Spider Woman, by Gladys A. Reichard, , at sacred-texts.com
The house has been blessed, the inmates have suffered together to purify themselves. Already the materials for the sacrifices have been considered and are in readiness. All is prepared for the gods. A little after one Tom calls me. I enter the house to behold a pleasant scene. Red-Point reclines on his pile of sheepskins, physically relaxed, nevertheless keeping a watchful eye on the work of Tom and Curley's-Son. At a point south by west of the hogan they sit on a blanket on which is spread a multitude of dainty and fascinating objects: accurately cut, even pieces of reed, smooth flat stones which serve as palettes for the small quantities of white, blue, black, red, and yellow natural pigments, brushes of yucca fiber, bunches of fluffy gay-colored feathers, a pile of varicolored stones, each one almost microscopic, a cup of water, a penknife, a piece of rock crystal.
Under Red-Point's directions his sons-in-law have cut from the reed the prayersticks which, after the proper treatment, will convey to the Snakes our desire to have them present during the following days. They helped to bring on Marie's ailment, they have power to cure it. There are two double prayer-sticks, each about six inches long, eight small ones, only about three inches long. They have been cut so there is a node in the middle making two compartments. Tom and his
brother handle these objects delicately as they sketch with the tiny brushes the same designs which were used for the morning's sand-paintings near the fire, a black snake with white border, a white snake with black border, a blue snake with yellow border, a yellow snake with blue border. Tom is more skilful at this kind of work than his brother. Neither of them needs to remember the patterns or position of the figures; Red-Point tells them before they begin. If they make mistakes they must correct them. If they leave them, the super-naturals will punish Red-Point, for he is responsible. He becomes impatient only if the helpers are stupid or inefficient.
Occasionally as they work Red-Point sits up, grasps his rattle, and sings a short song. As he waits and rests, he hums a tune, allowing no false move to elude him. Tom finishes painting and, as Curley's-Son continues, places pieces of cotton cloth, yellow with age, in a row on the blanket. Then from the open sack of precious stones he chooses one of each kind beloved by the gods, turquoise, whiteshell, redstone, abalone, and lays one on each cloth. Along with each in punctilious order he places one wing feather and one tail feather of a wild canary, three feathers from the bluebird's tail, one feather of eagle down, one of turkey down, a hair from a turkey's beard, and a bit of cotton thread ceremonially spun and torn.
Curley's-Son is still painting. Red-Point sets out an open sack of yellow pollen. Tom makes little balls of bluebird feathers, which he sprinkles with the yellow pollen. By this time his brother has finished painting the reeds. Tom lays them on the cloths according to Red-Point's instructions while Curley's-Son removes the surplus paints, pieces of reed and all implements they had been using. Tom puts the bits of
precious stone into one end of each decorated reed and inserts the blue feather ball as a stopper, taking care to lay the reed back on its cloth in the stipulated position. Curley's-Son, after depositing the unused materials outside at the places ordained, calls Marie and Ninaba.
My heart goes out to Marie. The excitement, the fasting, the emetic, have combined to make the headache she has from a severe cold almost unbearable. I can see she can hardly sit up. I know from experience she would feel as badly if she lay down. The only boon she could ask would be to be left undisturbed; this will under no circumstances be granted her, either today or at any time for the next eight days. She and Ninaba take their places near the prayersticks. Red-Point takes from his bundle a small case of yellow bone, smooth with age. From its hollow he pulls a tiny brush which he hands to Marie. She dips it in water, then in the yellow pollen and runs it lightly (really only symbolically) over each prayerstick and the articles accompanying it. Ninaba, as usual, imitates everything she does.
When Red-Point has placed the tiny brush in the little bone case, and it in its diminutive sack and laid it away, Tom hands Marie the crystal. Then he holds one of the offerings before her. She lifts the crystal to the smokehole of the house, where it symbolically catches the sunlight, and with it "lights" the prayerstick. Ninaba does the same. Tom dips a finger lightly into the cup of water and conveys a drop to the opening of the prayerstick, which he then seals by placing pollen on it. After all are sealed the encircling cloths are folded; then Red-Point piles the prayer-bundles in regular order and gives one pile into Marie's, the other into Ninaba's hand. Curley's-Son
stands ready with an old blanket which is in constant use in this chant.
Red-Point takes his place facing Marie and Ninaba and leads the prayer which they repeat like a litany. The prayer is long, it must be spoken without error, no word may be left out, none should be repeated. In order to concentrate, Red-Point closes his eyes, Marie and Ninaba cast theirs down. Marie does not know the prayer but she repeats it accurately. Ninaba falls behind, catches her breath. As Red-Point hastens on with it she loses some phrases here and there. A stillness and solemnity encompass the hogan, the moment is altogether sacred.
May I be restored again in beauty.
May my body be light, may my body be cooled.
As I formerly was, so may I now go.
May it be beautiful for me
From the Far-Reaching-Butte
At the House-Made-of-Darkness,
At the House-Made-of-Dawn,
At the House-Made-of-Blue-Sky,
At the House-Made-of-Yellow-Evening-Light.
May happiness be mine again, I say.
This day may it be beautiful behind me,
May it be beautiful before me,
May it be beautiful below me,
May it be beautiful above me,
May it be beautiful all around me.
Big-Fly's voice is made my voice, I say.
I have become Old-Age-Travelling and the Trail-of Beauty, I say.
All is beauty again,
All is beauty again,
All is beauty again.
At the end of the prayer, which includes many repetitions of the stanzas, Curley's-Son takes the sacrifices out and deposits them where the black-, white-, blue-, and yellow-horned rattler chiefs and maidens must see them. Since we made and planted them properly, the Horned-Rattlers cannot refuse our invitation. They will be present at our sing.
167:1 "Beauty, beautiful" are only my choice of the English words, all unsatisfactory, which might be used in rendering the Navajo word which means "beauty, goodness, success, comfort, good luck, desirability, good will, blessing, good health, happiness," in fact, all qualities and virtues which man desires and cultivates.