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Hózó: words that contain entire cultures?

This week, our word is Hózó, the Navajo word for "balance and beauty".

Illustrative collage of the Navajo word, Hózó

Between one language and another, some words can often be translated as entire sentences, others may even have concepts that are difficult or almost impossible to translate. Through these types of terms, we can introduce ourselves to the cosmology of entire cultures, and they can be an excellent way to get closer to new languages and ways of thinking that are different from ours.

This is the case of the word Hózó, from the Navajo language. The most common translation of Hózó is "balance and beauty." For its particular meaning, this simple phrase has been admired by many linguists and people interested in the customs of the Dine people. It is said that Hózó does not simply speak of the balance and beauty that are so celebrated with such strict rules in Western culture. Instead of being easy to perceive through sight and easy to define through conventions based on physical presence, the beauty of this concept refers to the inner harmony of a person that is also manifested through his actions.

Some people have pointed out that this can be seen in the art, poetry, and weaving of the Dine people: creations in which each element has its harmony, forming part of a larger scheme that shares the same balance. Because of this, Hózó is said to be the most important word in the Navajo language, as it unites individuals in the community who seek personal ways to mean and manifest this concept. Hózó applies not only to people and groups or collectives but also to the harmony between all living organisms and the natural world, and, according to some sources, it even applies to concepts such as time, space, and the universe. Hózó can also be understood as a philosophy that involves "walking in beauty," seeking to understand and care for spiritual, physical, and mental balance in life, and can be applied to individuals and entire systems. This complex term can invite us to research more about the Navajo language and listen to its speakers directly since no one can explain these ideas better than people who grow up understanding and practicing them.

In our novel, Where the Days Repeat Endlessly, you will find our interpretation of a Navajo myth popularized by the book Women Who Run with the Wolves. Discover other mythologies that inspire us to continue creating and continue learning enriching words with us.

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