Symbolism


46- Informants note:The Dark or Black Bow is symbolic of the Slayers of the Enemies. It is a symbol of the overthrow of evil. Pg.13

47- Informants note:The Male and Female Reeds are the symbols of the male and female principles. Pg. 13

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

The hoop ceremonies of the Navajo have been compared by anthropologists to mandalas, Paleolithic sunwheels, or "magic circles." Spruce, willow, and other hoops represent the four passages of man through the four elemental worlds. They are also symbolic of the four directions, the four sacred mountains, the four-cornered construct of the human family mother, father, son, daughter and the four stages of human life. By passing through the sacred hoops, symbolically, man reemerges himself, reintegrates himself, immunizes himself. From a weakened state, he passes through the hoops of life into psychological/ physiological harmony. Pg. 33


The Gift of the Gila Monster, Navajo Ceremonial Tales; 1993, Gerald Hausman.

They say that "mist on the horizon is the pollen that has been offered to the gods." Pg. 29

They Sang for Horses: The Impact of the Horse on Navajo and Apache Folklore; 1966, La Verne Harrell Clark

"The First,". . . . . "So much importance is attached in both myth and practice to beginning an event or to the first time an act takes place as to make initiation a major symbol . . . . Apparently the first try has power because it signifies the purpose and predicts the outcome." Pg. 375

The number four is emphasized most strongly. Ideally, the Kinaalda is a four-day ceremony. Many of its rites and songs include references to four or its multiples. Pg. 375

Kinaalda', A Study of the Navaho Girl's Puberty Ceremony; 1993, Charlotte Johnson Frisbie.

hadahuniye' also designates a stone similar to agate which is used ceremonially with other precious stones. Formerly this stone was a distinguishing feature of the chiefs and was attached to the hair cord. Pg. 41

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

Avoidances are intensified during critical periods in the life of the individual. A pregnant woman is supposed to observe an enormous number of taboos, and her husband must share some of them lest his wife and unborn child be injured. For the person who has just been a patient in a curing rite, for the adolescent girl, for the menstruating woman, the thou-shalt-nots of daily life are multiplied. As we have already seen, Navaho fears and avoidance reach a climax in the complex of beliefs and acts connected with death. It is believed that only witches will go near places of burial. There is some avoidance of uttering even the names of dead people. Navahos are brought up to fear many forces in the supernatural world, but they are also taught ways of coping with them. In most cases, there are ways to effect a cure after the threat has struck. Every adult Navaho has "gall medicine," a preparation of the galls of various animals, which he takes as an emetic if he fears that he has absorbed a witch's "corpse poison." Everyone is particularly careful to carry a little sack of gall medicine on his person when he goes into large gatherings of strangers. In the hogan will be kept plants and other protectives against and remedies for witchcraft. In buckskin pouches in every dwelling will be found herbs, pollen, bits of turquoise and shell, tiny carved images of sheep and horses.
The use of the pollen of corn and other plants is very important in maintaining the proper relationship to the Holy People. In old-fashioned households the day still begins with the sprinkling of pollen from one of the little bags and a brief murmured prayer. After the evening meal the members of the family rub their limbs and say, "May I be lively. May I be healthy." More pollen may be offered and a Blessing Way song sung.
The spectacular ceremonials so capture the imagination that it is easy to forget that, for all their drama, they are quantitatively but a small part of the ritual life of The People. The daily routine of every member of the family is tinged by ceremonial observances as well as avoidances. The weaver uses songs and prayers. The tanner places a turquoise or white shell bead on his pole in order to protect his joints from becoming stiff. A squirrel's tail should be tied to a baby's cradle so that the child will be protected in case of a fall. Every family has a number of "good luck songs" which are believed to bring protection to family members and their property, to aid in the production of ample crops, and to secure increase of flocks and herds. Such songs are regarded as important property which a father of uncle may transmit to son or nephew. Pgs. 141-142

The Navaho; 1946, Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorothea Leighton.

Without everyday symbolisms, allegory, and color, Navajo life would be drab. Man, woman, or child, every Navajo carries a personal fetish, the symbol of protection. This may consist of a very simple object-a small stick or a jewel, such as a turquoise. The figure four is symbolic of many good things in life, since all good things come to the Navajo through a cycle of four seasons. Each season is given a symbolic color:spring is white; summer is blue; fall is yellow; and winter is black. Each of these colors in turn is assigned to the four cardinal points of the compass:white for east, blue for south, yellow for west, and black for north. However, when dangerous or underground places are being described, some of these colors are reversed. White comes to stand for north, and black for east. Colors are also assigned to the sexes. Black symbolizes the Navajo man, because the cold rough winds come from the north. By the same reasoning, white stands for the Navajo woman because the breezes in spring are gentle and warm. Yellow corn belongs to the female and white corn to the male. The same basic colors are used by the medicine man in coloring masks and painting a patient's body. Red is the symbol of sunshine and as such it is used in their sandpaintings. All these five colors are sacred to the Navajos.

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

Dreams have much to do with disease and curing. Legend occasionally includes dreams as a means of supernatural communication.

Whiteshell Woman appeared in a dream to the little girl she loved and explained why she had left home.
After Reared-in-the-mountain had had his Earth family purified and had stayed with them a while, he became accustomed to their odor, but he dreamed that the gods were begging him to return to them.
Dreams are related to belief in sympathetic magic and in reversal: Dreams of deer or of killing rare game are good.
Monster Slayer dreamed he was picked up by Throwing Monster, and told his mother about the dream. He took it to mean that he would succeed in subduing the creature.
Dreams during a ritualized activity are exceptionally potent, hence the rigidity and number of restrictions at such times: the interpretation of dreams during a Rain Ceremony was related to it. Dreams of rain, corn, or flowers were good; dreams of drought were bad (cp. Ch. 11, 15; Whiteshell Woman, Con. A; Morgan 1931, 1936; for Lincoln, see Kluckhohn-Spencer, p. 54; Hill 1936, p. 13; 1938, pp. 43, 50; Matthews 1887, pp. 390, 417; 1897, p. 139; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Footprints are a common symbol, especially of pollen and sandpaintings, where they represent the road of life, or the trail of safety.
When a girl and boy were spirited away from the mythological cornfield, the people made four footprints of white corn outside the house and four footprints and handprints of corn pollen inside the house and prayed for the return of the children.
This is one of two references to handprints I have found, the other being a note that people prayed with their hands pressed into handprint impressions in a rock.
Footprints lead onto sandpaintings as in those of the Shock and Prayer on buckskin rites of the Evil ceremonies.
One of the few descriptions of Sun's physical features is a reference to giant footprints (Wheelwright 1942, p. 122 and paintings; Goddard, pp. 154, 174; Newcomb 1940b, p. 56; Kluckhohn-Wyman, p. 172; Reichard 1944d, p. 113; Matthews 1887, p. 164; 1897, p. 108; 1902, pp. 164, 181; Haile 1938b, p. 125; Oakes-Campbell, pp. 38, 39).

Queue (tsi'ye'l) represents Child-of-the-water as the bow represents Monster Slayer (Bow symbol; Haile 1938b, pp. 59, 179, 315, 27n).

Racing is a rite that seems to symbolize strength and fortitude, qualities that please the gods.

Changing Woman ran at the Adolescence Ceremony and ended the race by jumping over the fire. According to the myth of the War Ceremony, she ran the race 'because of, at the instigation of Sun' and at the time of her second menses because of Moon.
Rainboy of the Hail Chant lost his life in a race with Frog and later with supernatural aid won Frog's life.
One of the Racing Gods, exemplary youths, was challenged to run an impossible race-around the base of Mt. Taylor-for the Navaho; his brother was to run for the visiting tribes. The older Racer won the high stakes put up by the Navaho. At a second try-to run around all the foothills of the San Mateo range-the Navaho bet only half as much as they had won on the first race and lost; the younger brother won the stakes for the visitors. The strangers regretted their net loss, but one of their wise men spoke comfortingly: "You have done well, for had you lost the second race you would have lost with it the rain, the sunshine, and all that makes life glad" (Goddard, p. 151; Haile 1938b, pp. 86-9; Reichard 1944d, pp. 15-7, 23; Matthews 1887, pp. 415-7).

Sunbeam and sunray are partners acting as mentor, protection, and conveyance. Most translations do not differentiate them. After much discussion with informants, who do not agree, I have translated ca'didi'n as 'sunbeam,' the light ray from a cloud with the sun behind it, and cabitlo'l as 'sunray,' the alternating dark rays between the light beams. The former is generally yellow and white in sandpainting; the latter is red and blue.

Sunbeam and sunray formed field glasses through which Monster Slayer could see long distances.
The pattern for the War Ceremony rattlestick was originally brought to Earth People by Sunbeam and Sunray (Haile 1938b, pp. 205, 215; Stephen 1930, p. 89).

Sunglow (cabitla' djiltci') is represented by a red head-dress. Many of the Shooting Chant paintings show figures wearing this headdress. It is one of the chanter's bundle properties, worn by his representative in the Fire Dance.

In the origin story it is said that Cicada offered sunglow to birds of the second world for the right to enter it. The birds put it on their wings and were so pleased that they gave permission.

A red bonnet was worn by Scavenger of the Bead Chant. It had been given Sun as a trophy of a pueblo chief's daughter (Stephen 1930, p. 94; Reichard 1939, p. 28; Newcomb-Reichard, p. 48).

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