CHAPTER IV. THE NAVAHO (Continued).
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.
“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
“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
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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,
“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
“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 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 ‘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 ‘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 ‘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.
“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 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 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
“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.
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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 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.
“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.
“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.”