Night Way

Encyclopedia Article


Also known as the Night Chant, the Night Way is one of the most commonly performed ceremonials in the Navajo tradition. The Night Way (Yébîchai in Navajo) is a healing ceremony that lasts for nine days and nights and is performed only in the winter months. Specifically, the Night Way is meant to restore balance, health, and equilibrium for those suffering from paralysis, blindness, and deafness, although it can also be performed to restore social and natural order between the supplicant and the natural environment. In essence, the Night Chant, as with most Navajo healing ceremonials, endeavors to to ameliorate strained relations between Man and the Universe, thereby restoring order, balance, harmony, and health.

The ritual, perhaps the most complex in the Navajo repertoire of healing chants, includes praying, sacred dancing, pollen blessing, and sandpainting. The singer, or spiritual leader of the ceremony, must recite specific healing chants that are intended to provoke a meditative trance or to create the aural context for the ceremonial. Such chants are often comprised of repeated phrases and can be thought of as sung prayers.

Photo Credit: 

"Navajo sandpainting, negative made from postcard" by J.R. Willis, Gallup, N.M. Kodaks-Art Goods is licensed under CC BY.

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