We pray for the sick and bless people with herbs such as sage, cedar, sweet grass, peyote, tobacco. Sometimes we look into crystals or fire before we know what ceremony to perform and what is the right prayer needed. Depending on what is needed to be said to the patient. Depending on what is wrong with the patient which we learn from looking how the ashes form in a fire, or looking at crystals we decide on what prayers need to be said. We pray to the father of all, the mother of all, the stars, the four directions, the four elements (fire, air, earth, water) and the spirit of all the people.
With the prayers we burn cedar and sage. The rising smoke is for the Purification Performance. The Purification Performance is not only used with healing ceremonies it is also used for birthdays, weddings, education, rodeos, jobs, getting money, as well as keeping one's health and healing. To discover what you need and want, the Purification Performance the smoke rises to father sky and carries the prayer from the spirit of the people. During all ceremonies a glass of water is necessary, water is the origin of all life. Both the fire and water "is" necessary for restoring harmony.
In some ceremonies the illness is caused by a force out of harmony that is focused in on you. The Roadman will take you into a remote area at night and draw a protection line around you to act as a barrier between you and what is trying to harm you. In the silence of night the Roadman and you will listen and gaze at the stars and the answer to what or who is trying to harm you will come. With this knowledge the proper ceremony to heal you will come. The ceremonies are of the Native American Church which started on the plains but we use many traditional Navajo Prayers and songs. The Roadman also tells stories how different prayers, songs, and ceremonies came among the Navajo.
Many Roadmen claim they were called through a vision or a dream. This is not enough. There are a few who claim to be a Roadman, but are not. To be a Roadman you first off have to be accepted by a established Roadman to study under him. After years of training if you prove worthy by your knowledge and devotion you go through an initiation before becoming a Roadman. Roadmen chose their own replacement. I also teach the Sun Dance I learned from a Southern Cheyenne. I have taught to many Navajos now; in places it is practiced along with many traditional ceremonies. However, many young men who have observed and participated in the Sun Dance now claim they have been trained in the Sun Dance, but they have never been initiated. They use their little bit of knowledge and show off their piercing scars to impress women. Many young men claim to be Roadmen and are not but their ceremonies don't work and they are exposed.
During the ceremonies a bowl drum with water for life is used with a buckskin drawn tightly over it. The rim stands for the crown of Christ, water is the origin of all life, the bowl is the earth and the skin is our unity with the earth and all life. A large pan with dirt in it is set aside to put the hot coals from the fire in. The fire purifies as it rises to father sky and the earth is our mother form were we come and to which we will return. During the ceremony everything told a Roadman is strictly confidential, if any part of this ceremony is not done right it will not work and the power will backfire.
Many Roadmen and Medicine men don't care much for money. At first only gifts like blue corn bread "was" given to the family of the Roadman because the blue corn bread was seen as sacred. Later on other gifts could be given to supplement the blue corn bread. Sometimes gifts like hides, arrowheads, and "jewelries" were given the Roadman or Medicine man along with the blue corn bread to his family. Today money has replaced all that. Most Medicine men and Roadmen will not accept anything but money. Money is now necessary for survival you cannot live off your sheep and corn anymore. One Roadman returned home without his payment for the ceremony, all he asked for was a tobacco cigarette rolled by the patient and turned the seam up to allow the smoke to rise unimpeded to heaven and handed back to the Roadman. Patient was very ill and very poor. The wife of the Roadman was so mad she wouldn't let him in the house that night 'til she cooled down. The Medicine men and Roadmen have their own professional organizations which set a minimum price. However, the client is asked to give more, the more you give the more you want to be healed. The money is to be placed in the center of the ceremony as a gift to the powers used by the Roadman. The money is to be treated with great respect. Each bill is carefully stacked together so all the pictures face up, in the winter the white side is face up, in the summer the green side is face up. If you do not treat your money with respect it will not return to you. After the money is placed in the center in a respectful manner the patient will take a smoke from the sacred tobacco, and drink from the sacred glass of water. The money has become an important issue, a Medicine man giving a Blessing way ceremony for example will ask a set fee of $500 and whatever else you can give; the young ones are the worst -- older Medicine men often say pay what you can.
Many people now see the Roadman as being important as a traditional Medicine man, yet the two remain different. The Roadman is part of the Native American Church and shares ceremonies of many different tribes, the Medicine man performs the ancient Diné in their purest form. Most people in this area will accept the help of either a Medicine man or a Roadman. Many Roadmen are also Medicine men. Roadmen in Navajo land use their own language in performing the ceremony. All Roadmen must be certified, and all members of the Native American Church must have a membership cards. As many of the older ceremonies are now remembered only by some of the oldest Medicine men, many of the new ceremonies are taken over by the Native American Church. Many of the older ceremonies were so complex that a Medicine man could only hope to learn one or two in a life time. The sings would last many nights and to be effective the entire ceremony had to be sung perfectly without a word out of place. A Roadman can learn many different ceremonies, and the songs allow the Roadman to bring in some of his own phrases.
Most ceremonies are at night, as I said, in a teepee or here sometimes a hogan is used. In the ceremony of Peyote there is the Roadman, the Cedar Man, a Drummer and a Fireman. First the Tobacco is smoked by everyone, there is an explanation for the ceremony, why it is being held, like a healing. The people in the meeting all pray for the person the meeting is being held for. The Peyote is passed around for everyone to partake, either in a tea or they eat it. Then songs and prayers are begun and go on the whole night. The Peyote is passed around a few more times with more songs and prayers. At midnight, the Fireman, who takes care of the water, brings in water for people to drink. After drinking more prayers and more songs. After dawn a woman brings in the water to drink followed by the sacraments -- corn, fruit, a vegetable and meat. The last sacrament is offered with more water. More prayers and songs are given. Then the Roadman gives the closing song.
The NAC used to be illegal; during big ceremonies it is still customary to have a lookout, though looking out for police is no longer important on the Navajo. Tribal Police still ask to see the Roadman's certificate or membership card.
Traditional Medicine men trace their skills back to First Man and First Woman. All the ceremonies can be traced back to knowledge of these ancient holy people. The remaining ceremonies still practiced in this area are the Protection Way, Blessing Way, Eagle Way, Squaw Dances, and Fire Dances. Even members of the Native American Church still have these ancient ceremonies performed. The Medicine man must learn to perform these ceremonies by learning the stories as told by the songs sung during the ceremony. These ceremonies can heal, cast spells, tell future events.
Most ceremonies are all night sings or more commonly five night sings. Each ceremony is a series of songs each song is a story, complete in unity itself. Each song must be sung in order, and each song must be sung perfectly without any mistakes. When perfection is achieved the ceremony becomes yours and after a series of tests to insure perfection you are recognized as a Medicine man who specializes in that ceremony. These ceremonies are passed through one's family, as the training takes years to complete. It is only when it is not possible to select a family member, that a Medicine man will select an apprentice from another family within the same clan. Besides the songs, prayers and sand paintings that are part of the ceremonies are passed "long" family lines.
Roadmen also use similar songs and prayers that must be learned. However NAC are more flexible and allow for more creativity on the part of the Roadman. The ceremonies are not passed along family lines. Because the NAC came from the high plains anyone interested in becoming a Roadman will ask to learn from anyone who will teach him. It is this way that NAC was able to sneak on to the "res".
It was told on the return from exile at Fort Sumner an old lady heard a voice say "Take me and use me," she looked around and no one was there. The voice repeated itself; she discovered the voice came from Peyote. The Peyote said, "Pick me and eat me I will give you strength to return." With one button she was able to regain all her lost strength.
After that time Peyote was ignored for many years among the Navajo. Then a Commanche Medicine man visiting the Navajo brought Peyote with him and taught Navajo how to use Peyote. This is how NAC came to the Navajo.
To become a Road Man you have to go to meetings of the NAC. At first you ask the Roadman for help with a ceremony. After you get to know the Roadman you ask him if you can study under him. The Roadman will assign the student many duties and after observing the student, the Roadman teaches the student songs and prayers used in the healing ceremonies. When the student learns these the Medicine man blesses you and gives you medicine for your development. A ceremony is held outside in a remote area. The night before the ceremony the student sleeps on the ground. The next day a teepee is set up for a five day ceremony. To be initiated there is a baptismal with the life giving water. In Navajo land five prayers are given using five different sacred tobaccos from sun down until sun up each of the five nights. The last morning the wife of the initiate brings the sacred water which the Roadman and his student drinks from. Corn pollen both white and blue is used with the closing song. Everyone there now stands and shakes hands before leaving the teepee. There is a breakfast for everyone there that begins with a prayer. A new Roadman now can receive his certification card and can practice Medicine not only on the Navajo, but with other tribes of Native Americans.
When he returned to herding he studied hard and became a Medicine man.
The Medicine man did a Protection Way ceremony. Because of the ceremony we were able to start tracking the child's foot prints; they were lost and we found a bear's foot prints. We followed the bear to a cave and found both the bear and the child. The bear did not harm the child in any way. The bear had the child for about a week maybe. Because we did a Protection Way the bear did not eat the child. The bear saw us and ran off; we picked up the little girl and returned home safely.
As the years went on I became more known for my "jewleries" and made more money by selling. I have taught many younger Navajo how to make "jewleries". Now my "jewleries" "is" sold all over the world. My white people come to me and give cash to take my art and sell other places. I am also a Medicine man for the Blessing Way and "Hand Trembling". I have been a Medicine man for a long time. I have been doing "Hand Trembling" since the war.
After the war I learned to do the Protection Way, Guidance Ceremony and the Mountain Song. I also can earn a comfortable living with my skill as a Medicine man.
The Medicine men are known as Hatalliis. They are the wise spiritual keepers of our religion. We are to act in ways that the people look up to us. Medicine men have very high social status in our society. The Medicine men are trained as healers. The world is a whole in which all things must be in balance and harmony if there is to be healing. The Medicine man is to bring the one who is ill back into harmony. Everything in the world has life and must be brought back into balance. The breath of life from all parts of the universe. The people are to live in harmony with the earth, sun, water, and every living object. If people are in harmony they will remain healthy.
When a person becomes ill the cause is that the patient or someone in the family of the patient is out of harmony. "Sometime" the disharmony is caused by the way a person lives and other times it is caused by witchcraft. It is the Medicine man who determines the cause of the illness and how to bring the patient back into harmony. The Medicine man is a go-between the Holy People and humans. When the illness is caused by witchcraft the evil spirit must be driven from the patient. If the illness is caused because of living a life out of harmony the patient must be brought back into harmony. Two major kinds of ways of knowing the cause of the illness "is" "hand trembling" and "star gazers". When the cause is known so is the treatment.
Yes all of creation reflects the creator and the universe is a living thing as are all of its parts. In addition to the creator there are twelve lessor gods we call the Holy People, each has specific knowledge and power. The Medicine man must know which holy person to work with in the healing. Humans, the society, the world and the universe must live as a single living thing. When one part is out of harmony it can affect other parts, thus it is important to bring the patient back to health. The Medicine man must know how through ceremonies of songs and prayers to restore the patient's harmony to the environment inside and outside the patient. The harmony must be with the patient's family, society, cultural "believes", the world and all of creation. The healing ceremony restores the emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well being of the patient.
The Medicine man has to find out just which Holy One to call upon to help cure the patient. A student must learn to use the library with all those books to find answers to their problems. A Medicine man must use his medicine bag to find the answers to his healing problems. The library of the Medicine man involves smoking, praying, singing and all the skills it takes a life time to learn. You are working on your Ph.D.. There are many traditional Ph.D.s in traditional healing. No one Medicine man can learn more than a few. Each individual differs in the cause of their illness. All illnesses are caused by disharmony, and the source of the disharmony must be discovered. To restore the harmony requires all the skills of a mediator, prophet, exorcist, doctor, and priest -- all this are part of an ordinary ceremony performed by a Medicine man.
The knowledge we must learn requires years and there are many young scientists and few young Medicine men, which leads me to believe if primitive means simple, our religion is not primitive. If primitive means we recognize the extraordinary and the mystery of the supernatural, we certainly are primitive. The creator is supernatural and creation has its own intelligence, which to us can only be understood as magical. Creation is alive and every part of creation has its own life both animate and inanimate. The healers must be able to act as mediators in the communication between we humans and the supernatural powers all around us. Through our years of learning we slowly gain the wisdom, the authority, and the knowledge to be able to contact and communicate with Hashch'e yal tii' (Talking God). Through Hasche'e yal tii' the healers gain their power to perform acts that may seem to you impossible, but to us are only ordinary. Because of our knowledge we gain the respect of our community.
As prophets many Medicine men can also predict events before they happen. These events follow their own pattern known only to Hasche'e yal' tii who allows the Medicine man to see the pattern as it unfolds. This helps the Medicine man and patient to know the cause of the illness, bad luck, or what ever the problem. Knowing the proper cause can lead to the proper ceremony to restore health physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. With the correct ceremony we can prevent death, change luck from bad to good, or return a stolen object. I practice "star gazing" and "hand trembling".
Explain what you do as an exorcist?
Sometimes people get sick having many symptoms that they cannot explain. They may have changing symptoms or they may have pain throughout their body. This can be serious because it can lead to death. White medicine will say there is nothing wrong, and the patient still gets sicker. When they come to us we can find out that they have been witched. A person has ill wished them or practices an evil called witchcraft. Sometime a hex has been paced upon the victim. Sometimes an unfriendly person has caused a foreign object to enter the patient and caused the illness. If this is the case the Medicine man must know what the object is and remove this harmful thing from the patient. The witch can take some personal thing from another such as a fiber from your clothing, a piece of your hair, or any object which can represent you. This curse can be used to cause much harm or even kill you. The Medicine man must know the curse and change the witchcraft done for harm to a blessing for good. Each cause of harm has a
How does a medicine man earn a living from his skill?
Traditionally a patient would bring a gift to show good faith. Today money has replaced most other gifts, as trading posts now expect money in payment for the things we would exchange wool, lambs, mutton, rugs and jewelry for. Now we are professionals and we receive a set payment for our services, this is paid before the ceremony to show good faith. After the ceremony another gift of money is given to show gratitude, this is whatever you feel the healing is worth.