Spider Woman, by Gladys A. Reichard, , at sacred-texts.com
I know that today the first sand-painting is to be made, so I stay at Ganado only long enough to eat breakfast. Because Red-Point had said that he was going to let me "see everything," and that he was going to "tell me about everything," I suppose I am to be allowed in the hogan while the men are laying the sand-painting. I want especially to see it while it is being made. I know the technique but never tire of watching those who strew the sand. Furthermore, the complete beauty of a sand-painting is obscured by the last touches put upon it, for after all the smallest symbolic and artistic details have been attended to, one of the helpers fills in all the background space with wavy black lines of sand. The first act required of the patients when they come in with the "other women" who are part of the audience is to sprinkle white cornmeal over each figure of the painting and around according to the Chanter's instructions. No patient is skilful about this, nor need he be, and the audience, in the brief time at its disposal, sees the painting covered with black and white smudges unevenly applied. For this reason I hope to see the paintings made, so as to get a clearer idea of their patterns.
Before the men start on it, however, Tom informs me that I may not come. "You see, women never see the painting," he explains. "That is the reason."
Marie and I both have plenty of leisure this day. The sun was scarce up when the dawn prayer was over, and she and Ninaba have nothing to do but wait until they are called for the painting. The paintings of all four days are to be large ones; so the men begin about nine o'clock, and they will not be finished until nearly sunset.
Red-Point starts the men to work, and about ten-thirty he and Marie come to see me. "Tell her I promised to let her see everything," he instructs Marie, "but we never have even our own women in the hogan when the painting is being laid."
"Why is that?" I ask, thinking that it is to protect the "powers" from the contamination of the female sex.
"We have always been taught that way. It is in the story. So you must not feel sorry because you cannot come in."
"Some of these men who are here to help said he oughtn't to allow a white woman in our sing," Marie explains. "But my father says you are his child and he would not refuse to have his own child. Besides, he says his teacher told him if outsiders want to be sung over, he should do it. Once there was a Hopi who asked him to sing, and he did; then there was a white man at Chinlee; and of course he always sings for Old-Mexican's-Son when he wants him."
I assure them I am not offended, and as he finishes off his cigarette Red-Point declares, "And I will sing over you sometime too, let the Navajo say what they will!" So saying, he jumps up. "Well, I must go back and watch those boys!" And he leaps up the two high steps of my house.
I answer his challenge as Marie stays, "Well, I should not mind if no whites would come."
"Just like Ninaba," smiles Marie. "She says she don't like
to have white people there, just Weaving-Woman is all right. But that's all."
I return to the subject of women witnessing the sand-painting, and Marie explains more fully, "Women never see the men working at it. Only if they have had a sand-painting made for them like my mother, Atlnaba, and Ben Wilson's Wife, then they can go in any time. After this Ninaba and I can go in when they are making the ones we have had. You see they will always be ours after that."
"If your father would sing over me, would the four paintings be mine?" I ask.
"Yes," responds Marie, as she sees I understand.
"Do you know which painting they are making?"
"No, the patient is not supposed to know it until she goes in when it is finished."
"How does your father know which one to use?"
"You know he has forty-seven. Some are large and others are small. If the people pay the singer lots they can have the big ones. They can choose which they want. My father is making the largest for this sing. He asked me which I wanted. But I told him to make any ones he and Tom and Tom's brother want."
"Did you ever see the double painting?" I ask. "I wish they would make that one."
"No, never in sand. But they said they were going to use that one because the house is big enough. But I don't know if it will be today."
"We had an awful nice trip the other night," I say, changing the subject. "I wish your father would go on a trip with me for medicine sometime."
"He would like to," she says. "He said he wished he could
have gone along that time. You know all of the medicine must be collected in a special way. If it isn't done that way, it is not so good. Now that water you brought from the Hudson. It would be better, if my father had got it. But he said we'll try it anyway."
"I know," I reply. "That is why I'd like to have him along. Besides, he knows where everything grows and what it is good for."
"I guess I'll go and try to sleep a little." And Marie departs.
The day is a quiet one. I engage in my ordinary pursuits always with an eye to the ceremonial hogan. Shortly after noon there is a bustle of excitement before the door. In their customary inquisitive manner the goats have come over to nose into the sacred objects, twenty-two of them from Red-Point's bundle, which were painstakingly arranged in and on a pile of clean sand before the house. This makes an altar and, as Old-Mexican's-Son explained, protects the house and all in it during the time the sacred sand is being used. When the painting is finished, the objects will be taken in and placed in order on and near it. When I see the men take them in, I know we shall soon be called.
The goats do little harm before they are discovered by the ever-vigilant Red-Point. "Chase them off," he calls to Ruby. Tom and Curley's-Son leap from their work, and as Ruby drives off the herd, they bring a large crate from which they remove the bottom. This they place over the altar, taking care not to allow even a down feather of a prayerstick to touch the wood. From this time on the crate will protect the altar which guards the house from invisible dangers.
The July days are long and it is not until after six that we are called. I enter the hogan just after the patients have sprinkled the cornmeal over the painting, which happens to be the double one. By that is meant that there are really two paintings in one.
"In the story," at a distant period when the Holy Twins were going about the earth making things livable for man, the Thunders laid down this painting on the top of Black Mountain in order to sanctify themselves. Then they bethought themselves and said: "Earth People ought to know this. Let someone go down and get one of them."
So Mountain-Sheep was stationed at a certain point and on the opposite side at a place called Hot-Springs a cornstalk with twelve ears was set up. Just then First-born, the more powerful of the twins, came up. He had been forbidden to come to the place where the Mountain-Sheep stood and his brother, Child-of-the-Water, had been warned against the Place-of-the-Large-Cornstalk. As he came up to the Mountain-Sheep, First-born thought, "Ha! This is the reason they didn't want me to come here." So he killed the animal. Just as he drew it aside to the base of a Douglas fir thinking to skin it, lightning struck and he was picked up by it.
Shortly after a bear came along. When he saw what had happened, he said, "Although it may look bad, nevertheless, my daughter's son will return without harm." Then while singing songs, he rubbed his back against the aspen, red willow, fir, and chokecherry trees successively. All these medicines are used for the circle prayersticks on the various days when the emetic is administered. Because of this and because Big-Fly and Otter were with him, First-born was saved.
At the same time all this was happening to First-born his
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brother was on his way to Hot-Springs where he saw the great cornstalk. He broke off the fifth car but as he did so, he was swallowed by a monster fish. However, he always carried an arrow-point in his right hand and with this was able to cut the fish open. Five arrow-points about his neck helped to save him. With the five medicines he always held in his left hand he healed the side of the fish, after he had cut it open.
The painting called "Opposite-each-other" commemorates this expedition of the Holy Boys. The black mountain at the west of the picture represents Butte-Reaching-to-the-Sky. It stands about fifteen inches high, made like pottery of kneaded clay.
"After it has been made, the place where it is to stand is levelled off. A cross is made of pollen, and some is sprinkled over it. Then a small portion of charcoal made from burnt herbs is sprinkled on it to represent darkness. White sand sprinkled over this represents the dawn; blue sand, blue sky; and yellow sand, yellow evening light. On the flat top part it is all yellow to represent pollen, and beside this yellow is a small black circle, and across this a red cross. This represents the fire inside.
"All around the base is black, and four encircling lines are made around it, white, yellow, blue, and red, making four lines around a black center. Around this standing butte four small bowls of water are set, all being within the black circle. Around the rim of the bowls are four lines, the white representing water foam; the yellow, pollen; blue with red, the rainbow. In the bowls on the water there are four rainbows in the four directions, the inner red, the outer, blue. Then moss which is found under sagebrush is put around the edge of these water bowls. They are shown as being on the mountain in the painting.
"Around the black center of the base of the butte there are four
rainbows in each direction, inner blue, outer red. 1 Four open spaces are left at the ends of these rainbows. On top of the rainbow in the east four white ducks are made with their heads turned as if they were moving south. On the sun raft to the west are four yellow ones with heads pointing north. In the south they are blue with heads west; in the north, black with heads east. So all the heads face the same way, that is, sunwise. Above the head of the eastern duck as guardian toward the north a wolf lies in white, and toward the south a black bear is made; the noses of these animals face each other with a space of five fingers between, their fronts to the west.
"In the space between, in line with the head and facing west, yellow thunder lies. This finishes all in the west part of the room.
"In the north the figure of First-born is laid first as the center figure. East of him lies black thunder with its head toward him. From the tip of its wing a line runs into his hands. At the south of First-born lies the otter. On the other side the horsefly lies on his back. Facing him at the west the blue thunderbird lies, at the south a yellow one, at the north a pink one; all these lie with heads toward First-born.
"From the tip of the blue thunderbird at the west a line of straight lightning runs to the sole of each foot. From the west wing of the yellow thunderbird of the south a sun-ray line runs into the sole of his foot. From its east wing one runs into the tip of his hand. From the west wing-tip of the pink bird at the north a stretched rainbow runs to the sole of his foot, from its east wing-tip one leads to his hand.
"From the space between the rainbows around the butte at the west plants run out, bean toward the south, squash toward the west, tobacco toward the north. In the space toward the east corn roots are sprinkled and make a turn to where Second-born will be placed, exactly in a line with him. The cornstalk is made with an ear on each side.
"After the corn is finished Second-born is laid down, his head in line with that of First-born, their feet stepping in line with each
other. In his right hand he holds a black flint with a shaft of zigzag lightning. Around his neck five points on a sun-ray shaft are wound, the lowest one next his body is black flint, the next is white, then blue, yellow, and finally pink, all white-bordered.
"In his left he holds five medicines, the one nearest him being black, then white, blue, yellow, and finally pink being east. Above his head facing him lies the black fish, 1 below his feet the yellow one, at the south, the blue one, at the north, the white one. All have their heads toward him. From the mouth of the black one in the east runs a zigzag lightning. The lines forming it separate and run under the armpits of the figure. This is the one that swallowed him.
"The one at the west has a straight lightning curving out from the mouth, and returning to it. In the south a sun-ray is arranged the same way and in the north a rainbow. A mountain entirely black with a white line around its base is placed even with the door toward the north. Not far from the center toward the west is a cup of water, and on top of the range is another cup. On the top of the mountain on the north side of the cup lies a blue mountain sheep, with head toward east and facing south. A piece of Douglas fir and one of blue spruce cut neatly for the purpose are placed on top of the mountain range at the south. Then that is finished.
"On the south side in line with the tip of the cornstalk Mt. Taylor is placed. It is about the shape and size of an anthill. On the west side of it a cup of water is placed. From the east a black quarter; from west, yellow; from the south, blue; from the north, white; so four lines coming from the four directions meet at the top. All the cups of water are made alike.
"Now around First-born and the Thunder People alone a zigzag lightning is used for an encircling line, but the rainbow is the encircling border of the whole sand-painting, its skirt is south, head north. That finishes it." 2
Because the sand-painting is double, there are two choruses today, one on the north, one on the south side of the hogan.
[paragraph continues] They sing alternately and in unison, Red-Point giving them the cue for the order of songs. The leader of one knows the Shooting Chant too, but occasionally he starts the wrong set of songs and Red-Point corrects him. While Marie and Ninaba remove their moccasins and shirts, Red-Point sprinkles liquid over the painting with a medicine sprinkler.
He bids Marie sit on the body of First-born and Ninaba on that of Child-of-the-Water, with their feet extended to the east. As the songs proceed, and suiting each act to a particular word in the song, Red-Point wets his hands with water from one of the medicine cups, applies them damp to the feet of certain gods in the painting, that means not only First-born, Child-of-the-Water and the Thunders, but also Big-Fly and Otter, the fish, the cornstalk, the lightnings, the Rainbow encircling border, and all other figures, for these are all deities who have accepted the invitations. After touching these points of the painting, Red-Point presses his hands to the feet of the patients.
On another round of the same sort he communicates the power of the hands of the deities to those of the patients, then that of the heart and head. There is an unusually large number of songs for this painting, and the patients sit for some minutes during which nothing but the singing occurs. Altogether the performance takes not more than half an hour. The final incense is burned, and Red-Point orders the patients out. We women follow, Atlnaba carrying the clothes of the patients. As we hold their things while they dress, the helpers run out to the four directions, where they hastily deposit the sand which had composed the painting.
The elements of the Chant, purification, offerings for invitation,
the drawing-in of supernatural powers, the application of them being present, and their careful disposal, all of these have appeared again and again. On the eighth morning the patients undergo another type of purification, the shampoo and bath. A basket stands in the west part of the house on a nicely shaped mound of coarse sand. Between it and the sand are fresh sprigs of five medicines. In the basket lies a cylindrically cut piece of soapweed root soaking in a small amount of water. Singing the while, Red-Point prepares the sacred bath. He rolls the soaproot between his hands for some time. The water becomes ever more foamy as he sings and rubs. He adds more water from the bucket, until the foam rises comfortably above the rim of the basket like a fluffy meringue on a pie.
He now makes the ceremonial crosses of the four pollens, black, white, blue, yellow, one on top of another, on the foam and sprinkles each around it. When he reaches the proper song, Marie and Ninaba, having left their clothes on a blanket, kneel before the basket and with Red-Point's help wash their hair. He pours the rinsing water over and bids them wash carefully their beads, bracelets and hair strings. The herdboy fetches and carries today, for Maria Antonia has charge of the bath. Red-Point retires to his sheepskin, as four old women and Atlnaba, led by Maria Antonia, stand holding blankets in outstretched arms to form a semicircular screen around the patients while they vigorously apply the sudsy water to their entire bodies. They stand on the sand, feet on particular medicines, as they do this. The old women bid them hurry, and as soon as every drop from the basket has been applied, rinse them with dippers of fresh water from the bucket. The patients catch it in cupped hands and wash their faces. Hastily
[paragraph continues] Maria Antonia hands each a skirt to be slipped over the original one, which is precipitately unfastened, let down, and removed.
The women take down the screen and the bedraggled patients stand for a moment while the wet sand and medicines are swept from sight and replaced by a dry blanket. Maria Antonia now applies cornmeal to their backs while they rub arms, legs, and chest with it. Red-Point draws a generous amount under their chins, on their cheeks, and over the top of their heads. They then use all the rest in the basket to strew over shirts, moccasins, and especially jewelry before they dress. The bath is over. The cornmeal is the substitute for a Turkish towel; it stays with the bather somewhat longer.
There is a rumor that the picture of the last day is to be the Earth-Sky one. I am disappointed because I like it least of any I have ever seen reproduced. At three o’clock when it is finished, I am surprised at its beauty as it lies "strung out" in the most graceful proportions on the floor of the hogan, which affords it ample space. I have seen the pattern woven into blankets—hideous, I consider them. I always thought it was because bad colors were used and because there was such a large space of solid color, blue for the earth, black for the sky. I find now I was right about the color but not about its extent. The copies are bad primarily because of the crude proportions, short and awkwardly wide. Here are elongated figures, so graceful as to have little in common with the perversions I have seen. The large expanse of color adds to the effect, for it consists of black and the inimitable shade of blue, a natural color which is the despair of all copyists, and
which the dim shaded light of the hogan brings out to perfection.
It is well the picture is done early today, for the rite includes not only most of the acts which were performed previously but several new ones, and these are tedious. One is the body painting. As we watch, and as the chorus sings, Red-Point carefully paints Ninaba, and one of his friends paints Marie. A blue spot at the middle of the chest is the sun, a white at the center of the back, the moon. Black, white, blue, and yellow stripes running over the shoulders and under the arms connect the two. The black represent zigzag lightning; the white, straight lightning; the blue, sun-ray; and the yellow, the rainbow. There is a cloud figure on each fore-and each upper-arm; the two are connected by stripes of the same colors as those on the shoulders.
Similarly the painter places four stripes on each shin. I see a fly on Ninaba's left shoulder as her grandfather traces a line on her right arm. I know it tickles her, but she does not move—it would spoil his line. Finally he reaches the foot. On her right instep he traces a white-horned rattler and on her left a yellow one. I shudder as he carries the head of each under the first joint of the great toe. Neither Marie nor Ninaba bats an eye at this.
All the details have been brushed in. Red-Point now paints Ninaba's face as his friend paints Marie's. Not a millimeter of skin is left in its natural color. Four wide stripes cover all, white over the forehead, black across the eyes, blue over the nose and checks, and yellow across mouth and chin. I cannot believe this is my shy little daughter as her eyes roll in an unnatural expanse of whiteness and her teeth glisten fiercely
from the surrounding yellow. Marie's sweet, jolly face is also disguised out of all semblance of its usual expression.
Red-Point and his assistant finally finish the painting to his satisfaction. The patients put on their jewelry. Red-Point mixes a little sand from the feet of the gods of the sand-painting and puts it in their moccasins. He then leads them on to the painting. They go through the course of treatment which combines all they have had before on the three paintings of the previous days and on the preceding seven nights, and to them several others are added. Red-Point has braided a necklace and wristbands for each from strips of yucca leaf and intertwined at intervals sprigs of Douglas fir and four turkey feathers. He puts these on the patients ceremonially at a word in a special song.
A feather medicine bundle lies on the painting. This he ties to the locks of hair which he has smeared with white during the painting. To a small lock of each girl he ties a string on which a tiny cowry shell and a small, very blue bead of turquoise have been fastened. A ball about as big as a walnut is administered. It is rough and dry, being a compound of many things like fish's blood, and pollen. It is like a huge, sandy, woolly, sweetish, bitter pill. The patients chew it up and swallow it with water Red-Point gives them in four mouthfuls.
The pollen ball represents the agate man which the Sun put into Enemy-Slayer or the turquoise one which stands in the body of his brother. The sun board of the bundle is pressed hard against the stomach, the moon board against the back. This is done to put the turquoise in place. Finally, after breathing the sun outside the hogan and dressing, the patients return and eat unseasoned cornmush to keep the ball in position.
[paragraph continues] This part of the rite is over and they may sleep until they are called for the vigil of the last night. They must under no conditions remove the collar and bracelets of yucca, nor must they take off their moccasins or lose any of the sand out of them. Since they must keep awake this entire night, the few hours between the painting and ten o’clock will be their last chance to sleep for twenty-four hours.
At sunset, which begins the ninth day of the Chant, I am sitting in the car reading dreamily and uncomprehendingly. The glow on the earth is of a quiet healing sort. Every day since Red-Point used the Hudson River water there have been light showers and White-Sands has become green. I am sitting in the car because a sweet female rain dampens the ground. When there is not a double rainbow through the glistening curtain, small ends of the rainbow brighten the horizon. I am thinking about the Shooting Chant. When Marie told me it would continue nine days, it had seemed to me impossible that such a long time could ever pass by in this ceremonial manner. And now, almost before I know it, eight of them are gone. There were the four days of cleansing and preparation of sacrifices. They sped by. Then four more when the Cornstalk-with-Twelve-Ears, the Double-Painting, the Buffalo-Painting and the Earth-and-Sky were laid, applied, and deposited. They flew by.
And now a sense of complacency lies over White-Sands, as gentle and as gratifying as the curtain of raindrops which hangs over it. The satisfaction lies, I think, as I half recline, in having carried out a complicated, fatiguing, nerve-trying ritual to its prescribed end. A sense of restoration pervades the place as Red-Point stalks up. He climbs up beside me in
the car. As he lights the proffered cigarette, he looks through the smoke and says, "White-Sands is beautiful."
Before either of us realizes it, we are intoning a litany: "The fields are beautiful," I respond.
"The vegetation is beautiful," he encourages.
"The trees are beautiful."
"The houses are beautiful."
"The women are beautiful."
"The men are beautiful."
And together we say, "The children are beautiful."
Then I, "The Chant is beautiful."
"The offerings are beautiful."
"The prayers are beautiful."
"The paintings are beautiful. All has been restored in beauty," concludes the old Chanter, as he once again strides off to attend to the details of the final night.
196:1 The difference between the picture here portrayed and the one made for Marie is explained on p. 155.
197:1 In Red-Point's picture the black and white fish were interchanged.
197:2 Literal translation from the myth of the Shooting Chant.