Big Godway

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Big Godway... contains the story of the Stricken Twins which was also included in the Nightway myth... Big Godway is said to be closely related to Nightway (perhaps merely a form of it) and its story branches off from that of Nightway with the episode of the twins.

The Windways of the Navaho; Leland C. Wyman, 1962, p.38

The Stricken Twins - so called because they were stricken by one of the gods - one was blind and one was lame. The blind one carried the lame one, who would give him directions. They were directed to go to many places, one after the other, to be cured of their infirmities. However, they were poor and therefore did not have the required sacred things/payment to present (fine beads, white shell, turquoise, haliotis shell, cannel-coal, rock crystal, tobacco, or feathers of the bluebird/yellowbird/eagle/turkey) and were therefore turned down time and again, and sent off to the next place where the gods were sure to take pity on them. Over and over again, however, they would be turned down, and would be referred to the next location.

Adapted from The Night Chant; Washington Matthews, 1995, pp. 212 - 265

The Stricken Twins, seeking help, wander from one god to another having the same name but living in different places. There are many references to Talking God.., p.54

Just as the cause of illness may be vague, so the hero was exposed to uncertainty in handling numerous situations, but from each sprang some essential good, to be brought back and incorporated in the resulting chant. The wanderings of the Stricken Twins demonstrate the trial and error, the effort and perseverance necessary to the culmination of the Night Chant. The Stricken Twins put themselves into a position worthy of divine aid; they acceded to requirements no matter how difficult; they emerged from their tribulations to endow their fellow men with the greatest of the ceremonies. p. 150

"The Stricken Twins, after an endless journey acknowledged as children of Talking God, were again cast out by the gods. They had set out on a quest for goods to pay for a curing ceremony. The poor blind one told his lame brother to mount on his back once more. In despair they walked down the canyon, weeping over their mistakes, knowing not where to turn. Without purpose or direction, they cried; at first they uttered meaningless syllables, but after a while they found words to sing. The Holy Ones, hearing a song, inquired of one another, 'Why do they sing?' They sent Talking God to bring the children back. The blind boy resisted, but his brother urged that they return and find out what the gods wanted. Arriving where the gods were, they were asked, 'What was that you were singing as you went along?'
'We were not singing,' they answered. 'We were crying.'
'Why did you cry?'
'Because you sent us away and we had no place to go.'
'What kind of song were you singing?' asked the god. 'We certainly heard the words of a song.'
Three times the boys insisted that they were merely crying, but when asked the same question the fourth time, the gentler one explained, 'We began to cry; we turned our cry into a song. We never knew the song before. My blind brother just made it up as we moved along.' Then he sang the song which described their helplessness and despair and included a statement that they should be restored to health. The song impelled the gods to take counsel once more, and they decided never again to turn their children away with no means of saving themselves.
This poignant excerpt shows not only faith in ritualistic aid as a counsel of despair but also the compulsive power of song, which could break even the resistance of the gods, the exact function of Navaho songs today. pp. 285, 286.

Navaho Religion; Gladys Reichard, 1950

"Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism" tries to demonstrate that there is much more to the dance, song, and sandpainting than the primitiveness that meets the casual eye; that there is a religious system which has for years enabled the Navaho to retain their identity in a rapidly changing world.

The 'squaw dance' is only one of the many ceremonies performed to protect Navaho society, its means of subsistence and acquisition, its medicine, and above all, its peace of mind. Song, dance, and sandpainting are each only one of the numerous parts necessary to the ceremony. To it Dr. Washington Matthews gave the name 'chant', since long and elaborate prayers chanted or intoned are still another ritualistic requirement. Other recorders have called the ceremonies 'ways'. For instance Night Chant has become Nightway.

A Navaho ceremony, whatever it may be called, is a combination of many elements - ritualistic items such as the medicine bundle with its sacred contents; prayersticks, made of carefully selected wood and feathers, precious stones, tobacco, water collected from sacred places, a tiny piece of cotton string; song, with its lyrical and musical complexities; sandpaintings, with intricate color, directional, and impressionistic symbols; prayer, with stress on order and rhythmic unity; plants, with supernatural qualities defined and personified; body and figure painting; sweating and emetic, with purificatory functions; vigil, with emphasis on concentration and summary. But it is the selection of these and other elements and their orderly combination into a unit that makes the chant or ceremony effective.

A ceremony may last from one to nine nights - the Navaho count by nights - and the intervening days. The first night of a typical nine-night ceremony consists of an hour or two of singing, which accompanies a simple ritualistic performance. The early morning hours of the first four days are taken up with sweat-emetic rites, composed of numerous and intricate ritualistic acts whose purpose is to drive out evil and purify the patient and all other participants. Several hours of the early afternoon of each day are devoted to the preparation of prayersticks, over which a responsive prayer is intoned by chanter and patient. The prayersticks are then placed at designated points - under a rock, near an arroyo, under a tree at the south, in a branch of a pine tree at the west - where the gods must see them. The prayersticks carry a compulsive invitation to the deities to attend the ceremony. If the sticks are made properly and deposited according to deific decree, and if the prayer is repeated without a mistake, the gods cannot refuse to come. The two main emphases of the first four days are on exorcising possible evil and on invoking the deities.

At pre-dawn of the fifth day the contents of the chanter's bundle - all items sacred to the chant, though odd and nondescript to the white man - are laid out on a mound which forms an altar a few yards from the door of the dwelling in which the ceremony is held. As each piece of ritualistic property is placed, the chanter utters the appropriate sentence of prayer and the patient, as a symbol, takes hold of the property. The altar is there to announce the preparation of a sandpainting inside the house, to inform the gods that they are expected, to warn persons not concerned that they should stay away. One painting is made on each day of the second group of four days. A simple painting may be finished by one or two painters in half an hour; and elaborate one may require from three to four assistants working eight or ten hours. When the painting is finished, the patient sits on it, while the chanter applies sand from the various figures of the painting to specified parts of the patient's body, and performs other ritualistic acts. All this is to identify the patient with the deities represented in the painting. A part of the sandpainting ritual of the eighth day is the body or figure painting, which serves to identify the patient with the deific helpers. Early on this day a final rite, combining exorcism and the attraction of good powers, is the bath. The patient, with the aid of relatives, shampoos his hair and washes his body in suds made from yucca (soapweed) root and dries himself with course, ceremonially ground corn meal.

On each intervening night, that is, on nights two to eight, the singing resembles that of the first night, becoming longer as the ceremony progresses. Just as the sandpainting of each day is representative of a group made up of numerous paintings - Thunders, Snakes, Holy People, Arrow People, and the like - so on each night certain groups of songs are chosen from a vast number known to the chanter. He designates and starts the song; the chorus of laymen assisting him carries it on. If they do not know it, the chanter sings until they learn it or until it is finished. Generally each rite becomes longer and more elaborate as the chant proceeds.

The eighth day is called 'The Day'. It is often a very busy one what with the bath, sandpainting, body or figure painting, and preparation for the ninth night. On this, 'The Night', the singing lasts from late evening until dawn, the purpose being to summarize all the purification, invocation, attraction of power, and identification of the entire ceremony. Song-groups representative of all the rites are included. The night becomes a vigil, theoretically for all present in the ceremonial dwelling, practically, for those most concerned. To show he is in sympathy with the entire effort put forth in the chant, the patient concentrates on all the songs and the few ritualistic acts. Since power is to the Navaho like a wave in a pool, always effective though becoming weaker the farther it radiates from chanter and patient, each person in attendance derives benefit from what is done in proportion to his proximity to the ritual.

Navaho Religion: A Study of Symbolism; 1950, Gladys A. Reichard.

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