by Kathleen Jenks, M.A.
The Mountain Chant is a Navajo ceremony collected and translated in 1883-1884 by Washington Matthews, an army doctor stationed at Fort Wingate, New Mexico. The origin of the myth itself is unclear, but the resulting ceremony, based upon the requirement for specific items of ceremonial paraphernalia, can be dated at least as far back as the 1700’s. The ceremony can be celebrated only in the winter when rattlesnakes and bears are hibernating; it is sung to treat mental disturbances or uneasiness, which are considered “bear sickness,” and also fainting spells, as well as kidney and stomach problems attributed to a variety of mountain animals such as bears, snakes, weasels, and porcupines.
The myth begins in … Read the rest