Black Rain Chant

Encyclopedia Article


The Black Rain Chant is likely a fictional reference to a Navajo ceremonial. This chant might refer to one performed as a recreation of the story about Coyote stealing fire to make the People warm and Frog needing to put out the fire with a black rain.

A Navajo ceremonial refers to a number of different ceremonies performed by a singer or medicine man (called a hataałii in Navajo). Most ceremonials are used to cure a particular problem. Navajo cures are targeted at body, mind, and spirit, calling on the patient, his kin, singer, and divine people to restore his harmony with the world. Before a singer (often a man), is called, a hand trembler, or ndilniihii (often a woman), will diagnose the source of illness. Through prayer, concentration, and sprinkling of sacred pollen, her hand will tremble and pinpoint the cause, which then determines the proper ceremonial cure. Then a singer who knows the proper ceremony is called and preparations for the ceremonial are set in motion.

There are nearly one hundred Navajo chants of varying range and intricacy. Originating from the Creation Story, they are so nuanced and complex that a singer learns only one or two ceremonials, or sings, over many years of apprenticeship. Ceremonies can last anywhere from one to nine days and can include chants, songs, prayers, lectures, dances, sweat baths, prayer sticks, and sand paintings. In order for a ceremony to be effective, everything must be done as prescribed in the legends.

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