Standard American medicine resorts to surgery and to
prescriptions for pills to restore a patient's health. The traditional
Navajo approach is to restore hozho (psychological and
cosmic balance or "beauty") to the person who is
sick. The Navajo healer sings elaborate and lengthy songs that tell of the
balance of original creation. He also supervises the creation of a sand
painting (or dry painting) that is a symbolic picture of an aspect
of first creation.
So what we encounter with the Navajo is medicine that is
sung & prescriptions that are painted. Curing ceremonies that may
continue through the night for several days. What is the Blessingway
Chant? The Nightway Chant? What illnesses can be cured with this
sort of medicine? What is the cause of disease in navajo thought?
What is the healer called & what are his responsibilities? How
does he learn to be a "singer"? Where does he practice his
healing? Navajo chants are some of the most beautiful pieces of American
literature -- they are rhythmic, evocative poems that are tied to the Four
Corners environment they evolved in.