three native american prayers

14 12 2011

POETRY DISPATCH No. 361 | December 14, 2011

Three Native American Prayers

Editor’s Note: Though my working environment in the coop is saturated with ‘spirit’…the pine walls, glow with sacred memorabilia of all sorts, from hand-made wooden crucifixes to paintings, photographs, holy cards, carvings…windowsills of glass, pottery, sculpture…much of it reflecting the Southwest and the old country…much of it appealing to myth, mystery, meditation…there’s a particular place above my desk, to my right, where at least thirty years ago I posted a copy of “A Prayer of the Navaho Night Chant” which I found during one of my New Mexico sojourns, and which I have never removed since.

Though I don’t read it every day, or pray every day, I consider it a kind of blessing of words which hover around me, good days and bad days. Words that make a difference. Which is all any writer is ever after. His sole reason for being.

Along with the artwork on the coop walls done by many of my friends, here and there a warm, comforting and perfect piece of pottery by Chris Spanovich, a woman I truly loved, makes its presence felt. I smile. I walk over to it. I touch it. Her pottery begs to be held in both hands, like an offering—received. More spirit. More reverence. More prayer. I did a long story on her once, “Chris Spanovich, The Potter of Chimayo” which appears in DOOR TO DOOR, Ellis Press, 1985.

Prayerful, thankful…that’s how I feel today. That the arts speak to us in ways no organized religion can ever understand. All this spirit that surrounds me is all that really matters. ..Norbert Blei

I’m an Indian.
I think about common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun
which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
our animal brothers,
who gave of themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The great Spirit takes care of me.

— John Lame Deer

Greeting, Father’s Clansman,
I have just made a robe for you, this is it.
Give me a good way of living.
May I and my people safely reach the next year.
May my children increase; when my sons go to war,
may they bring horses.
When my son goes to war, may he return with black face.
When I move, may the wind come to my face,
may the buffalo gather coward me.

This summer may the plants thrive,
may the cherries be plentiful.
May the winter be good, may illness not reach me.
May I see the new grass of summer,
may I see the full-sized leaves when they come.
May I see the spring.
May I with all my people safely reach it.

— Crow Indian prayer

House made of dawn.
House made of evening light.
House made of the dark cloud.
House made of male rain.
House made of dark mist.
House made of female rain.
House made of pollen.
House made of grasshoppers.
Dark cloud is at the door.
The trail out of it is dark cloud.
The zigzag lightning stands high upon it.
Male deity!
Your offering I make.
I have prepared a smoke for you.
Restore my feet for me.
Restore my legs for me.
Restore my body for me.
Restore my mind for me.
This very day take out your spell for me.
Your spell remove for me.
You have taken it away for me.
Far off it has gone.
Happily I recover.
Happily my interior becomes cool.
Happily I go forth.
My interior feeling cool, may I walk.
No longer sore, may I walk.
Impervious to pain, may I walk.
With lively feeling may I walk.
As it used to be long ago, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
With it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.

— A Prayer of the Navaho Night Chant



11 responses

14 12 2011
steve fortney



14 12 2011
Alice D'Alessio

A lovely feel to the chant, a simplicity, an evocation that covers all the really important things. Simplify, simplify. Get all this clutter out of my head!
Thank you for sending this for those of us in need!

14 12 2011
Ray Foreman

Norb, sometimes my brain is so loaded with words, I feel like I’m frozen solid and look for heat from something, anything, to let me breathe. Then I look at your painting/drawings and the colors and scribblings let me walk out of the room at my own pace and I am free. I’m sure you understand. Ray

14 12 2011
Mrs. Ticket

Thank you for this–especially the third one. I will say it Sunday and Monday nights for sure.

15 12 2011

Beautiful; I used to have a “daily book” of Native American prayers and sayings and my heart was more peaceful for it. Thanks for sharing.

15 12 2011
Donald O'Donovan

Beautiful. I particularly like the first one by John Lame Deer. If the Christmas shoppers (or should I say Xmas shoppers?) now storming the shopping malls could read this they might say to themselves, “What do I need with all this glittery junk?” Might, I say. Maybe.

The art is superlative. I freely confess that I’m, now doing a series of watercolors “after Norbert Blei,” because this is precisely the effect I am aiming for.

Now all I have to do is stop aiming.

15 12 2011
David Dix sr

From a Door one
a Christmas gift is given
In my hands I will cradle my own
Taos bowl tonight and tomorrow;
Mine temporarily
then gone

15 12 2011

Walk in Beauty, Friend.

17 12 2011
s/v Paradox

real good painting … still have your paints?

17 12 2011

There is a striking similarity between the Navajo night prayer and St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer with Beauty being replaced by Christ. The marvelous connection between the minds of men….

18 12 2011
Barbara Vroman

Thank you for these gifts of the spirit. I will copy the night chant to hang in my own office for the benevolence it engenders, the blessings of someone I never knew, from someone I do know and love. I want one of your wild,
phantasmogogal (this is not a wrong spelling it is a word I made up for your unique paintings) art works to hang with it. Why don’t you reproduce your
paintings and sell them as prints we could afford? Bet you’d sell a bundle.

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