Crystals


First Man burned a crystal for a fire. The crystal belonged to the male and was the symbol of the mind and of clear seeing. When First Man burned it, it was the mind's awakening. Pg. 2

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

The lizard, specifically the Gila monster, is the god or medium of divination by sensation in some rites, as in the wind chant. Pg. 156

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

The hand trembler passes his or her trembling hand over the patient's body as he or she says prayers to Gila Monster; the answer comes either through the interpretation of the motions of the diagnosticians's shaking hand, or as a direct revelation from the Gila Monster. Stargazing may involve sandpaintings or fetishes; the dried and powdered lenses from the eyes of night birds with keen sight may be applied to the eyelids of the stargazer, the patient, and those who could assist in seeing something. The stargazer and his or her helpers then go outside to say prayers and, with the use of a quartz crystal, interpret flashes of light or images for information about the cause of illness and the proper ceremonial and chanter for treatment. Listening is similar to stargazing but does not use sandpainting or fetishes, which may be used in stargazing. The dried and powdered eardrum of a badger may be placed in each ear; the listener then leaves the hogan to say prayers and then to interpret the cause of illness from something heard, such as the rattling of a rattlesnake or the roar of thunder. There is considerable variation in each of these techniques. Pgs. 39-40

Stargazing, deest'ii, is used to determine the etiology of illness, the source of misfortune, or the location of missing objects. The patient may contact a stargazer, deest'ii'ii'lini, before he hires the chanter to perform a ceremonial. There are several kinds of diagnosticians, or diviners, among the Navajo: hand tremblers, listeners, and stargazers. All of these, in contrast to chanters, acquire power through personal contact with the supernatural and perform their rituals in a trance state. Thus, the stargazer is technically a shaman, while the chanter is technically a priest, in the sense of having learned standardized ritual through apprenticeship to an older chanter. Because shamanism, by its very nature, is a far more individualistic enterprise than chanting, the following descriptions of stargazing ritual are far from standardized. In some cases, the stargazer gazes through a crystal at a star of the first magnitude (deest'ii `ashleeh means "to do stargazing"). The colors that are refracted through the prism indicate the answers to the questions posed by the diagnostician, who then relays this information to the patient. The specific information regarding causal factors indicates not only the cause of the illness and thus which particular chant needs to be performed but also what sandpaintings, branches, and subrituals need to be performed for the restoration of the patient of a state of health and harmony. Matthews, on of the first ethnographers of the Navajo, reported only that the patient and his friends determined "what particular rites are best suited to cure the malady." More was known about diagnosis when the Franciscan Fathers described the various forms of divination and mentioned "divination by sight (dest'i) . . . . or star reading (sotsoji)." Morgan was the first to stress the distinction between chanters (whom Morgan refers to as "shamans"), who know the myths behind the ceremonials and are responsible for their performance, and diagnosticians, who reveal the cause and prescribe the cure of illness.

A man is sick. A stargazer is called in. He comes into the hogan. The patient is there. Others are there. He talks to the patient and others. They discuss the illness. The fire is put out. The stargazer chants, then he says, "Everyone must close his eyes. No one must move or speak. Everyone must concentrate on the illness and try to see something." The stargazer takes a man from the hogan, and walks away some distance. He performs movements with his body. Any horses or sheep are frightened away. When there is no noise, the stargazer places a crystal or stone on his hand. He chants. He prays to the Gila monster. He does not pray to a lizard, but a lizard beyond the lizards, a larger one. Then the stargazer holds out his arm and hand in line with the moon or some star, and gazes unwinking at the crystal. Soon he sees something. He closes his hand upon what he has seen in the crystal. Also there may seem to be a line of light which is "lightning" from the star to the crystal or to the ground around him so that the ground appears light. The stargazer sees the hogan and the sick man, even though his back is turned to it. . . . . . He sees a man, or a bear, or a coyote, or perhaps the head of a coyote, or perhaps the bear is biting the patient. Then he goes back to the hogan. The fire is lighted. He asks what the others have seen. This is talked about. He tells what he has seen . . . . . If the illness is serious the stargazer will prescribe a ceremony and the shaman who can give it.

Wyman provided a description of events inside and outside the hogan during one stargazing ritual. He first described the procedure inside the hogan.

In the complete ritual the diagnostician first makes a sandpainting in the dwelling . . . about two feet in diameter. It represents a white star with four points toward the cardinal directions. Between the points of the star are four heaps of sand representing mountains, the southeast mountain being white, the southwest blue, the northwest yellow, and the northeast black. Around the whole, with an opening to the east, is a zig-zag line representing lightning. Then the diagnostician makes ready the dried and powdered lenses from the eyes of the five nightbirds with keen sight who acted as lookouts in the legend of how stargazing was first made known to the people. He dips the tip of his finger in this material and then draws it along his lower eyelids. It is similarly applied to the patient, to the one man who will go out with the stargazer to assist him, and to anyone else present who is "smart" and may be able to assist by seeing something. The eyes of the five birds mentioned are the main ones, but eyes of other birds may be used if available. Then the fire is covered and from now on the people who remain inside do not move or make any noise, but they concentrate and try to see something in addition to that which is seen by the diagnostician, sometimes gazing at a star through the smokehole. . . (The stargazer and another person then leave the hogan to do the actual stargazing.) Outside he (the stargazer) prays the star-prayer (so'dizin) to the star-spirit, asking the star to show him the cause of the sickness. Then he begins to sing star-songs (hotso' biyiin) and while singing gazes fixedly at a star of at the light of a star reflected in a "glass rock" or quartz crystal which he holds in his hand. Soon, it was said, the star begins to "throw out a string of light and at the end of this the star-gazer sees the cause of sickness of the patient, like a motion picture." If these strings of light are white or yellow the patient will recover; if red, the illness is serious or dangerous. If the white light falls on the house and makes it as light as day around it, the patient will get well. If the house is seen burning or in darkness he will die. If a certain medicine man is the proper one to cure the sickness the star will throw a flash of light in the direction of his home, or on his body if he is present. Places faraway may be see. After the diagnostician has obtained enough information is this way he returns to the house and tells what he has seen. If anyone else has seen anything, his experience is also considered.

Stargazer A indicated that while the individual must have an aptitude for diagnosis, the power of diagnosis resides in the crystal itself. When asked if he had to have an overview of all the ceremonies in order to prescribe the appropriate one for the patient, Stargazer A responded, "The crystal tells me if the patient needs a specific ceremony or a doctor or if I can help the patient myself with herbs. The power is in the crystal." Haile illustrated the power of rock crystal in locating missing children:
Now this Rock Crystal Talking God kept himself well posted on events by means of his dreams. In addition he would place twelve layers of rock crystal one above the other (like a magnifying glass). By sighting through them (like a telescope) he kept himself posted at the east, south, west, and the north. . . . . His two children were occupied in playing games . . . (Later) the children were missed. . . . . Without a delay he looked . . . with his twelve rock crystal eyepiece . . . toward the west he realized that here they could be found. . . . . Through an eyepiece of twelve rock crystals nothing is hidden.

Wyman's footnote to this passage emphasized that this powerful crystal differentiates this Talking God from other Talking Gods: "Unlike others . . . he has his rock crystal eyepiece which enables him to detect everything, even to the ends of the earth and sky, of mountains and water." Reichard referred to the rock crystal held by stargazers as a "symbol of illumination." Remington described how the stargazer puts water or mucus from birds with the best eyesight on his lower eyelids and on those of the patient and the one who goes outside the hogan to help in stargazing. The stargazer prays and sings to the star-spirit while outside. Remington explained, "He gazes at the star, the star group, or the moon and holds the crystal out to reflect the light. A light beam comes down and lights up the crystal. The stargazer is illuminated, the hogan is illuminated, and the stargazer can see far away or back to the hogan, without looking." Pg. 143-148

Hand Tremblingway is used for any illness caused by practicing or overpracticing hand trembling divination or stargazing, or otherwise becoming infected with overdoing of divination. Such illness may be manifested as tuberculosis, nervousness, mental disease, paralysis of the arms (from overdoing Hand Tremblingway), or impaired vision (from overdoing stargazing). The Paintings of Hand Tremblingway are made only on buckskin. Pgs. 151,152

Earth is my Mother, Sky is my Father: Space, Time, and Astronomy in Navajo Sandpainting; 1992, Trudy Griffen-Pierce.

diagnosis is done by "listening," "stargazing," or "hand trembling." Listeners and stargazers are rare, are always men, and have learned the procedures. By far the most common method of diagnosis is hand trembling, which is practiced by both men and women although, in our experience, women outnumber men as hand tremblers. Hand trembling is said to be an unsought gift signaled by the shaking of the right arm. The person so chosen is thought to be possessed by the spirit of the supernatural Gila Monster. A ceremony must then be performed to control the involuntary shaking so that it does not become a disease and, at the same time, to introduce the individual to the status of diagnostician. The hand trembler is a shaman because he is thought to be possessed while in a trance, although this method of diagnosis and the Hand-Tremblingway ceremony were borrowed after 1860 from the Apaches. All diagnosticians, however, are said to be in a trance state while practicing their art, and the origin of the stargazing rite mentions that it was caused by Coyote possession. Pgs. 30 31

Ndishniih, to tremble or move the hand about (for the purpose of diagnosing), does not connote a state of wildness or excess despite the fact that the trembling is always thought to be involuntary, may vary from a fine tremor of the hand to rather violent motions of the arm, and can become uncontrollable. It is only used to refer to the behavior displayed by diagnosticians and caused by possession by Gila Monster. Pg. 41

Hand Trembling, Frenzy Witchcraft, and Moth Madness, A Study of Navajo Seizure Disorders; 1987, Jerrold E. Levy, Raymond Neutra, Dennis Parker.