Talking God’s Prayer

Talking God - Curtis 1904Amid the high stratus clouds
In the house made of dawn
In the house that was raised at dawn,
Upon the road lit by the dawn,

Talking God needs a singer, and I am he!
He walks, and it is my feet that walk;
My limbs are become his limbs,
My body, his body,

My mind, his mind,
And he speaks, and it is my voice that speaks;
And the fierce plumes of his plumed helmet,
They nod above my head, above his head.

Beautiful what lies before him, which lies also before me;
Beautiful what comes behind him, and also behind me;
Beautiful, all that lies below, all that rises above,
Beautiful, everything on every side, beautiful!

As his voice is sacred, and of the most sacred, as pollen, and is beautiful,
So does my voice become most sacred, and beautiful,
And thus in beauty it is done;
In beauty it is done.


Image: Haschelti [Talking God] (1904), photograph by Edward S. Curtis from his book, The North American Indian (vol. 1, 1907). This image is in the public domain in the United States.

Text: translation of a prayer from the Navajo Night Chant ceremonial, as reported by Washington Matthews in Navajo Myths, Prayers and Songs with Texts and Translations, Univ. of California Pubs. in American Archaeology & Ethnology, vol. 5, No. 2 (1907) (available via the Internet Archive). Here is Matthews’s own translation of what he refers to as Prayer No. 1:

In Kininaekai
In the house made of dawn.
In the story made of dawn.
On the trail of dawn.

O, Talking God!
His feet, my feet, restore [or: heal]
His limbs, my limbs, restore.
His body, my body, restore
His mind, my mind, restore
His voice, my voice, restore
His plumes, my plumes, restore

With beauty before him, with beauty before me
With beauty behind him, with beauty behind me
With beauty below him, with beauty below me
With beauty above him, with beauty above me
With beauty around him, with beauty around me

With pollen beautiful in his voice, with pollen beautiful in my voice.
It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

… and here is the Navajo original with Matthews’s literal, interlinear translation:

Prayer No 1

Haschelti-Talking-God-MaskImage: Mask representing Hastseyalti (Talking God), used in Night Chant Ceremony, recorded by Washington Matthews in 1902.

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