The Mountain Chant: A Navajo Ceremony Washington Matthews
THE CEREMONIES OF DSILYÍDJE QAÇÀL.
81. It has been my lot to see portions of these ceremonies at various times. The most complete view I had of them was during a visit made to a place called Niqotlizi (Hard Earth), some twenty miles northwest from Fort Wingate, New Mexico, and just within the southern boundary of the Navajo Reservation, This was the only occasion when I obtained full access to the medicine lodge on the later days of the ceremonies and had an opportunity of observing the wonderful pictures on sand which are illustrated in color in the accompanying plates.
82. On October 21, 1884, when I arrived at this place, the patient, for whose benefit the rites were celebrated and a few of her immediate relations were the only people encamped here. They occupied a single temporary shelter of brushwood, within a few paces of which I had a rude shelter erected for my own accommodation. The patient was a middleaged woman, who apparently suffered from no ailment whatever; she was stout, ruddy, cheerful, and did her full share of the household work every day; yet she was about to give away for these ceremonies sheep, horses, and other goods to the value of perhaps two hundred dollars. No ceremonies whatever were in progress when I came. Everything, so the Indians said, was waiting for the qaçàli. (Paragraph 2.) Some men were engaged in building a corral for the sheep that were to be slaughtered for the guests, and some old women were grinding corn to feast the men who were to work in the medicine lodge, which had been completed six days before.
83. This lodge was a simple conical structure of large, partly hewed piñon logs, set on end and inclined at an angle of about forty-five degrees, so as to join one another on top, where they formed the apex of the lodge. The circle of logs was incomplete in the east, where the openings for the door and the smoke hole were. A passage, or entry, about live feet high and three feet wide, led from the body of the lodge to the outer doorway, where some blankets hung as portières. The frame of logs was covered with sods and loose earth to keep out wind and rain. Internally, the lodge was eight feet in height under the apex of the cone and on an average twenty-five feet in diameter at the base. The diameter was increased at the east (to allow for the entry) and at the north. The irregularity in the circumference in the north was at first conjectured to be a mere accident; but in the ceremonies of the first night its use became apparent as affording a hiding place for the man dressed in evergreens. (Paragraph 96.)
84. THE FIRST FOUR DAYS' ceremonies in this case had been performed during the previous year. Such a division of the work is sometimes made, if more convenient for the patient and his friends, but usually all is done in nine consecutive days. These first days have less of interest than the others. Early each morning, before eating, all who desire, men and women, enter the medicine lodge, where, in a stifling
atmosphere, seated around a fire of dry wood of four different kinds--cedar, big willow, little willow, and spruce--they take the hot emetic infusion of fifteen different kinds of plants mixed together. A little sand is placed in front of each to receive the ejected material. After the emetic has acted the fire is removed, deposited some paces to the north of the lodge, and allowed to die out. Each devotee's pile of sand, is then removed (beginning with that of the man who sat in the east. and going round the circle) and deposited, one after another, in a line north of the sacred fire. Each succeeding day's deposits are placed farther and farther north in a continuous line. Next all return to the lodge, which has been allowed to cool; the shaman spits on each some, medicine which has been mixed with hoar-frost and is supposed to cool. When all have left the lodge, a new fire of ordinary wood is kindled, and the kethàwns, or sacrificial sticks, appropriate to the day are made.
85. FIFTH DAY. The chanter did not arrive until the afternoon of October 23. His ceremonies in the medicine lodge began on the morning of the 24th. The forenoon was devoted to the preparation and sacrifice of certain kethàwns (keçàn)--the sacrificial sticks, to the origin of which so much of the foregoing myth is devoted--and of sacrificial cigarettes. About eight o'clock the sick woman entered the medicine lodge, followed by the chanter. While she sat on the ground, with her limbs extended, he applied some powdered substance from his medicine bag to the soles of her feet, to her knees, breasts, shoulders, cheeks, and head, in the order named, and then threw some of it towards the heavens. through the smoke hole. Before applying it to the head he placed some of it in her mouth to be swallowed. Then, kneeling on a sheep skin, with her face to the east, and holding the bag of medicine in her hand, she recited a prayer, bit by bit, after the chanter. The prayer being, finished, she arose, put some of the medicine into her mouth, some on her head, and took her seat in the south, while the shaman went on with the preparation of the sacrifices
86. An assistant daubed a nice straight branch of cherry with some moistened herbaceous powder, after which he divided the branch into four pieces with a flint knife. Two of the pieces were each about two inches long and two each about four inches long. In each of the shorter ones he made one slight gash and in each of the longer ones two gashes. The sticks were then painted a shred of yucca leaf being used for the brush, with rings of black, red, and white, disposed in a different order on each stick. The two cigarettes were made by filling sections of some hollow stem with a mixture of some pulverized plants. Such cigarettes are intended, as the prayers indicate, to be smoked by the gods. (Paragraph 88.)
87. While the assistants were painting the sticks and making the, cigarettes the old chanter placed on a sheep skin, spread on the floor woolly side down, other things pertaining to the sacrifice: five bundles; of assorted feathers, five small pieces of cotton sheeting to wrap the sacri
fices in, and two round flat stones, each about four inches in diameter. The upper surfaces of these he painted, one blue and one black, and he bordered each with a stripe of red. When the kethàwns and cigarettes were ready, the qaçàli distributed them along with the bunches of plumes, on the five pieces of cotton cloth, which were then rolled up around their contents, making five bundles of sacrifices. On the completion of this work there was prayer, song, and rattling; the medicinal powder was applied to the body of the patient as before (paragraph 85); two of the little sacrificial bundles were placed in her right hand, and while she held them she again repeated a prayer, following again phrase by phrase, or sentence by sentence, the words of the priest. The latter, when the prayer was ended, took the sacrifices from her hand and pressed them to different parts of her body in the order previously observed, beginning with the soles of the feet and going upwards to the head, but on this occasion touching also the back, and touching it last. Each time after pressing the sacrifices to her body he held them up to the smoke hole and blew on them in that direction a quick puff, as if blowing away some evil influence which the sacrifices were supposed to draw from her body. Then the three remaining bundles were pat in her hands and the rites observed with the former bundles were repeated in every respect, including the prayer, which was followed by singing and rattling. When the song had ceased some of the assistants took the bundles of sacrifices out of the lodge, no doubt to bury them according to the method proper for those particular kethàwns. The round painted stones were also carried out.
88. The prayers which the woman repeated varied but little. They all sounded nearly alike. The night the shaman arrived he rehearsed some of these prayers with the woman, at her own hogán, to make her familiar with them before she repeated them in the medicine lodge. The prayer addressed to Dsilyi` Neyáni, when she held in her hand the offering sacred to him, was as follows:
Reared Within the Mountains!
Lord of the Mountains!
I have made your sacrifice.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
My feet restore thou for me.
My legs restore thou for me.
My body restore thou for me.
My mind restore thou for me.
My voice restore thou for me.
Restore all for me in beauty.
Make beautiful all that is before me.
Make beautiful all that is behind me.
Make beautiful my words.
It is done in beauty.
It is done in beauty.
It is done in beauty.
It is done in beauty. (Paragraphs 261-4.)
89. The next part of the ceremonies (or, shall I say, the treatment?) was a fumigation. The medicine man took from the fire a large glowing coal, placed it beside the woman, and scattered on it some powdered substance which instantly gave forth a dense smoke and a strong fragrance that filled the lodge. The woman held her face over the coal and inhaled the fumes with deep inspirations. When the smoke no longer rose. the coal was quenched with water and carried out of the lodge by the chief, Manuelito, probably to be disposed of in some established manner. Then the woman left the lodge and singing and rattling were resumed.
90. While the rites just described were in progress some assistants were busy with other matters. One made, from the spotted skin of a fawn, two bags in which the akáninilis or couriers were to carry their weal on the morrow's journey. Another brought in and hung over the doorway a bundle of dry, withered plants which he had just gathered. Glancing up at them I recognized the Gutierrezia and the Bouteloua. The bundle may have contained the other plants mentioned in the myth (paragraph 44). They were hung up there till the next day, to be then used in a manner which will be described (paragraph 101).
91. The sheepskin on which the sacrifices had been placed was taken away and a blanket was spread on the ground to receive some more sacred articles from the bag of the chanter. These were five long notched wands, some tail feathers of the wild turkey, some small downy feathers of the eagle, and some native mineral pigments-yellow ocher, a ferruginous black, and a native blue. With the pigments the assistants painted the notched wands; with the plumes the chanter trimmed them. (See Fig. 51 and Plate XI.) Then they were called çobolçà, a word of obscure etymology, or in¢ia`, which signifies sticking up or standing erect. They are called in this paper "plumed wands."
92. While some were making the çobolçà others busied themselves grinding, between stones, large quantities of pigments, coarser than those referred to above, to be used in making the sand pictures or dry paintings of the ceremony. They made five colors: black, of charcoal; white, of white sandstone; red, of red sandstone; yellow, of, yellow sandstone; and "blue," of the black and white, mixed in proper proportions; of course this was a gray, but it was their only cheap substitute for the cerulean tint, and, combined with the other colors on the sanded floor, in the dim light of the lodge, it could not easily be distinguished from a true blue. It may be remarked in passing that the Navajo apply to many things which are gray the term they use for blue (çolíj); thus the gray fox is called màï-çolíj (blue coyote) and a gray sheep is called a blue sheep. Yet that they make a distinction between these colors its, I think, fairly evident from the fact that in painting small articles, such as kethàwns and masks, they use the more costly articles of turquoise, Malachite, and indigo. These coarse pigments for the dry paintings were put for convenience on curved pieces of piñon bark.
From time to time, during this and the following days, as the heaps of colored powder diminished under the hands of the artists, more stones and charcoal were pulverized to replenish them.
FIG. 51. The çobolçà, or plumed wands, as seen from the door of the medicine lodge.
93. About noon they cleared off that portion of the floor of the lodge which lay west of the fire, and brought, in blankets, a quantity of dry sand, which they spread oat over the cleared portion of the floor in a layer of the nearly constant depth of three inches. They smoothed the surface with the broad oaken battens used in weaving. Now for a time all operations were suspended in the lodge while the chanter went out to plant the bolçà, or plumed wands, in front of the medicine lodge, and to lay beside them the collars of beaver skins and the symbols for wings which the couriers were to wear next day. (Fig. 51.) These articles, it was said, were placed outside as a sign to the gods that the holy pictures were being drawn; but it is not improbable that they were intended also as a sign to uninitiated mortals. However that may be, they were taken in as soon as the picture was finished. The great painting was begun about 1 o'clock p. m., was finished about 3, and was allowed to remain until the ceremonies at night were concluded. It will be described later. (Paragraphs 160 et seq.)
94. When the picture was completed food was brought in, and there was a good deal of eating and sleeping and smoking done. Being informed that nothing more would be done until after nightfall, I went to my own shelter, to elaborate some of my more hasty sketches while matters were still fresh in my mind. At 7 o'clock a messenger came to tell me that ceremonies were about to be resumed. During my absence the principal character in the night's performance--a man arrayed in evergreens--had been dressed.
95. I found, on returning to the lodge, a number of spectators seated around close to the edge of the apartment. The fire burned in the center. The sick woman, with some companions, sat in the south. The qaçàli, with a few assistants who joined him in singing and shaking rattles, was seated at the north, at the place where the circumference of the lodge was enlarged. (Paragraph 83.) There was a space about two feet wide and six feet long between them and the wall, or roof if yon choose so to call it, of the lodge. I was assigned a place in the west. The sick woman was directed to move from the position she occupied
east and west and straight lines north and south, like their symbols for the chain and sheet lightnings, by stepping over her in different directions, and by rattling. When she had apparently recovered, he pressed the plumed wands and the symbols for wings to different parts of her body, in the order and with the ceremonies described when referring to previous application made to her body.
99. There were no more ceremonies that night. I remained in the medicine lodge until it was quite late. The men occupied their time in singing, rattling, gambling, and smoking. After a while some grew weary and lay down to sleep. Being repeatedly assured that nothing more would happen until the whistle sounded in the morning, I left the lodge to roll myself in my blankets. Yet frequently during the night, fearing I might have been deceived, I stealthily arose and visited the medicine lodge, only to find all slumbering soundly.
100. SIXTH DAY. At five in the morning (Saturday, October 25) the whistle sounded and I hastened to the medicine lodge. There was much to be done; the couriers were to be dressed and sent on their way, and a large picture was to be painted; so the work had to begin early.
FIG. 52. Akáninili ready for the journey.
101. The first thing done was to burn to charcoal the bundle of plants which had been gathered on the previous morning and hung over the door of the lodge inside. (Paragraph 90.) The charcoal was used in painting the limbs of the akáninilis, or couriers. A basin of water containing soap root or amolë (the root of Yucca baccata and other species of yucca) was brought in, and after the medicine man had dabbed them with a little of the suds the akáninilis-elect washed themselves with it from head to foot, cleaning their hair well. When the bath was done, they were dabbed by the qaçàli with some other mixture contained in a waterproof wicker basin and were made to inhale the fragrant
fumes of some vegetable powder scattered on a live coal, which, as usual, was "put out," in a double sense, when the fumigation was over. Then the young men were dressed and adorned to look like Dsilyi` Neyáni after his toilet in the house of the butterflies. (Paragraph 44.) Their legs and forearms were painted black, to represent the storm cloud. The outer aspects of these members were decorated with white zigzag streaks, to indicate the white lightning. Their faces were painted partly white and small white spots were scattered over their bodies. Downy eagle feathers were fastened to their hair; necklaces of shell and coral were hung around their necks, and over these were laid collars of beaver skin, with whistles attached, which had lain in front of the lodge the day before, near the plumed wands. (Paragraph 93, Fig. 51.) Small objects to represent wings were tied to their arms. Each was given one of the fawn skin bags (paragraph 90) with corn meal in it. In the hand of the akáninili who was to go to the south was placed one of the çobolçà, or plumed wands, whose stem was painted black, the color of the north, as a sign to all he might meet that he was a duly authorized messenger from a medicine lodge in the north. In the hand of the other akáninili was placed a blue shafted wand, to show that he came from the south. Thus equipped they were all ready for the journey. (Fig. 52.)
102. The chanter gave them his messages, telling them where to go, what places they were to visit, what other chanters they were to see, what dancers they were to invite, and what gifts they were authorized to offer to the visiting performers for their trouble. Having given these special instructions, he closed with the general instructions, which are always given to the akáninili, as follows:
These [pointing to the eagle feathers on the head] will make for you a means of rising as you progress.
These (pointing to the wing symbols on the arm] will bear you onward.
This (pointing to the collar of beaver skin] will be a means of recognition for you. For this reason it hangs around your neck.
Sprinkle meal across a little valley, across a big arroyo.
Across the roots of a tree sprinkle meal and then you may step over.
Sprinkle meal across a flat rock.
Then the plumed wand. For this purpose you carry it, that they will recognize you as coming from a holy place.
103. The akáninili on his journey scatters meal before him as directed in these charges. He also scatters it on the medicine men whom he visits, and for this reason he is called akáninili, which signifies meal sprinkler.
104. When the last word of the instructions was uttered, the couriers departed, one to the north and one to the south. It was not later than 7 o'clock when they left. As soon as they were gone, the work of painting the picture appropriate to the day was began. It was much more elaborate than the painting of the previous day. Although a dozen men worked on it, it was not finished until two o'clock. About the time
it was done, the akáninili from the south returned. He was carefully divested of all his ornaments. The white paint was scraped carefully from his body and preserved in the medicine bags of those who scraped it off. Then he was led out of the lodge.
105. When the picture was finished, the shaman, having applied pollen in three places to each god, stuck around it in the ground, at regular intervals, the three plumed wands which had stood before the door of the lodge all day and the wand which the akáninili from the south had just brought back with him. This wand he placed at the south of the picture, and laid beside it the collar, wings, and plumes which the akáninili had worn. The fifth, or north, wand was still absent with the courier who went to the north.
106. All was ready now for the treatment of the sick woman. She was sent for, and a crier went to the door of the lodge to announce that song and ceremony were to begin. Accompanied by another woman, she entered, carrying a basket with corn meal in it. This she sprinkled lightly over the picture and then handed it to some of the. assistants, who finished the work she had begun by strewing the meal plentifully on the figures. She sat on the form of the god in the east, facing the door, with her feet extended, and her companion sat on the figure of the cornstalk in the southeast. (Plate XVI.) In the mean time the medicine man had made a cold infusion in an earthen bowl and placed it on the hands of the rainbow figure (paragraph 169), laying over it a brush or sprinkler made of feathers, with a handle of colored yarn. When the women were seated, the chanter dipped his brush in the solution; sprinkled the picture plentifully; touched each divine figure with the moistened brush in three places--brow, mouth, and chest; administered the infusion to the women, in two alternate draughts to each; drained the bowl himself; and handed it to the bystanders, that they might finish the dregs and let none of the precious stuff go to waste. Next came the fumigation. The woman whom we have designated as the companion rose from her seat on the picture and sat on the ground beside the door. The principal patient retained her seat on the eastern god. Near each a live coal was laid on the ground. On the coal a strong scented but rather fragrant mixture was thrown, and as the fumes arose the women waved them towards their faces and breathed them in as before. The coal was extinguished and carefully removed, as on previous occasions. The application of the sacred dust to the body of the patient followed. The shaman moistened his hands with saliva and pressed them to the feet of all the gods. Some of the powder, of course, stuck to his palms. This he applied to the feet of the patient. Thus he took dust from the knees, abdomens, chests, shoulders, and heads of the figures and applied it to corresponding parts of the patient's form, making a strong massage with each application.
107. When the patient had departed many of the spectators advanced to the picture and gathered the corn pollen (paragraphs 105 and 112), now
rendered doubly sacred, and put it in their medicine bags. Some took portions of the remaining dust from the figures, after the manner of the shaman, and applied it to ailing portions of their persons. If the devotee had disease in his legs, be took dust from the legs of the figures; if in his head, the dust was taken from the heads of the figures, an so on.
108. By the time they were all done the picture was badly marred; yet its general form and some of the details were quite distinguishable. Then it became the province of the chanter to completely obliterate it. He began with the white god in the east and took in turn the figures in the southeast (corn), south, southwest, west, center, northwest, north, and northeast. Next, the figure of the rainbow was erased from foot to head, and, on his way, the chanter knocked down, with rather vicious blows, the plumed wands which stood up around the picture. When he came to the round figure in the center he dug up a cup which had been buried there. He erased the picture with a long slender wand and sang in the meantime, to the accompaniment of the rattling of his assistants, a plaintive chant in a minor key, which was perhaps the most melodious Indian song I ever heard. All was over at half past 2 in the afternoon.
109. Later in the day it was announced that the other akáninili was approaching from the north. He could then be observed about a mile away in all open plain. As he advanced the sound of his whistle was heard. At exactly half past 4 he entered the medicine lodge, where the chanter motioned him to a seat in the south. Singing and rattling were at once begun and the akáninili was divested of his trappings in the following order: head plumes, beaver collar, necklace, right wing, left wing, belt, sash, moccasins. The white paint was removed and preserved as on the former occasion. He was led out of the lodge, where he was well washed from head to foot in a hot decoction of the detergent amolë and dried with corn meal. Two large blood blisters were to be seen on the inner aspects of his thighs, brought on by the friction of his breechcloth in running. He said that he had ran constantly when not in sight from our camp, had traveled a long way since morning, and was very tired. It seems to be the custom with the akáninili to walk slowly when near camp and to run when out of sight, probably to follow the mythic examples of Tlà¢esçìni and Indsiskàï. (Paragraph 63.)
110. With the toilet of the akáninili the ceremonies of the day ended. He returned to the lodge to relate his adventures and get some food. During the day visitors arrived occasionally from distant camps. In the afternoon there were several young men present, who busied themselves in grubbing and clearing the ground where the corral was to be built and the great dance of the last night was to be held. I remained in the lodge until it was quite late, and I frequently rose during the night to see if anything was going on; but the night passed without event, like the previous one.
111. SEVENTH DAY. The painting of the picture and the treatment of the sick woman were the only works performed on this day (Sun. day, October 26). The whistle sounded from the lodge at 6 a. m., but already the plumed wands and the beaver collars had been placed before the door of the medicine lodge and the sand for the groundwork of the picture had been brought in. As the picture (Plate XVII) was to be larger than those which preceded it, the tire was moved quite near to the door; the heated earth which lay under the fire in its former position was dug up and replaced with cold earth, probably for the comfort of the artists.
112. The work of the painters was begun soon after 6 a. m. and was not completed until about 2 p. m. About a dozen men were engaged on it, and it occupied them, as we have seen, about eight hours. As usual, the qaçàli did very little of the manual labor; but he constantly watched the work and frequently criticised and corrected it. When the painting was done, it became his duty to apply the sacred corn pollen to the brow, month, and chest of each of the gods and to set up the bounding çobolçà or plumed wands. After this he placed a bowl of water on the left hand of the white god--the form second from the north--threw into it some powdered substance to make a cold decoction, and laid the sprinkler on top of it. (Paragraph 106.)
113. The whistle was blown. The herald announced that all was ready. The sick woman and her companion entered, and one after the other cut meal upon the floor. the former took off her moccasins and sat on the ground near the door while a song was sung. Then she sat on the form of the white god, her companion sat on the form of the blue god, and the singing and rattling wore resumed. Without interrupting his song the chanter sprinkled the picture with the infusion, applied the moistened sprinkler to the breast, head, and brow of each of the gods in the following order: white, blue, yellow, black, and sat down to finish his chant. He administered the decoctions to his patient in two draughts, to her companion in two draughts, to himself (honest physician!) in the same manner, and gave as before (paragraph 106) the dregs to the bystanders. He applied the dust from different parts of the divine figures to the sick woman, in much the same manner as on the previous day, and while doing this he obliterated the pictures of the little animals over the head of the white god. The fumigation of both women was repeated with exactly the same rites as on the second day, and the fumes had precisely the same odor on this occasion as on that. When the coats were extinguished and taken out, the chanter said to the women, "kaç" (now), whereat they arose and left the lodge.
114. As soon as they were gone the work of obliteration began. The figures of the gods were rubbed out in the usual order (white, blue, yellow, black, rainbow), the erasure in each case proceeding from foot to head. The plumed wands fell as before, simultaneously with the destruction of the rainbow. The sand was carried out at half past 2 &clock and no further rites were performed during the day.
115. EIGHTH DAY. The picture painted on Monday (October 27) was of a simple character, and hence did not occupy much time. The work was begun at 7 a. m. and was finished at 10 a. m. Of the four shorter or interior arrows (Plate XVIII), that which stands second from the north was regarded as the arrow of the east and was began first. On this arrow the sick woman was placed, sitting with her face to the east, when she came to be treated and fumigated. The bowl of infusion was laid on the point of the arrow immediately to her left, regarded as the arrow of the north. The medicine man put the pollen on the base, on the red cross lines near the center, and on the white tips. All the ceremonies which took place between the completion and the obliteration of the picture (the planting of the five plumed wands, the sprinkling of the picture with meal, the sprinkling and administration of the infusion, the application of the colored dust to the person of the patient, the fumigation of the two women, the whistling, the singing, and rattling) were essentially the same as those observed on the previous day. In taking the dust from the picture, however, the shaman applied his hands only to the bases of the arrows. The ceremony of obliteration was also a repetition of the rites of the previous day.
116. The building of the great stack of wood (Fig. 53) which was to furnish the fire in the center of the corral on the last night went on
Fig. 53 The great wood pile.
simultaneously with the painting of the picture. Both tasks were begun and ended about the same time. The wood in the big pile was dead, long seasoned juniper and cedar, fuel of the most inflammable character. The pile was about twelve feet high and sixty paces in
circumference. Large quantities of this dry wood were also brought and placed outside the space allotted to the corral, to replenish the fires. when needed.
117. In the afternoon there were no ceremonies in the medicine lodge. The qaçàli and his assistants took a half holiday, and not without deserving it, for they had wrought well for three days and they had a long day's work and along nights work still before them. A large number of people had by this time assembled, and from time to time more arrived. Throughout the sparse grove which surrounded us, little temporary corrals and huts of boughs were going up in every direction. In more secret spots in the rugged walls of a cañon, about half a mile from the medicine lodge, other shelters were erected, where visiting performers were to prepare themselves on the last night. Many young men were busy in the afternoon cutting down the trees and lopping off the branches which were to form the great corral (the ilnásjin, the dark circle of branches) on the next day. Some of the visiting women were busy grinding meal and attending to different household duties; others played cards or engaged in the more aboriginal pastime of áz¢ilçil, a game played with three sticks and forty stones, the latter for counters.
118. The friends of the sick woman prepared the alkàn, a great corn cake baked in the earth, the manufacture of which gave evidence of the antiquity of the process. The batter was mixed in one large hole in the ground lined with fresh sheepskin. It was baked in another hole in which a fire had been burning for many hours, until the surrounding earth wars well heated. The fire was removed; the hole lined with corn husks; the batter ladled in and covered with more cornhusks; hot earth and hot coals were spread over all. The cake was not dug up until the following day, and was designed chiefly for the special entertainment of those who were at work in the medicine lodge.
119. NINTH DAY (UNTIL SUNSET). On Tuesday (October 28) the work in the lodge consisted in preparing certain properties to be used in the ceremonies of the night. These were the wands to be used in the first dance, the kátso-yisçàn or great plumed arrows, and the trees which the dancers pretended to swallow.
120. The wand of the nahikàï was made by paring down a straight slender stick of aromatic sumac, about three feet long, to the general thickness of less than half an inch, but leaving a head or button at one end. A ring was fashioned from a transverse slice of some hollow or pithy plant, so that it would slide freely up and down the slender wand, but would not pass over the bead. Eagle down was secured to the wooden head and also to the ring. In the dance (paragraph 129) the eagle down on the stick is burned off in the fire while the ring is held in the palm of the hand. When the time comes for the wand to grow white again, as the name nahikàï expresses it, the ring is allowed to, leave the palm and slide to the other end of the stick.
121. The great plumed arrows were deceptions somewhat similar in character to the wands. One-half of the arrow was made of a slender
hard twig of cliff rose; the other half was formed of some pithy suffruticose herb which I could not determine satisfactorily, as I saw only the cut sections and was not permitted to handle these. The pith was removed so as to allow the wooden part to move into the herby part with a telescopic mechanism. The herbaceous portion was so covered with feathers that nothing could be seen of its surface. A large stone arrowhead was attached to the wooden shaft. When the actor pretended to swallow this he merely held the stone point firmly between his teeth and forced the upper or plumed shaft down on the lower or wooden shaft. It was an excellent deception, and presented to the ordinary observer all the appearance of genuine arrow swallowing.
122. The piñon saplings, which the dancers also pretended to swallow, had no deceptive arrangement. They were slender little trees trimmed at the butt into a broad, thin, wedge shaped point, which was carefully smoothed by rubbing it with sandstone, so that no offensive splinters should present themselves to the lips of the dancers. The smooth end was painted red, probably to make the spectators, at night, by the uncertain firelight, suppose that the dissemblers had torn their throats in their great efforts. Sometimes the saplings have all their branches removed, and are then trimmed with cross pieces and circles of evergreen sprays. In most cases, however, I have seen the sapling used in its natural condition.
123. As each set of implements was completed there was a ceremony with singing and rattling, the men who were to use them at night partook of powdered medicines on their extended tongues, from the hands of the chanter, and then practiced themselves in the use of the implements. Although they well knew the deceptive nature of these articles and fully understood the frauds they were preparing to perpetrate on the public, these young men seemed to view the whole work with high reverence and treat it with the greatest seriousness. For instance, when, in the secrecy of the lodge, they went through the motions of swallowing the trees they showed indubitable signs of fear: all looked anxious, some trembled quite perceptibly, and one looked as pale as a live Indian can look. They probably dreaded the displeasure of the gods if all were not done well.
124. LAST NIGHT. Just after sunset the old chanter posted himself some paces to the east of the great woodpile, on the spot where the gate of the corral was to be, and began a song. Simultaneous with the beginning of the song was the commencement of the building of the dark circle. All the young and middleaged men in camp assisted. They dragged the branches from where they had been cut down in the neighboring woods and put them in position in the circle with great celerity. The work was all done in less than an hour, during which time the chanter ceased not for an instant his song and rattle. When the fence was finished to his satisfaction he stopped his song and the labors of the workmen ceased with the sound. When finished the corral averaged
about forty paces in diameter, and the fence was about eight feet high, with an opening left in the east about ten feet wide.
125. The moment the dark circle of branches was finished it inclosed sacred ground. Any dog who dared to enter was chased out with shouts and missiles. The man. or woman who came must, on the first occasion, pass around to the left, i. e., to the south of the great woodpile. No one was allowed to peep through the fence or look over the edge of it to witness the ceremonies. That part of the auditorium was reserved for the spirits of the bears and other ancestral animal gods. No horse might be led into the inclosure until after sunrise next morning, when the fence was razed and all became common soil once more.
126. When the night began to fall many of the visitors moved all their goods into the corral and lighted there a number of small fires close to the fence, temporarily abandoning their huts and shelters outside. Those who did not move in left watchers to protect their property; for there are thieves among the Navajo. The woods around the corral were lighted up in various directions by the fires of those who had not taken their property into the great inclosure and of parties who were practicing dances and shows of an exoteric character.
127. The nocturnal performances of this evening (Tuesday, October 28,1884) were as meager as any I have seen within the dark circle of branches. The best show I ever witnessed in the circle was one which took place at Keam's Cañon, Arizona, on, the 5th of November, 1882. For this reason I will make the notes taken on the latter occasion the basis of my description of the "corral dance," adding as I proceed such comments as may be justified by subsequent observation and information.
128. At 8 o'clock a band of musicians which I will call the orchestra entered, sat down beside one of the small fires in the west, and began to make various vocal and instrumental noises of a musical character, which continued with scarcely any interruption until the close of the dance in the morning. At the moment the music began the great central fire was lighted, and the conflagration spread so rapidly through the entire pile that in a few moments it was enveloped in great flames. A storm of sparks flew upward to the height of a hundred feet or more, and the descending ashes fell in the corral like a light shower of snow. The heat was soon so intense that in the remotest parts of the inclosure it was necessary for one to screen his face when he looked towards the fire. And now. all was ready to test the endurance of the dancers who must expose, or seem to expose (paragraph 149), their naked breasts to the torrid glow.
129. First Dance (Plate XII). When the fire gave out its most intense beat, a warning whistle was heard in the outer darkness, and a dozen forms, lithe and lean, dressed only in the narrow white breechcloth and moccasins, and daubed with white earth until they seemed a group of living marbles, came bounding through the entrance, yelping
DANCE OF NAHIKÀÏ.
like wolves and slowly moving around the fire. As they advanced in single file they threw their bodies into divers attitudes--some graceful, some strained and difficult, some menacing. Now they faced the east., now the south, the west, the north, bearing aloft their slender wands tipped with eagle down, holding and waving them with surprising effects. Their course around the fire was to the left, i. e., from the east to the west, by way of the south, and back again to the east by way of the north, a course taken by all the dancers of the night, the order never being reversed. When they had encircled the fire twice they began to thrust their wands toward it, and it soon became evident that their object was to burn off the tips of eagle down; but owing to the intensity of the beat it was difficult to accomplish this, or at least they acted well the part of striving against such difficulty. One would dash wildly towards the fire and retreat; another would lie as close to the ground an a frightened lizard and endeavor to wriggle himself lip to the fire; others sought to catch on their wands the sparks flying in the air. One approached the flaming mass, suddenly threw on himself on his back with his head to the fire, and swiftly thrust his wand into the flames. Many were the unsuccessful attempts; but, at length, one by one, they all succeeded in burning the downy balls from the ends of their wands. As each accomplished this feat it became his next duty to restore the ball of down. The mechanism of this trick has been described (paragraph 120), but the dancer feigned to produce the wonderful result by merely waving his wand up and down as he continued to run around the fire. When he succeeded he held his wand up in triumph, yelped, and rushed out of the corral. The lost man pretended to have great difficulty in restoring the down. When at last he gave his triumphant yell and departed it was ten minutes to 9. The dance had lasted twenty minutes.
130. In other repetitious of this ceremony the writer has witnessed more of burlesque than on this occasion. Sometimes the performers have worn immense false mustaches, exaggerated imitations of spectacles and of other belongings of their white neighbors. Sometimes the dance has assumed a character which will not be described in this place (paragraphs 146), It is called nahíkàï-alil, The former word signifies "it becomes white again" and, refers to the reappearance of the eagle down. 131. The show is said to have been introduced among the Navajo at the great dance mentioned in the myth (paragraphs 69-72) by a tribe from the south named ¢ildjèhe. It is no essential part of the rites of the dark circle, yet I have never known it to be omitted, probably because it is a most suitable dance for the time when the fire is the hottest.
131. Second dance. After an interval of three-quarters of an hour, the dance of the kátso-yisçàn, the great plumed arrow, the potent healing ceremony of the night, began. There were but two performers. They were dressed and arrayed much like the akáninili, but they bore no meal bags, wore no beaver collars, and the parts of their bodies that
were not painted black--legs and forearms--were daubed with white earth. Instead of the wand of the akáninili, each bore in his hand one of the great plumed arrows. While they were making the usual circuits around the fire, the patient (a man on this occasion) was placed sitting on a buffalo robe in front of the orchestra. They halted before the patient;
Fig. 54. Dancer holding up the great plumed arrow.
Fig. 55. Dancer "swallowing" the great plumed arrow.
each dancer seized his arrow between his thumb and forefinger about eight inches from the tip, held the arrow up to view, giving a Coyote-like yelp, as if to say, "So far will I swallow it" (Fig. 54), and then appeared to thrust the arrow, slowly and painfully, down his throat (Fig. 55) as far as indicated. While the arrows seemed still to be stuck in their throats, they danced a chassé, right and left, with short, shuffling
steps. Then they withdrew the arrows, and held them up to view as before, with triumphant yelps, as if to Say, "So far have I swallowed it." Sympathizers in the audience yelped in response. The next thing to be done was to apply the arrows. One of the dancers advanced to the patient, and to the soles of the feet of the latter lie pressed the magic weapon with its point to the right, and again with its point to the left. In a similar manner he treated the knees, bands, abdomen, back, shoulders, crown, and mouth in the order named, giving three coyote-like yelps after each application. When the first dancer had completed the work, the other took his place and went through exactly the same performance. This finished, the sick man and the buffalo robe were removed. The bearers of the arrows danced once more around the fire and departed.
132. The plumed arrow is frequently referred to in the songs of this rite. It seems to be the moat revered implement and the act in which it appears the most revered alili of the night. All the other shows may be omitted at will, but the dance of the kátso-yisçàn, it is said, must never be neglected. I have witnessed other performances where the arrow swallowers reappeared with their numbers increased to six or eight. The additional dancers all pretended to swallow arrows, but they did not apply them to the patient. The origin of this alili is well accounted for in the myth (paragraphs 47, 55, and 69), and the peculiar significance of the injunction not to break the arrow is easily understood when we know how the arrow is made.
133. Third dance. At 10 o'clock the sound of the whistle again called the spectators to attention and a line of twenty-three dancers came in sight. The one who led the procession bore in his hand a whizzer (Fig. 56) such as schoolboys use, a stick tied to the end of a string; this he constantly whirled, producing a sound like that of a rain storm. After him came one who represented a character, the Yèbaka (anglicized, Yaybaka), from the great nine days' ceremony of the klèdji-qaçàl, or night chant, and he wore a blue buckskin mask that belongs to the character referred to. From time to time he gave the peculiar hoot or call of the Yàybichy, "hu`hu`hu`hu" (paragraph 32). After him followed eight wand bearers. They were dressed like the bearers of the great plumed arrows; but instead of an arrow each bore a wand made of grass, cactus, and eagle plumes. The rest of the band were choristers in ordinary dress. As they were all proceeding round the fire for the fourth time they halted in the west, the choristers sat and the standing wand bearers formed a double row of four. Then the Yaybaka, began to hoot, the orchestra to play, the choristers to sing, the whizzer to make his mimic storm, and the wand bearers to dance. The latter, keeping perfect time with the orchestra, went through a series of figures not unlike those of a modern quadrille. In our terpsichorean nomenclature the "calls" might have thus been given: "Forward and back. Chassez twice. Face partners. Forward and back. Forward and bow. Forward and embrace. Forward and wave wands at
FIG. 56. The whizzer.
partners," &c. When several of these evolutions had been performed in a graceful and orderly manner, the choristers rose, and all went singing out at the east.
134. Three times more the same band returned. In the third and fourth acts the wands were exchanged for great piñon poles (eight to ten feet long), portions of which they pretended to swallow, as their predecessors had done with the arrows. (Paragraph 48.) That the simple and devoted Pueblo Indian does actually, in dances of this character, thrust a stick far down his gullet, to the great danger of health and even of life, there is little reason to doubt; but the wily Navajo attempts no such prodigies of deglutition. A careful observation of their movements on the first occasion convinced me that the stick never passed below the fauces, and subsequent experience in the medicine lodge only strengthened the conviction (paragraph 121).
135. The instrument designated above as the whizzer is a thin, flat, pointed piece of wood, painted black and sparkling with the specular
iron ore which is sprinkled on the surface; three small pieces of turquoise are inlaid in the wood to represent eyes and mouth. One whizzer which I examined was nine inches long, one and three-fourths inches broad, and about a quarter of an inch thick in the thickest part. (Fig. 56.) To it was attached a string about two feet long, by means of which the centrifugal motion was imparted to it. It is called by the Navajo tsín-¢e`ní`, or groaning stick. It is used among many tribes of the southwest in their ceremonies. The Navajo chanters say that the sacred groaning stick may only be made of the wood of a pine tree which has been struck by lightning.
136. In the Fourth dance there were about thirty choristers, in ordinary dress, bearing piñon wands; there was a man who shook a rattle, another who whirled the groaning stick, and there were three principal dancers, wearing fancy masks and representing characters from the rites of the klèdji qaçàl or dance of the "Yàybichy." These three danced a lively and graceful jig, in perfect time to the music, with many bows, waving of wands, simultaneous evolutions, and other pretty motions which might have graced the spectacular drama of a metropolitan theater. Three times they left the corral for a moment, and returning varied the dance, and always varied to improve, The wands they bore were large light frames of reeds adorned with large eagle plumes.
137. After this there was an interval of nearly an hour, which passed slowly with those in the corral. Some smoked and gossiped; some listened to the never ceasing din of the orchestra or
joined in the chant; some brought in wood and replenished the waning fires; some, wrapped in their serapes, stretched themselves on the ground to catch short naps.
138. Fifth dance. It was after midnight when the blowing of a hoarse buffalo horn announced the approach of those who were to perform. the fifth dance, the tcòhanoai alili or sun show. There were twenty-four choristers and a rattler. There were two character dancers, who were arrayed, like so many others, in little clothing and much paint. Their heads and arms were adorned with plumes of the war eagle, their necks with rich necklaces of genuine coral, their waists with valuable silver studded belts, and their loins with bright sashes of crimson silk. One bore on his back a round disk, nine inches in diameter, decorated with radiating eagle plumes to represent the sun. The other carried a disk, six and a half inches in diameter, similarly ornamented, to symbolize the moon. Each bore a skeleton wand of reeds that reminded one of the frame of a great kite; it wag ornamented with pendant eagle plumes that swayed with every motion of the dancer. While the whole party was passing round the fire in the usual manner wands were waved and heads bowed towards the flames. When it stopped in the west the choristers sat and sang and the rattler stood and rattled, while the bearers of the sun and the moon danced at a lively rate for just three minutes. Then the choristers rose and all sang and danced themselves out of eight. A second performance of this dance came between the first and second repetitions of the next show.
139. I have recorded one story (but have heard of another) accounting for the origin of this dance; it is as follows: When Dsilyi` Neyáni visited the mountain of Bistcàgi, the home of Estsàn ¢igìni, these divine beings had for ornaments on their walls the sun and the moon. When the great mythic dance was given they were among the guests. They brought their wall decorations, and when the time for their alili came they wore the sun and the moon on their backs when they danced.
140. The Sixth dance, that of the standing arcs, was both picturesque, and ingenious. The principal performers were eight in number, as usual: with scanty clothing. Their hair fell loose and long over back and shoulders and each bore in front of him, held by both hands, a wooden arc, ornamented with eagle plumes. The ends of the arc (which was a full semicircle) showed tufts of piñon twigs, and they were evidently joined together by a slender string, which was invisible to the audience. Besides the eight principal actors, there was a rattler, a bearer of the groaning stick, and a chorus. While all were making the fourth circuit of the fire, frequent shoots of "Çòhe! Çòhe!" (Englished, Thòhay--"Stand! stand!" or "Stay! stay!") were heard, the significance of which soon became apparent. When they stopped in the west, the eight character dancers first went through various quadrille-like figures, such as were witnessed in the third dance, and then knelt in two rows that faced one another. At a word from the rattler the man who was nearest to him
(whom I will call No. 1) arose, advanced to the man who knelt opposite to him (No. 2) with rapid, shuffling steps, and amid a chorus of "Thòhay! Thòhay!" placed his arc with caution upon the head of the latter. Although it was held in position by the friction of the piñon tufts at each ear and by the pressure of the ends of the arc, now drawn closer by the subtending string, it had the appearance of standing on the head without material support, and it is probable that many of the uninitiated believed that only the magic influence of the oft-repeated word "Thòhay" kept it in position. When the arc was secured in its place, No. 1 retreated with shuffling steps to his former position and fell on his knees again. Immediately No. 2 advanced and placed the arc which he held in his hand on the head of No. 1. Thus each in turn placed his arc on the head of the one who knelt opposite to him until all wore their beautiful halo-like headdresses. Then, holding their heads rigidly erect, lest their arcs should, fall, the eight, kneeling figures began a splendid, well timed chant, which was accentuated by the clapping of hands and joined in by the chorus. When the chant was done the rattler addressed the arc bearers, warning them to be careful; so they cautiously arose from their knees and shuffled with stiffened spines out of the corral, preceded by the choristers. This dance was repeated after the second performance of the fifth dance.
141. Seventh dance. The arc bearers had scarcely disappeared when another troupe entered the circle, the buffalo horn announcing their coming. A man with a whizzer led the procession. The choristers, in ordinary dress, were thirteen in number. The principal dancers were but two; they wore the usual sash and belt; the uncovered skin was painted white; they had on long blue woolen stockings of Navajo make and moccasins. Each bore a slender wand of two triangles of reeds, adorned at the corners with pendant plumes. They saluted the fire as they danced around it. They halted in the west, where the choristers sat down, and the two wand bearers danced for three minutes in a lively and graceful manner, to the music of the whizzer, the rattle, the choristers, and the drum of the orchestra. These returned twice more, making some variation in their performance each time. In the second act the rattler brought in under his arm a basket containing yucca leaves, and a prayer was said to the sun. It is possible that this dance was but a preliminary part of the eighth dance, but it must be described as a separate alili.
142. Eighth dance. In this there were sixteen performers, in ordinary Navajo dress. One of these bore the whizzer, and led the procession; another, who came in the center of the line, carried a hewn plank, or puncheon, about 12 feet long and 4 inches broad, painted with spots and decorated with tufts of piñon branchlets and with eagle plumes; immediately behind the bearer of the plank walked a man who had in a basket an effigy of the sun, formed of a small round mirror and a number of radiating scarlet plumes. Having walked around the fire as usual,
the whole party gathered in the west in a close circle, which completely excluded from the sight of the audience the operations of the actors. Singing, rattling, and cries of "Thòhay!" were heard. In a few minutes the circle opened and the hewn plank, standing upright on a small Navajo blanket, without any apparent prop or support, was disclosed to view. At the base of the plank was the basket holding the figure of the sun. Singing was continued and so were the uproarious cries of "Thòhay"--cries anxious, cries appealing, cries commanding--while the bearer of the rattle stood facing the pole and rattling vigorously at it. At length, seemingly in obedience to all this clamor, the solar image left the basket and slowly, falteringly, totteringly, ascended the plank to within a few inches of the top. Here it stopped a moment and then descended in the same manner in which it rose. Once more was it made to rise and set, when the circle of dancers again closed, the plank, sun, and basket were taken in custody, and the dancers departed. Taking into consideration the limited knowledge and rude implements of the originators (for this alili is not of modern origin), this was a well performed trick. The means used for supporting the pole and pulling up the sun could not be detected. The dancers formed a semicircle nearly ten feet distant from the pole and the light of the central fire shone brightly upon all.
143. Ninth dance. It was after 1 o'clock in the morning when the dance of the hoshkàwn (Yucca baccata) began. (Fig. 57. See paragraph 3.) The ceremony was conducted in the first part by twenty-two persons in ordinary dress. One bore, exposed to view, a natural root of yucca, crowned with its cluster of root leaves, which remain green all winter. The rest bore in their hands wands of piñon. What other properties they may have had concealed under their blankets the reader will soon be able to conjecture. On their third journey around the fire they halted in the west and formed a close circle for the purpose of concealing their operations, such as was made in the eighth dance. After a minute spent in singing and many repetitions of "Thòhay," the circle opened, disclosing to our view the yucca root planted in the sand. Again the circle closed; again the song, the rattle, and the chorus of "Thòhay" were heard, and when the circle was opened the second time an excellent counterfeit of the small budding flower stalk was seen amid the fascicle of leaves. A third time the dancers formed their ring of occultation; after the song and din had continued for a few seconds the circle parted for the third time, when, all out of season, the great panicle of creamy yucca, flowers gleamed in the firelight. The previous transformations of the yucca had been greeted with approving shouts and laughter; the blossoms were hailed with storms of applause. For the fourth and last time the circle closed, and when again it opened the blossoms had disappeared and the great, dark green fruit hung in abundance from the pedicels. When the last transformation was completed the dancers
went once more around the fire and departed, leaving the fruitful yucca behind them.
144. In a moment after they had disappeared the form of one personating an aged, stupid, short sighted, decrepit man was seen to emerge slowly from among the crowd of spectators in the east. He was dressed in an old and woefully ragged suit and wore a high, pointed
FIG. 57. Yucca baccata.
hat. His face was whitened and he bore a short, crooked, wooden bow and a few crooked, ill made arrows. His were appearance provoked the "stoic" audience to screams of laughter, and his subsequent "low comedy business" which excelled much that I have seen on the civilized stage, failed not to meet with uproarious demonstrations of approval. Slowly advancing as he enacted his part, he in time reached the place
where the yucca stood, and, in his imbecile totterings, he at length stumbled on the plant and pretended to have his flesh lacerated by the sharp leaves. He gave a tremulous cry of pain, rubbed saliva on the part supposed to be wounded, and muttered his complaints in a weak and shaking voice. He pretended then to seek for the plant, and was three times wounded in his efforts to find it. At length, kneeling on the ground, with his face buried in the leaves, he feigned to discover it, and rejoiced with querulous extravagance over his success. When he had marked the spot and the way back to it with an exaggerated burlesque of the Indian methods of doing these things, he went off to find his "old woman" and bring her to pick the fruit. Soon be returned with a tall, stalwart man, dressed to represent hideous, absurd looking old granny. The latter noted his part throughout the rest of the drama with a skill fully equal to that of his comrade.
145. There were scenes in this drama which may not be told in this connection. It will suffice to say here that when the yucca fruit was picked and put in the basket the old man helped the "woman" to shoulder her load and the pair left the corral. The hackàn-inçá` does not invariably appear in the corral dance. I have attended one ceremony where it was omitted. I have heard two descriptions of the dance which differed very much from the one given above.
146. Many facts concerning not only the hackàn-inçá`, but other parts of the mountain chant, have not been allowed to appear in this essay. Recognized scientists may learn of them by addressing the author through the Director of the Bureau of Ethnology.
147. Tenth dance. At twenty minutes past three an uninteresting performance called the "bear dance", began. A man entered on all fours; his, face was painted white; he wore around his loins and over his shoulders pieces of some dark pelt which may have been bear skin, but looked more like the skin of a black sheep. The fire had now burned low and the light was dim. He was accompanied by two attendants, one of whom carried a rattle. He went twice around the ring, imitating the lumbering gait of the bear. He occasionally made a clumsy lunge sidewise at some of the spectators, as though he would attack them; but on these occasions the man with the rattle headed him off and rattling in his face directed him back to the usual course around the fire. This show lasted five minutes.
148. The Eleventh dance was the fire dance, or fire play, which was the most picturesque and startling of all. Some time before the actors entered, we heard, mingled with the blowing of the buffalo horn, strange sounds, much like the call of the sand-hill crane; they will, for convenience, be called trumpeting. These sounds continued to grow louder and come nearer until they were heard at the opening in the east, and in a second after, ten men, having no more clothing on than the performers in the first dance, entered. Every man except the leader bore along thick bundle of shredded cedar bark in each hand and one had
two extra bundles on his shoulders for the later use of the leader. The latter carried four small fagots of the same material in his hands. Four times they all danced around the fire, waving their bundles of bark towards it. They halted in the east; the leader advanced towards the central fire, lighted one of his fagots, and trumpeting loudly threw it to the east over the fence of the corral. He performed a similar act at the south, at the west, and at the north; but before the northern brand was thrown he lighted with it the bark bundles of his comrades. As each brand disappeared over the fence some of the spectators blew into their hands and made a motion as if tossing some substance after the departing flame. When the fascicles were all lighted the whole band began a wild race around the fire. At first they kept close together and spat upon one another some substance of supposed medicinal virtue. Soon they scattered and ran apparently without concert, the rapid racing causing the brands to throw out long brilliant streamers of flame over the hands and arms of the dancers. Then they proceeded to apply the brands to their own nude bodies and to the bodies of their comrades in front of them, no man ever once turning round; at times the dancer struck his victim vigorous blows with his flaming wand; again he seized the flame as if it were a sponge and, keeping close to the one pursued, rubbed the back of the latter for several moments, as if he were bathing him. In the mean time the sufferer would perhaps catch up with someone in front of him and in turn bathe him in flame. At times when a dancer found no one in front of him he proceeded to sponge his own back, and might keep this up while making two or three circuits around the fire or until he caught up with some one else. At each application of the blaze the loud trumpeting was heard, and it often seemed as if a great flock of cranes was winging its way overhead southward through the darkness. If a brand became extinguished it was lighted again in the central fire; but when it was so far consumed as to be no longer held conveniently in the hand, the dancer dropped it and rushed, trumpeting, out of the corral. Thus, one by one, they all departed. When they were gone many of the spectators came forward, picked up some of the fallen fragments of cedar bark, lighted them, and bathed their hands in the flames as a charm against the evil effects of fire.
149. Did these dancers, next day, hide sore and blistered backs under their serapes? I think not, for I have seen and conversed with some of the performers immediately after the fire show, and they seemed happy and had nothing to complain of. Did the medicine they spat on one another save them? Certainly not, although the Indians claim it is a true prophylactic against burns and call it azè-sakázi or cold medicine. But it is probable that the cedar bark ignites at a low temperature, and more than probable that the coating of white earth with which their bodies were covered is an excellent non-conductor. However, the thought that their bodies might have been thus ingeniously protected lessened little, if any, the effect produced on the spectator. I
have seen many fire scenes on the stage, many acts of fire eating and fire handling by civilized jugglers, and many fire dances by other Indian tribes, but nothing quite comparable to this in all its scenic effects.
150. The closing ceremonies I did not witness on this occasion, but I saw them at subsequent dances. Shortly before sunrise an assistant passed around the fire four times and sprinkled a little water on the mass of smoldering embers, while the medicine man chanted the appropriate song. Later, three gaps were torn in the circle of branches--one in the south, one in the west--and one in the north--making, with the original gate in the east, four entrances to the corral. (See Plate XIV.) Just after sunrise the entire circle of branches was razed, but the branches were not carried away. The traveler through the Navajo country often encounters withered remains of these circles. In the ceremony of October, 1884, the chanter, having another engagement which was pressing, packed up his sacred utensils and left soon after sunrise. The patient, it was said, was not permitted to sleep until after sunset.
151. Other dances. In subsequent dances I saw exhibitions which did not occur in the ceremony of November 5, 1882, just described, and I have learned of other shows produced on the last night, which I have never had an opportunity to witness. All the alilis may be modified. I have rarely seen two performances of the same dance which were just alike.
152. On two occasions I have witnessed a very pretty dance, in which an eagle plume was stuck upright in a basket and by means of some well hidden mechanism caused to dance in good time to the song, the beat of the drum, and the motions of the single Indian who danced at the same time; not only this, but the feather followed the motions of the Indian: if he danced toward the north, the feather leaned to the north while making its rhythmical motions; if he moved to the south, it bent its white head in the same direction, and so on. On one occasion it was a little boy, five years old, son of the chief Manuelito, who danced with the eagle plume. He was dressed and painted much like the akáninili, or the arrow swallowers (Figs. 54, 55), on a diminutive scale. The sash of scarlet velvet around his hips was beautifully trimmed with feathers. They said he had been several weeks in training for the dance, and he certainly went through his varied motions with great skill. I have rarely seen a terpsichorean spectacle that struck my fancy more than that of the little Indian child and his partner, the eagle plume.
153. It might be thought that the word "thòhay," so often used to make inanimate objects pay attention, was one of very sacred import. So it is, no doubt; yet I have seen it broadly burlesqued. It was on the occasion of the last "chant" which I attended. A number of boys, from twelve to fifteen years of age they seemed, led by a pleasant looking old man
with a skeptical twinkle in his eye, came into the dark circle. One of the party carried a deep Indian basket, from the top of which a number of spruce twigs protruded. They formed what has been designated as the ring of occultation, and while doing so they shouted and screamed and puffed the talismanic "thòhay" in a way that left no doubt of their intention to ridicule. Their extravagant motions added to the significance of their intonation. When the ring opened the boys sat on the ground and began to sing and beat a dram. The old man sat at a distance of about three paces west of the basket. Presently the nose of a little weasel (the image being probably a stuffed skin) appeared among the spruce boughs. All the timid, inquiring motions of the little animal were well mimicked: the nose was thrust forward and pulled back, the whole head would emerge and retreat, and at rare times the shoulders would be seen for a moment, to be quickly drawn in among the screening spruce twigs. All these motions were made in perfect time to the singing and drumming. The old man who pulled the actuating strings made no secret of his manipulations. The play was intended for a farce, and as such the spectators enjoyed it.
THE DARK CIRCLE OF BRANCHES AT SUNRISE.
Navajo Texts | Mt Chant Contents | The Great Pictures of Dsilyídje Qaçàl