The land stretches ever onward – a vast sea of multicolored sand, interrupted occasionally by massive rock sculptures formed by some invisible hand. These testimonies of a Higher Power stand guard over what seems at first glance to be a deserted and barren land.
However, if one were to look closely on this particular day, they would have seen a small, lone figure standing, unmoving, on the edge of one of those rock sculptures.
With her hair dancing slightly with the breeze, the girl looked out across her world – Dinetah – the land of the *Dine – the People. It was a land held captive by fear, and filled with promise; a land and people little known to those on the outside, but known and loved by the One who sees even those places most hidden and forgotten.
Nizhoni remained at her self-delegated post long enough to watch that invisible hand begin its daily painting of the sky before the darkness fell. With a sigh of regret, and a sense of urgency tugging at her soul, she then carefully made her way back down from her sanctuary. Within moments, she had mounted her favorite horse and was racing the coming darkness across the level ground toward her home in a nearby valley. She quickly secured her horse in the community’s corral and made it to her Hogan just as the final traces of the sun disappeared.
The small round home felt tense as she entered. Her parents and brother looked up at her in alarm as she entered. She had cut it too close. She should have been home earlier. She should not have risked being out past dark. With surprise, she realized that sitting in the midst of her family was another being. That could only mean one thing. The jealousy and bitterness against her family had grown serious enough for her parents to feel the need to call upon a chanter to perform a special Holyway ceremony – one that would free their Hogan from any possibility of a visit by the *Creature, and put upon it a spirit of holiness and purity.
With a heaviness tugging at her spirit, she took her place as the ceremony began. Why did she feel such doubt? Did all these ceremonies really do any good? Why did she feel as though there was something more – some Being more powerful and beautiful than the whole of the earth and creatures they worshiped and feared in turn?
The night grew darker, the chanter sang on; an unnatural, nearly tangible spirit of evil descended. The chanter grew desperate – the evil was supposed to be decreasing, not getting stronger. An unearthly screech split through the chanter’s words. The room was filled with the stench of rotting meat. From the window appeared the distorted face of a wolf – one with the eyes of a man – filled with a sinister mocking. Slowly, deliberately, the hand of a human lifted, displaying the severed head of the horse Nizhoni had ridden only hours before. With equal deliberateness and a horrendous laugh, the other hand rose to motion with one sharp clawed finger across its neck.
Hardly aware of what she was doing, Nizhoni began speaking a prayer apart from the one the chanter was still frantically attempting. With a desperation she had never before known, Nizhoni lifted her voice to the Being of whom she knew nothing apart from the assurance she felt of His existence. For what seemed like hours, she called upon the One-Most-Powerful, the One-Who-Triumphed-Over-Evil. Gradually, the heaviness of evil began to dissipate. The chanter had long since ceased from his own chanting and had sat wordlessly listening to this unheard-of song.
As dawn crept up, Nizhoni and her family stepped outside to greet the rising sun. No one there could explain what had just transpired that night. All they now knew was that somewhere, there was a Being with more power and love than anything found in their songs. With her face lifted toward the sky, Nizhoni murmured another prayer from the depth of her heart.
“Please, Most-Powerful-One, we know You are there. Give us some way to know who You are. Send us someone who can explain what we feel and have experienced. Teach us YourWay…”
*Dine – the traditional name the Navajo call themselves
*Creature – Skinwalkers – a name still said and talked about only with reluctance – Navajo witches who are believed to have the power to turn themselves into animals
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