The beginning of time. In the First World, there lived various spiritual beings. They were given Navajo names describing certain insects and animals. Altse Hastiin (First Man) and Altse Asdzaa(First Woman) were created. The beings couldn't get alson with one another so they decided to leave through an opening in the east into the Second World.
This world was already occupied by the Blue Birds, animals and other beings who were in disagreement and couldn't get along with one another. There was severe hardship so they decided to leave this world. First Man made a want of white shell, turquoise, abalone, and jet. This wand carried everyone through an opening in the south into the Third World.
This world was entered first by Bluebird, First Man, First Woman, Coyote, and other beings. This land had great rivers crossing from east to west and north to south. One day, Coyote stole Water Baby from the river, causing a great flood. First Man ordered everyone to climb into the reed to escape the rising waters. As the beings climbed out of the reed into the Fourth World, the people discovered Coyote was the one who had stole Water Baby. Coyote took the Water Baby back to its mother and the flooded waters began to recede.
Locust was the first to enter the fourth world. He saw water everywhere and other beings living there. The beings in the Fourth World would not let the beings from the Third World to enter unless the Locust passed certain tests. Locust passed all the tests and the people entered into the Fourth World. Later, First Man and First Woman formed the four sacred mountains. The sacred dirt was brought from the First World to form these mountains.
The Four Directions of the Navajo
This is the direction of the dawn and it is our thinking direction. We should first think before we do anything. When the sun comes up, we look to the...
This is our planning direction where we plan what we are going to do. The sun sets in the...
This is our life, and is where we do our living. Here is where we act out our plan and our thoughts of the east and south directions of our lives. The sun goes down in the.
This is the evaluation portion of our lives. This is where we get our satisfaction and we evaluate the outcome of what we first started in the east. Here is where we determine to change things to make it better, or to see we are on the right path and should continue the cycle.
Every day the cycle is repeated. In each cycle there is a lesson to be learned. During the day when we fall, we stand back up and see what we can do differently the next day. Each dawn is a new start. If you are an alcoholic, if you are a drug abuser, if you did something in the past, early dawn is when you can start a new life again. There is a new renewal. This is how much Mother Earth and Father Sky love us. They give us the chance every morning to start our life new. The Creator answers our prayers in the early morning. We ask for their guidance and assistance to help us with whatever we do.
The Sacred Stone of the Navajo
Turquoise (Doot kl'izhii), Navajo Sacred Stone
Turquoise is considered one of the four sacred stones of the Navajo. For centuries they have regarded it as a valuable talisman and take pride in its possession. Sheepherders have carried a turquoise fetish to insure fertility of the sheep, hunters to insure success in the hunt, and warriors to insure victory and a safe return.
Traditionally a bead of turquoise was fastened to a lock of hair to protect the Navajo from being struck by lightning and believed to be a safeguard against snake bite. Every household would have a buckskin pouch of herbs, turquoise and shell to add protection against any unexpected event or catastrophe.
The four sacred stones of the Navajo are: turquoise, white shell, abalone and jet
The Dineh, as they call themselves, need no separate word for religion; all life is lived in sacred relationship to the land. With healing ceremonies to bring them back to harmony with each other, they sing of a beauty and harmony which is apparent to all visitors to Navajo Country.
Navajo legend says that the Dineh had to pass through three different worlds before emerging into the present world - the Fourth World or Glittering World. So, the Holy People put four sacred mountains in four different directions. Mt. Blanca in the east. Mt. Taylor in the south, San Francisco Peaks in the west, and Mt. Hesperus in the north, thus creating the boundaries of Navajo land.
Centuries ago, the Navajo people were taught by the Holy People to live in harmony with Mother Earth and how to conduct their many activities of everyday life. The Dineh believe there are two classes of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. The earth People are ordinary mortals, while the Holy People are spiritual beings that cannot be seen. Holy People are believed to aid or harm Earth People.
When disorder happens in a Navajo's life, such as illness, herbs, medicinemen (diagnosticians), prayers, songs and ceremonies are used to help cure the ailment. Some tribal members prefer modern day hospitals on the Navajo Reservation; some seek the assistance of a traditional Navajo medicineman, some combine both methods.
Navajos believe that a medicineman is a uniquely qualified individual bestowed with supernatural powers to diagnose a person's problem and to heal or cure illnesses. The Dineh believe they are sustained as a nation because of their enduring faith in the Great Spirit. And because of their strong spirituality, the Navajo people believe they will continue to survive as an Indian nation forever.
For a Navajo, to be a well balanced person, he/she must have equal development in the four values of life. When a Navajo has been well taught in all areas of life, that person is a harmonious person and well educated. Just as corn needs four things: sunlight, water, air, and soil to grow; so a Navajo needs the four values: values of Life, values of Work, values of Social/Human Relations, and values of Respect/Reverence to grow.
Family is very important to the Navajos. There is the immediate family, and the extended family. The extended family is broken up into clans, which were created by the Holy Ones. The four original clans are 'Towering House', 'Bitterwater', 'Big Water' and' One-who-walks-around'.
Today there are about 130 clans. When we meet another Navajo for the first time we tell each other from what clan they are from. Navahos identify how we are human by the clans of our mother, father, and ancestors. This is who we are. We also have our immediate family. We have a great responsibility to our family, for without the family we as a people would have an end.
Music and Dance
Nothing depicts the American Indian better than his love for dancing. The traditional song and dance and inter-tribal pow wows are only some of the many aspects in which the Navajo Nation continues its cultural tradition. Most social events held in Navajo land are held mainly for pleasure and outsiders are welcome to attend.
The traditional song and dance (a ceremony called the Enemyway Ceremony) is an increasingly popular event. One of the reasons an Enemyway Ceremony is conducted is to help cure an individual who has become ill after going to war. The ceremonial dancing is to relieve tension in the patient.
Today, the cultural aspects of the ceremony live on through song and dance contests or festivals. Participants dress in their finest traditional Navajo attire and recreate the traditional dances of their forefathers.
Religion and Ceremonies
The majority of Navajo ceremonies are for curing mental and physical problems and for restoring universal harmony, once disturbed. In these ceremonies, many dry paintings or sand altars are made, depicting the characters and incidents of myths.
Most Navaho ceremonies are conducted, at least primarily, for the purpose of healing disease; and while designated medicine ceremonies, they are, in fact, ritualistic prayers. There are so many ceremonies that no student has yet determined their number, which reaches into scores, while the component ritual prayers of some number hundreds. The principal ceremonies are those that require nine days and nine nights in their performance. Each is based on a mythic story, and each has four dry-paintings, or so-called altars. Besides these nine days' ceremonies there are others whose performance requires four days, and many simpler ones requiring only a single day, each with its own dry-painting.
The Navajo culture is kept alive through ceremony. There are many ceremonies for different things. The ceremonies were given by the Holy ones. Through these ceremonies, the important lessons are taught to help preserve us as a people, the ceremony teaches about history and responsibilities as a human being inside the universe and the Navajo's place in it. They teach about this world, and how one can also help with this world. It also teaches patience.
Through ceremony the language is kept alive. The ceremony is also the place to talk with the Holy Ones and the Creator. They help to bless the sick in body and mind. Ceremonies are also used to celebrate joyous occasions and they are also used to help solve problems within Navajo society and within the family. During these counsels everyone must agree on what is best, or they will come together again until they can. Navajo music is a very important part of the ceremony and also has great power.