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Navaho Religion

Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism. (Mythos Series)

GLADYS AMANDA REICHARD
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 872
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv9qg
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  • Book Info
    Navaho Religion
    Book Description:

    In this in-depth exploration of the symbols found in Navaho legend and ritual, Gladys Reichard discusses the attitude of the tribe members toward their place in the universe, their obligation toward humankind and their gods, and their conception of the supernatural, as well as how the Navaho achieve a harmony within their world through symbolic ceremonial practice.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5909-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  3. FOREWORD TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
    Oliver La Farge

    In writingNavaho Religion, Gladys Reichard undertook a stupendous task, at which she was eminently successful. She set out to expound all the manifold elements—some, to the uninitiated observer, large, and some small, but all, to Navaho thinking, important—that make up a complex and apparently disorderly ceremonial system, to classify and explain the symbolism, and, in her Concordances, to reduce most of the diverse elements at least tentatively to order.

    The Navaho religion is based on a central core of doctrine and philosophy which the author sketched understandingly in her Introduction. This embodies broad ideas that one recognizes...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
    Gladys A. Reichard
  5. NOTE ON THE NAVAHO LANGUAGE
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xxxiii-xlviii)

    The Navaho, largest and most colorful Indian tribe in the United States, is superficially the best known. Its members wear costumes derived from old Spain and the cowboy tradition, and they travel on horseback or in covered wagons more frequently than in pickups, trucks, or sedans. They crowd to the ‘ squaw dance,’ where, within a mile of highway or railroad, their eerie singing and strange rites carry the ordinary white person miles from reality and back uncounted years into what he considers the prehistoric past. Occasionally he can watch a sandpainting being made and used for its original purpose;...

  7. PART ONE DOGMA

    • CHAPTER 1 NAVAHO CATEGORIES
      (pp. 3-12)

      Navaho dogma is based upon a cosmogony that tries to account for everything in the universe by relating it to man and his activities. It assumes that even before man existed, the purpose for his appearance on the earth and his use of all nature’s apparatus was formulated—by whom, no one knows. To the Navaho religion means ritual. Each ceremony has its own myth, a long account of deific decrees, from which it derives its authority. In it human activities are so co-ordinated with supernatural adventures and ritualistic explanations that the myth plot aids the chanter’s memory. After the...

    • CHAPTER 2 WORLD VIEW
      (pp. 13-25)

      As explained in Chapter 1, the Navaho reason from mythological precedent. Myth must be viewed as teleological; cosmogony is purposeful though sometimes the custom or object explained is not even known until its mythical creation. Unless this paradox is accepted, the materials cannot seem other than ridiculous. The religions to which we are accustomed are recognized as beliefs rather than as proved theorems, but even our scientists keep their science separate from their religion. If we are tolerant of a religion not our own we understand it better, and we should try to realize that the Navaho does not make...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 3 THE NATURE OF MAN
      (pp. 26-49)

      First Man and First Woman existed in the lowest mythological world. From the beginning their purpose was to arrange conditions suitable for the Navaho to people the earth. The First Pair had some human traits: they could think and talk; they knew something about sex; they had some inkling of the difference between good and evil. Their knowledge was imperfect because incomplete and, therefore, uncontrolled; they thought that the universe was undeveloped rather than chaotic. A notion of conscious creation, ability to glimpse the future, and the will to control it set First Man and First Woman apart as supernatural...

    • CHAPTER 4 PANTHEON: CHARACTERISTICS OF SUPERNATURALS
      (pp. 50-62)

      At various points in man’s walk through life all the courage and endurance he summons may fail; he then invokes the superior power of the supernaturals. Dogma does not try to account for the origin of the deities. They simply were, without birth or creation, or they were transformed from something that already existed.

      There are three Navaho names for deity—γé’i˙, xa˙ctc̓éʹ, and diγini˙—but, as is usually the case with Navaho categories, they are not exclusive. γé’i˙ is used both for those who help man and those who harm man. Talking God, for instance, whose name is xa˙ctc̓éʹłtihí,...

    • CHAPTER 5 PANTHEON: TYPES OF SUPERNATURALS
      (pp. 63-79)

      Some of the gods who play a major role in the chants analyzed may be called Persuadable Deities because their motives are good. Among them are Sun, Changing Woman, most of the xa˙ctc̓éʹ, Racing Gods, and all their duplicates (Chapter 4). Some of these have many kinds of power; Gopher, Yellow Rat, Chipmunk, and other helpers have perhaps only one or at best few powers. First Man, First Woman, Salt Woman, be’γotcidí, and others might be included here as well as among the Undependable Deities, since they exerted a great deal of influence in creation and in guiding the universe...

    • CHAPTER 6 THEORY OF DISEASE
      (pp. 80-103)

      The causes of disease fall into two categories, definite and indefinite. Failure to observe some of the numerous restrictions that regulate the correct Navaho life is a relatively definite cause. If a person knew and heeded them all, he could exist only as a hidebound ascetic, hardly free to do much required by his daily life, or most of his time would be occupied in removing the harmful effects of broken taboos. Restrictions do not, however, weigh as heavily upon the ordinary person as might be assumed. Normally life goes on quietly and satisfactorily enough. A man may observe some...

    • CHAPTER 7 THEORY OF CURING
      (pp. 104-122)

      The first step in curing is taken by finding out, by a review of past behavior or consultation with a seer, the particular evils responsible for illness. Bad things sent by malevolent spirits, or even the spirits themselves, may enter the body. A few examples of the evil beings, the way they operate and the means of their disintegration, demonstrate the ritualistic curing process and its explanations.

      Turkey Buzzard was ‘ in full charge of wickedness ’ (bąhági˙’íṫé). When the earth was still dominated by monsters, he sent Crow to search for human flesh, which was becoming scarce. The Twins...

    • CHAPTER 8 ETHICS
      (pp. 123-144)

      The ethical system is a function of social as well as religious organization. The family into which an individual is born determines his obligations and privileges. The extended family has a much larger membership than the simple unit in our society, since it is a subdivision of a clan—a social group that counts descent and inheritance in the maternal line. A person may, therefore, depend upon help from his mother’s brothers rather than from his father, from his maternal grandparents rather than from both sides of the family; he may be called upon to aid his sisters and sisters’...

  8. PART TWO SYMBOLISM

    • CHAPTER 9 THE NATURE OF SYMBOLISM
      (pp. 147-170)

      The examination of concepts has implied that there is a system by means of which they are held together, a coordination of series of symbols with special significance, so projected as to fit into a comprehensive pattern. The pattern includes everything in the dogma and ritual; all the diverse elements are combined in a unit, actually a philosophy of life and preservation. By association the elements are drawn into a whole, so subtly that many of the people concerned may be unaware of it. The scheme may be compared with a language. The ordinary speaker, using it merely for communication,...

    • CHAPTER 10 SEX, DOMINANCE, AND SIZE
      (pp. 171-179)

      Since reproduction is a primary concern of Navaho religion, sex would be expected to be a major symbol. To understand it, the relative position of the sexes in the culture should be examined. Actually, there is little to limit what women may attain in any phase of Navaho culture.¹ Their status in the home, in the economic, social, even political life is equal to that of men. Theoretically they may reach the highest place in the religious life also, but very few women have become chanters (Introduction).

      The ritualistic treatment of females contrasts somewhat with woman’s high position in the...

    • CHAPTER 11 ALTERNATION, REVERSAL, AND NEGATION
      (pp. 180-186)

      One reason for some changes in repeated sandpaintings is the stipulation that the chanter change colors or the color sequence in successive performances, a rule that accounts for some differences previously thought to be errors. Since the chanter’s achievements have never been listed, there is no way of verifying color details. Although I saw a chant repeated more than once and knew the chanters who would have given me such a list, I was unaware ofalternationat the time and missed the opportunity.

      The main function of alternation, whether of colors or of ritualistic acts, is to prevent overdoing;...

    • CHAPTER 12 COLOR AND PRECIOUS STONES
      (pp. 187-213)

      Color, an outstanding symbol of Navaho ceremonialism, is especially significant in combination, but first I discuss the more general aspects of each color in the order in which they most commonly occur. No color or sequence runs through a single chant consistently; none has the same meaning in every setting, nor does chance account for apparent exceptions to the rules; every detail is calculated. If there seems to be a variation, it is for cause.

      White(łgai, łgaihígí˙) apparently differentiates the naturally sacred from the profane—black or red, for instance—which, through exorcism and ritual, must be transformed to...

    • CHAPTER 13 COLOR COMBINATIONS
      (pp. 214-240)

      Meanings may best be determined in combinations of colors. It has long been assumed that each Southwest tribe has a fixed color pattern for the cardinal directions. I do not know whether this is true of the other tribes, but it certainly is not of the Navaho.

      A cursory study of the Shooting Chant sandpaintings showed that different schemes fulfilled various requirements. As more material becomes available, colors are seen to be paired in ways at variance with what is said in Chapter 12. Black and white are one male-female pair in the Shooting Chant, blue and yellow another. In...

    • CHAPTER 14 NUMBER
      (pp. 241-249)

      Repetition is one of the major devices of Navaho ritual. The attention formerly paid to fourfold repetition has obscured the whole subject of number, since four and multiples of four were selected for emphasis from the vast array of numbers actually found. The analysis of prayers has shown that scarcely any number predominates in Navaho ritual.¹

      Pairing has been mentioned in other connections and twofold repetition is taken for granted (Chapters 10, 13).

      The sandpaintings illustrate the progressive use of number; those in the Newcomb-Reichard volume were arranged to illustrate its relative importance. If only one painting of a series...

    • CHAPTER 15 PERCEPTUAL SYMBOLS
      (pp. 250-266)

      Though the Navaho are so impressed by color that they have woven it into their entire ritualistic scheme, they seem to regard it as a function of light. In Stevenson’s origin myth we are told, “By the time they had reached the fourth world the people had separated light into its several colors.” They assigned the colors to the different parts of the sky to be the light manifestations called the Day Skies—Dawn, Blue Sky, Yellow-evening-light, Darkness.¹

      In the upper world the people found only darkness; they had to create the sun, moon, and stars to furnish light. In...

    • CHAPTER 16 WORD, FORMULA, AND MYTH
      (pp. 267-276)

      The Navaho cosmogonists were interested in man’s culture and institutions no less than in the natural order. Language, perhaps the most intricate phase of culture, is by its nature symbolical, but in addition to the expected linguistic symbolism, there is ritualistic symbolism, like that of color, direction, and number. Speech as one of man’s faculties, references in prayer to the ‘tip of the speech,’ the existence of the word from the very beginning of conceivable time, the requirement that prayer and song be accurately reproduced in spite of stringent restrictions and a strain on the memory—all these are evidences...

  9. PART THREE RITUAL

    • CHAPTER 17 SONG
      (pp. 279-300)

      Song, an indispensable part of ritual, a link between dogma and symbolism, has linguistic, literary, and musical aspects. Although many Navaho songs have been collected, few have been analyzed, the summaries being based on small samples of selected songs.¹ It is doubtless presumptuous to discuss song without discussing music, but since the prospect of the musical analysis is dim, I suggest some problems that should be tackled. Music will certainly be found to be a part of sound symbolism; most likely even its components—melody, rhythm, phrasing, and the like—have an independent function as well as a function related...

    • CHAPTER 18 PRAYERSTICKS
      (pp. 301-313)

      The word ‘ prayerstick ’ is essential to a discussion of any Southwestern religion. The thing for which it stands occurs in many forms besides the feathered stick from which it takes its name. In Navaho the name is ke˙ṫá˙n, which probably means ‘ place-where-it-is-feathered, place-offeathering.’ Many forms not of sticks with feathers are called ke˙ṫá˙n, probably because they serve the purpose of invoking supernatural aid, rather than that they actually look alike. For example, hailstones of meal and herbs and specially selected stones invite some of the Hail Chant deities. On the other hand, many objects not invocatory—bundle...

    • CHAPTER 19 CLASSIFICATION OF CEREMONIES
      (pp. 314-337)

      Of the several classifications of Navaho ceremonies the most inclusive is that of Wyman and Kluckhohn, which is based partly on Father Berard’s terminology.¹ My own attempt, far from complete, was arrived at by another method. Instead of starting with the comprehensive view, which assumes that each chanter understands the religion as a whole, I began with the details. Proceeding from the specific to the general, I find myself with a vast number of details—mythological episodes and incidents, rites, color, sound, directional symbols, ritualistic acts, and the like—bound together in a complex organization. Any one of the parts...

    • CHAPTER 20 ORGANIZATION OF RITUAL
      (pp. 338-354)

      Whereas the ethnologist is interested in the classification of ceremonies and the interpretation as a whole, the singer is engrossed in the details of the chant he knows; he enlarges the field of his preoccupation only as he obtains new knowledge. He occupies himself, therefore, with the elements from among which he has to choose—deities to invoke with prayersticks, patterns of the prayersticks, songs, rites, ritualistic acts—and their organization into a ceremony. Properties are as important as songs and prayers; they are to be found in his bundle, described by Kluckhohn and Wyman.¹ I record such additional information...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 355-378)
  11. Concordances

    • CONCORDANCE A SUPERNATURAL BEINGS
      (pp. 381-505)

      Concordance A is an introductory attempt to characterize the supernatural beings of the animistic Navaho pantheon, particularly those dealt with in the ceremonies analyzed in this book; it does not pretend to be complete. Following most of the names is an abbreviation—a capital letter or letters—indicating the emphasis placed on the being in the ritualistic material according to the divisions of the pantheon as outlined in Chapters 4 and 5. Since few, if any, of these beings are always in the same category, the letters indicate merely a tentative preponderance. Comparison with other chants would doubtless indicate greater...

    • CONCORDANCE B RITUALISTIC IDEAS
      (pp. 506-613)

      Concordance B deals with ideas relevant to the ceremonies, including the mythological concepts that purport to explain them. It is far from exhaustive, the items listed being those related to the chants with which I have had most experience—Male Shooting Chant Holy and Evil, Hail, Endurance, Big Star. The concordance parallels to some extent those of Kluckhohn and Wyman, and two of Father Berard Haile—one of the Enemy Way, one of the Flint Chant. I have tried to make the entries comparable, either by using the same catchwords, including theirs with mine when they differ, or by cross...

    • CONCORDANCE C RITES
      (pp. 614-736)

      Application of bundle (A)

      Application of bundle, identification (A).

      Application of bundle: SC Prayerstick branch.

      Application of bundle: SC Sun’s House branch Red Inside phase.

      Application of bundle, layout: SC Prayerstick branch.

      Application of bundle, meaning of (A, E).

      Application of paint,seeOvershooting.

      Application, of unravelers.

      Bandoleer and wristlets, disposal of: SC Prayerstick branch.

      Bandoleer and wristlets, d posal of: SC Sun’s House branch.

      Basket layout: BS.

      Bath (E)

      Bath: BS.

      Bath: Feather Chant.

      Bath: SC Prayerstick and Sun’s House branches and repetitions.

      Bath: meaning of (E).

      Bead Chant, excerpt.

      Blackening (E)

      Blackening, preparation for: BS and SCE.

      Blackening...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  12. LIST OF CONCORDANCE TOPICS
    (pp. 737-743)
  13. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 744-746)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 747-762)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 763-804)
  16. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
    (pp. 805-806)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 807-807)