The Night Chant

A Navaho Ceremony

Washington Matthews

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Subjects: American Indian

9780874804911 (paperback)
9780585156545 (ebook)

The Night Chant is one of the great nine-day, Navajo winter healing ceremonies. During its course, nearly all the important characters of the Navajo pantheon are mentioned in legends, depicted in sand paintings, and impersonated with the use of masks and other ritual objects. Originally published in 1902, Washington Matthews's The Night Chant contains one of the few extensive descriptions of this important ceremony.
Washington Matthews studied Navajo language and lifeways as an ethnologist and linguistics expert in the late-nineteenth century. His unique opportunities to observe ceremonies and record the roles of participants resulted in landmark studies of Navajo ritual and tradition. Matthews spent more than twenty years working with hatathli, or singers, to record the many songs and rites that comprise the intricate Night Chant. provides a detailed description of healing rites, songs, myths, and prayers for the ceremony, which is performed only during 'frosty weather.' This edition includes powerful contemporary observations in a foreword by John Farella.