Medicine Men

Hataałii (medicine men) hold a special place of honor in Diné (Navajo) culture as those who preserve the knowledge and traditions of the Diné way of life. Women play this important role, too. Basket maker Mary Holiday Black’s father was a medicine man, providing her with spiritual grounding and access to traditional knowledge throughout her life. When called upon for a healing ceremony, the medicine man brings expertise of herbal medicines and traditional songs, prayers, and practices. Recounting the stories of the Diné from their beginning in the First World to their emergence into the present Fourth, or Glittering World, is integral to healing ceremonies and chants. In this way, the medicine man affirms the order of the universe and reminds participants of the importance of hózhǫ́ (harmony and balance) in life. It takes many years for a medicine man to learn the complex ceremonial procedures and a single medicine man typically learns no more than three of the more than 50 ceremonies practiced by the Diné.