Bead Chant


Changing Woman, so called because she represents renewal of the earth as the seasons move, and rejuvenation to youth every spring, was born of mortal parents. She was the mother of five daughters, one of whom was Bead Woman. These daughters were all supernatural beings. One was taken from the chest of her mother, a second from her left side, a third from her right side, a fourth from her back and a fifth from her spirit. Bead Woman married a man from the far west and had one daughter and two sons. One of the sons, the One-who-goes-about-picking-up-discarded-things, hence the name Scavenger, was the hero of the myth of the Bead Chant. He is the same as Holy Man of the Shooting Chant and other chants. The home of this family was called Place-of-much-wool, named so because there were many mountain sheep. It was near a tall rock in the north. At this place they lived on corn which ripened in four days. For twelve seasons they had lived there when they decided to go to Whirling Mountain. They were on the way four days. The first night they stayed near Round Rock, the second night near Rocky Pass, the third near Feather Mountain, and by the fourth night they had reached Whirling Mountain. The day after they arrived the older son went off to hunt rabbits and seeds, such food as he could find. He came to a place called Red Point where some pueblo Indians were living. Two of these Pueblos took him captive. One was from a place called White House (said to be near Mesa Verde) and the other from a place called Blue House near by. They took the boy to the White House and the next day made him work for them. He carried wood and water and worked in their fields, working alternately at White House and Blue House. They had taken his bow and arrow form him, and they fed him only scraps. They called him the Scavenger because of this, but sometimes they called him The-one-who-is-rough, because he had become calloused and sore from the hard work he had to do. After he had spent six days at the White House and five at the Blue House, the two Pueblo men who had taken him captive discovered an eagle's nest on a ledge of rock.

 

 

When they returned in the evening they told their people about their discovery and wondered how to get the young eagles. Someone suggested, "What good is this slave to us? Let us lower him into the eagle's nest, and have him throw the young eagles down to us. Then we can leave him there to die. That will be a good way to get rid of him." To this suggestion the people agreed. The Wind had been listening to these plans and took word to Talking God and his companion, xacte'oyan, who were at their canyon home, "Your grandson is in trouble. The Pueblos who captured him are going to kill him." The two gods started off at dawn to the White House where the Scavenger slept. Faintly he heard "whu whu, whu whu, whu whu, whu whu," the sound of Talking God. It was followed by the sound of xacte'oyan, "hahowa, hahowa, hahowa, hahowa," just a little louder, and when xacte'oyan spoke the last time the Scavenger looked up and saw the pair standing before him. "Are you asleep, grandchild?" they called. "No, I am awake, grandfather," he answered. "Get up, then! We have something to tell you. "Today the men who have made you a slave are going to let you down into the eagle's nest where there are two young eagles. Do not refuse to do this. Submit, but when you get there, don't throw the young eagles down to them. If you do, the Pueblos will leave you there to die and dry up. Let them pull the basket up empty, but don't be afraid. We will save you." They they went back to their home in the canyon.

The Pueblos assembled and the leaders said, "Let's hurry before the day becomes hot." Before they started they had a great feast. This time they invited Scavenger to eat with them, to eat heartily, and he did so. The conspirators had made a basket of willows. Those from White House took the boy to the foot of the rock. There various kinds of herbs grew, so-called Black Medicine, Pink Medicine, White Medicine and Variegated Medicine. The Variegated Medicine glistens. The medicines were all people who spoke to Scavenger and warned him not to throw the eagles down. The Pueblos from the Blue House took the boy up to the top of the rock, put him into the basket and let him down on the ledge of rock with a rope made of yucca. After he had landed, he let them pull the basket up and then refused to throw the young eagles down. The rock shelf was quite long. The young eagles retreated as far as they could on the ledge of rock, leaving the boy in sole possession of the nest.

All day long the people begged him to throw the eagles down. At first the White House people called from below and the Blue House people from above. Then the Blue House people went down and they all coaxed him, but he refused. By evening they had used up all their water and became hungry and thirsty and they left, making no move to save the boy. Scavenger found in the nest a prairie dog which the old eagles had brought as food for their young. The nest was made of hard wood and he made a fire by rubbing a piece of this against a dry yucca stem. He cooked the prairie dog on this fire. The Butterfly People came and asked him to go with them, but Big Fly came to him, told him not to go, and gave him the names of the two small eagles, once more warning him not to throw the birds down. Finally the parent birds came back and called the boy by the two names of their young. They too begged him not to destroy the children. Then the young eagles came back to the nest. They took up their positions one on each side of him, covered him with their wings and kept him warm all night. At dawn the parent eagles returned bringing cooked corn suspended in packets from their bodies and water in hollow reeds tied to their tails. They also brought a yellow dish. They thanked Scavenger for sparing their young and fed him the kind of food humans eat. They brought a rabbit for their children. All day they could hear the Pueblos below giving their war cry and begging for the young eagles. This went on for several days.

The second day the parent eagles brought a mountain sheep for the young ones and the third day a young antelope. Never did they neglect the boy but gave him plenty of cooked food and water. The third morning the Pueblos brought many valuables of all kinds: beads, buckskins, food, baskets, and with them tried to bribe Scavenger to throw down the eagles, but he steadily refused. By noon they had become angry and they tied torches made of cedarbark to arrows, lighted them and shot them into the nest, setting it on fire. There was room for Scavenger and his young eagle friends to retreat far back on the rock shelf and they escaped harm. Just before sunset the male eaglet flew out from the ledge, described a small circle and returned. Twice it did this, then the female eaglet did likewise. The shed feathers of the young birds fell off onto the enemies below and wherever they touched the skin caused irritation like the sting of ants, and the people ran away. The irritation developed into sores as a punishment for the suffering the Pueblos had caused Scavenger and the young eagles.

At dawn of the fourth day forty-eight (twenty-four are sometimes used) eagles and hawks (which are considered the same) came down from the sky to get Scavenger. There was a group of bald-headed eagles, another of yellow-tailed hawks, one of the big blue hawks, one of white hawks, one of large black hawks, and one of eagles half white and half black. They brought with them a turquoise basket and a basket of whiteshell in which to carry the eaglets. The old eagles fed the Scavenger, painted his face with white clay and wrapped him in a black cloud. They supported him for carrying with three bands of lightning and three rainbows extending from the cloud to the eagles. As they started to ascend the eagles and their boy sang a song. When the Pueblos heard the song they surmised that someone must be aiding the boy and abetting him in his refusal to throw down the eaglets.

The eagles had some difficulty in starting up with their burden. When they attempted to lift him, he spun around and they could not rise with him. Wind took the news to Fringed Mouth, a god who lived at Red Rock. He came with Talking God. Everything was dark inside the cloud where the Scavenger had been hidden. They put a large crystal inside to furnish light and a yellow tube of reed to give him air. Whenever the air blew through this tube there was a whistling sound. The gods placed on his head the headdress of Fringed Mouth and in his hands a wand of reed. With all these preparations the eagles were now able to rise with their burden. After circling four times they stopped to rest, made four more circles, rested, until altogether they had made twelve circles. They were very near the sky when they became unduly tired, for the moisture from the cloud in which the Scavenger was wrapped had dampened their wings. In spite of their best efforts they could make no further progress and finally black hawk and blue hawk let go and flew through a hole in the sky to where the snakes lived. They asked the black and blue arrow snakes to come down and help them but the snakes were afraid they would fall down to the earth. "You have wings and the power of flight and yet you cannot manage to get him up here. How do you expect us to do it?" they asked. But the hawks begged until the snakes agreed to help if the birds would give up some of their feathers. The black hawk gave the black snake four of his feathers and the blue hawk gave four of his feathers to the blue snake. They the snakes said, "Go back and we will soon be there. But when you see us coming you must all let go of the Scavenger." Soon the birds heard the snakes coming and let go of their burden. The black snake crossed from the right side and put his head up over Scavenger's left shoulder and the blue snake darted across from the left putting his head on the boy's right shoulder; thus they succeeded in carrying him through the sky hole.

In the land of the sky the house of the bald-headed eagles stood white and beautiful at the east. The blue house of the blue hawks was at the south; the yellow house of the yellow-tailed hawks was at the west. All were beautiful, but at the north a black house, the home of various hawks and eagles which had not helped Scavenger, was ugly. The houses surrounded a plaza in which there was a spring. Scavenger spent the night in the white house. The eagles were obliged to go to the earth for food. They returned with rabbits, prairie dogs and small game, which by means of prayer and magic they were able to turn into deer, antelope and other rare game. The eagles told Scavenger to cook some beans and corn to be ready for them when they would return hungry, and at the same time warned him not to leave the house for any purpose whatsoever during their absence. However he ran out of water and casually went out to the spring to fetch some. As he was carrying the water back the children of Black Eagle and Turkey Buzzard saw him and reported to the inhabitants of the black house that a human being from the earth was there. Whereupon Turkey Buzzard shot him with turquoise arrows and Black Eagle with arrows of whiteshell. When the eagles returned from their trip to the earth they found corn and beans burned and Scavenger lying helpless. The turquoise arrows had entered his foot and hip, the whiteshell arrows were in his back and in the back of his head. Then the eagles consulted amongst themselves, "What shall we do? Talking God will never forgive us if anything happens to him and he does not return to earth. What shall we offer the black eagles to have them withdraw their arrows and bring him back to life?" They decided to offer buckskins and other valuables, but they were refused. Four different times the eagles approached; each time they were refused. Finally Big Fly, who had silently watched all that went on, volunteered in a whisper, "Offer just a small piece of venison and a roll of tobacco. That will satisfy them." The eagles tried this suggestion. Black Eagle received the tobacco, flew in a circle, then placed it on his foot, showing his acceptance. He looked up at Big Fly and said, "You told on me! Otherwise they would not have known what to offer." Big Fly answered, "No, I didn't. They guessed it themselves." Black Eagle then told them to make a certain sandpainting and gave instructions how to make it. They did so, and when it was finished Black Eagle came back and, being satisfied, withdrew his own arrows and those of Turkey Buzzard. Then Scavenger was restored to life.

The next day when they went hunting the eagles told Scavenger not to touch the little blue waterjars that were hanging all around the house. Curiosity got the better of him and he opened them, causing it to rain very hard on the earth. Frightened because he could not stop the rain, he ran away. He came to Spider's house. Spider wove a web around him and drew him helpless up to the ceiling. The eagles hunted for him and tracked him to Spider's home where they found the boy held captive in a web. They went back and called Black God, the god of fire, and he went to Spider's house. Spider told him to get out but he was not afraid and would not leave. He asked where his grandchild was, but Spider said he did not know. "I have not seen him. Now get away from here and don't come around here any more," said Spider to Black God. Then Black God threatened, "If you don't tell me where he is, I am going to burn your house." Spider pleaded with him not to do that but he said, "Since you are deceiving me, I shall not listen to your plea." Black God took out his firedrill and twirled it. The fourth time he spun it the strings of the web which bound Scavenger burned and he fell at the feet of Black God. Spider then begged Black God to save his house and offered two prayersticks and two hoops if he would stop the fire. Black God accepted the offering and bade Water Sprinkler, his companion, put out the fire. The eagles took their boy back to their home.

Next day they again went hunting. Scavenger went for a walk and climbed a hill where he saw a coyote. He walked around the coyote which jumped up, touched the boy and turned him into a coyote. When the eagles returned at night they again looked for him but could not find him. The next morning they tracked him and at the end of the tracks found a scabby disreputable coyote. Since none by coyote tracks left the place, they decided the coyote must be their boy. They made a hoop and when they prayed, pushed the coyote through it. The skin cracked open at the top of his head. They shoved him through another hoop and the skin pulled back as far as his shoulders. When he was shoved through the third ring, the skin fell off to his hips and after passing through the fourth hoop, Scavenger stood restored. After the eagles had given him an emetic to cleanse him within, they took the boy home.

The next day the eagles once more left to hunt, and once more warned their boy not to leave the house. Disregarding the warning as usual, he wandered off and came to a place where a rock stood with two small rocks, one on top of the other. The black-tailed swallow had placed these rocks in this way to trap the Scavenger. He sat down on top of them and was buried under the rocks. When the eagles returned, they missed him and tracked him to the rocks, but they could find no tracks leaving that place. They appealed for help to the Hunters of which Mountain Lion was chief. The Lion People decided the boy was under the rock. The Wolf, who belongs with the Hunting People, started to dig under the rock at the east side. He wore off his claws without accomplishing much. Lynx dug on the south side and did not make much progress. Bobcat dug at the west, and Badger at the north. Badger was the only one who made headway and he dug under the rock where he found only the bones of Scavenger.

All working together, they took out the bones. They provided the skin from an unwounded deer, spread it out and laid the bones on it. They laid two feathers on each side of the skeleton and another perfect buckskin on top. They then called upon the Black, Blue, Yellow and White Medicine People who performed a ceremony. One of the four feathers belonged to Bald-headed Eagle and it became a wolf. The second feather belonging to Yellow Hawk became a mountain lion. When this transformation occurred, Scavenger came to life. The third feather belonging to Blue Hawk turned into a beaver; and the fourth, a magpie feather, became an otter. The skins of all these animals are now used in the Bead ceremony. The day after all this had happened the eagles failed in a raid on their enemies, the Bee People, a group which included all the stinging insects. The eagles had told Scavenger to stay at home, but he followed and arrived after the retreat of the eagles. He killed all of the bees save two young ones. He gathered up the feathers of all the birds which had been killed in the raid and took them back to their home. He also took the hive and young bees back to the skyhole through which he dropped them to the earth. Up to this time there had been no bees on earth.

The next day the eagles, once more leaving their boy behind, went on a raid to the south where they met the Tumbleweed People. The wind blew the tumbleweed against them so hard that it killed all the eagles it hit, and the others had to retreat. Scavenger had followed again. He gathered some seed of the tumbleweed, then set the weeds afire and destroyed them. He dropped the seed to the earth through the skyhole, thus originating tumbleweed on the earth. He then restored the eagles which had been killed. The eagles next went to attack the Rock People, and once more were overcome. Scavenger followed them and pounded the rocks into small pieces. He took small amounts of three kinds: red, yellow and white, and threw them through the skyhole, thus originating the minerals used in making sandpaintings. Once more he restored his friends. The eagles made another raid, this time upon the Grass People. As usual, they were repulsed, but Scavenger followed, took some of the grass seed, piled up the grass and set fire to it. He threw the seed down to earth, restored the eagles which had been killed, and returned to the eagles' house. The eagles were grateful for all the help Scavenger had rendered, and offered their choicest gift in return. They proposed that he marry one of their young girls and settle down to live with them. The wind whispered to him, "Don't do that! If you do, you will never see you mother, father, sister or brother again. Say that before you marry you would like to return to earth once more."

Scavenger took the wind's advice and the eagles taught him all the songs and prayers and gave him all the prayersticks and paraphernalia of the Bead Chant. The eagles dressed him in feathers and wings and by using them he was able to return to earth. He landed on top of Mt. Taylor, where he left the garments which enabled him to descend. Then he returned to his home which was at the foot of Whirling Mountain. The Scavenger's mother, father, brother and sister had been mourning him ever since he disappeared. Now they were very glad to see him. Soon after his return he heard that the six Pueblo chiefs of the White House and six chiefs of the Blue House had been suffering greatly ever since they had been infected with the sores that resulted from their attack on the eagle's nest. The Scavenger announced that he could help them. They were desperate and gave him a roll of buckskin and other valuables for which he performed the Bead Chant over them. Scavenger did this, not only to cure the pueblo leaders, but also to teach his brother the ways of making the sandpaintings and performing the ceremony.

After he had given the curative ceremony at which the brother learned all the details, Scavenger held a nine-day performance to initiate his brother and with this the brother was endowed with the power of curing. This was the first time the sandpaintings of the Bead Chant were used. After this the brother was called "Bead Singer," or "Bead Chanter." When he was satisfied that his brother was trained in the lore of the Bead Chant, Scavenger returned to the place where he had hidden his feather garments, donned them and returned to the sky to marry the eagle maiden. Sometime later Bead Chanter was called to Big Bead Place to perform a Bead Chant with a Fire Dance. Meanwhile at a place called Black Mountain, a ceremony called the Awl Chant, which is no longer sung was being given. When a Fire Dance is to be given it is customary for runners to go out on the fifth day of the ceremony and hunt men who know other chants. When the runners arrive at the place where these men are, they give them ceremonial food and sprinkle them with corn meal. This rite constitutes an invitation for those visited to attend the Fire Dance with a dance troupe. The runner for the people from Black Mountain was Wolf, that from the Bead Chant was Mountain Lion. They met halfway between the two places at a place called "Water-in-amongst-the-white-sands." One said, "I was just going to your place," The other said, "I was just going to yours." Each proposed that the other postpone his sing for one night, and they bargained back and forth. Wolf said to Mountain Lion, "If you would accept my proposal to put off your dance for one night, we should be able to take in both ceremonies." "That is a good idea," said Mountain Lion, "but the people wouldn't believe us." Then Wolf said, "Let us exchange quivers to bind the agreement. We will keep our own bows." They agreed to this and exchanged, beside the quivers, the little parcels of food which they had with them.

Bead Chanter was performing the ceremony for the Spider People who were the wealthiest of the Pueblos. The chief's daughter was kept hidden so that not even the sun could see her to shine on her. She wore a red feather bonnet of great value. The Spider People owned strings of turquoise as long as an arm and many beautiful beads of all kinds. Since Bead Chanter had never paid his brother for teaching him the Bead Chant, he planned to get the treasures of the Spider People to cancel his debt. The wind told Scavenger that his brother was giving the ceremony. He decided to participate and returned to earth at Mt. Taylor, as he had done before. He wrapped his feather garments in a roll and carried them with him. The first night he spent at a place where a wolf had killed a deer and was eating it. The wolf ran away and Scavenger used the deer for food. He spent a second and third night on the way, expecting to arrive just in time for the last day of the ceremony. But, since Mountain Lion had agreed for the Spider People to postpone it one day, Scavenger arrived a day early. That morning Bead Chanter had gone over to take part in the ceremony at Black Mountain. He dressed two of his men in eagle costumes to represent him and the Bead Chant in the Corral Dance. There he exchanged his rattle with the singer of the Awl Chant who gave him two prayersticks for it. For this reason no rattle is use in the Bead Chant. Immediately after dancing their dance at Black Mountain, when it was still dark, the troupe hastened back to Big Bead Place where Scavenger had arrived before his brother.

The people did not recognize the hero. His brother knew him but pretended he was a stranger. They had a secret conference at which Bead Chanter explained his plans for getting the treasures of the Spider People. Among the valuables were dancing beads, beads which were dressed in feathers. In the Corral Dance these beads danced like people to the east, south, west, north and in the center. The mother of the chief's daughter had substituted imitation beads for the dancing beads and an imitation bonnet for her real red bonnet. As they were rehearsing the dance in the daytime, the Scavenger caused the center beads to stand still, insisting that heir failure to dance was due to the fact that they were imitations. Runners were sent to the mother of the girl and told to insist on having the genuine articles. Bead Chanter, not wishing to be implicated, said nothing and still pretended his brother was a stranger. Scavenger, after obtaining the real beads and bonnet, succeeded in performing the ceremony. The troupe practiced all day and received much applause. In the evening the people set up a huge corral after sprinkling sacred meal on the ground where the circle of hewn branches was to stand. When it was finished crowds of people moved in and the great fire was built in the center.

The chanter from Black Mountain had brought his company to take part in the dance. The Wolf People joined in a dance with the Lion People, all carrying packs of corn of their backs. They had secured the corn by using their powers which enabled them to plant, cultivate and harvest it in a few minutes, this magic being one of the tricks they performed before their dance. Singers from all the chants - Night, Shooting, Water, and all the others - were represented in a dance fitting to each. The dances continued around the great fire until dawn. During this time Wind had gone back to the sky to inform the Eagle People of what was happening on earth. When the time came, near dawn, for the rite of the dancing beads, they lowered a cloud near the earth, but they could not find the Scavenger. At last they found him asleep in the corral. They wakened him and asked him to eat, but he refused because he knew that if he did the lightning would not be able to raise him. The Scavenger now took the occasion to whisper to his brother, saying they would never meet on earth again, but that he would be with his brother to help him spiritually. He told the Chanter never to give a Fire (Corral) Dance with the Bead Chant again. Then the Scavenger put on his eagle garments which up to this time he had kept hidden. Bead Chanter began to drum on the inverted basket and his wonderful brother danced with the dancing beads to the east, south, west and north. As he danced toward the center he began to rise, taking with him the treasures of the Spider People. Two streaks of lightning came down and lifted him to the clouds and the eagles hidden there bore him the rest of the way to the sky. The Spider People, shouting with rage, brought out their bows and arrows. Bead Chanter quieted them saying it was their own fault since they had allowed a stranger to dance with their valuables. Thus Bead Chanter repaid his brother for transmitting his learning and power, and at the same time avenged the wrongs done to his brother. After Scavenger had reached the sky he became worried about his brother. He told the wind to go back to find out what had happened. He sent certain plants which his brother did not have. Then he sent the news that the people in the sky had quarreled over the treasures he had brought back, and finally all had received some share of them. To the sun a long string of turquoise had been given, as well as the red feather bonnet. The reflection of the bonnet may now be seen in the afterglow of the sunset. Because of all these happenings the Bead Chant now has no Fire Dance, corn is no longer grown magically in the Fire Dance, nor is there the dance of the dancing beads. There is no rattle in the Bead Chant. There is a taboo against people going to sleep in the dance corral.

Navajo Medicine Man Sandpaintings, Gladys A. Reichard: Pgs. 26,36