Most Chiricahua Apache ceremonies are curative rites performed by shamans who have obtained supernatural power from one of a great number of sources. These sources include natural phenomena such as lightning, morningstar, plants, animals, and supernaturals. One of the most potent sources of this last category are the Mountain Spirits, a race of supernaturals who are said to inhabit the interiors of mountains. A ceremony is acquired by an Apache as a result of a personal encounter with these Mountain Spirits. Though these experiences and the ceremonies derived from them differ in detail they are remarkably similar in pattern. An Apache, fleeing from the enemy, may pause exhausted before some wall of rock in the mountains and sleep there. At that place he has a vision experience. The Mountain Spirit appears to him and offers to lead him into the holy home of the masked dancers. He follows. he passes four obstacles and enters four separate chambers. Animals and supernaturals of all kinds offer him much power and display their wares. Advised by the Mountain Spirit, he refuses all of these and at the end of the last chamber the masked dancers are waiting for him. Their power he accepts and spends four nights learning all the details of the ceremony and the designs to be painted on the persons and paraphernalia of the dancers. His guide conducts him back to the door once more and then the Apache finds himself awake at the place where he lay down to rest.
After such an experience the Apache, when hired for the purpose, may conduct his ceremony to cure the sick and to keep away or drive away epidemics and diseases. The procedure is to dress and design a number of men, usually four, to represent the Mountain Spirits. These dancers then approach the patient or the camps from which the disease is to be driven away and by dancing, stereotyped calls and gestures, accomplish that purpose. Songs, such as the ones that follow, are sung by the shaman when he is preparing the dancers and while they are dancing. These songs function as a, message to the Mountain Spirits to acquaint them of the aid required by the shaman. Since they are the songs which the Mountain Spirits themselves taught the shaman, it is believed that they must respond to them. The close bond between the shaman and the Mountain Spirits is manifest throughout the songs and reference to this rapport will be made in following notes. [See also the ethnological note to Chiricahua text 19, note 1 and following.]