During the time of the Navajos, illness was seen as less of a problem with bodily organs and more of issues concerned with improper practices that cause the spirit to be afflicted with disease, which manifested through the body. There were several acknowledged reasons that could lead to sickness, and these include exploring taboo practices and ideas, making improper contact with non-human creatures, or malpractice of certain rituals and ceremonies. Many Navajos also believed that negative energies, witchcraft, and black magic were also common causes of disease.
The best way that the Navajos knew to combat these illnesses was with traditional Navajo healing. Under this belief, there are two main roles that need to be met in order to achieve proper healing – the medicine man and the hand trembler.
What is the Medicine Man?
These specially trained Navajo men were aptly knowledgeable on the process of Navajo healing, and were trusted by the tribe to bring about good health to anyone who was afflicted with illness. To become a medicine man, a Navajo tribesman should first study under the instruction of an experienced medicine man. During this time, the learner is instructed to prepare herbs and healing tools for the process, and is taught the different skills and techniques used in Navajo healing. Several chants, songs, and prayers were used to cast away disease, and these all had to be mastered before a medicine man could practice his craft. Once a student is deemed ready for healing others, they are allowed to independently render service and can become instructors of other learners later on as they gain knowledge and experience.
What is a Hand Trembler?
A medicine man is only able to heal an identified sickness, but if a tribe fails to put a reason for the illness, they call in the expertise of a hand trembler. These Navajo healers were responsible for identifying the illness that afflicted patients by rubbing herbs, chanting, and singing in order to summon the healing power bestowed upon them by the Gila monster. The hand trembler merely diagnoses the condition, and once a cause is pinpointed, the patient is referred to a medicine man or singer in order to receive proper medical attention under the Navajo healing practice.
Navajo Healing Ceremonies
The Blessing Way, the Enemy Way, and the Night Way are all different ceremonies used during Navajo healing in order to attract positivity and expel negativity, which ultimately results in the total healing of a person. The Blessing way is ideal for those who are pregnant, who are leaving for battle, and those who need extra positivity to be introduced into their body. The other two are intended for removing evil spirits and negativity.