Navajo religion


Most Navajos believe that in the universe there exists an Almighty, a spiritual force that is the source of all life. The Almighty belief is not pictured as a man in the sky, but is believed to be formless and exist in the universe. The sun is viewed as the power of the Almighty. They are not worshipping the sun, but praying to the Almighty, and the sun is a sign and symbol for that.

So Navajo religion includes the worship of the winds and watercourses and of a number of gods who are believed to intervene occasionally in human affairs. These gods are frequently worshipped; offerings are made to them, and ceremonial dances are performed in which they are represented by painted and masked men.

The traditional Navajo way contains no concept for religion as an activity which is separate from daily life. Navajo religion has been described as 'life itself, the land, and well-being.' All living things - people, plants, animals, mountains, and the Earth itself - are relatives. Each being is infused with its own spirit, or 'inner form', which gives it life and purpose within an orderly and interconnected universe. The inter-relatedness of all creation is recognized through daily prayer offerings and an elaborate system of ceremonies. The purpose of Navajo life is to maintain balance between the individual and the universe and to live in harmony with nature and the Creator. In order to achieve this goal, Navajos must perform their religious practices on the specific, time honored areas which they inhabit.

Native Americans show less interest in an afterlife unlike the Christians. They assume the souls of the dead go to another part of the universe where they have a new existence carrying on everyday activities like they were still alive. They are just in a different world. Songs, chants, prayers, and other ceremonies, and sand paintings also form part of the complicated religious rituals, and a large body of mythology exists.

Sand paintings are used for healing ceremonies by the Navajo Medicine Men. Traditionally, sand paintings were made on the floor of the tepees and hogans. The sick person was placed in the middle and a medicine man would perform the healing. It was believed that the sand would absorb the sickness and the patient would gain power to heal himself. The people of the Southwest, along with the Southeast had full-time religious leaders with shrines or temple buildings.