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minor ceremonies. In many of their ceremonies the Navahos masquerade in the costumes of their favorite gods, and, while posing as gods, gesticulate and utter strange sounds, though they never speak. For the time being the priest thus masquerading, is to all intents and purposes, the god he represents. He hears prayers and accepts sacrifices, not as a man, but as the impersonator of divinity, much the same as do the priests of our Christian churches when they receive offerings, or hear confessions, or dispense blessings.
The ceremony of the Mountain Chant is thus described:
“The ceremony of the Mountain Chant is perhaps one of the most elaborate rites celebrated by the Navahos. It is founded on a myth, the burden of which is the story of the wanderings of a family of six Navahos, the father, mother, two sons and two daughters. These people wandered for many days in the vicinity of the Carrizo mountains, then journeyed far to the north, crossing the San Juan river. The legend relates that the two sons provided meat for the family by hunting rabbits, wood rats, and other small animals, and the two daughters gathered edible seeds and roots on the way. It was a long time before the young men learned to follow the trail of the deer, and on one occasion, after returning to camp without the coveted deer, the old man became provoked at the stupidity of his sons and said to them, “You kill nothing because you know nothing. If you had kņowledge you would be successful. I pity you.' He then directed them to build a sweat house, giving them instructions as to the details of its construction. After undergoing the purifying ordeal of the sweat bath, he began slowly and carefully to teach them all the arts of woodcraft; how to surprise the vigilant deer, and carefully, step by step, they were initiated into the mysteries of the chase. After many days of careful drilling, these sons made great preparations for going on a big hunt in the distant mountains. They returned after
. many days, each with a deer he had slain, together with much dried meat and many skins.
“It finally developed that the old man was a great prophet, and the myth goes on to relate how the two sons disobeyed their father's instructions and the punishment that was visited upon them by the gods in consequence thereof. Afterwards the prophet was captured by the Utes, always at enmity with the Navahos, bound hand and foot, and sentenced by the Ute council to be whipped to death. An angel visited the old man in the night and loosed his thongs, and the prophet took his flight, and after undergoing many hair-breadth escapes, finally reached the home of the gods who taught him how to make offerings to the deities. They also taught him the mysteries of the dry sand-paintings, and how to perform the great healing rites of the Mountain Chant.
“When the prophet at last returned to his people, a great feast and dance were given in his honor. There was much rejoicing and making merry. He was washed from head to foot and dried with the sacred corn meal. He was then asked to relate his experiences in the strange land of the gods. He now proceeded to teach his people the new rites he had learned from the gods and the preparation and use of the sacrificial sticks. A day was appointed when this new ceremony would be performed; all the neighboring tribes were invited to attend, and there was much rejoicing and exchanging of friendly good will. The ceremony was continued through nine days and nights, at the conclusion of which the prophet vanished in the air and was seen no more on earth.'
The following is the account the Navahos give of the origin of the ceremony of the Mountain Chant.
“This ceremony is in reality a great passion play. The costumes are numerous and elaborate. There is much dancing, so called, but it is really not dancing at all, simply the acting out of the drama of the great cosmic myth in perpetuating the religious symbols of the tribe.”
The following description of the “Fire Play” is given by Dr. Washington Matthews :
“The eleventh dance was the fire dance, or fire play, which was the most picturesque and startling of all. Every man except the leader bore a long 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 dark 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 into 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 around; 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 meantime the sufferer would perhaps catch up with some one 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 someone 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 flame as a charm against the evil effects of fire.
“The Hoshkawn Dance, the Plumed Arrow Dance and the Wand Dance are some of the other important ceremonies in the great rite of the Mountain Chant. Few white people, except those living in the immediate vicinity of the Navahos, have ever witnessed many of the Navaho ceremonies for the reason that as these ceremonies are primarily for the healing of the sick, no regular time for holding them is ever appointed by the priests. When a Navaho gets sick it is necessary for his friends and relations to hold a consultation and decide on what one of the many ceremonies will most likely effect a cure. This decided, a theurgist is selected who is familiar with the rites to be performed and he is immediately sought out and bargained with. The patient pays all the expenses of the ceremony, which is often a very elaborate affair and very expensive. All visitors are expected to feast, make merry, and have a good time, at the expense of the patient.
“One of the most interesting features, to the casual observer of the great religious ceremonies of the Navahos, is the elaborate painting with various colored dry sands. Careful prepara