Navajo Beliefs By Ray Baldwin Lewis
The Navajo people, the Diné, passed through three different worlds before emerging into this world, The Fourth World, or Glittering World. The Diné believe there are two classes of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. The Holy People are believed to have the power to aid or harm the Earth People. Since Earth People of the Diné are an integral part of the universe, they must do everything they can to maintain harmony or balance on Mother Earth.
It is believed that centuries ago the Holy People taught the Diné how to live the right way and to conduct their many acts of everyday life. They were taught to live in harmony with Mother Earth, Father Sky and the many other elements such as man, animals, plants, and insects. The Holy People put four sacred mountains in four different directions, Mt. Blanca to the east, Mt. Taylor to the south, San Francisco Peak to the west and Mt Hesperus to the north near Durango, Colorado, thus creating Navajo land. The four directions are represented by four colors: White Shell represents the east, Turquoise the south, Yellow Abalone the west, and Jet Black the north.
The number four permeates traditional Navajo philosophy. In the Navajo culture there are four directions, four seasons, the first four clans and four colors that are associated with the four sacred mountains. In most Navajo rituals there are four songs and multiples thereof, as well as Navajo wedding basket and many other symbolic uses of four.
When disorder evolves in a Navajo’s life, such as an illness, medicineman use herbs, prayers, songs and ceremonies to help cure patients. Some tribal members choose to be cured at the many hospitals on the Navajo Nation. Some will seek the assistance of a traditional Navajo medicineman. A qualified medicineman is a unique individual bestowed with supernatural powers to diagnose a person’s problem and to heal or cure an illness and restore harmony to the patient.
There are more than 50 different kinds of ceremonies that may be used in the Navajo culture – all performed at various times for a specific reason. Some ceremonies last several hours, while others may last as long as nine days.