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Blessingway

As opposed to the other Navajo [Din] Chant Ways, which are used to effect a cure of a problem, the Blessingway [Hzhj] is used to bless the "one sung over," to ensure good luck, good health and blessings for all that pertains to them. It is sometimes referred to by English speaking Din as being "for good hope." Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremonies are performed for expectant mothers shortly before birth is due. Young men leaving for the armed forces will have a Blessingway [Hzhj] given for them by their families before they leave. The Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremony is performed frequently. Kluckhohn and Leighton report, in their study done in the 1940's, that a family would rarely go six months without having a Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremonial performed at least once in their hooghan.

The Blessingway [Hzhj] holds historical precedence over all of the other chants, being given to the Earth Surface People shortly after the Emergence into this world. It is in the Blessingway [Hzhj] chant that the most complete account of the Navajo [Din] origin myth is recounted including the origin of the Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremony itself. The first Blessingway [Hzhj] was held by the Holy People [diyin din] when they created mankind. They taught them both ritual and skills; Changing Woman [Asdz ndleeh] gave them some songs [sin]. Blessingway [Hzhj] is most closely connected with Changing Woman [Asdz ndleeh] and is the only ceremony where she is depicted in drypaintings ['iikh].

The name of the rite, Hzhj, is translated Blessingway, but that is certainly not an exact translation. In the Navajo language [din bizaad] the term encompasses everything that is interpreted as good - as opposed to evil, favorable for man. It encompasses such words as beauty, harmony, success, perfection, well-being, ordered, ideal. The intent of this rite is to ensure a good result at any stage of life, and therefore the translation of Blessingway.

All Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremonies begin with the chief hooghan songs as evidence of the Navajo concern with the hooghan as the paradigm for the ordered universe. Every Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremony reemphasizes the hooghan as "the place home." The sacred mountains [dzi dadiyinf], the four cornerposts of the Navajo universe, which support the Sky [Yh], the roof of this world: Blanca Peak [Sisnaajin] in the east [ha'a'aah], Mount Taylor [Tsoodzi] in the south [shdi'h], the San Francisco Peaks [Dook'o'oosd] in the west ['e'e'aah] and Hesperus Peak [Dibntsaa] in the north [nhooks], plus Huerfano Mountain [Dzin'oodiii] in the center ['an] and Gobernador Knob [Ch'ol''] to the east of center are all a part of Hzhj. Gobernador Knob [Ch'ol''] represents the conical type of hooghan and Huerfano Mountain [Dzin'oodiii] represents the round roof type hooghan. Thus the two mountains[dzi] which are the sites of the birth and early home of Changing Woman [Asdz ndleeh] and her adopted family, the First Man [ts hastiin] group, are found well within the boundaries of din bikyah.

The ceremony has the dignity of great simplicity despite the rich, complicated and beautiful ideas upon which it is based. On the first night [t''] a few songs [sin] are sung. The next day [j] there is a ritual bath in yucca [ts'szi'] suds with songs [sin] and prayers [sodizin]. That night [t''] there is an all night sing. The use of both pollen [tddn] and cornmeal [naad' ak'n] is prominent in this ceremony. Drypaintings ['iikh] in the Blessingway [Hzhj] are made of only vegetal materials (cornmeal [naad' ak'n ], pollen [tddn] and crushed flower petals, such as larkspur) on buckskin ['aban]. The only drypaintings ['iikh] in which Changing Woman [Asdz ndleeh] appears is in the Blessingway [Hzhj] ceremony. The Blessingway ceremony ends with the Twelve-Word (stanza) song in which the repeated presence of the 4 words: Sa'ah naaghi, Bik'eh hzh, which are interpreted for us in the statement of philosophy of the Navajo Community College, act simultaneously to correct any errors in the ceremony, assure the pleasure of the Holy People [diyin din], and to remind everyone present of the goals and ideals of the Navajo culture. In the words of the Blessingway singer, Frank Mitchell:
"So for each verse in the song, you say, 'Sa'ah naaghi, Bik'eh hzh.' The phrase is a holy being. You see, these songs, when they were turned over to the Earth People, were to be used in a certain way. If you leave out those words, then the holy beings feel slighted. They know you are singing, they are aware of it. But if you omit those words, then they feel it and they are displeased. Then, even though you are singing, whatever you are doing over the one-sung-over has no effect.

If you forget to mention those holy words in one song, and in the next song you think of it, then you will mention them. That makes up, somewhat, for their having been left out before. That is the reason that at the conclusion of your songs, you will say a prayer in your own words. You ask the holy beings to help you and to go through these songs with you; that also helps to make up for what you may have left out."

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This account is taken from Blessingway by Leland C. Wyman 1970 Leland C. Wyman University of Arizona Press; and Navajo Blessingway Singer, the Autobiography of Frank Mitchell, 1881-1967 edited by Charlotte J. Frisbie and David P. McAllester 1978, University of Arizona Press

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