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Navajos possess a very complex system of ceremonials. There are two major rites: the Blessingway [Hózhójí] and the Enemyway ['Anaa'jí].... The rites and prayers in the Blessing Way [Hózhójí] are concerned with healing, creation, harmony and peace. and is used to ensure good luck and prosperity. The Enemyway ['Anaa'jí] is used to exorcise the ghosts of aliens, violence and ugliness and is derived from old ceremonials used to protect warriors.
The chantways focus on curing and can be performed according to one of three rituals: Holyway, Evilway [Hóch'íjí] or Lifeway ['Iináájí]. The Holyway rituals act to restore health to the "one sung over" by attracting good. The Evilway [Hóch'íjí] chants exorcise evil and the Lifeway ['Iináájí] chants are used to treat injuries caused by accidents. Sandpainting ['iikááh] ceremonies are a part of all Holyway ceremonies and most Evilway [Hóch'íjí] ceremonies. They are not used in the Lifeway ['Iináájí] ceremonies. However, it must be noted that many of the songs used in the chantways occur in the the Blessingway [Hózhójí] ceremony and, in fact, originated there. The Blessingway [Hózhójí] is the backbone of the songs in the entire Navajo ceremonial structure. Every chantway ends with the chanter setting down his rattle and singing at least one song from the Blessingway to "justify the chant, insure its effectiveness, correct inadvertant omission of essential song and prayer words, correct errors in sandpaintings ['iikááh] and in cutting and coloring prayer sticks or "just for safety's sake!" Some chants use many songs from the Blessingway [Hózhójí] while others only close with the twelve word Blessingway song.
It was estimated by Wyman that there were once 24 [naadiin d] chantway complexes, of which only 11 [a'ts'áadah] are performed now and only seven [tsosts'id] are frequently performed (Shootingway [Na'at'oliijí], Flintway [Béeshee], Mountainway [Dzilátahjí], Nightway [T'éé'jí], Navajo Windway [Diné biních'ijí], Chiricahua Windway [Ních'ih'álts'íísíjí], and Hand Tremblingway). These chants are groups based upon associations in the connected origin legends, symbolism, ritual equipment and procedural similiarities. Each chant has its own origin legend that describes how the Holy People [dighin diné] gave the ceremonial to the Earth Surface People.
Each of these ceremonies is composed of multiple discrete units (or ceremonies) which can be kept or deleted as a function of the particular circumstances of the individual patient. Each of these units is isolated from the rest of the units of the chant by a pause in the activities, both at the beginning and at the end. There are some units that are required and which will appear in every performance of a given chant. The following table, taken from Griffin-Pierce, summarizes the combinations of individual ceremonies generally found in Holyway chants of different lengths.
The Holyway ceremonials are divided into two main sections: purification and the dispelling of evil (or ugliness) and the attraction of good. Both types of ceremonies are listed in the Table above. The consecration of the hooghan involves both blessing, through singing, praying, pollen sprinkling and purification, both to purify the hooghan and to attract good powers. Sandpaintings ['iikááh] both attract good and dispel evil.
There are different numbers of sandpaintings ['iikááh] associated with each chant and the entire repertoire belonging to a given chant is never used in a single performance of the chant. The sandpaintings ['iikááh] to be used on a given occasion are those deemed to be particularly suitable for the "one sung over."
Navajo Sandpainting by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, © 1992 Trudy Griffin-Pierce, University of New Mexico Press, Four Masterworks of American Indian Literature edited by John Bierhorst © 1974 John Bierhorst, University of Arizona Press, and Blessingway by Leland Wyman, © 1970 Leland Wyman, University of Arizona Press.