The Blessing Way (1970)

The Blessing Way (1970)


A plant from the nightshade family. The leaves are cured by drying or fermenting and then smoked or chewed. Tobacco is a plant species indigenous to the Americas and, similar to other nightshade species, has a history of cultivation and use for ceremonial purposes among many indigenous cultures throughout the Americas.

Encounter between the Camps

A part of the Enemyway ceremony, which is performed to cure people from illness caused by coming into contact with an "enemy," typically someone or an experience outside the Navajo culture and traditional lifeways. According to some histories of the Enemyway, it is sung in order to protect Navajos from harmful ghosts of slain warriors. In the past, this ceremonial was used for returning warriors in order to rid them of the harmful effects of these evil spirits, or chindi. The "Encounter Between the Camps" portion of the ceremony occurs on the final day of the nine-day ceremony, when the "enemy" camp symbolically attacks the patient’s group. Later, the patient’s group brings food and gifts to the enemy's camp.

stick receiver

According to some versions of Navajo traditional healing ceremonies, stick receivers are roles performed by a member of another clan during the Enemyway ceremonial. The Enemyway is a ceremony performed to cure people from illness caused by coming into contact with an "enemy," typically someone or an experience outside the Navajo culture and traditional lifeways. The enemy individual could be a member of another tribe, or in more contemporary times, an Angloeuropean. The enemy experience could be going away to fight war, such as World War Two, or to boarding school or university off the reservation. Before the ceremony begins, the patient’s family chooses a person, generally outside their own clan, to be the stick receiver. Often this person is chosen to create closer ties with another community.

On the first day of the Enemy Way, a ceremonial rattlestick is created at the patient’s home. At sunset, the stick is presented to the Stick Receiver. If he finds it properly made, the stick receiver accepts the stick, and portions of the Blessingway ceremonial are sung. Food is given to the patient’s group by the stick receiver’s group. After this, the patient’s camp is moved to near the stick receiver’s camp, and songs and dances held all night. During these dances, girls choose their dance partners from any male not related to them. The men have to pay for these dances, and it is for this reason that this ceremony has been erroneously and offensively referred to as a Squaw Dance by outsiders.


In meteorology, thunder is the by-product of the movement of lightning through the atmosphere. As lightning snaps through the air, it instantaneously superheats the air around it, causing the air to expand in an explosive fashion, creating a shock wave that sounds like a giant clap.

In the Navajo tradition, Thunder can be a protective force and is considered to be one of the Holy People. In Navajo culture, the Holy People are immortal beings that can take the outer form of landscape elements, animals, plants, and celestial bodies. Conversely, Thunder can be personified as an evil and destructive force, which means that when dealing with such a powerful entity, one must be cautious.

Encircling Guardian

A component in most Navajo sandpaintings, the Encircling Guardian can be a creature, object, lightning, arrow, rainbow, or animal that encircles the edges of the painting and leaves an opening to the east. In the Navajo tradition, the east, the direction of the rising sun, is sacred. The Encircling Guardian protects the opening, through which the healing energies enter the ceremony.

sand painting

Also known as sandpaintings or dry paintings, sand paintings (or iikááh in Navajo) are created by a medicine man (or Hataałii in Navajo) for ceremonial purposes. Sand paintings are created by pouring colored sands, crushed dried plants, crushed stone, or other powdered pigments onto the ground. Sand paintings are generally symbolic representations of different stories in Navajo mythology and are created in conjunction with the performance of certain chants. Navajo sand paintings began as an integral part of religious and healing ceremonies rather than as art for art’s sake. However, many Navajo artists currently produce sand paintings for the commercial art market. Sand paintings created as art generally contain important errors so that it is not an exact replica of a sacred ceremonial sand painting.

Sun God

The sun retains a significant position in most cosmologies, often taking on anthropomorphic features. From Ra, Apollo, Buddha, and the Christ figure, to indigenous appreciations of the creative power and potential of the solar disc, the figure of the Sun God is assigned an importance and range of powers pertinent to the specific needs and value systems of each group. For example, Sun-Father is a Navajo Holy Person, husband of Changing Woman, while in the Kiowa tradition, Sun Boy is the originator of the sacred tribal items.

Often the term "Sun God" is used inappropriately, generally as a blanket term to signify dominant male figures in non Judeo-Christian religions, specifically those of Native American tribes.


An apparatus used to distill alcohol from a fermented grain-based mixture, often known as mash or wash. Folk traditions locate these devices in a variety of configurations throughout the world, but they consist of the same basic parts and accomplish the same basic task. In its simplest form, a still consists of a single covered pot or container that is heated until its contents boil. The steam produced is vented into a separate vessel, and as it cools it condenses into a liquid that contains alcohol. Depending upon the type of alchoholic beverage being produced, additional stages of heating and condensation can be added, resulting in an increasingly refined, and therefore higher quality, alchohol.

smoke hole

In the traditional construction of a hogan, the Diné dwelling house, a hole is cut in the roof in order to let smoke from the hearth fire below out of the room. The hole is usually placed off-center and aligned above the rock slab that serves as a hearth so that as the smoke rises it leaves the residence. In later, more modern hogans, flues that facilitated the removal of smoke directly from the rock-slab or adobe hearth have replaced the hole in the roof.


Sun-Father or Father Sun is one of the first five beings of Zuni origin stories living above a layer of fog, and created by A'wonawilona, or the living sky that symbolizes the essence of breath, life and the container of all. A'wonawilona's most interior thoughts and ideas eventually manifested externally, and he appeared as he had imagined himself in the form of the Sun. As he appeared, darkness brightened with his light, and he filled the emptiness with great clouds of mist that thickened together and fell as water on the emerging vastness that was taking shape as the Earth. In this way, A'wonawilona became the Sun and created 'father-sky,' 'mother-moon,' and all living creatures.

Revered and prayed to in ceremony, Father Sun created human beings when impregnating bits of foam who became his sons. The sons split the earth with lightening arrows and, finding life four levels down, the sons emerged with the people into daylight and founded the place of their permanent abode, the middle place, Ha'wi-k'uh.

In the Navajo origin story, Sun is the father to the Hero Twins, Born of Water and Monster Slayer; their mother is Changing Woman. The Hero Twins leave their mother to find their father, and eventually the Sun sends them on their way, offering his instruction and support for the task ahead of them: killing monsters. By eliminating the monsters, the Hero twins help move the People into the next world.


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