Encyclopedia Article


Among the Navajo, a listener is one of three different types of diagnosticians who may be consulted to determine the cause of a indivudual's illness and recommend the proper ceremony to cure it. Hand tremblers and star gazers are the other two types of diagnosticians. Any of these three types of diagnosticians may be consulted about sickness, witchcraft, dreams, lost items, or any unusual happenings; however, diagnosticians are most often called in to diagnose the cause of an illness when the cause, and therefore cure, of the illness cannot be determined by obvious symptoms.

A listener, who is most commonly a woman, might meet with the person seeking a diagnosis and any family members or friends to discuss the problem before beginning the consultation, or she might not. The listener then leaves and goes to a location where she can "listen" for the diagnosis. Different from hand tremblers and star gazers, the cause of an illness and its proper cure reveal themselves to the listener through auditory means. Once the listener has heard and understood both the cause of the illness and the path necessary to correct it, she returns to advise the patient. Frequently, this involves recommending a particular healing ceremonial. The listener may even recommend a medicine man (or hataałii) to perform the ceremony.

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