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Gray Girl had become a woman as was evidenced by the appearance of her first menses. This was a crises which had to be handled with great care and attention, for it was believed that everything Gray Girl did during the first four days of this period would determine her future. During her whole life she had had instructions about this important time of her career, but now Lassos-a-warrior, the repository of learning, gave a review of details which he did not want Gray Girl or the women who had her in charge to forget. She should not sleep much, and during the brief hours when she did sleep she should lie on her back. She should not eat meat or anything with seasoning during these four days. Sweets and sweetening were especially forbidden. Her diet should be corn foods with no salt added. She should drink very little water and that should not touch her lips, but pass through a tube through which she should drink. She should not scratch her head or her body with her nails. To do so would leave scars wherever her nails touched. All of these requirements were to prevent her from being ugly. If she kept them, her body would remain healthy and beautiful as it was now. Every act of Gray Girl during the four-day period was ritualistic. She had often ground green corn to make the "ones-bent-over-at-the-tip," a task easy because the green corn kernels were soft. She had also worked for hours pulverizing dry corn grains between the metate and mano, a job which required greater strength, patience and skill. If the hands were not firm, the corn would not break up; if the grinding was not continued, the meal would be coarse and useless for bread; if the stones were handled awkwardly, the fingers would be bruised by squeezing. At all of these things Gray Girl was adept. Her four-day rite added two hardships she had not experienced before.

One of the features of the rite was a "sweetcake," made of cornmeal to which sprouted wheat was added for sweetening. The size of the cake depended on the amount of cornmeal available for it. The larger it was, the better it would be for Gray Girl and her whole family. The girl therefore put as much time as she could into grinding. Previously she could stop when she was tired, during these days she kept on until she was exhausted and then rested for only a short time and went at it again. Gray Girl had many heavy silver bracelets closely set with the bluest of turquoise. Before her adolescence rite she had removed them when she started to grind corn. Just as food and application at the crucial time would influence the future, so also the wearing of turquoise and silver would bring wealth and success. Consequently she wore her jewelry instead of setting it aside. As she bent over the low metate which was raised only a few inches from the ground, her wrists moved rhythmically up and down over the stone. Every time she made a stroke a bit of skin was squeezed between the heavy bracelets as they thumped against her wristbone. She stood the torture as long as she could, then removed the bracelets for a short time, and conscientiously put them on again.

Persistent as she was, it was impossible for Gray Girl to grind enough meal for the sweetcake, for it was to be six feet in diameter and a foot thick. The women of her family , as well as those who had come to help, ground corn for long hours. Gray Girl's competence at grinding and her endurance at the work would make her capable and enduring in the future. The industry of the other women would add to the effect of hers, and the regulated and therefore beneficial use of the power Gray Girl had at this time would reflect blessings and success on those who aided her. Beside observing the general regulations which set the tone of her adolescent ceremony, Gray Girl performed short rites whenever the elders instructed her. The details of these acts had a meaning, not always obvious, but once known always consistent with the belief that man can influence future circumstances by repeating the reliable and acceptable acts of the past. In other words, time for doing good or for benefiting from worthy deeds is the same whether past, present or future. At the beginning of the world the Holy Ones decreed procedures and corrected mistakes due to ignorance, and after having done so, instructed man. The Navajo learned the rules in their mythology, and believe that as long as they symbolically respect the ancient acts of the gods their future is assured.

Before people were able to live on the earth, Changing Woman, the earth mother, existed. She was a goddess, beautiful, powerful, gift-giving, fertile, self-sacrificing, benign. Her existence was miraculous, for at the time she appeared there was no knowledge of procreation or birth. Two other beings, First Man and First Woman, had found her, a baby laced in a cradleboard of divine construction, on the top of a mountain. She grew supernaturally and in four days attained maturity as Gray Girl had in fourteen years. At this time First Woman had tied back a lock of Changing Woman's hair with a string made of mountain lion skin. The rest of her hair hung loose and free and for four days she did not brush it, comb it, or even push it back from her face, nor did she wash or handle water. First Woman had told Changing Woman to lie face downward on a pure white blanket of unwounded buckskin and had then massaged her body. All of these things were done to make her a comely woman.

On the first day of Gray Girls's rite one of her mother's aunts, who was respected for her goodness, but who was not especially beautiful, treated Gray Girl in the way Changing Woman had been treated, and for the same reason. Instead of an unwounded buckskin, which was too rare and expensive, Gray Girl lay on a new Pendleton blanket. After she was kneaded to make her features beautiful, she ran a short distance to the east. For three days after the rite began Gray Girl devoted herself to fulfilling traditional requirements, but there was no public or active ritual. The fourth and last night was the time when guests were received, when in song and rite the drama of Changing Woman's nubility was celebrated, when the "sweetcake" was baked. In the afternoon Silversmith dug the large hole which was to receive the cake batter. A fire had been kept burning since morning and he shoveled coals, ashes and hot sand to the side for they would be used again. The women then carried numerous buckets full of batter to the spot. They carefully lined the pit with cornhusks, poured in the batter, and covered it, in the same way as they had arranged their pit-baking for corn. When it was covered again with the hot sand they laid cedar chips evenly over the whole and then made a lively fire which was carefully tended during the entire night until dawn. A lively fire was needed because the batter was thin in consistency and deep in the pit.

Guests began arriving about dark. As they came, they were fed by a large group of women who had come to help Dezba with the cooking. About nine o'clock all those who desired a piece of the cake and who wanted to keep the night's vigil with Gray Girl had assembled in the hogan. The chief requirement was that they must keep awake all night. Even dozing was inexcusable, for it would lessen the effect of endurance to which the entire rite was devoted. The fact of anyone's presence at the sing was evidence of the respect he was paying to Dezba's family. The hogan was so full that people almost sat on one another, and there were many who wished to get in but could not. They did not have to keep the vigil, but, wrapped in their blankets, slept on the ground outside. Those who became unbearably sleepy as the night advanced could leave the hogan and sleep outside, but each person in Grey Girl's presence acted as a watchman to see that his neighbors did not sleep. When the singing began, Gray Girl, her hair loose as it had been when released the first day of her ceremony, her body loaded with necklaces, rings, bracelets, and a heavy silver belt, sat quietly at the back of the hogan. In front of her stood a shallow basket, three-quarters full of water, and beside it lay a piece of "soapweed," a core cut from the center of a yucca root. The singers sang many groups of songs, each series devoted to the narrative of the adolescence rite of Changing Woman. Among the first of the songs were those telling of her purification by shampooing her hair in yucca suds. A group was sung as Dezba put the core of soapweed into the water and, rolling it between her palms, created foam which increased as she agitated the root and water.

The start of another group of songs was the signal for Gray Girl to put the her head in the basket. They were continued as her mother helped her to shampoo and rinse her hair, her jewelry and the wide white woolen string with which she tied her queue. The basket stood for the bowl made of whiteshell in which Changing Woman had bathed. The water which had been poured into the basket from the east, south, west, north and zenith, represented black and blue rain poured from jet water bottles. Gray Girl was grateful for the coolness and clean earthy smell of the shampoo for it helped to keep her awake. She was tired from days of labor, and the hogan was stuffy with its brisk fire and large audience. When the purifying rite was over there was nothing for her to do for seven hours except to listen to the monotonous beat of the songs as they took up one refrain after another in recounting one detail after another of the adolescence event in Changing Woman's life. Gray Girl had to stay awake, as did all others in the hogan for her sake, to pay attention to the entire recital, for on so doing the success of her future depended.

To those in the hogan the hours lengthened interminably. During the short pauses between the song groups cigarettes were popular, for smoking broke into the monotony. To those outside, snugly wrapped in their blankets, the hours were only moments, and it seemed that they had only dropped to sleep when they were all awakened as if to a prearranged signal. The east was gray but not light, but it was no the sun which had aroused them. Nor was it a horse or a goat tramping curiously and noisily near their beds. The signal was the change in the character of the songs. For many hours the songs had continued, varied in word and somewhat in melody and tone, but withal similar in style. But with the dawn the rattles beat excitedly, the tone and rhythm quickened, a sound of great rejoicing burst from the hogan to greet the dawn, as the girl prepared to go to meet it.

The sleepers rose to a man and took their places with the doorway in sight as they listened attentively to the continuing song:

She stirs, she stirs, she stirs, she stirs

In the land of dawning she stirs, she stirs

The white light of dawning it stirs, it stirs

Old-age-restored-to-youth, traveling the

trail of beauty, stirs within her.

Within her it stirs

Within her it stirs

Within her it ...

Within her ...

From the first day of the ceremony Gray Girl had run a short distance from her hogan to the east at dawn, each day a little farther than she had run on the day preceding. Today as the visitors watched she darted from the door, a symbol of health and vitality, to engage in a real race. A crowd of half-grown boys followed as her small red moccasins skimmed the ground. Sometimes the boys let the girl win in this race, but Dezba's youngest child easily outran their best efforts as she dashed past the baking sweetcake and on for half a mile to breathe the dawn. The greeting symbolized the rejuvenation and strengthening of Gray Girl's body, even as the earth restores itself daily. The race did honor to the Sun, all-powerful lover of Changing Woman, and brought good luck to all who participated. By the time the young people returned the women who tended the sweetcake were uncovering the pit in which it was baking. Their leader cut a piece from the center and divided it into quarters, the first of which she sent to the chief singer. Generous pieces were then distributed to all who wanted them, but the first ones went to those who had sung. Gray Girl's cake was large enough to furnish everyone with a generous portion. Each was golden brown at the edges, somewhat soggy with sweetness in the middle, but a tasty tidbit to eat at dawn or to take home and indulge in later. As soon as the cake had been cut and passed to the visitors, they departed, leaving Gray Girl a woman, not only eligible for marriage and motherhood, but with that eligibility publicly and satisfactorily announced. Pgs. 49-56

Dezba: Woman of the Desert; 1939, Gladys A. Reichard.

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