Hunchback God


Hunchback God (ya'ackidi') (P) is possibly so called because of the hump which represents the black bag he carries on his back, or because he is a deified mountain sheep. Matthews defines him as 'a god of harvest, a god of plenty, a god of mist.'
Stevenson says the hump is of clouds containing seeds of all vegetation. Sapir's text has the hump made of rainbow. While one group of gods was preparing the log for Self Teacher, another group, consisting of four Hunchback gods and two xactc'e'oyan-gods of seeds, mists, and cornfields-was ritualistically preparing the pet turkey.
In all versions of the Night Chant myth, the hero was lying in ambush for some mountain sheep, but when they came past him, his fingers froze on the arrow and he could not shoot. After he failed four times, the sheep threw off their skins and revealed themselves as gods. According to Matthews, all were Hunchback gods; Stevenson has them:
Talking God, xactc'e'oyan, one Hunchback, and xa'datcici'. Sapir has Fringed Mouth, Hunchback God, Talking God, and xactc'e'oyan. They came to the hero to teach him holy things. They had him take off his clothes and gave him a sheepskin to hold in his hand. When they blew on him, the skin slipped onto him and fitted perfectly. They went off as five mountain sheep.
The mythical description of the Hunchback God is like that of the impersonator in the dance.
The Stricken Twins, directed by Talking God, had arrived at a place called Where-the-sheep-trail-comes-out. The cliff was steeply terraced. The boys heard an attractive voice, that of a Hunchback God, deep in the canyon. The crippled boy reported to his blind brother, "Here comes someone. He has horns on his head and a hump on his back. He bends over like an old man and walks slowly, leaning on a staff." The boys talked to the old man, who had them get on his rainbow; in no time they were on a much lower ledge of the cliff. There was no door, but the figure of a mountain sheep was painted on the smooth rock, and under it was a white spot. The god struck the white spot with his staff and a door opened into an empty room. Its walls were also smooth and on the wall opposite the entrance a ewe was painted; underneath it there was a blue spot. When that spot opened as a door, there was another empty room with a picture of a ram, underneath which was a yellow spot. On the opposite wall of the third chamber, to which the yellow door opened, there was a picture of rain and underneath it a black spot. When the god struck the black spot, a door opened into a room filled with people.
The cripple told his brother this was the most beautiful room they had yet visited. On the east wall, white clouds were painted and above them was a white fog; there were blue clouds and fog on the south wall, yellow on the west, and black on the north wall. On the walls were objects like the heads of Rocky Mountain Sheep which seemed alive. These had the same colors as the clouds and fog in the various directions; the head of a ram was at the east and west; that of a ewe at the south and north. From the male heads zigzag lightning darted; from the female heads, straight lightning. On each wall a large crystal illuminated the room, and with each stone there was a cure for disease. The stone of the east had a cure for blindness, that of the south one for lameness, that of the west one for deafness, and that of the north a medicine for facial paralysis. The boys felt mist and moisture as they stood there.
The gods did not drive the boys away, nor did they cure, but they gave directions by means of which the youths could obtain the wealth necessary to pay for treatment.
When the gods finally relented and helped the Stricken Twins, xactc'e'oyan said to Hunchback God, "You own all the mountain sheep. Take one over to Bat Rock and leave it there for the boys to kill." A mountain sheep came near the twins and allowed itself to be killed with their poor weapons. In this incident the Hunchback Gods seem to be in charge of the sheep, although they are not necessarily the sheep themselves (Matthews 1897, pp.166, 245; 1902, pp.13, 245, 157-66, 235-6, 241; Curtis, p. 104; Stevenson, pp. 278, 283; Sapir-Hoijer, p.157, 163).

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