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Navajo Culture
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Navajo Culture in Monument Valley

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 Navajoland. 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 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.


The Hogan

There is good in harmony – the harmony of the Navajo with the universe and all living creatures on earth. When he lives in accordance with the universe, he can expect the wealth of a clean soul that protects the whole being from the evil that preys upon his sacred dwellings.

The Hogan is built in the manner of this harmony. The roof is in the likeness of the sky. The walls are in the likeness of the Navajo's surroundings: the upward position of the mountains, hills, and trees. And the floor is ever in touch with the "earth mother".

The Hogan is comprised of a white shell, abalone, turquoise, and obsidian, bringing the home and the sacred mountains into one sacred unit. The home is also adorned with the dawn, the blue sky, the twilight and the night – the sun in the center as the fire.

Consistent with this harmony are prayers, songs, ideas, and plans – a desire for all good things. Fire, water, air, and soil are required for the existence and well-being of every living thing – plants as well as animals; they all become a part of the home and its harmony with the universe.

When the Hogan is finished, a medicine man blesses the home in beauty, with happiness from all directions, from the earth and the sky, with protection from illnesses and all things evil, with the promise of shelter to the family and anyone in need. During the sing or in the process of the dedication, the home is marked from the inside above the walls in four directions (representing the sacred mountains) to remind the family and all others that the home has been dedicated and blessed and thus it is in the grace of the Great Spirit.

The Hogan is a sacred dwelling. It is the shelter of the people, protection, a home, and a refuge. Because of the harmony in which the Hogan is built, the family can be together to endure hardships and grow as part of the harmony between the sacred mountains, under the care of "Mother Earth" and "Father Sky".

Note: When entering a traditional Navajo hogan, it is important that you walk in a clockwise direction, by turning left (head south), and walk around to the west. Never enter or leave in a counterclockwise direction.