No Medicine man knows how to perform all the ceremonies but a Medicine man must know the necessary chants and sandpaintings for the ceremonies he does perform. Some of the ceremonies last nine days and the list of chants and the sandpaintings is long. Some of these ceremonies are called the Flintway, the Mountainway, and the Nightway. It is possible for the chants and the paintings to number in the hundreds for any one ceremony.
Ashkii knows that he will have to spend years learning the designs and the songs. For each chant must be letter perfect and each sandpainting must be exact in form and color. Otherwise harm, instead of good, will follow the ceremony.
When he is grown up and truly a singer, Ashkii may have other Dine' help him make the sandpaintings. He may have as many helpers as he wants. But he must know every detail of each sandpainting that accompanies the chant he is giving. And he must watch carefully, correcting any mistake made by his helpers. A mistake that is not corrected will have a bad result.
Ashkii knows how the Dine' learned sandpainting for he has heard it more than once from an old uncle who is a singer. This is the way Ashkii heard the story:
"A long time ago, when this world was new, an owl found a little Dine' baby out in the brush. It seems Owl took the baby home to his nest. There he fed and cared for it. When the boy was four years old he wanted a bow and some arrows. When he asked Owl for arrows, Owl gave him some feathers. The little boy made arrows with them. He made a bow from a tree branch. Jini.
"At once he began to hunt. Before long he was an excellent hunter. Now he fed the owl and was known as Owl Boy. But as the years went by Owl grew afraid of Owl Boy and one day told him to go back to his people. Jini.
"Owl Boy took his bow and arrows and started out. He walked long, long, miles and had some unusual adventures. But he did not find his people. He grew hungry but saw no game to shoot for food. He grew tired but found no friendly shade tree. Then he saw a mountain in the distance. Jini.
"He went toward it for he knew that most mountains have trees, streams and game to hunt for food. When he reached the mountain he climbed up the great cliffs. Still he found no game and as he reached the very top of the mountain he knew he was lost. Weary and hungry, he sat down under a tree and fell asleep. Jini.
"As he slept, flashing lightning picked him up and put him down on the clouds. It seems that here he saw strange things. The Holy Ones were making paintings on the clouds. And they were singing chanting songs. Jini.
"Owl Boy was told by the Holy Ones to learn all the songs and also how to paint all the pictures. The Holy Ones told him that the songs and pictures would help his people. It seems Owl Boy stayed a long, long time on the clouds and learned every chant, word by word. He learned every picture, too. He learned how to paint the Horned Toad, the Big Fly, the Never-Ending Snake, the Frog, Rainbow Boy, and Rainbow Girl as well as Sun and Moon. The proper way to picture the four sacred plants, Corn, Beans, Squash, and Tobacco, was shown to him. Jini.
"He was instructed in the use of sand as a substitute for Clouds. He learned that the Sand must be spread to a smooth, level surface. He learned to Draw with colored sands. And he learned how to Mix ground rock, crushed flower petals, charcoal, and Juniper ash with Sand to get more colors. Jini.
"When the instruction and learning were finished the Holy Ones gave Owl Boy one sandpainting on a Buckskin. He took it with thanks. Then he went about looking for a way to travel back to Earth. Jini.
"He saw a Rainbow there and walked down the curve of the rainbow. When he stepped from the Rainbow path he found he was home. His family welcomed him. He went about teaching them the songs and sandpaintings. His name was changed from Owl Boy to Song Man. Some Dine' call him the Great Singer because he brought all the healing chants and paintings to the Dine'." Jini.
Askhii has already learned some of the chants. One of his favorites is from the song of Cornbeetle Girl. He hopes you will like it as he does.
"Beauty below me,
Beauty above me,
Beauty before me,
Beauty behind me,
Beauty all around me,
I walk in Beauty,
In Beauty It Is Finished."
DINEH BADAHANI (Dine' Stories) By Winifred Fields Walters; Illustrated by Wilson S. Etcitty, 1967. Printed by the Navajo Tribal Printing Department; Window Rock, Arizona.
pages 27 to 37