This you knows I be Lurks at Water Holes, and times past counting I done The Tells. This be the tell for finding the Ways, and there be many of them. This tell be about the Ways of the Navajo and the Native American peoples of the American southwest, the deserts and mountains beyond the prairies.
[Did you see Dances with Wolves? From the lands of the People (Lakota), travel in the direction of sun-goes-down until you can see the mountains. Keep them (the Rockies) on your right as you travel in the direction of the sun-at-mid-day. After a great distance, you will come to the desert. Seek the people who carve their lodges into the walls of cliffs and the people who make their lodges of dried mud instead of skins.]
This tell be about how to summon the Holy People, for once propitiated, they are obligated to act with a spirit of reciprocity by restoring balance to the ailments of the supplicant. This tell be about Heap Big Medicine.
There are ways by which you can recognize a wizard, a shaman, a medicine man someone well learned in the Forces That Control The Universe and can command them to their will in a way that Common Folk regard as supernatural. One of them is the medicine bundle, which contains Objects of Power used in the practice of their craft. My Bag of Holding is a black leather bag with many pockets of different sizes. ("What has it got in its pockets's, my precious?")
One of the things I often carry in my medicine bundle is a laptop computer. The current model is a 386/25 running Windows 3.1 with 6Mb of RAM and an 80Mb hard drive. For my Windows wallpaper, I have Navajo sand paintings. (OK there is a point to this, and we're finally getting to it.)
On a recent episode of The X-Files, Agent Fox Muldar was healed by a Navjo medicine man who performed a Blessing Way chant using a sandpainting of Father Sky to allow Muldar to communicate with the other Holy People, a group that includes Mother Earth, Big Thunder, Changing Woman, Pollen Boy, and Corn Girl, to name just a few.
The medicine man told Muldar that his name, Fox, was a powerful spirit and guardian, along with Coyote, Bat, and Eagle. Coyote stole fire from the gods and carried it in his mouth through the four corners of the sky to bring it to the hogan of First Man and First Woman.
Anywho, I recognized Father Sky as the central element of the sandpainting, and what the medicine man was saying was consistant with my knowledge of the Male Shooting Chant, but if it was Blessing Way and Big Thunder was going to be involved, then Muldar's guardians should have been Bat and Medicine Bundle. This sandpainting also looked unusual because it did not have a rainbow protecting the three sides that do not face East, where the guardians should be.
I had to get my research materials to find that it was the N'tho-he or Hail Way, and that Bat is indeed one of the guardians as well as two pairs of yellow (male) and blue (female) Eagles, and Antilope. There is no rainbow for protection because there are seven guardians! The TV ceremony was very accurate except for one small detail the Night Sky Chant is no longer performed, because no medicine man is alive who knows it. The last medicine man to perform it was Hasteen Klah, who knew an incredible total of six Ways.
Central to any philosphy of Life, the Universe and Everything is that there must be balance between the forces that define and control The Universe As We Know It. In Eastern philosophies, this is called Yin and Yang. In numerous Native American cultures, this duality appears as the flying snake or feathered serpent (dragon?) There is a song by Joni Mitchell that tells about the struggle between the eagle and the snake within us all
Now here's a fragment of The Night Chant
He-rain and she-rain earth and sky night and day lots of duality here. Two pairs combined makes four possible pairs. The four directions, the four seasons, the four phases of the solar day, are each represented by the four sacred colors: black, white, yellow, and blue. Colors are very special in Navajo sandpaintings. Yellow and blue distinguish male and female spirits. Rainbows are bands of red and blue. The sun and moon are both represented by the same symbol, but one is blue and the other is white.
The theory underlying Navajo sandpaintings is that they serve as a lure, calling upon the Holy People to view their own images. The patient is placed upon the sandpainting while the medicine man sings the chant. Pleased by the Singer's work, and heeding prayers, Holy People do their part by restoring balance (or hozho) to the patient.
I've had a fascination with Navajo sandpainting ever since I was a teenager and spent some time in New Mexico with the Boy Scouts in 1964. As any Serious Collector will tell you, the most fun comes from specializing. My specialty is The Shooting Chant, with particular emphasis on Father Sky and Mother Earth, which is part of the Blessing Way. Of secondary interest is Big Thunder, mostly because of my interest in Thunder Bird of the Native Americans of the Northwest Pacific Coast, the ones who erect totem poles. But that's a Tell for Some Other Time.
Because there is Powerful Magick contained in Navajo Sandpaintings, artists will introduce mistakes to keep them from being misused by Bad People. Sometimes elements are omitted, substituted, or altered by color or position. One of my hobbies is to stand in the gift shop at an airport and explain all of the things that are incorrect about the sandpaintings made for the tourists. Here are links to illustrations of the the sandpaintings I study I'll add more as I find the time and inclination, so make a bookmark for this URL and check again in a few months.
Father Sky and Mother Earth:
That is all I have to say. -=DAH=- (25-Oct-95)
From: "Daniel Smith" <email@example.com>
Subject: sandpainting on the x-files
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 23:32:27 -0600
note for you Hosteen Etsitty made that sandpainting for the x-files for the Blessing way episode up in vancouver BC please list credits.
thanks Hosteen Etsitty
Soo ... in the absence of anyone complaining, I have restored the icon and background GIF files.
From: hosteen etsitty <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2005 08:39:06 -0800 (PST)
Here is an e-mail that works
I have been trying to get a hold of the permanent painting I did for that X-files show so I could pass it on to our tribal museum. I did three dry temp ones also but were used in the shoot.
thanks for the reply and sorry for the delayed response.