Yei Bi Chei (Yebichai) Night Chant-Third Day

It is understood that the patient has been sweated in the morning, as on the second day.

Navajo Medicine Man

Photo of Navajo Medicine Man

Sources of Information for the Article:

The Night Chant, A Navaho Ceremony. By Washington Matthews – May, 1902.
Legend Of The Night Chant- The North American Indian By Edward S. Curtis 1907
The Nightway:A History and a History of Documentation of a Navajo Ceremonial by: James C. Faris – 1990.
Earth is My Mother, Sky is my Father, by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, 1992

On this night he is dressed in spruce boughs by the assisting medicine-man, bound around the wrists, arms, ankles, legs, and body, and fastened on the head in the form of a turban.

After several songs, Nayenezgani and Tobadzischini cut the boughs from the body, using a stone arrow-point as a knife. Then the boughs are cut into fragments over the patient’s head, after which the singer takes a feather wand, points it toward the four cardinal points above the fire, and brushes the patient, chanting meanwhile.

At the end of the brushing he points the wand out of the smoke-hole, at the same time blowing the dust from it out into the open air.

See the Yei Bi Chei Ceremony now going on in Shiprock at  the Northern Navajo Nation Fair


Haschebaad – Female Deity, or Goddess

In Navajo mythology there are numerous references to benevolent female deities, who are personated in medicine rites by men wearing masks, as shown here. Haschebaad may be translated “female deity,” or “goddess.” The Mask is Used in Yebichai Night Chant Ceremony

Haschebaad -  female deity, or goddess

Source: The Night Chant, A Navajo Ceremony by Washington Matthews – Date = 1902


The mask differs much from the male mask. While the latter, like a bag inverted, covers the entire head and neck, and completely conceals the hair of the wearer, the former conceals only the face and throat and allows the hair to flow out freely over the shoulders.

The Yebichai actor never wears the hair bound up in a queue. While the male mask is soft and pliable, the female mask is stiff and hard, being made of untanned skin.

It is nearly square in shape; the top is always slightly rounded and ‘in some cases the base is a little broader than the top.

There is a flap or wing, called the -ear, on each side about two inches broad, as long as the margin of the mask proper, and indented or created on the outer margin. The margins are all alike in each. set of. masks but not in any two sets.

The hole for the mouth is square’ The holes for the eyes are triangular,-the apices pointing outwards. The mask is painted blue, the ears white, a square field around the mouth-hole and a triangular field around each eye-hole are black.

The kethawns and the dry-paintings represent the female mask as having a yellow horizontal the bottom, like the male masks ; but this has not been observed on any mask ; ‘instead there is sometime’s a horizontal line of bead-work, about two inches broad, not uniform in design on all masks.

From the bottom of the mask proper, i. e., the piece of raw-hide, a curtain of red flannel or red baize, or other material, usually hangs.

Sometimes this curtain ‘is covered with beads, or adorned with fragments of shell. No definite rules seem to prevail with regard to this curtain. There is always a piece of abalone (haliotis) shell secured with thongs in the center at the top, behind which feathers of turkey and eagle, or of red-shaved woodpecker, are stuck.

The mask is tied to the head by means of long buckskin strings. Sometimes there is a fringe of short hair at the upper margin.

Yei Bi Chei (Yébîchai) Night Chant-First Day

A description of the ritual and form of the Yébîchai ceremony,—Kléjê Hatál, or Night Chant,—covering its nine days of performance, will give a comprehensive idea of all Navaho nine-day ceremonies, which combine both religious and medical observances. The myth characters personified in this rite are termed Yébîchai, Grandfather or Paternal Gods. Similar personifications appear in other ceremonies, but they figure less prominently

Note: The use of the word “Navaho”, and , “Navajo” are used in the writings about the Diné,  their history, and culture. See  this article: Use and spelling Navaho or Navajo

Each morning during the first four days of the Navaho Yébîchai healing ceremony, or Night Chant, the patient is sweated—sometimes inside a small sweat-lodge, oftener by being placed upon a spot previously heated by a fire and covered with heavy blankets.

Yei Bi Chei Sweat Lodge- Navaho

The three figures are medicine-men, or singers, chanting. The patient lies under the blankets surrounded by a line of sacred meal in which turkey-feather prayer-sticks, kadán, are implanted.

First Day:

The ceremonial, or medicine, hogán is built some days in advance of the rite. The first day’s ceremony is brief, with few participants. Well after dark the singer, assisted by two men, makes nine little splint hoops entwined with slip-cords, and places them on the sacred meal in the meal basket.


These objects, called by the various but nearly synonymous names of Ye’b’tsai-tsa’pas, ye’ts-ida-V’lpas, ye’bapas and tsapasiazi-olia’l, are twelve in number. Each circle is made of a twig of ts’i’lts’ln or aromatic sumac two spans long.Navajo Kethawn

The ends are tied together by means of a yucca fiber exactly two spans long. The butt end of the fiber is applied to the. butt end of the twig, underneath it, and at first parallel to it, the fiber is’ then wound around the spliced extremities of the twig, so that its tip end shall approximate the tip end of the’ twig

Following this, three men remove their everyday clothing, take Yébîchai masks, and leave the hogán. These three masked figures are to represent the gods Haschéltî, Talking God, Haschbaád, Goddess, and Haschélapai, Gray God.

When they have gone and passed to the rear of the hogán, the patient comes in, disrobes at the left of the center, passes around the small fire burning near the entrance of the hogán, and takes his seat in the center, immediately after which the singing begins.

During the third song Hasché?lt? enters with his cross-sticks—Hasché?lt? balíl—and opens and places them over the patient’s body, forcing them down as far toward the ground as possible. The second time he places them not so far over the body; the third, not lower than the shoulders; the fourth time, over the head only, each time giving his peculiar call, Wu-hu-hu-hu-u!

Then Hasché?lt? takes up a shell with medicine and with it touches the patient’s feet, hands, chest, back, right shoulder, left shoulder, and top of head, this being the prescribed ceremonial order, uttering his cry at each placing of the medicine.

He next places the shell of medicine to the patient’s lips four times and goes out, after which Hasch?baád comes in, takes one of the circle k?dán, touches the patient’s body in the same ceremonial order, and finally the lips, at the same time giving the slip-cord a quick pull.

Next comes Hasché?lapai, who performs the same incantations with the k?dán. Again Hasché?lt? enters with the cross-sticks, repeating the former order, after which he gives the patient four swallows of medicine,—a potion different from that first given, the medicine-man himself drinking what remains in the shell. This closes the ceremony of the first day.

There will, perhaps, be considerable dancing outside the hogán, but that is merely practice for the public dance to be given on the ninth night. The singer and the patient sleep in the hogán each night until the nine days are passed, keeping the masks and medicine paraphernalia between them when they sleep.


The songs sung on this evening, called Aga’hoa’gis-in or Summit Songs, are 26 in number; but not all are sung on this occasion; more of them are heard later during the nine-days’ ceremony. The whole set is sung on the third night. When there is no dance of the naakhai’ to be held on the last night, only three songs of the set -are repeated.

God of Harvest, Fringe Mouth, and Talking God

The personated deities pictured in this plate appear together in acts of succor in the Night Chant in the order seen, the Talking God in the lead. From left to right they are, respectively, the God of Harvest, Fringe Mouth, and Talking God.

Sources of Information for the Article:

The Night Chant, A Navaho Ceremony. By Washington Matthews – May, 1902.
Legend Of The Night Chant- The North American Indian By Edward S. Curtis 1907
The Nightway:A History and a History of Documentation of a Navajo Ceremonial by: James C. Faris – 1990.
Earth is My Mother, Sky is my Father, by Trudy Griffin-Pierce, 1992