Sacred-Texts Native American Navajo
Index Previous Next

p. 15

General Introduction


 In approaching the study of this religion, two things are helpful. The first is a respect for it as one of the many great efforts of man to attempt to explain his immediate world, and to adjust himself to it and find happiness, peace and health; the second is a feeling about nature which we town-dwellers and scientifically-minded people have lost, which our remote ancestors had and children still have, of the oneness of the universe: man, animals, rain, wind, fire, the mountains and stones being all alive and being dual in their form, consisting of spirit and matter.

 The myths of the Navajos are all on more or less one pattern, except the Creation Story, which is what its name implies: Hahjeenah, the Emergence. In the version that Klah gave me, Begochiddy, the Great God, and several powers, or Demigods, and a form of human being first created were living in an underworld of darkness. They climb up from world to world of increasing light, creating more forms of life until finally emerging on this world and creating Man of the substance of the whole universe. In this, Begochiddy, the Great God, is the moving and directing spirit, but is not arbitrary in his creative action, for on every occasion when something has to be decided or done, he calls a Council and acts only when there has been a discussion. He knows all that has happened and is going to happen, but takes action only when it is clear that the First Created Beings have no suggestions to offer. He shows pity for the First Creation when it is menaced by the monsters infesting this p. 16 earth who threaten the First Created Beings with extinction. After the creation of Man, when the earth has been cleansed by a flood and newly furnished by him with life, and he has created the Sun and Moon and Stars and Seasons and established the habits of Men, Begochiddy goes up into heaven where he remains.

 In another version of the Creation Story, Begochiddy is not an importamt force, but Man is created by the water, earth and sky; and in still another version, Man is descended from so-called First Man and First Woman, both being evil. (This is the Hanelthnayhe Myth.)

 In general, the other myths began with confusion and hardship, centering round a Man who is often bad or disobedient and who, for no apparent virtue in him, is chosen by the Gods. They test his courage and enterprise by warning him of danger in certain adventures which he has the courage to attempt, or by suffering, and then he begins to learn the ceremonies so as to become the vehicle of a certain kind of healing to his own family and people. In one story he is lustful, in another a gambler, in another rash, in another disobedient, and in many myths he suffers much; and the hero, after giving his knowledge to his people, is always taken by the Gods to their home in exchange for the knowledge they have given him. Where the myth is complete it sometimes begins in an earlier world and ends with the passing on of the knowledge of the Ceremony to the people.

 The Gods are not Gods in the sense of the Greeks and others, for there is no account of their characteristics or adventures apart from their relation to men, and are often personifications of Fire, Wind, Water, the Lightning and certain animals. Also, there are the twin heroes of a later part of the Creation Story, Nayenezgani and Tobachischin, who slew the monsters that were destroying Man; and also there is the bearer of seeds to Men, Beganaskiddy; Hashje-altye, the talking God and Go-between; the messenger Fly, Dontso; the great thunderbird, p. 17 Iknee; the rainbow, Natseelit, that protects their sandpaintings from harmful influences; the holy people, Diginneh; and the Yeh who are beneficent spirits. Begochiddy and First Man and First Woman do not appear much in the myths, but all the other powers take part and they are often terrible. The object of the whole ritual ceremony seems to be the appeasement and control by the expert of these powers, and the achievement of the right relationship between the individual and his universe. The Navajos call this relation Hozhonji, blessing or happiness.

 In the myths the forces of nature are made to take form and through this strange world the hero wanders in trouble until he is made over by the powers into a conductor of magic help to his people to heal their bodies and minds. For the ceremonies are all for cleansing from evil and sickness and bringing in the strength of the powers involved in each myth and ceremony. The hero of the story is often helped by Animal People, such as the Owl, the Squirrel, and injured by others, such as the Rock Wren, Toad and Frog (usually when he belittles their powers). The Bat and Wren are both very fearless and powerful people, the first beneficent, the second mischievous. The Coyote was one who came up from the first world and while there was the bringer of fire, but later he became uniformly mischievous in the stories. As the hero travels and suffers, he learns his medicine plants, stones, and songs, and is made into a good transmitter of power to heal. This is paralleled in the training of the Medicine Man now, for he is supposed not to learn everything from any one teacher but to go from one to another, and the myth is learned last. The thing symbolized in the myth is that Man can be made over in body and mind by belief and ritual, and that though weak and full of faults, if he shows courage and enterprise, he can be made powerful by the powers above. This is particularly definite in the Big Star myth, where various bodily signs are mentioned which are to warn men when to be still and wait for inspiration p. 18 Also, one of the heroes of the myth who has been disobedient and helpless under the punishment which follows his disobedience is able to subdue Niholtso, the Cyclone, when he has the courage to face him.

 It is not a religion of fear and there is little fear in the myths. Often the chosen prophet is very lonely and shows a great curiosity, and there is much family affection and glimpses of times of starvation and much wandering about, for each Medicine Man travels in search of his knowledge. The Gods also are great wanderers. The fear of death or dying is not mentioned and the fear of the spirits of the dead, which is very strong in the people, is not spoken of in the myths. In the Creation Story, when the Sun has been created his heart will not begin to beat until someone has died, so death is necessary and not evil. Also, the Ethkaynah-ashi, the mysterious medium through which Begochiddy breathes life into creation, are twin substances created from twins which had been killed, so the breath of life has to pass through death in their creation myth, and the Ethkaynah-ashi are believed to be present mystically in every ceremony. The mountains are considered very holy as each has a spirit form as well as a material one, and the Navajos pray to them as sources of power. The great Snake is terrible and transforms men into snakes in his anger, but also may be prevailed upon to give a healing ceremony, as in the Wind and Star Chants. Even the little fire poker left behind in a deserted Hogahn speaks and tells the hero where his family has gone. Colors are full of meaning, and each time of day, like the blue before dawn, the yellow after sunset, and the noon have their special power to help and strengthen. The country where the hero of the myth wanders, or where the believing Navajo now lives, is very full of possibilities of adventure and mystery and power that he can find and use if he knows how to do so. The use of repetition in the myths and songs is for the magic purposes of the ritual and is common to all religions.

p. 19

 I leave to experts in psychology and ethnology the definition and analysis of these myths for I consider myself no expert, but a humble student and recorder who kept theories in the background, content to be a blank page on which has been written simply and frankly as exact a recording as a member of another race can give, for no white person can be sure that all the thoughts of an Indian are open to him. My only qualifications for the undertaking are plenty of time and patience, some knowledge of other religions and backgrounds, and a respect and love for the Navajo people.


 As this is, I hope, the beginning of the publication of all my material, I put the general description of ceremonies in this first volume.

 These ceremonies have been recorded from personal observation except in a few cases where I had already seen parts of a ceremony, and as they are all on the same great pattern, I could be pretty sure of the ritual from description. I have recorded objectively, with no preconceived notion of what I was or was not going to see, and the interesting thing is that the same general pattern governs all the ceremonies, so that in describing the particular ceremonies, this introduction can be used for reference. Where small so-called “sings” are held and given other names, I think most of them would be found to be part of one of the major ceremonies, for in the most complete versions of the myths the different forms of ceremonies are mentioned and often described. In almost all the shorter ceremonies recorded which now last not more than five nights, the Medicine Man said that they had been nine-day ceremonies originally. All the ceremonies center around a patient, Hatrali (one sung over), who may be sick or merely sick in mind, i.e., frightened by a dream, or who may be needing only a ceremony p. 20 in order to learn it in the course of being initiated into full power of officiating in that chant—for a Medicine Man cannot give a healing ceremony until he has had the ceremony given over him.

 The first four days of a nine-day ceremony are called Hotchonji, having reference to cleansing from evil. First the Hogahn is blessed. This is usually a building such as the Navajos live in, though for a big ceremony a new and larger type is built especially. Then the rites for four days are for the cleansing of the patient’s body by taking an emetic every morning and a sweat bath, also eating special light food, not smoking, and generally clearing the body. In the evenings a ceremony called Wohltrahd is often held which consists in the untying of knots. The ceremonies in which I have seen this Wohltrahd rite are the following: Tohe, Willachee, Nahtohe Hotchonji, Nahtohe Ba-ahd, Nahtohe Kin-be-hatral, Nilthchiji eekah thlunji, Sontsoji, Tleji (first night), Etsosi, Yohe, Hozhoni Ba-ahd, Hozhoni Baka, and Mah-ih. Another form consists of the cutting of wreaths of spruce twigs which are woven into Yucca strings and twined and tied all over the patient’s body. This is called the Trohgish rite. Both of these rites may symbolize liberating or untying trouble in the mind. On the fourth night they sometimes hold the Oody Klahd rite, when the patient, protected by a sandpainting, is frightened by someone dressed as the Bear or a Wild Man—the appearance in bodily form of fear. If the patient faints, a ceremony called Hashtehl-neh is held to restore him. This I have seen in Etsosi, Tsilthkehji Ba-ahd, Tsilthkehij Baka, Nahtohe Kin-behatral, Hozhoni Ba-ahd, and Tleji (fourth night).

 During the first four days the Tsepanse ceremony may also be held. In this ceremony each day big hoops are made of thin sticks about three feet long, tied butt to tip with yucca cord holding spruce twigs or holy plants in bunches. The hoops are set up in a line outside and east of the Hogahn on the first day p. 21 to the south of it on the second, to the west on the third, and north on the fourth day. Through these the patient passes while a cloth or skin is slowly removed from over his bead and body, thereby typifying the shedding of his old personality. This happens in the Hanelthnayhe, Sontso Hotchonji, Nilthchiji Ba-ahd Hotchonji, Nahtohe Hotchonji, Willachee, Yohe (in connection with bath outdoors during the first four days of ceremony), and the Tohe Hotchonji (first four days).

 When the patient and his family have talked over whether they can afford the food which has to be provided for the Medicine Man and his helper, and the men who make the sandpaintings, and the fee for the Medicine Man, they decide which one to call in and send for him. When he arrives, the near relatives of the patient collect the colored sandstones to be ground for sandpaintings and the special herbs the Medicine Man needs, practically always the four holy plants, Giss-dil-yessi, Toh-ih-kath, Tsay zhee, and Dlah-nastrasseh, and some others. He brings with him his feather and prayer wands, rattles, pollen and material for the reed and stick Kehtahns and the paint for them, feathers and crystal, jet, abalone and white shell, powdered incense often made of bird feathers and herbs, and whatever else is needed to put into and with the Kehtahns. The Medicine Man brings vessels to hold the infusions of herbs, the rattles to accompany the singing and usually a helper who knows the songs and sandpaintings. The Kehtahns are made by someone who has some knowledge of the ceremonies, under the direction of the Medicine Man. This applies also to the sandpaintings, which usually require six or eight painters working at once under direction. These are not necessarily experts, for quite young boys often help.

 The pattern of the ceremonies is similar in all of them except the Anadji, beginning with a collection of medicines, the preparation of four pokers for the fire, usually made of oak. On the first night often they only sing songs accompanied by p. 22 the rattles, and when they begin to sing an assistant goes outside and whirls the Chindi-neh (devil-chaser), a form of bull-roarer such as is used in Australia, a knife-shaped piece of wood with a cord of leather tied to its center, which the assistant whirls rapidly round his head, making a whirring sound, while encircling the Hogahn four times. The patient is always present during the singing and drinks an infusion of herbs at the end and inhales incense. In three cases that I have seen, the Tohe, Willachee, and Hozhoni Baka, there were more elaborate short ceremonies on the first night.

 Early next morning the ceremonial fire is made by twirling a sharp hard stick in a hole bored in a piece of soft wood resting on shredded cedar-bark. When the bark has ignited, the big fire is lighted and burned up very hot, and water is put on to heat for the emetic infusion of herbs. Pollen is sprinkled on the ends of the four pokers for blessing and these are thrust into the fire and then withdrawn. Four twigs with oak leaves on them are stuck in between the logs of the roof to the east, south, west and north, and a little pollen is sprinkled on them. All this ritual is common to all ceremonies, pollen being the Navajo form of blessing and a silent prayer being said by the Medicine Man always as he sprinkles it.

 In some ceremonies, the Sontso (Big Star), Tsilthkehji Nahtohe (Shooting Chant combined with Mountain Chant), Nilthchiji Ba-ahd eekah thlunji (Wind Chant, female, many sandpaintings), also Nilthchiji Baka (male Wind Chant), N’Dlohe (Hail Chant), Hanelthnayhe (Emergence), Hozhoni Ba-ahd (Beauty Chant, female), some sandpaintings are made for the emetic and sweating ceremony. Often these represent the symbol of the Sun or Moon surrounded by a rainbow on which the basket is placed into which the patient vomits. Rainbow spots are made on which the patient kneels and places his hands; and in others, snake paintings are made. Everything goes by fours in ceremonies and myths, cardinal points always being mentioned, p. 23 also the colors connected with them, and these vary a little depending upon the ceremony, for though white for the east, blue for the south, yellow for the west, and black for the north are the most usual colors, they are not invariable.

 The ceremony of making Kehtahns is always similar and is well described in Washington Matthew’s NIGHT CHANT. A blanket is always spread west of the central fire with pieces of cotton cloth (probably they used to have corn husks) laid in a line on the blanket, and on these are placed the particular type of offering for each ceremony; usually eagle breath feathers (soft downy ones), bluebird feathers, yellow bird, small turkey feathers, tiny bits of turquoise, jet, white shell and abalone, and a bit of soft cotton cord, and often a bit of wool. The Kehtahns are made of sections of reed usually cut into three-inch lengths with a stone knife. Sometimes they are only two inches long, and sometimes up to six inches long. They are held on thin twigs thrust through them while they are being painted. This is done by the assistant who moistens the white, blue, yellow, red and black earth paints with water on some flat stones. Then he decorates the Kehtahns according to the Medicine Man’s directions, using a small flat stick instead of a brush. Then he inserts a plug of bluebird-down and pushes it well into the Kehtahn with the end of an owl or woodpecker feather, then puts the offerings in, often of turquoise, jet, white shell and abalone and native tobacco. The patient is then given a crystal or a crystal-shaped piece of glass and holds this up toward the sun to catch a ray of light, then touches each filled Kehtahn with it. (Crystal is used as a symbol of truth, a Medicine Man’s lips being touched with it, and it is put in the patient’s shoes at the end of certain ceremonies.) The assistant moistens his finger and puts some wet yellow pollen from the tiny skin bag which contained the crystal on the top of each Kehtahn, and so seals them after the patient has touched each with the crystal. Out of this same tiny skin bag the assistant takes a little brush. p. 24 The Kehtahns are placed on the pieces of cotton, and the patient dips the brush in water and strokes the Kehtahns from west to east. The Medicine Man sprinkles pollen on them and folds the cloth round each offering of Kehtahn, feathers, etc. Then, holding his bag of pollen, he takes a pinch of it and touches his forehead and tongue and throws some up to the sun four times, praying, then takes up the bundle of offerings and goes and sits close to the patient, facing him, and crouching, with left knee under him and right knee up. He touches the patient’s head and tongue with pollen and then he begins the prayers to the Powers to whom the Kehtahns are offered while the patient holds the bundles in his hands. The Medicine Man says a phrase and the patient repeats it as fast as can be spoken, and the prayer often lasts a quarter of an hour. All this ritual is invariable as far as I know, though the designs on the Kehtahns and the Powers to which they are offered vary of course.

 When the prayer is finished, the Medicine Man gives the bundle of offerings to an assistant, telling him to leave them for the Powers out on the surrounding country, and the assistant blesses himself with pollen, presses the bundles to the patient’s feet and knees and shoulders, head, breast and back, then goes out, taking pollen with him, to sprinkle on the offerings when he leaves them. Afterwards, he brings back the pieces of cotton cloth to the Medicine Man. If they are giving a five-day ceremony, the sandpainting is begun at once, after the Kehtahn rite, but if it is a nine-day ceremony, the afternoon is spent in resting.

 After dark usually the Wohltrahd Rite is held. The Medicine Man has brought with him some long eagle wing feathers, or the assistant has collected some holy plants, and he divides these into five bundles. The Medicine Man sings, with his rattle accompaniment, and the assistant ties a yard-long woolen cord ending in little prayer feathers in a lot of slip knots p. 25 round each bundle of feathers or plants, depending on form of ceremony. When the bundles are ready (and the number of the bundles increases with each night of the rite, five on the first, seven on the second, nine on the third, etc., and there is usually an uneven number) the Medicine Man takes up a bundle and presses it to the patient’s right foot, singing as he does it, and pulling the slip-knotted cord loose at the same time. He then takes another bundle and does the same on the other foot, then on the knees, thighs, breast, back, hands, shoulders, head and mouth. When this is finished, he takes up all the cords together and draws them from one hand to the other over these different parts of the patient’s body and sometimes waves the feathers round and over the patient’s head. The patient drinks an infusion of herbs and inhales some incense and the rite is over. The details vary but the form is always similar.

 The body painting at night I have seen only in the Star Chant. It was on the fourth night and ended the ceremony of Hotchonji as they sang all night, which always happens at the end of any ceremony, even a short one. The fact of a night’s wakefulness is most important for the patient’s healing.


 Navajo ritual paintings, according to some of the older myths, were originally made on buckskin and “unrolled” the ceremony. Later, it is thought, when the Navajos became more harassed by other Indians and white people, they memorized them for safety so that no one could steal their “power.” It has been suggested that the Navajos got the idea of sandpainting from the Hopis and other Pueblo people who have always made patterns in sand or colored corn-meal in front of their altars in the Kivas. The art of sandpainting is, however, very old. Today the aborigines in Australia make patterns in p. 26 sand, and the Mandalas of Tibet are allied in method and conception, but no race has carried the art of sandpainting so far as the Navajos.

 The skill and speed with which experts can make curved figures and exquisite feathers with very delicate lines, or broad-spread masses of smooth color, is amazing, and requires not only skill but great concentration, which in itself keeps the painter’s mind on the subject and thereby stamps the painting in his memory. This, I am sure, is partly what they are for, to imprint on the minds of the younger men the images of the gods, for the sandpaintings are a sort of shorthand way to remember the myths. This is not their principal meaning, however, for the pattern of the ceremonies mentioned above in Introduction to Ceremonies is four days of cleansing the body and mind, and then the materialization of the Gods and Powers concerned with each ceremony. They are portrayed in sand, then hallowed, and then used in healing and strengthening the patient by the actual touch of the parts of the sandpainting to the body of the patient, and by his drinking of an infusion in which the sand of the painting has been placed, whereby the patient is in contact with the painting externally and internally.

 They are certainly a form of art, not used for self expression but to bring before men the Powers in visible stylized form, abstract and very powerful, even to an outsider, in the suggestion of splendid symbols for very abstract ideas. They are destroyed through their use as connecting links between Gods and men, for only in the short space of time after the last painter has finished his work, and the time when the priest walks sunwise onto the painting and puts pollen and white corn meal on it, can it be seen completed and untouched. After this the patient and other members of his family sprinkle it with white meal and the patient sits down on it facing east, and the treatment begins.

 The Ceremonial Hogahn always faces east, in fact most p. 27 Navajo houses do so, and when the sandpainting is to be begun the fire is moved from the center to just in front of the door. Then smooth sand is spread all over the floor and the painting is begun in the center, usually by the Medicine Man. The straight lines are made by snapping a string between two painters across the painting, and the batten used in weaving is used to smooth the sand. Errors are covered with fresh sand and good humor prevails—I’ve never seen anyone made fun of for a mistake except in a friendly way.

 From the east comes the Sun, thus it is the most propitious direction, so when the picture is finished the heads of the figures are eastward, unless they are made radiating from a center; and the whole picture is usually surrounded by a rainbow figure, Natseelit, with her head and hands to the northeast and her feet to the southeast, and a wide space between her head and feet.

 This rainbow is to protect the painting from evil influences which might come to it from the south, west, and north, and the eastern opening are often two guardian figures to protect it, often Dontso, the Messenger fly, Jahbunny the Bat, the Bear (in Mountain Chant), sometimes Sun and Moon. If the painting is very full of power it does not have the surrounding protection, and in some ceremonies of great power lightning and snakes are used. Sometimes the deities stand on a black bar which typifies the earth below the horizon or a cave. This is on the west of the sandpainting and on each end of it is often a bar of chequer pattern edging the sandpainting north and south and ending in bundles of feathers; this is a rope of braided rain.

 The faces of the figures are always masked, and the masks are white or blue, or brown or black, or all four colors, but black only in the case of the Fire-Gods. The chin of the faces is always colored yellow for pollen and their necks are always blue with four red stripes for protection, for the rainbow colors red and blue are for this purpose. The hands of the figures p. 28 are always white, except in the Wind Chant, and in any ceremonial dance now the hands of the dancers are whitened. From the arms hang medicine bundles on long strings of Shah-bekloth, ray of light or rainbow, the red colors always on the outside and the blue next the body of the figure. Sometimes the strings are of skin, otter, weasel, etc. The heads are usually square for female figures and round for male, but this is not invariable. The colors on the bodies and the colors edging them usually are blue edged with yellow, or yellow edged with blue for females; black edged with white or white edged with black for males. The white figures are placed to the east, blue to the south, yellow to the west, and black to the north. But in several paintings the east is black and north is white and this changes all the sequences.

 The rainbow colors are always separated by white lines and edged with white and in general these combinations mentioned hold good. South and west are feminine, and north and east masculine.

 The kilts on the figures are red in the Mountain Chant, but in other Chants are usually white with a pattern-like embroidery, and tassels at corners. The pouch at the waist can be made according to the fancy of the painter, the only thing on which he can use his own design; the rest is absolutely rigid in the ritual symbolism.

 The central motif in the paintings which radiate from a center, is usually water surrounded by the four colors. They set a little bowl in the sand and the Medicine Man fills it with water and then sprinkles it thick with black powdered charcoal on which he often makes two or four short rainbow bars. It typifies pure water. Sometimes cloud symbols or dragon-flies surround it. From the four corner directions, northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest grow out the four holy plants, corn, beans, squash and tobacco, always painted in the same way, with three white roots going to the central black water under p. 29 the earth. Sometimes the central figure, when square, means a house. The masked deities, often eight in number, which stand on east, south, west and north of the center, have below their feet Shah-bekloth, ray-of-light bars, and little rainbow spots also are often placed on their bodies for protection. In their hands they hold fir twigs, or rattles or bows and arrows, or little magic baskets in which they can be transported from one place to another. They are usually characters in the myth, or wind or thunder people or people of the corn.

 Sometimes there are snakes in various forms, as in Wind Chant, or in Hozhoni and Nahtohe, and when portrayed in animal form the bodies of the snakes always zigzag in four angles, and usually have an oblong symbol which is a house, painted figures which are deer tracks, and two half moons interlocking like the Chinese symbols of Yin and Yang on their bodies. Sometimes the animals, such as snake or buffalo, are in human form. They are not baleful, merely powerful, and almost every series of sandpaintings includes a snake or animal painting, a painting showing sky elements, and one to do with the plants.

 Sometimes the first sandpainting will be of snakes, the second thunder, the next plants, and the last one of an abstraction, like the whole sky, or arrows of power, or one which includes both water and sky.

 The figures sometimes have spines projecting from them and these mean that the Powers are in armor of “Bezh” which is apparently flint and these warriors usually hold arrows in their hands.

 Etsan-ah-tlehay, the Changing Woman (possibly Nature who was born of earth and sky when Begochiddy took pity on man and created her to be the mother of Nayenezgani and Tobachischin who killed the monsters), never appears in sandpaintings, nor Begochiddy nor any of those who were in the first world, except Hashjeshjin, the Fire-god; Hashje-altye, the p. 30 Talking god, who is much in the Tleji or Yehbechai; Hashje-Hogahn; Beganaskiddy; Dontso, the Fly; Jahbunny, the Bat; Wuzzy Kitty, the caterpillar; the Sun, Moon, Stars, Bear, Buffalo; the Great Thunderbird, Iknee; Winds; and the Holy People, Deginnih. The Yehs (gods) and Eagle people appear often.

 The bear, deer, antelope, mountain sheep, otter, badger, etc., usually have a line from their mouths to their hearts which is their breath. The birds are shown in fairly life-like form and the blue-bird often is a symbol for happiness. The direction in which the figures are supposed to be moving, which is always from left to right, sunwise, is shown by the legs and direction of the feathers on heads, for the figures are always front face, and they often wear necklaces or collars of fur and beads; and the arms and wrists are protected by rainbow marks. On their heads are ritual feathers, usually eagle and turkey plumes, a small turquoise is in the middle of the forehead, and often on each side and above the face is a red line enclosed in two black lines. This typifies hair enclosing a line of life and is tied at intervals with white cord. Sometimes very elaborate head-dresses and medicine bundles which look like arrows are used, as in Mountain Chant.


 The actual sandpainting is made by relations or friends of the patient under the direction of the Medicine Man. Assistants carry into the Hogahn fresh sand and spread it evenly over most of the floor space. Then pieces of white, red, and rellow sandstone are brought in and ground on a large flat stone with a smaller stone by an assistant. For the black color, charcoal is used mixed with enough sand to make it pour easily; the blue color is made by a mixture of charcoal and the white sand. The p. 31 actual painting is made by each painter taking a little sand and pouring it out on the background through the thumb and the nearly closed joint of the right hand index finger. Great skill is shown by the experts who can make a line as fast as a person can draw with a brush. They are able to make a fine or broad line or spread a background color by changing the position of the fingers. They sit, or kneel, and have to concentrate absolutely to do their work well, which fixes the images they draw thoroughly in their minds, so that the first thing the young men learn, and that they all enjoy, is the making of the paintings. Cotton string, held between two men at opposite sides, is used to snap on the sand to mark straight lines, and the batten for weaving is used to smooth the foundation sand. The central portion of the design is always made first and spreads outward, the number of painters often increasing as the sandpainting grows larger.

 It is interesting to note that the Mandalas made in Tibet in rice powder, and copied in paint by the Chinese, Japanese, and East Indians, are similar in religious purpose to the Navajo sandpaintings. The aborigines of Australia also make sandpaintings for ritual use. Among the Hopi and Rio Grande Pueblos, patterns made in corn meal before the Kiva altars also have ritual significance.

 When the sandpainting is finished, the prayer sticks are set up around outside the encircling figure, and the particular ceremonial tablets called n’Dee-ah which are used in the ceremony are set up side by side west of the sandpainting. The tablets are oblong, made of thin wood, with a tapered spike at the bottom to stick into the earth. They are about four inches high by three broad, and painted with symbols on both sides. Every morning before dawn the tablets are taken out and stuck in the altar in front of the door outside and only brought into the Hogahn when the sandpainting is finished. These tablets are p. 32 used in Nahtohe (Shooting Chant), Ba-ahd and Baka, N’Dlohe (Hail Chant), Tohe (Water Chant), Nilthchiji (Wind Chant), Sontsoji (Big Star Chant), and Hozhoni (Beauty Chant).

 After the placing of the tablets, several bowls of infusions of herbs are filled and placed in or near the hands on the north end of the encircling rainbow figure. At the other, south, end are placed plumed arm bundles, the Medicine Man’s necklaces of fur with whistles fastened to it, and any other feathered medicine bundles.

 The patient often is ceremonially bathed on the morning when the sandpaintings begin, the sixth day in a nine-day ceremony, the second in a five-day ceremony, such as Tohe; but in many ceremonies, the Willachee, Nilthchiji-eekah-thlunji, Nahtohe Baka, for instance, the ceremonial bath is given just before the painting of the body on the last day of the ceremony. This ceremony is always similar, with the making of a symbol in pollen on the sand, then placing a mat of fir boughs and on this a well washed basket filled with water and a piece of amole, soap weed. The Medicine Man sprinkles pollen on this and makes a suds and the patient bathes his whole body, hair, and even his necklaces in the water and puts on new clothes if possible. If the patient is a woman, other women hold up blankets to hide her. The Medicine Man touches the patient’s body, limbs and head with white meal and then the patient rubs it all over his body and clothing, and the Medicine Man blesses him with pollen.

 When an altar is made outside the door during the days of sandpaintings in the Hogahn, this is always set up before light in the morning, at night the mound is left protected by boards or brush, and the plumed wands and tablets are replaced before daylight each day and when the sandpainting is ready are brought in and used around it as described. This outside altar is known as the Dawn Altar.

 The rite of hallowing the sandpainting begins with the placing p. 33 by the Medicine Man of pollen on the heads, feet, hands, medicine bundles and all important places in the painting. Then his assistant puts pinches of white cornmeal on these same places and dips the asperger, which is a wand wound with different colors and ending in a feather or fur, in the liquid infusion and touches these piles of white meal with it, continually dipping it in the liquid, thereby putting some of the meal and sandpainting into the infusion. He must not step on the figures in the sandpainting and must enter at the open east side and circle from south to north, sunwise; meantime the Medicine Man and others are singing, accompanied by rattles. Then the patient is called in and sprinkles the painting with white cornmeal under the direction of the Medicine Man, and sits south of the door and takes off his clothes. The assistant then collects the little piles of corn-meal and puts the meal aside.

 The patient is told where to sit on the sandpainting, facing east, and many songs are sung. The Medicine Man goes on the sandpainting, often erasing guardian symbols as he does so, and stirring up infusion, gives patient to drink of it four times, motioning as he does so as if it came from above. Then moistening his hands with the infusion, he presses his hands to the vital points of the painting, feet, knees, hands, shoulders, reast, back and head, each time afterwards pressing his hands to the same parts of the patient’s body, feet to feet, hands to hands, etc. Then he gives him the infusion to drink again, four times, and some to rub on his body. Then the assistant puts live coals from the fire in front of him, and the Medicine Man sprinkles incense powder on them, making a smoke, and the patient inhales it and rubs it over his body, then leaves the Hogahn.

 When there is to be a painting of the patient’s body, the rite begins in the same way except that a pellet called Ahyehl, which contains every kind of holy substance connected with the particular ceremony, is placed on the sandpainting and given to the p. 34 patient to complete the cure, and the Medicine Man presses his medicine bundles and the tablets to all the vital centers of the patient’s body, beginning with the soles of the feet, and on up to the head. He presses his own foot to the patient’s foot with medicine bundle between, his head to patient’s head, shoulder to shoulder, and so forth; then twists the patient’s body, holding his medicine bundles to breast and back. This is called Atsis and usually comes after the giving of the Ahyehl pellet.

 In certain ceremonies during the last sandpainting, cinctures are used called Tyelth. These are made of bull rush strings braided with spruce or holy plants woven into them, and consist of bracelets and two wreaths long enough to go over the head and under one arm, so they cross on the breast and back. They are first put on and worn by the Medicine Man as he begins to treat the patient, and then transferred to the patient when the treatment is nearly finished. They represent jewelry ritually, and are worn by the patient all the following night, and the next morning are taken out and left in a wood. On the last day of treatment, the patient is given a new name, and a small prayer plume with a bit of turquoise and white shell is tied to his hair. When the patient is a woman, the shell should be abalone.

 The painting of the patient’s body takes place before the treatment on the last sandpainting, while the patient sits north of the sandpainting. The Medicine Man usually touches the patient’s body with infusion, indicating shape and kind of symbolic design to be made. His assistant then does the painting, using moistened earth paint and little flat sticks for paint brushes. When the patient is ready, he is led on to the sandpainting by the Medicine Man with the asperger or prayer stick. The treatment is as usual, but includes taking of the Ahyehl pellet and subsequent Atsis rite, and tying on of head and arm plumes, after which the Medicine Man often whistles at each p. 35 ear and carries the sound on up toward the sky. The patient then inhales incense and is led off the sandpainting by the Medicine Man, while the assistant sprinkles water before the patient as he goes out the door.

 The Medicine Man erases the sandpainting each day with the asperger or plumed wand, and the sand is taken out and deposited in a desert place. On the last day, after the sandpainting is destroyed, they spread a blanket and bring in a basket of cornmeal and place it in the center of the Hogahn. The Medicine Man puts a cross and circle of pollen on it and the patient is called in and after songs are sung is fed mush by the Medicine Man from east, south, west, and north sides of the basket, and then the Medicine Man and patient finish it. Singing goes on all through the treatment on the sandpainting.

 Another rite that should be mentioned is the initiation in the Tleji (Yehbechai). I’ve seen it in the evening in the Medicine Hogahn on the fifth night and think it took place probably on last four nights, but it usually happens on the last afternoon of the ninth day. The boys and girls to be initiated go out beyond the dancing ground, east of the Hogahn, and sit down in a line facing east, hiding their faces in blankets over their heads. The boys are naked, except for G-string, the girls dressed. The Gods Hashje-altye and Hashje-hogahn, wearing their traditional masks, appear coming from the East. Hashje-altye goes to the boys and gives his call, Yo-ho-ho-ho, and lightly whips each one with yucca leaves, while Hashje-hogahn gives his call and presses two corn ears to the girls’ heads. The children mustn’t look up. Then the two gods unmask and lay the masks down before the children, and the children are told to look up. The men put the masks in front of the children’s faces so that they look through them, and then the masks are laid on the ground and each child in turn goes up to the masks and puts pollen on them.

p. 36