Freeman, the National Geographic Channel’s host of a six-part documentary series, visited the Navajo Nation to ask probing questions about God.
His series, “The Story of God,” analyzes religions from throughout the world in an effort to “shine light on the topics that have baffled, scared, and inspired mankind,” according to a statement from Nat Geo. In his series, Freeman seeks to discover the meaning of existence, the origin of deities, and the commonalities between many faiths.
“I’ve been to nearly 20 locations in seven different nations over the past few months on a personal journey to find answers to the big mysteries of faith,” Freeman said in a statement. The show debuted on April 3, and fresh episodes air every Sunday. Maysun appeared for roughly eight minutes in the April 17 episode, “Who is God?”
The 50-minute piece also contained footage from Egypt and Israel, where Freeman investigates monotheistic, as well as India, where Hindus worship a plethora of gods. And he sees the Kinaaldá on the Navajo Nation, during which girls speak with Changing Woman, one of the Navajo Holy People.
The Kinaaldá is a sacred rite that consists of various rituals intended to ensure that a girl grows into a strong and kind woman. The girl bathes, ties her hair back, runs toward the east, and bakes a maize cake in an earthen pit over the period of four days. A medicine man sings songs that welcome Changing Woman to assist the girl in becoming a woman. Following the completion of the rite, the girl is revealed to the deities as a lady and encouraged to assume her place in the world.
“I think what Morgan Freeman was searching for was the way we as Navajos experience God’s various sorts of discourse,” Maysun’s mother, Michele Peterson, explained. “The songs we sing indicate that the girl is maturing into a woman. We are surrounded by our deities as a result of those songs.”
Only small portions of the actual ceremony can be filmed, said Tom Chatto, a Navajo medicine man who performed Maysun’s Kinaaldá. Chatto also acted as a consultant for the film crew, determining which details of the ceremony could be shared on television.
According to Chatto, the majority of the ceremony that aired on National Geographic was a reenactment.
“You may film sections of the genuine one,” he remarked. “However, for the TV show, we simply reenacted it. We only displayed the bits that are suitable for public viewing.” Even during the reenactment, there were some areas where Freeman was not permitted. Peterson drapes a blanket over the door of her hogan near the end of the ritual. Freeman is abandoned outside.
“What was most important was to do what was appropriate,” Peterson explained. “We made sure to be very polite, which included shutting the hogan with a blanket or ordering the cameras to cease filming.” Some of the singing, the morning runs, and the ceremonial cutting of the corn cake were witnessed by Freeman. In the clip, Freeman grabs a big chunk of the cake and holds it up to his mouth.