wrapped and secured to the stick with sacred buckskin. Neighbors and friends then trim the stick with hair cords, which at present take the form of vari-colored calico bands. These are tied to the stick between the bundle of weeds and


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the grip, in which manner it is carried forth by the patient to a place usually some ten and more miles distant, where the ceremony is continued. In some instances the scalp of a slain American, Mexican, Ute or Comanche is substituted for the bundle of weeds, though at present such scalps are in possession of very few persons.

THE GIRLS' DANCE.

“The carrying of the rattlestick from one locality to another is always participated in by a throng of interested visitors, and usually proceeds in a frantic rush. Arriving at its destination the hair cords are removed from the shaft and distributed among the residents of that locality, who anxiously apply for them, and frequently weave them into saddle blankets and small rugs.

“Toward evening an ordinary cooking pot is converted into a drum by throwing a few pebbles into it and covering the top with a piece of goat or buckskin, which is secured around the rim with a cord or thong. This improvised drum is continuously beaten with a small stick while the maidens select a partner from the throng of visitors to dance with. Married women are excluded from this dance, though it is permissible to select a partner from among the married men. Frequently young men pay for the exclusive privilege of dancing with a sweetheart or favorite on each of the three nights.

“The dancers perform in a circle, though no special order is prescribed. Each maiden, standing behind her partner, grasps his side and completes a circle or two with him, reversing


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the circle occasionally to avoid dizziness. As all participants hum and sing while in action, the whole ceremony has been popularly designated by this feature as ‘they all hum moving.’ After completing these motions several times, the girl releases her partner and, unless otherwise stipulated, charges a fee of five to twenty-five cents for the privilege granted, or an equal amount for the privilege of being released. The dance is continued until about midnight, when the party disperses to retire.

“On the following morning the rattle is again carried to some other distant place and is borne, not by the patient, but by one acquainted with the prayers required for its final deposit, who, thereafter, takes charge of the rattle until the close of the ceremony. In the evening of the day, the girls' dance is repeated as on the preceding night, and is in turn followed on the third morning by the bearing of the rattle to the place selected for the close of the ceremony. Here the patient is blackened about noon.

THE BLACKENING OF THE PATIENT.

“At noon of the third day the body of the patient is painted black. Juniper branches, with yarrow, meadow rue, and pine needles, are previously pulverized, then thrown into a bowl of water, and stirred. One of the assistants now takes a dab of this mixture between his fingers and applies it in turn against the soles, the knees, legs, chest, back, shoulders, mouth and head of the patient, who then sips of the mixture before bathing his whole body with it. Thereupon the assistant chews some pennyroyal and foxtail


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grass, and, holding his hands to the sun, sputters the liquid over them. He then proceeds to press the body of the patient, who is seated, turning it first one way, then another, and repeating this four times. This done his body is rubbed with sheep tallow and the usual mixture of animal tissues, after which the ashes of the above mentioned burnt weeds are spread over the entire body, while the patient's face is painted red with a mixture of red clay and grease, with stripes of black drawn across the cheeks and the entire chin. He is now made to step, or rather rest his feet, in dirt dug up by a gopher, which is held in a blanket before him, putting first his left then the right foot into it. The charm, consisting of a tail feather of the roadrunner wrapped with eagle down feathers, is now tied to his hair. Wristlets too, made of braided leaves of slender yucca, are tied to his wrists, while buckskin saddle-bags, studded with white beads, (which are purchased from the Utes), serve as shoulder bands, crossing each shoulder to the hips. Finally, the bill of a crow is secured to the palm of the right hand, and is used in this manner. The patient remains rigged in these trimmings throughout the afternoon and evening, and partakes of a plain gruel, after previously saluting the sun by inhaling the sun's breath, that is, accompanying inhalation with a gesture toward the sun.

“As usual, the day and ceremony are closed with the dance of the girls, after which the singer removes the trimmings from the patient, as also that of the rattle, instructing the bearer of it to securely deposit the shaft. This he does


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amid prayer, and a secluded crevice or ledge of rock is selected for deposition.

ADDENDA.

“In addition to the above it was learned that the war dance is conducted for dispelling foreign enemies only, whether they be real or imaginary. If, accordingly, in fancy one is pursued by foreigners, such as Americans, Comanches, Utes, Pueblo Cliff-Dwellers, or others, and is indisposed on this account, he calls upon the war singers to destroy these enemies. This accounts too, for the custom of coveting a tuft of hair, a piece of a legging, a whole or the part of a scalp, a piece of bone or clothing belonging to an Apache, Ute, or other foreigner, or purchasing them when seen at a curio store. When these objects are in possession of a friend, no time or labor is spared to acquire portions of them if desired for immediate use. A journey of this kind is termed going on the war-path, and the parts of the enemy required, or designated as desirable for the rattlestick, are usually indicated by the astrologers and divinators called upon previously to trace the source of illness. If successfully obtained, the bone, hair, rag, or other trophy, is tied to the horse's tail to avoid contamination, and is hurried without delay to its destination. Otherwise, too, such trophies are held at some distance from one's person while in their transportation, being tied to a stick and placed at some distance from the camp, while at home they are hidden in some distant hidespot for future use. This is a remnant of an old war custom whereby the moist scalp was carried


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in a similar manner, and contamination, or rather, pursuit, by the spirit of the slain, avoided by means of the blackening, or war dance, held soon after a skirmish. The medicine pouches of the war singers were, therefore, frequently provided with such trophies as hair, finger-nails, and finger tips of slain enemies, or the collarbone of the enemy, for the purpose of conducting their war rites.

“At present the trophy is inserted with the bundle of weeds, and on the final day of the ceremony, when the blackening of the patient has taken place, it is carried out some distance from the place of final gathering and deposited upon the ground by the singer. The throng surrounds the trophy at a respectful distance, while the singer takes a pinch of ashes and sprinkles the trophy with it, exhorting the visitors not to gaze upon it while this is being done. When the patient, too, has sprinkled ashes upon it, two of the visitors rush up and discharge their guns (formerly their arrows) upon the trophy. They then sing the praises of the patient in slaying or running the enemy down. This is concluded in the evening, just before dark, by a general celebration of victory. The rattle bearer and other invited singers of the war rite indulge for about half an hour in yelling and rushing at one another with firebrands, a turn which is soon taken up by all men and boys present. The rest of the night is spent in dancing and merriment.

“The blackening is sometimes performed independently of the other features of the war


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dance, and may be done in the open, or in the hogan, or even in a modern house.

“For dispelling native enemies, such as the influence of the monsters of the legends, and innumerable witches, another war dance, the blackening against witchcraft, is conducted.

“In the description of the masks, mention has been made of the bow and queue as emblematic of the clothes of the Slayer of Monsters and his brother. For similar traditional reasons the openings of the bow and queue are left open on the rattlestick. As the Slayer of Monsters or Enemies and his brother, the Water Child, are inseparable in the destruction of enemies, the symbol of bow and queue are both added to the rattlestick as indicating the power of these two gods.

PUBLIC EXHIBITIONS OR DANCES.

“The night chant, and some of the mountain chants, occasionally close with a public exhibition by masked personators, which, however, is not essential to the chant, but optional with the patient. When the night chant is to be closed privately, or like any ordinary chant, the masked personators perform inside the hogan, and the mountain chant is limited, in a similar event, to five nights, with the exclusion of drum and dancers.

“In public, the personators perform in a corral, and for the mountain chant, around a huge fire built in the center of this corral, which accounts for the popular names of the corral and fire dances for these two chants. These corrals or enclosures are made of brushwork, set up


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after sunset, which, in the mountain chant, is done under the direction of the masked personator of the Speaking God, who gives his directions by gestures and his usual call only. The corral is of the same shape for every public exhibition, and has but one opening in the east, though at dawn the enclosure is broken at the other cardinal points also.

“The personators for the night chant disrobe to the breechclout and moccasins, paint their bodies with white clay, and adorn themselves with a silver belt, and the skin of a kitfox dangling in their rear. Each dons one of the masks, after which they are not allowed to speak, and they enter the corral in single file, in which position they dance to the beat of a drum. They leave the corral after some time and make way for another set of dancers to whom they give their masks and regalias. This is continued until dawn is announced, after which the corral is opened.

“In the mountain chant the personators, such as the two performing the feat of swallowing the arrows, and the fire dancers, are not masked, but disrobe, and paint their bodies for protection from the excessive heat. A variety of legerdemain was in vogue at this dance, such as the growing of yucca, the dancing porcupine quill, and other performances, which took up the intervals. Originally, custom required the messengers, or meal sprinklers, to invite foreign tribes to contribute with their magic for the occasion. Later these invitations extended only to the shamans of the tribe whose insignia, when they had such, were borne to the place of celebration


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by the messenger. Eventually, much of this formality was dropped, as performances of magic are exposed to the ridicule of the younger generation, so that invitations to the various lodges of medicine men are extended merely as a matter of courtesy. The various performances, however, are responsible for such designations of the mountain chant as the fire dance, growing hashkan, or hashkan dance, etc., just as the night chant is sometimes designated as the yei-bichai dance from the leading personator.

“Ordinarily a ceremony is performed over a single patient. It is permissible, however, to conduct a ceremony for two patients of the same sex, so that, for instance, a ceremony may not be held over man and wife simultaneously. A singer may conduct a ceremony over his own wife, but not for his own benefit, for which he must call on the services of another singer. In the event of two patients there are two meal or pollen sprinklers at the public exhibition in place of the customary single one. Other changes take place in the various songs, and especially in the distribution of the prayersticks.

“The night chant is performed over persons as well as over the masks themselves. An instance of this kind has been mentioned in the dedication of a new set of masks. Another instance is the purification of a set of masks defiled by the death of its owner, or that of the patient for whom the chant is conducted. In this event the masks may not be used again unless the night


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chant, specifically its vigil, has been performed over them.

“It is customary that guests attending the close of a ceremony partake of a repast at the hogan where it takes place. At public exhibitions, where the multitude of visiting guests is unusually large, this has been abolished, and is now limited to the meals which the patient must provide for the singer and his assistants. At the smaller ceremonies of one and five nights' duration meals are served to the guests about midnight. Accordingly, the meals served there are sometimes referred to as the close of ceremony.

THE CHOICE OR SELECTION OF CHANTS TO BE PERFORMED.

“The decision as to the particular chant to be selected is left with the individual. Owing to the great variety of causes for disease and continued misfortune, the choice is often a difficult one. If relief is not obtained the rites and ceremonies of another chant should be enlisted to secure it. In this manner a fortune is often spent. Public opinion has it that a person bitten by a snake, struck by lightning, thrown from or kicked by a horse, is pursued by some unseen power. The bite of an ant, or mad coyote, continued prostitution, or venereal excess, loss of sheep, failure of crops, sickness or death in the family or relationship, all portend some malign influence. This is also the case with dreams bearing on misfortune. A pregnant woman especially must exercise the greatest care lest she observe anything in the shape of


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violence. The influence of bad dreams must be removed during the time of her pregnancy, both by herself and her husband. If this has been neglected the duty devolves upon the child, even at an advanced age.

“In such manner each case is carefully diagnosed and discussed by the family and their relatives who, in addition, often consult astrologers and divinators for the purpose of selecting the appropriate chant.

THE EXPENSES.

“Expenses vary according to the nature of the chant and aggregate for public exhibitions as high as two hundred dollars and more. For the minor chants the price consists of a horse, cow, some sheep, calico, etc., according to the means of the patient. The legends inculcate that the shaman render his services without compensation in case of need. A nominal price is sometimes asked in such instances, though frequently assistance is refused entirely. Friends and relatives of the patient are, as a rule, asked to assist in defraying expenses.”

The Navahos have many ceremonies which they practice with as great earnestness and devotion as did their fathers before them. Some are long, elaborate and intricate, being often of nine days' duration when applied to the healing of the sick. Many years of patient work are required to learn even one of their great rites perfectly, there being, so it is said, sometimes two hundred songs to be memorized. No priest attempts to learn more than one of the great rites, although he may know some of the


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minor ceremonies. In many of their ceremonies the Navahos masquerade in the costumes of their favorite gods, and, while posing as gods, gesticulate and utter strange sounds, though they never speak. For the time being the priest thus masquerading, is to all intents and purposes, the god he represents. He hears prayers and accepts sacrifices, not as a man, but as the impersonator of divinity, much the same as do the priests of our Christian churches when they receive offerings, or hear confessions, or dispense blessings.

The ceremony of the Mountain Chant is thus described:

“The ceremony of the Mountain Chant is perhaps one of the most elaborate rites celebrated by the Navahos. It is founded on a myth, the burden of which is the story of the wanderings of a family of six Navahos, the father, mother, two sons and two daughters. These people wandered for many days in the vicinity of the Carrizo mountains, then journeyed far to the north, crossing the San Juan river. The legend relates that the two sons provided meat for the family by hunting rabbits, wood rats, and other small animals, and the two daughters gathered edible seeds and roots on the way. It was a long time before the young men learned to follow the trail of the deer, and on one occasion, after returning to camp without the coveted deer, the old man became provoked at the stupidity of his sons and said to them, ‘You kill nothing because you know nothing. If you had knowledge you would be successful. I pity you.’ He then directed them


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to build a sweat house, giving them instructions as to the details of its construction. After undergoing the purifying ordeal of the sweat bath, he began slowly and carefully to teach them all the arts of woodcraft; how to surprise the vigilant deer, and carefully, step by step, they were initiated into the mysteries of the chase. After many days of careful drilling, these sons made great preparations for going on a big hunt in the distant mountains. They returned after many days, each with a deer he had slain, together with much dried meat and many skins.

“It finally developed that the old man was a great prophet, and the myth goes on to relate how the two sons disobeyed their father's instructions and the punishment that was visited upon them by the gods in consequence thereof. Afterwards the prophet was captured by the Utes, always at enmity with the Navahos, bound hand and foot, and sentenced by the Ute council to be whipped to death. An angel visited the old man in the night and loosed his thongs, and the prophet took his flight, and after undergoing many hair-breadth escapes, finally reached the home of the gods who taught him how to make offerings to the deities. They also taught him the mysteries of the dry sand-paintings, and how to perform the great healing rites of the Mountain Chant.

“When the prophet at last returned to his people, a great feast and dance were given in his honor. There was much rejoicing and making merry. He was washed from head to foot and dried with the sacred corn meal. He was then asked to relate his experiences in the strange


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land of the gods. He now proceeded to teach his people the new rites he had learned from the gods and the preparation and use of the sacrificial sticks. A day was appointed when this new ceremony would be performed; all the neighboring tribes were invited to attend, and there was much rejoicing and exchanging of friendly good will. The ceremony was continued through nine days and nights, at the conclusion of which the prophet vanished in the air and was seen no more on earth.”

The following is the account the Navahos give of the origin of the ceremony of the Mountain Chant.

“This ceremony is in reality a great passion play. The costumes are numerous and elaborate. There is much dancing, so called, but it is really not dancing at all, simply the acting out of the drama of the great cosmic myth in perpetuating the religious symbols of the tribe.”

The following description of the “Fire Play” is given by Dr. Washington Matthews:

“The eleventh dance was the fire dance, or fire play, which was the most picturesque and startling of all. Every man except the leader bore a long thick bundle of shredded cedar bark in each hand, and one had two extra bundles on his shoulders for the later use of the leader. The latter carried four small fagots of the same material in his hands. Four times they all danced around the fire, waving their bundles of bark towards it. They halted in the east; the leader advanced towards the central fire, lighted one of his fagots, and trumpeting loudly, threw it to the east over the fence of the corral.


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He performed a similar act at the south, at the west, and at the north; but before the northern brand was thrown he lighted with it the dark bundles of his comrades. As each brand disappeared over the fence some of the spectators blew into their hands and made a motion as if tossing some substance into the departing flame. When the fascicles were all lighted the whole band began a wild race around the fire. At first they kept close together and spat upon one another some substance of supposed medicinal virtue. Soon they scattered and ran apparently without concert, the rapid racing causing the brands to throw out long brilliant streamers of flame over the hands and arms of the dancers. Then they proceeded to apply the brands to their own nude bodies and to the bodies of their comrades in front of them, no man ever once turning around; at times the dancer struck his victim vigorous blows with his flaming wand; again he seized the flame as if it were a sponge, and, keeping close to the one pursued, rubbed the back of the latter for several moments, as if he were bathing him. In the meantime the sufferer would perhaps catch up with some one in front of him and in turn bathe him in flame. At times when a dancer found no one in front of him he proceeded to sponge his own back, and might keep this up while making two or three circuits around the fire or until he caught up with someone else. At each application of the blaze the loud trumpeting was heard, and it often seemed as if a great flock of cranes was winging its way overhead southward through the darkness. If a brand became extinguished


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it was lighted again in the central fire; but when it was so far consumed as to be no longer held conveniently in the hand, the dancer dropped it and rushed, trumpeting, out of the corral. Thus, one by one, they all departed. When they were gone, many of the spectators came forward, picked up some of the fallen fragments of cedar bark, lighted them, and bathed their hands in the flame as a charm against the evil effects of fire.

“The Hoshkawn Dance, the Plumed Arrow Dance and the Wand Dance are some of the other important ceremonies in the great rite of the Mountain Chant. Few white people, except those living in the immediate vicinity of the Navahos, have ever witnessed many of the Navaho ceremonies for the reason that as these ceremonies are primarily for the healing of the sick, no regular time for holding them is ever appointed by the priests. When a Navaho gets sick it is necessary for his friends and relations to hold a consultation and decide on what one of the many ceremonies will most likely effect a cure. This decided, a theurgist is selected who is familiar with the rites to be performed and he is immediately sought out and bargained with. The patient pays all the expenses of the ceremony, which is often a very elaborate affair and very expensive. All visitors are expected to feast, make merry, and have a good time, at the expense of the patient.

“One of the most interesting features, to the casual observer of the great religious ceremonies of the Navahos, is the elaborate painting with various colored dry sands. Careful preparations


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are made in the lodge by covering the floor with a coating of sand about three inches in thickness. A black pigment is then prepared from charcoal for the black, yellow sandstone for the yellow, red sandstone for the red, and white sandstone for the white. A kind of blue is made by mixing the black with the yellow.

“Before beginning the painting, the surface of the sand is carefully smoothed with a broad oaken batten. Young men usually do the painting under the careful and ever watchful eye of the shaman. There is a set rule which must be followed in each of the four great paintings. The Navaho shaman believes that to depart from the fixed order as handed down from father to son through many generations, would be to invite the enmity of the gods. The true design must be followed, although within certain limits the artist must display his skill.

“In order to understand these sand paintings it is necessary to know thoroughly the myths upon which they are based. Perhaps no white man has ever yet been able fully to understand and appreciate their symbolism. Since the Navajos do not preserve any patterns to go by, it is wonderful how they are enabled to preserve all the details of these elaborate paintings. Yet they claim not to have varied in any essential detail in all these hundreds of years.”

MAN-KA-CHA-WA—Havasupai Chief.

Up: Contents Previous: CHAPTER III. THE NAVAHO. Next: CHAPTER V. THE HAVASUPAI.




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