Sand Painting of the Song-Hunter

by Katharine Berry Judson

Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest


Navajo (Explanatory of frontispiece)

The black cross bars denote pine logs; the white lines the froth of the water; the yellow, vegetable debris gathered by the logs; the blue and red lines, sunbeams. The blue spot in the centre of the cross denotes water. There are four Hostjobokon, with their wives, the Hostjoboard. Each couple sits upon one of the cross arms of the logs. The gods carry in their right hands a rattle, and in their left sprigs of pinon; the goddesses carry pinon sprigs in both hands.

Hasjelti is to the east of the painting. He carries a squirrel skin filled with tobacco. His shirt is white cotton and very elastic. The leggings are of white deerskin, fringed, and his head is ornamented with an eagle's tail; at the tip of each plume there is a fluffy feather from the breast of the eagle. The projection on the right of the throat is a fox skin.

Hostjoghon is at the west. His shirt is invisible, the dark being the dark of the body. His staff is colored black from a charred plant. Two strips of beaver skin tipped with six quills of the porcupine are attached to the right of the throat. The four colored stars on the body are bead ornaments. The top of the staff is ornamented with a turkey's tail. Eagle and turkey plumes are alternately attached to the staff.

The Naaskiddi are north and south of the painting. They carry staffs of lightning ornamented with eagle plumes and sunbeams. Their bodies are nude except the loin skirt. The hunch upon the back is a black cloud and the three groups of white lines indicate corn and other seeds. Five eagle plumes are attached to the cloud-back, since eagles live among the clouds. The body is surrounded by sunlight. The lines of blue and red which border the cloud-back denote sunbeams penetrating storm clouds. The black circle zig-zagged with white around the head is a cloud basket filled with corn and seeds of grass. On each side of the head are five feathers of the red-shafted flicker.

The Rainbow goddess, upon which these gods often travel, partly encircles and completes the picture.

These sand pictures are drawn upon common yellow sand, brought in blankets and laid in squares about three inches thick and four feet in diameter. The colors used in decoration were yellow, red, and white, secured from sand stones, black from charcoal, and a grayish blue made from white sand and charcoal mixed with a very small quantity of yellow and red sands.

(From eighth annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology, abridged from description of James Stevenson.)