THE STORY OF SAN'HODE'DI'S MEDICINE
From the Navaho, The Wanderings
When San'hode'di arrived at his home the person called Dotso came and whispered to him, saying: "There are two more maidens over here who are calling for suitors. Go try your luck."
Before he went to this village he chewed poison ivy and blew some of the plant over his body. Sores broke out all over him. In this way he went to the home of the two maidens. There was a ladder outside the house. He made one step on the ladder when the mother of the maidens stopped him and said: "What are you doing here?" The young man replied in a mild voice: "I have come to marry your two daughters." But when the woman saw the sores that covered his body she told him to go away.
The next day he chewed another poisonous plant called zen chee'e, which has a blue flower and grows about an inch high. It is found on the mesa near Shiprock, and blooms in the early spring. He blew some of this plant on his body and dreadful sores appeared. Then he returned to the home of the maidens and climbed two rungs of the ladder. The mother came to the top of the ladder and said: "What are you doing here again?" He said: "I have come to marry your two daughters." The woman said: "I say no. With those sores! You go away."
The third day he came with still more dreadful sores. They were called na'kit. The sores covered his hands and his body. He came in this condition to the home of the maidens, and he climbed three rungs of the ladder. The mother stopped him again, and sent him away. He said: "However, I am going to marry your two daughters."
He went away, but the fourth time he blew another kind of sore over himself. This is called des chit. With this disease he returned, and he climbed four rungs of the ladder. This time the mother let him come up and he entered the house.
The maidens had a guessing game, and up to this time no suitor had been able to guess correctly, so the old woman felt safe. The maidens brought out their basket with the guessing game in it and sat down. The young man reached into the basket and took the husk pointing East. He unwrapped the husk as the sun travels; and he wiped the juice that was on it, circling the basket with it. He took the turquoise out and swallowed it with a piece of bread.
The two maidens felt for the stone but found none.
note: ish ishjid, poison ivy, Rhus toxicodendron.
note: azay'ha chee'nee, red body medicine, Lithospermum angustifolium Michaux.
note: na'kidtso, Spanish pock, also called cha'ch'osh, syphilis.
note: des chit, ishchid, or, qiuichchid, a prostitutional disease. Dideschi, blood poison.
The Guessing Game
Then the young man unwrapped the husk that had pointed to the South, in the same way, and he took the white bead and swallowed it. The maidens felt for the stone but they could not find it.
He unwrapped the third husk that had pointed to the West, again in the same way, and he took the white shell and swallowed it. The maidens felt for the shell but it was gone. They had tears in their eyes this time, for the young man was covered with dreadful sores, and this did not please them.
Then the young man took the red stone from the center of the basket and swallowed that also. The maidens felt for it but it was not there.
Now all this happened so that medicine might be made known that would cure poison ivy and the other diseases of the skin. Since then the medicine of the young man is known for these sores.
Now they take four leaves from the poison ivy, East, South, West, and North, and they cut a hole through the four leaves. They chew the leaves of the poison ivy mixed with powder of ground chips of stones. Whoever receives this medicine gets it through the holes in these leaves. Afterward he can travel around poison ivy and other poisonous plants. This was San'hode'di's medicine, and with it he cured himself.
note: "Syphilis was supposedly removed by a beverage (yidla) of syphilis medicine. Cordylanthus ramosus (chach'osh aze') and the buttercup (la'etso ilja'e) which were powdered and taken in water every morning."
note: The Oregon grape was also used for this sickness.
note: (The Young Man's medicines.) Swellings, nanchad, were removed by applying the plant, nanchad aze, Thellipodium wrightii. Sores in general: a liniment made of the leaves and branchlets of the cancer root, ledol'aezi. Pimples, naeetsa, were rubbed with leaves of a plant called naeetsa aze. Also, spurge is chewed and used as a liniment for pimples. Boils, chozh aze, a liniment made from Euphorbia, khetsi halchi, and, behetsi halchi.
After he had won the guessing game he took the two maidens to a new home. Each morning when the sisters returned home to their mother their father asked: "Did he touch you?" And the old man wondered where the young man had gotten the power to guess the game.
After the fourth day San'hode'di was as well as before. Then he lay with the two maidens, and they told their father. They told him also that in the morning they found themselves sleeping under beautiful robes, and in a home filled with everything they could wish for. Their father came over and when he saw all he was pleased with his son-in-law and said: "My daughters have wished for many things. I see that they have them all now."
Then San'hode'di departed from there and returned to his mother.
He told his mother that she should live where she was. It is a place called Whee cha'. This Whee cha' is a hill between Gallup and Shiprock. And nearby there is still another hill called Be'es jade'. "You will have the power over the cornfields of the People called Dîné," he said. "Your two homes will be sacred places. The people will bring precious stones as offering when they come to pray for rain. I will return to you from time to time."
Then he went back to the two wives he had sent to their village on his flute.
There is a peak this side of San Francisco Mountain which is called Tocho whee tso. It is near Tlo chee ko. And that is the place where San'hode'di went with his first two wives. He is there. His home and those of his mother are considered sacred places. They say that the Beggar Woman worked for the Dîné, while her son, afterward, went to another tribe.