The Navajo Ways Protection

Navajos still make baskets with protective powers that attract protective gods and keep away the evil gods.

A Navajo Basket with Rams Offering Protection

Navajos have many forms of protection from people, events, and spooky beings. So, we at Twin Rocks, thought we’d start sharing a few tips with you, and show you art that’s been created to boost the protective energy.

The word “ambush” has a pretty interesting beginning.  The word itself is an old word that means a shelter that’s formed by two trees or shrubs whose branches intermingle. Thus, it’s a good place to lay in ambush for someone, or to keep from being ambushed.

This leafy ambush is a setting that occurs repeatedly in myth. And, from the ambush, people have learned or invented protective rituals including herbal magic, frames, hoops, pokers, prayersticks, and pieces of carved wood.

A hero, hoping to shoot a ram or other animal that he did not recognize as a god, lay behind the ‘ambush trees.’ When the animal appeared, the hero was numb until it had passed. If the animal turned out to be a god, it would reveal himself as a deity to the hero. Then, the god would begin to teach the hero ceremonial lore and wisdom. In the once-were-coyote episodes, the intertwined trees become a shelter for the hapless hero who was bewitched into becoming a coyote.

The ceremony, or chant, to cure this is called Hoops of the Night Chant. The hoops are made of the ambush woods, which appear again in the pit-baking, and they’re associated with the wood samples of a healing herb.

In this remarkable basket woven by Jonathan Black,  the rams offer protection from deities who might be waiting to ambush an unsuspecting person.  Thank you, beautiful rams!

The Mysteries of Navajo Medicine

Navajo Medicine Men making a Healing Sandpainting

Navajo Medicine Men making a Healing Sandpainting

To most American Indians, medicine had/has a different meaning than we give it.  It comes with an entire array of ideas and healing concepts, as well as remedies and treatments.

An explorer, George Grinnell, wrote something that we’d like to share with you:

“All these things that we speak of as medicine, Indian people call mysterious.  And, the word mysterious is used to mean that their healing properties is beyond anyone’s power to account for.”

Isn’t this what the power of prayer or positive thinking amounts to?  Positive thoughts that we send up to the skies, or hopes and dreams that may or may not come true. And if they do come true?  It comes from the center of the great mystery–probably whichever form of religion we ascribe to.

He continues:  “We say that Indian people call whisky ‘medicine water.’ Translated, it is really called mysterious water, meaning water that acts in a way that’s not understandable.  And, in the same way, some tribes call the horse ‘medicine dog,’ and the gun ‘medicine iron‘.  Both are a mystery.

“People who we call a medicine man may be a doctor, a healer of diseases.  If he does something like juggle, he may be a worker of magic.  Either way, he is a mystery man.

“All Indian languages that we know of have words which are the equivalent of our word ‘medicine’, sometimes with curative properties.  But, the Indian’s actual translation of ‘medicine,’ used in the sense of magical or supernatural, would be ‘mysterious, inexplicable, and unaccountable.'”

Medicine is a mystery, almost any Western doctor will agree. Sure, there are formulas to make the medicine and give it. But, in the end, the same medicine works differently on everyone.  And that is a mystery.  We all understand that, and the best doctors will agree that, in the end, there is a magic inside the patient, whether we call it will, fate or chemistry, that will cause healing.

As an afternote, and a description of how much the term ‘medicine’ covers, John James Audubon, the great American painter and naturalist, said, “I think it’s notable that the Missouri valley Indians called the steamboat “great medicine.”  Truly, moving across a mighty river, with or against the current, certainly is mysterious.

So, let your mind roam the world of mysteries and wonders.  See how much comes down to the word “medicine.”  It’s just about everything imaginable!