Traditional Navajo Taboos

By Ernest Bulow

Personal Behavior

A "taboo" has two separate parts. One is the action. The second is the consequence. Which of these do you think might have a foundation in religious beliefs or teachings and which ones do you think parents may have thought up to teach children good behaviour?
  1. Do not laugh when someone pollutes the air (passes gas) because you will get wrinkles right away.
  2. Do not wash you face with really hot water or you will get old faster.
  3. Do not pull out white hairs or you will get more.
  4. Do not count your blackheads or they will get worse.
  5. Do not chew your fingernails because they will not grow back and you will grow broke.
  6. Do not cry at a funeral or you will get bags under your eyes.
  7. Do not rub tree bark on your body because it will make you hairy.
  8. Do not put salt on your hair or eat too much salt or your hair will turn white.
  9. Do not cut your hair because you will not be able to think well and you will have a short life.
  10. Do not look at a tooth that has fallen out or the others will fall out too.
  11. Do not try to cut limbs off a tree while it is still standing or you will chop yourself.
  12. Boys should not be lazy when they are young orthey will act like women.
  13. Do not hate a person of the opposite sex. Especially an ugly one because you might end up marrying them.
  14. Do not wear your blanket with the stripes crossways or you will go crazy.
  15. Do not make fingers or obscene gestures or you will cripple your hand.
  16. Do not stare at anyone for a long time or you will go blind.
  17. Do not lend your shirt to anyone or he will get all your luck.
  18. Do not follow in someone's footprints because you will get crippled.
  19. Do not put your fingers on top of each other (cross your fingers) or you will act like a baby.
  20. Do not play with an ash dump or you will get hunched backed.
  21. Do not smoke unless you have caught a female coyote on foot or it will cause you harm and stunt your growth.  The phrase "female coyote" refers to coming of age.
  22. Do not break sticks or you will have bad luck.
  23. Do not have three people comb each other's hair at the same time or they will get stuck.
  24. Do not take a doll apart because it will make you sick, or crippled, or might affect your children.
  25. Do not store jewelry like beads in a heap.  Instead hang them up.  If you do not, you will lose them because they will be unhappy and cramped.
  26. Do not undo a string of beads or they will disappear.
  27. Do not store turquoise beads in a plastic bag or airtight container because they will die.  The turquoise will not be able to breathe and they will turn bad.
  28. Do not leave an arrowhead lying on the ground because you will lose the good luck they bring.
  29. Do not pop a paper bag because your parents will go broke, or you will pop your tonsils, or get a goiter.
  30. Do not turn pages backwards or you will go blind.
  31. Do not burn blood from a nosebleed because you will get headaches and your head will split.

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