War/Squaw Dance


The so called war dance, extensively in vogue with the Navaho today, originated with the mother of the Slayer of Monsters and the Child of Water. For, it is said, when they had slain the monster yeitso, they carried his scalp as a trophy and hung it on a tree previous to reporting to their mother. While relating to her of the encounter with the monster they swooned and lay unconscious, whereupon, it is said, their mother prepared a concoction from herbs struck by lightning, sprinkled them with it, and shot a spruce and pine arrow over their bodies, thus reviving them.

Accordingly, today this ceremony is conducted in cases of swooning, or weakness and indisposition attributed to the sight of blood, or of a violent death of man or beast, especially if this has occurred to a pregnant woman, or even to a husband or father during the period of her pregnancy. While no special season seems to be prescribed, the ceremony is most frequently conducted in the summer and the fall of the year. The singers performing it are known as the anaji, enemy, or war singers, as in addition to this ceremony they were also in possession of all the rites prescribed for the warpath and raids. The special features of the war dance are the carrying of the rattlestick, the dance of the Navaho girls, and the blackening of the patient. The rattle consists of a juniper stick about a yard long, or the length of a cord held at arm's length from the tip of the left hand to the right nipple. This stick is held upright in the left hand the fist resting on the knee, while with the fingernail of the right thumb incisions are made in zigzag form to represent a bow. As custom varies, some of the old people supervising this function insist that the opening of the bow, or the end where the bowstring is slipped over the notch, be made at the upper right hand corner, while others require the opening in the opposite, or lower right hand corner. Similarly, the incision made on the rear of the stick, to represent the queue, varies with the opening made for the bow. Such as make the opening of the bow in the upper right hand corner make that of the queue in the lower left hand corner, while the opening in the lower right hand corner of the bow requires a similar opening in the upper left hand corner of the queue. - This done the singer applies a mixture of animal tissue to the stick and blackens it with the ashes of burnt weeds. He then places a bundle of weeds at the point of the stick, together with a yellow tail feather of a turkey. He crosses the base of the bundle with two eagle feathers, and adds a buckskin thong previously spliced in four and knotted with the small toes of deer, to dangle at its side. The whole is then wrapped and secured to the stick with sacred buckskin. Neighbors and friends then trim the stick with hair cords, which at present take the form of vari-colored calico bands. These are tied to the stick between the bundle of weeds and the grip, in which manner it is carried forth by the patient to a place usually some ten and more miles distant, where the ceremony is continued. In some instances the scalp of a slain American, Mexican, Ute or Comanche is substituted for the bundle of weeds, though at present such scalps are in possession of very few persons. - The carrying of the rattlestick from one locality to another is always participated in by a throng of interested visitors, and usually proceeds in a frantic rush. Arriving at its destination the hair cords are removed from the shaft and distributed among the residents of that locality, who anxiously apply for them, and frequently weave them into saddle blankets and small rugs. Toward evening an ordinary cooking pot is converted into a drum by throwing a few pebbles into it and covering the top with a piece of goat or buckskin, which is secured around the rim with a cord or thong. This improvised drum is continuously beaten with a small stick while the maidens select a partner from the throng of visitors to dance with. Married women are excluded from this dance, though it is permissible to select a partner from among the married men. Frequently young men pay for the exclusive privilege of dancing with a sweetheart or favorite on each of the three nights.

The dancers perform in a circle, though no special order is prescribed. Each maiden, standing behind her partner, grasps his side and completes a circle or two with him, reversing the circle occasionally to avoid dizziness. As all participants hum and sing while in action the whole ceremony has been popularly designated by this feature, or as the nda', or ajinda', they all hum moving, the war dance, or rather the girls' dance (squaw dance). After completing these motions several times the girl releases her partner and , unless otherwise stipulated, charges a fee of five to twenty-five cents for the privilege granted, or an equal amount for the privilege of being released. The dance is continued until about midnight when the party disperses to retire. On the following morning the rattle is again carried to some other distant place and is borne, not by the patient, but by one acquainted with the prayers required for its final deposit, who, thereafter, takes charge of the rattle until the close of the ceremony. In the evening of this day the nda' or girls' dance, is repeated as on the preceding night, and is in turn followed on the third morning by the bearing of the rattle to the place selected for the close of the ceremony. Here the patient is blackened about noon. At noon of the third day the body of the patient is painted black. Juniper branchlets, with yarrow, meadow rue and pine needles are previously pulverized, then thrown into a bowl of water, and stirred. One of the assistants now takes a dab of this mixture between his fingers and applies it in turn against the soles, the knees, legs, chest, back, shoulders, mouth and head of the patient, who then sips of the mixture before bathing his whole body with it. Thereupon, the assistant chews some pennyroyal and foxtail grass, and holding his hands to the sun sputters the liquid over them. He then proceeds to press the body of the patient, who is seated, turning it first one way, then another, and repeating this four times. This done his body is rubbed with sheep tallow and the usual mixture of animal tissues, after which the ashes of the above mentioned burnt weeds are spread over the entire body, while the patient's face is painted red with a mixture of red clay and grease, with stripes of black drawn across the cheeks and the entire chin. He is now made to step, or rather rest his feet, in dirt dug up by a gopher, which is held in a blanket before him, putting first his left then the right foot into it. The charm, consisting of a tail feather of the roadrunner wrapped with eagle down feathers, is now tied to his hair. Wristlets, too, made of braided leaves of slender yucca, are tied to his wrists, while buckskin saddlebags, studded with white beads, serve as shoulder bands, crossing each shoulder to the hips. Finally, the bill of a crow is secured to the palm of the right hand, and is used in scratching the head, since the fingers are not to be used in this manner. The patient remains rigged in these trimmings throughout the afternoon and evening, and partakes of a plain gruel, after previously saluting the sun by inhaling the sun's breath, that is, accompanying inhalation with a gesture toward the sun. As usual, the day and ceremony is closed with the dance of the girls, after which the singer removes the trimmings from the patient, as also that of the rattle, instructing the bearer of it to securely deposit the shaft. This he does amid prayer, and a secluded crevice or ledge of rock is selected for deposition.

In addition to the above it was learned that the war dance is conducted for dispelling foreign enemies only, whether they be real or imaginary. If, accordingly, in fancy one is pursued by foreigners, such as Americans, Comanches, Utes, Pueblo, Cliffdwellers, or others, and is indisposed on this account, he calls upon the war singers to destroy these enemies. This accounts, too, for the custom of coveting a tuft of hair, a piece of a legging, a whole or the part of a scalp, a piece of bone or clothing belonging to an Apache, Ute, or other foreigner, or purchasing them when seen at a curio store. When these objects are in possession of a friend no time and labor is spared to acquire portions of them if desired for immediate use. A journey of this kind is termed going on the warpath, and the parts of the enemy required, or designated as desirable for the rattle stick, are usually indicated by the astrologers and divinators called upon previously to trace the source of illness. If successfully obtained the bone, hair, rag, or other trophy, is tied to the horse's tail to avoid contamination, and is hurried without delay to its destination. Otherwise, too, such trophies are held at some distance from one's person while in transportation, being tied to a stick and placed at some distance from the camp, while at home they are hidden in some distant hide-spot for future use. This is a remnant of an old war custom whereby the moist scalp was carried in a similar manner, and contamination, or rather pursuit, by the spirit of the slain, avoided by means of the blackening, or war dance, held soon after a skirmish. The medicine pouch of the war singers were, therefore, frequently provided with such trophies as hair, finger-nails and finger-tips of slain enemies, - or the collar-bone of the enemy, for the purpose of conducting their war rites. At present the trophy is inserted with the bundle of weeds, and on the final day of the ceremony, when the blackening of the patient has taken place, they are carried out some distance from the place of final gathering and deposited upon the ground by the singer. The throng surrounds the trophy at a respectful distance, while the singer takes a pinch of ashes and sprinkles the trophy with it, exhorting the visitors not to gaze upon it while this is being done. When the patient, too, has sprinkled ashes upon it two of the visitors rush up and discharge their guns (formerly their arrows) upon the trophy. They then sing the praises of the patient in slaying or running the enemy down. This is concluded in the evening, just before dark, by a general celebration of victory. The rattle bearer, and other invited singers of the war rite, indulge for about half an hour in yelling and rushing at each other with firebrands, a turn which is soon taken up by all men and boys present. The rest of the night is spent in dancing and merriment.

The blackening is sometimes performed independently of the other features of the war dance, and may be done in the open, or in the hogan, or even in a modern house. For dispelling native enemies, such as the influence of the monsters of the legends, and innumerable witches, another war dance, - blackening against witchcraft, is conducted. In the description of the masks mention has been made of the bow and queue as emblematic of the clothes of the Slayer of Monsters and his brother. For similar traditional reasons the openings of the bow and queue are left open on the rattlestick. As the Slayer of Monsters or Enemies and his brother, the Water child, are inseparable in the destruction of enemies, the symbol of bow and queue are both added to the rattlestick as indicating the power of these two gods. Pgs. 366-376

An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers

The Story of the Summer Dance

The younger of the Twin Brothers, the sons of the Man Raised in the Mountain, also traveled over the country as had his elder brother. He was a great hunter and he always carried his bow and arrows. One day, on one of his journeys near Dzil na'odili, he came upon a hogan. He left his bow and arrows on the outside of the dwelling and entered. There sat a beautiful maiden; she was lovely to see. She was making a pretty dress of buckskin and decorating it with porcupine quills. After the youth entered the home he heard someone coming. In came an old man with his bow and arrows in his hand. He said: "My daughter is narrow-minded, son-in-law. My daughter is all alone and she needs male help." Then again the young man heard someone coming. It was the girl's mother. The old man called out to his wife and said: "Your son-in-law is present. Now don't be foolish." So she ran away from the hogan.

Now the old man's name was Tloth ilth ine', One Who Looks at a Fish. He spoke to his son-in-law: "We are a poor family. We have nothing. Let us go out and see what we can find." So just before dawn they went out and they traveled to where people lived near Pueblo Bonito. They sat down, weapons in hand. The old man said: "I will sit here. You go farther on and sit there." It was not long before two beautiful maidens walked toward them. They wore beautiful dresses and had many beads around their necks and earrings in their ears. The maidens did not stop by the youth, but went on to the old man. The old man killed the two girls and took their scalps, their clothing, and their beads. Then he returned to the home. On the second morning the old man said: "This may be your lucky day, my son-in-law. Let us go out again." They went out as before. The old man sat down and the young man went further on. Again two beautiful maidens came toward them, and again they passed the young man and went on to the old man who killed them and took their belongings.

When they returned the young wife took her husband aside and said: "I will tell you what my father uses. He has a strong medicine. My father has the medicine of the enemies, the medicine from the Giant and the medicine from the Bear. You have nothing. He has the enemy's spinal cord, a short piece, dried, and the enemy's heel cords; and he has the unborn baby. He has all these for his medicine. Go and kill an antelope and also find a gopher heavy with young." The young man went out and did as his wife told him. She took the cord from the antelope, and the unborn from the gopher, and she made them look the same as her father's medicine. She exchanged them for the real medicine which she took home to her husband. Then she taught him the chants which her father used, and the prayers also. The next morning the old man said: "Son-in-law, let us go out again. It may be your luck this time." The young man said: "Since this is to be my luck I will sit down first and you must go farther on." The young man chanted as his wife had taught him. Then came two beautiful maidens with turquoise beads, earrings, and dresses of beautiful goods. They passed the old man by and came toward him. He killed them and took their scalps, their beads, and their clothes. Now the old man felt bad because he had lost all of the turquoise. He did not know that his medicine had been changed, and that he carried the imitation medicine.

On the fourth morning again the young man sat down first and the old man went farther on. The young man chanted, and again came two beautiful maidens. They passed by the old man and they came to the young man, who killed them and took their scalps, beads, and clothing. Then the old man came to him and said: "My son-in-law, by what medicine do you do these things?" And the young man answered: "I have nothing." The old man drew his body away from the young man and said: "Without a chant and medicine it is impossible. You alone cannot draw anyone." Now the old man's real medicine which the young man had in his possession was the same medicine with which the old man Bear had drawn the Great Warrior of Aztec and killed him. He took this medicine out and showed it to the old man who examined it closely. He sent for his own medicine. When it was brought to him he laid the articles side by side and said: "They truly look alike." Then he shook them in his hands and took the real medicine himself, but the young man said: "Mine is the oldest because I had the using of the last power. I had the medicine on me." So the young man recovered the real medicine.

After this the young man went after all the enemies he wished to capture. Those that he drew, he killed. Soon his home was full of turquoise, beads, and beautiful goods. But after a while the young man and his wife sickened. The cords of their legs drew up, and their heads ached as did their stomachs. They chanted all the chants that they knew but none helped them. Only Hasjel na' yei nazone, the Black Yei, knew of the proper medicine. Hasjel na'yei nazone was to be the shaman. The friends of the young man took the skin of a deer not killed by a weapon to the Yei, but he would not look at it. Then the young man sent two buckskins, but the Yei would not accept them. He sent three, four, but Hasjel na' yei nazone would not look at them. Then the same person who told them that Hasjel na' yei nazone would act as shaman came and said: "My children, did you use him?" The young man and his wife both said: "We sent gifts but he would not look at them. We do not understand." So then Dotso, the All-Wise Fly (and here given as the old Man of the Mountain) showed them how to make the medicine stick to take to Hasjel na' yei nazone. They did this, and they took it and presented it to the Yei. Then he asked: "Who thought of the medicine stick?" They said: "We did, ourselves." He said: "No. Only Dotso could have thought of it. He is the only one who knows. Nevertheless I will come tomorrow." They begged him to come that day, but he said: "No. Nothing shall happen. I will come tomorrow."

Then he showed them how to make the jar drum, and what to use. He said that he had his own jar drum and the stick with which to pound it. The next day he started out. He camped quite a way from the hogan of the young man and his wife, but they could see his fire. Different ones went to him and asked him to come at once; but to them all he said: "No. I will come tomorrow, in the morning." Now by this time the two were very ill and they needed the Yei immediately. But he kept saying: "I will come tomorrow. Nothing shall happen to them." Then he told the friends of the young man to kill a young buck for him and for his friends. The buck must have two points on his horns. The next morning he arrived, but not before he stopped and demanded his meat. They brought the deer, which they had killed, to him and there came buzzards, crows, coyotes, wolves, and all the creatures who had eaten the bodies of the enemies. They ate the deer which had been killed. After this Hasjel na' yei nazone entered the dwelling of the sick couple. And their friends stood outside and beat the drum and chanted and called out the names of the sick ones, as also the name of Hasjel na' yei nazone. Then others came out and placed beautiful goods, symbolic of the spoils of the enemy, over their shoulders. And inside the dwelling the Yei burned the barks of the pinon and the willow trees, the bladder pod and the sage, and the sheepgrass and the radishgrass. These they burned while Hasjel na' yei nazone chanted and sprinkled the ashes of these plants over the persons of the two sick ones.

Many chants were sung here and during the decorating of the medicine stick. Today the chants are those of the Two Brothers, the twin sons of the Man Who Was Formed in the Earth or Mountain. From the Elder Brother come the Mountain Chant and Dance (the First Mountain Chant comes from way back in the beginning, the Bear being the last to add his medicine to the old ceremony) and the Snake Chant and Dance. From the Younger Brother comes the Summer or Scalp or Squaw Dance and its chants. From Hasjelti came the Yei'bickai. Hasjelti is the god or Yei of the East or Dawn; Hasjohon is the Yei of the West and Twilight. Yolgai esdzan, the White Bead Woman is Nature or the Mother goddess. These three are the chief actors. The one who holds the jar drum must stand with her eyes and mouth turned away from the drummer. In the first Dance the Clack Cloud was used to cover the jar. Today they use a goatskin. Today, also, they use all kinds and colors of yarns around the sticks carried in the Summer Dance. They used the seeds of the columbine and the seeds of the sweet-smelling grass. They were blown on the medicine stick after it was finished.

Today the Dance is as follows: On the first day the medicine stick is taken to the person representing Hasjel na' yei nazone. They sing and dance all of that night. The second day the person representing Hasjel na' yei nazone goes only part of the way. They sing and dance at the place all of that night. The morning of the third day they come near and make camp not far from the hogan of the sick person. Food is them taken to the party, the gift of the sick person. After they have eaten they go to the hogan. On the fourth and last day, while the visiting party stand outside chanting, the women relatives of the sick person go out and distribute presents such as calico, ribbon, and candy. This is an old custom. (The gifts are given in the spirit of our Christmas gifts.) To continue the story " at dawn Hasjelti came and sang three chants. There are no words, only the tune. Then came Hash chel bai, the Yei known as the clown, also called Tqo'nenili, the Water Sprinkler. He was the last to sing.

Yo ho, yo ho, ye hi,

Ha' he he, he'a,

He'ya ena.

That was the last chant, and after he had finished singing everyone went his way. Today the Summer Dance is performed in this manner but without the chants. The ceremony takes 3 days. It is held a second time over a person. Now after the first ceremony was held over the young man and his wife they recovered. The young man went out again and killed more enemies. After a time again they both sickened. Dotso came and told the young man that when he went out and killed the enemy the blood of the enemy was upon him when he returned to his wife. That accounted for her illness as well as his. Therefore the ceremony was held a second time. This second time Hasjel na' yei nazone told them they must use the small branch of the cedar, but it must not have two points at the end. On the east side of the branch, he who cut it must so mark it: there must be drawn a bow with an opening, and a scalp on the opposite side. Then the stick must be painted red. It must then be blackened with the same medicine which they burned. They must blow on it the seeds of the sweet-smelling grass and the columbine. Yarn or cotton cloth or red flannel must be tied to the stick, and these must hang down like rain. This medicine stick must be taken to Hasjel na' yei nazone.

But this second time, on the last day, the White Bead Woman came and made the medicine. The herbs she used would heal the patient. She gave a beverage to the young man to drink, but the wife took her medicine outside the dwelling. The Crow stood between them. The Crow represented the third person, and is always shown between a man and his wife. Now after the young man drank the medicine he took a little string from the yucca and drew it away from the tip of his heel. Then he laid it down. He took another and another and drew them, separately, away from all parts of his body. When a medicine man draws the yucca string away from the patient, the Crow, outside, calls, and another medicine man, sitting near where a scalp has been buried, puts ashes over it four times. All this was added to the second ceremony. Today a wife goes through the same ceremony with her husband. The sick man remains in the hogan. Then they throw over her shoulders the robes, buckskins, belts, long strips of velvet, calico, red flannel, ancient squaw dresses, etc. These are the gifts of the friends and family of the husband. She takes them and gives them to her relatives one by one. She keeps nothing; everything is given to her relatives. Pgs. 138-143

The Dine' : Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians, 1956; Aileen O'Bryan.

The Indah ceremony had begun in a hogan a hundred miles away in an obscure canyon. The medicine men sprinkled corn pollen on everyone present as a from of blessing. Then with a stone knife they cut a wand of juniper stick a yard long, painted its stem black with charcoal mixed in grease, and with an appropriate ceremony tied to its upper end long hanks of multicolor yarn, a bough of spruce, a bag of war paint, feathers of turkey and western horned owl, stems of chil-dilgessie (which has yellow flowers), and a bag of corn and larkspur pollen.

Next, a medicine man crushed seasonal flowers in cold water. While the medicine man sang, the Queen drank a little from the concoction; then the others, seated in a circle, also drank. the balance of the flower juice was sprinkled over everyone present.

Accompanied by a cortege of horseback riders and others in wagons, one of the older men of the tribe carried the wand for some twenty-five miles to a hogan belonging to a friend of the patient's family. They had to reach there before sundown, as prescribed by ancient custom. As the wand passed by the camps and hogans on its journey, all the men who saw it leaped into their saddles and followed in its wake. When the cortege arrived, each member painted his face with war paint. That night the chorus of men practiced their spiritual songs outdoors, after which they spent most of the night singing humorous songs in competition. They ate and they sang. After midnight there was even a small Squaw Dance around a huge fire in the open.

The second day, early in the morning, the wand was given to the Queen of the Celebration. She was the unmarried daughter of the host, chosen for this honor because of her fine character. Accompanied by a large crowd, she carried it on horseback to the patient's hogan, some thirty miles farther away in Shonto Canyon. Here they all camped. Further preparations were made by the medicine men. Here again the chorus, now grown in size, practiced its singing, ending up in even greater hilarity and a bigger Squaw Dance, since by this time news of the ceremonies had reached hogans farther up in the canyons and mesas of the reservation, and hundreds of people had come to join in the celebration.

Wand in hand, our Queen, riding a spirited horse, left very early on the third morning in the company of a guard of "warriors" who raced twenty-five miles across the desert and swooped down in an "attack" on the medicine hogan. The medicine hogan was in the field of our celebration and we had been waiting on the spot to witness the "attack." The air was crisp. The sun was about to show its face in the east. The horizon was lit wit subdued tones of crimson intermingled with indefinable hues of gray and purple. The Navajos were in a state of great excitement over the "war" that was developing. We ourselves were full of wonderment over the mysterious movements of the men and women who were barely visible in the darkness that was about to give way to the glowing rays of the rising sun.

When the Queen and her retinue of brave riders were still half a mile away, other "warriors," whipping their animals, advanced in a flash to meet them. There followed a wild sham battle between the two bands. They rode around and around in wide circles, shouting, yelling, and gesticulating to the beat of tom-toms. The people assembled in our field, supposedly taken by surprise, scurried hither and yon looking for places of protection, but returned to the field prepared for a desperate stand against the invaders. In this engagement the braves snatched hats and other trophies from each other. Their battle cries could be heard for miles. Many who had guns fired them into the air. The sham war over, with the invaders having won the battle, victor and victim all rode in together, followed by a long train of wagons from Shonto, loaded with women and children. Shouting and yelling, the victors rode four times around the medicine hogan where the patient was placed under the care of the medicine men. in order to make peace, the host- that is, the patient's family - was obliged to throw out gifts and expensive presents to the victors. At last peace was declared, the snatched articles were returned, and the cortege assembled around the medicine hogan and sang for half an hour.

About this time Navajo Dick kindly led me to the medicine hogan. Whites are not welcome here, and as we approached the entrance, we were greeted by many stern faces. Seeing a camera in my hand, they did not let me in. However, after Navajo Dick had pleaded for me, they gave me permission to photograph the hundreds of warriors who had just staged the sham battle and conquered the enemy spirit which had entered the patient's body. In the meantime the medicine men had transferred the evil spirit from the patient to a human scalp which had been taken from an enemy of the Navajos, nowadays very likely from a Hopi or white man's burial ground, since killing and scalping is, of course, no longer practiced. If a scalp is not available, a lock of hair, a piece of bone, rag, or any trophy taken from an enemy tribe may be used in its place. I followed them as the scalp containing the evil spirit was carried by young boys, blackened by war paint to make them immune to the evil spirit, to a spot two hundred yards east of the hogan and there buried in the sand. At noon the woman patient's entire body was blackened (under blankets) by woman assistants in the medicine hogan. The black paint was made from burnt juniper twigs, yarrow, pine needles, and meadow rue. Her husband was also similarly painted black. The patient was instructed to step into a gopher hole which had been spaded up onto a blanket. She was decorated with feathers and wristlets, and the bill of a crow was place in the palm of her right hand. Then a masked medicine man, his body painted with designs to represent the Slayer of Alien Gods, Naye-nezhani, led her and her husband to the place where the enemy's scalp was buried. They were followed by a small group of men and women who had a little black paint on their faces only. I also followed them watching attentively.

One of the men, an old warrior, shot the scalp three times with a rifle, killing the evil spirit. In earlier times a bow and arrow had been used for this purpose. This was a remnant of the ancient ceremony designed to absolve the Navajo warriors of contamination by the ghosts of enemies they had slain. Since disease was the modern enemy of the Navajos, they had adapted the old ritual to rid the patient of the evil spirit which had been contaminating her body. After the evil spirit had been killed, the patient and medicine man ran back to the hogan, where the patient was instructed to face the east and inhale the sun's breath by gathering the rays into the palms of her hands. This took place on the last day; and since it was the climax, everyone was eager to participate in the games and races. Even the women entered the contests with a great deal of zeal. And that evening they had the biggest fire of all for the Squaw Dance and the fiercest competition in the singing. The crowd stayed up all night, feasting until sunrise. Pgs. 66-68

Navajos, Gods, Tom-toms; By S.H. Babington, 1950.

The leading symbol of the War Ceremony, called 'aya l, 'aya ltsi n, though having an etiology similar to that of the bundle talking prayersticks, is more like a feathered stick than a rattle. It is not used like a rattle, but rather like a flag or standard. Father Berard, relying on the literal translation of its name, has called it 'rattlestick.' The chant symbols of the Shooting Chant are permanent properties of the chanter's bundle; the rattlestick is made for each performance of the War Ceremony. The bundle talking prayersticks are topped with fluffy feathers; feathers are a part of the rattlestick, but are almost hidden by large twigs and yarn, particularly red yard.

Navajo Religion, Vol I; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950