Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler: A Psychobiological Personality Study of a Navaho Indian

Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler: A Psychobiological Personality Study of a Navaho Indian

Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler: A Psychobiological Personality Study of a Navaho Indian

Gregorio, the Hand-Trembler: A Psychobiological Personality Study of a Navaho Indian


Any personality study should be drawn together in a formulation in which the main points and outstanding implications are stated. This is in order that interpretations may be set down and theories offered, and plans made, for subjecting both to checking by further observation and examination.

The formulation in this study was written after completing a period in the field. Ideally, formulations should be made while the investigator is still in the field and should serve as a guide to improved observation. Each should be carefully dated and, at more or less regular intervals, as new material comes in, reformulations should be made and added to the record under the new date.

When we were in the field and were assembling Part II of this study, we had only general questions in mind as to how Gregorio was living and functioning. We wanted to understand his basic assumptions and apprehensions, what made for happiness and what for the reverse. However, in drawing together the formulation, it seemed that such an approach might appear too diffuse. It would be more satisfactory and comprehensible, we thought, if a particular question was selected and developed in the light of the total life story, in so far as we were able to do this. For this purpose we have taken Gregorio's Hand-trembling, because it is not only dramatic but is also one of the leading themes in his life.

Instead of writing of "Gregorio, the Handtrembler" we might have chosen to describe "Gregorio, the Farmer" or "Gregorio, the Shepherd." One could make a case for the equal or greater economic importance of farming or sheep-raising in Gregorio's life, perhaps, but from his own emphasis it seemed that neither afforded him the same degree of personal satisfaction that Hand-trembling provided. Moreover, farming and sheef-raising are the almost universal occupations of Navaho men, and have obvious functions, whereas Hand-trembling is much less common and is a cultural trait which set Gregorio apart from most of his fellows. For all these reasons, therefore, we use Hand-trembling as the central theme.


We first saw Gregorio in the late winter of 1940, when we were living with a Navaho called Carlos and his family at the edge of a pinyon forest near Aspera, a Spanish-American village. Gregorio would stroll across the sunwarmed clearing, under his large black hat, trailing big-wheeled spurs, and would often sit most of the day with his back against the wall or would shoot marbles with one of the children. Sooner or later he would come into the adobe house where we lived and sit for an hour or two, saying little and smiling much. After dark he would disappear in the woods, walking home under the moon, his pockets full of the cigarettes that we had given at his suggestion.

We were told that he lived with his wife and two children about 3 miles away, was hard working, poor, but an expert in the practice of Hand-trembling. This form of divination is part of the religious culture of the Navaho and is a mystic and inspired method of diagnosing the cause of illness, finding lost articles, and pointing out witches. We questioned him concerning his Hand-trembling and he told about a few of his successes.

For example, some time before, one of Carlos' daughters had a swollen neck and nobody could cure her. Several Singers ("medicine men") tried without success. Gregorio did Handtrembling and found out that they should get . . .

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