Navajo Blessing Rite

Day One

Inside a typical Navajo Hogan

 I sat down against the wall on a sheepskin rug, having walked to my place sunwise, which is customary. The room was eight-sided, with a floor of earth. The walls were made of logs, with adobe mud between them to keep out the air. There were no windows, and on the walls hung coats, skirts, pants, hats, a saw, a bottle of sunflower seed, herbs drying, and buckskin for moccasins. The rest of the room was bare, except for the sheepskin rugs along the side for the guests to sit on. The stove was in the middle with an opening in the center of the roof to let the smoke out. Jeff King, the singer, had on the old-style pants, split up the sides and made of chintz. Around his head he wore a scarf which kept his grey and black hair in order. His wise keen eyes and firm good-natured mouth were overshadowed by a hooked nose that was as important to his face as the Holy Mountain of the East to the Navaho Nation. The patient sat apart. He had just returned from a week in jail. The Blessing Rite would protect and purify him and give him strength. He had on a green silk shirt, an orange scarf around his head, and on his neck and wrists all the family jewelry.

About nine o'clock the food was brought in by the women and we ate grilled kid ribs and fried black cakes, which were rather heavy, and coffee. When the food was cleared away the objects to be blessed were brought in: blankets, bridles, saddles, wool for rugs, ears of corn, and a complete set of clean clothes for the patient. These were all put in front of him. The singer put on his earth-red moccasins with their silver buttons and the ceremony began.