Navajo Four Directional Yeis Rug - Jean Yazzie (#003)

Navajo Rug
Four Directional Yeis
48" x 66"
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 A yei’i is a Navajo holy person.  As early as the mid-1800’s, Navajo weavers were placing pictorial elements into their weavings.  Yei’i figures first appeared in Navajo weavings before the turn of the twentieth century.  Considered highly controversial because of their sacred imagery, Navajo weavers nonetheless persisted in incorporating these religious figures into their rugs.

Four areas of influence contributed to the development of Navajo yei and yeibichai weavings.  In the early 1900’s, Yanapah, a Navajo weaver married to trader Richard Simpson and living near Farmington, New Mexico, started weaving large single and double figure vertical yei rugs.

Another area of influence in northwest New Mexico came from the Newcomb Trading Post’s partnership with a prominent medicine man named Hastiin Klah who was responsible for the creation of rugs depicting Navajo sandpainting designs.  Highly controversial because of their sacred depictions, Klah’s weavings nonetheless had a tremendous influence on weavers of that area and eventually weavers in northwest New Mexico started weaving sacred figures and other design elements into their own Navajo rug creations.

In the early 1920’s, traders in the Lukachukai, Arizona and Shiprock, New Mexico area were encouraging weavers to create multiple figure yei weavings.  These early Navajo yei weavings typically had a white or other light-colored background and used a plethora of aniline-dyed yarns for the creation of the yei figures.  

Today, this popular style of weaving graces many a fine collection of Navajo rugs.  The difference between a yei and yeibichai weaving depends on the depiction of the holy Navajo beings.  Yei weavings tend to have static, front facing figures, depicted either singly or more frequently with multiple figures in a horizontal row often surrounded on three sides by a single rainbow yei.

Yeibichai weavings depict the actual ceremonial dance performed in the winter months.  An elaborate nine day ceremony, it features male and female yei’i, Talking God, the water sprinkler, fringe mouth yei’i,  medicine men and patients.  All or some of the above mentioned deities and people will appear in a yeibichai weaving, typically in a more animated form to portray the dancing of the yei during the ceremony.


Every creature, every aspect of nature has its holy people . . . . even the stinkbug. Sometimes you can see them, if only for an instant. They are represented, some of them, by colors: the blue sky, the evening dusk, the night these are holy people and one prays to them. There are iron people, crystal people, then the other rocks " and such people." There are dawn people, twilight people, air, thunder, and cloud people. One does not talk about such things in nature when they and their holy people are present.

When a point (arrowhead) is found, the person inhales the air around it four times and asks for protection from the spirit accompanying it. Although some believe that arrowheads are made by horned toads that blow on a rock and chip it into a form with its breath.

Head shape symbolizes the male-female distinction: male figures tend to have round heads while females have square heads. In some cases this reflects a sexual distinction, but at other times, where both round and square heads are used indiscriminately of both genders, the round-headed figures represent deities with dominant power, a male characteristic. In still other sandpaintings, however, such as those of the Mountainway, the association of power and head shape does not hold. Lightning marks, arrows, and snakes may also indicate gender. Crooked lightning on the legs, arms, and body of a figure indicates that it is male while the straight form indicates a female bearer. Male/female color symbolism is complicated in Navajo sandpainting, and many exceptions exist for a discussion of possible color combinations and their meanings). This is because sex pairing that is, the powers that are dominant (male) and secondary or weaker (female) vary from chant to chant. Usually, however, black or yellow symbolizes male figures in sandpaintings and blue or white symbolizes female figures; this holds true for the following chants: Big Starway, Nightway, Big Godway, Navajo Windway, Hand Tremblingway, Beadway, and half the paintings in Plumeway. Another common arrangement, seen in the Shootingway and Beautyway, is black and blue for males, white and yellow for females.

Navajos who have seen Holy People will offer proof of this in the appearance of a single footprint in the sand. Pg. 62

The rainbow is the path of the Holy People, or Yei, and is depicted in sand paintings. During the stormy summer months, rainbows are an almost constant phenomenon, stretching very clear and bright across the vast sky, sometimes two or three rainbows appearing at the same time. Pg. 62


Sitting on the Blue-Eyed Bear, Navajo Myths and Legends; 1975, Gerald Hausman.

As one might expect, the origin and transformation of the present Navaho world are more fully described than any of the nether regions; it will be discussed below. Two higher realms of the universe are depicted in broad lines, and conceivably there are other wolds above those. The sky is a world just like this one; in it Sun, Moon, and stars are visible to us as they move through the space between the world hemispheres. Above the stratum into which we look, the heavely bodies have their homes, living much like the people here on earth. The better-known Thunders also live in the sky realm.
The Land-beyond-the-sky is inhabited by extra-powerful storm elements Winter, Pink and Spotted Thunders, Big Winds, and Whirlwinds. They run a school for novices learning the ritual of the Male Shooting, Hail, Water, and Feather chants; the pupils are conducted thither and back by other gods.

Dawn, Dawn People (yikaih, yikaih dine'e) (P) are referred to incidentally in relation to Sun's sky wife. They are manifestations of the Holy People and there may be a chant in which they are leading characters.
A group of people killed at Taos were Sun's children. The two chief ones, girls dressed in spiral strings of jewels, were called Two-dawns-arrive (Haile 1938b, p. 163; Goddard, pp. 139-40).

Female Gods (xa'ctce' ba'a'd, yei' ba'a'd) (P) are described by Matthews as female representations of the more familiar gods. The masks and dress of Female Gods differ from those of their male partners. I am not sure whether they are always the same or are modified according to the males with which they are paired. They function only weakly in the chants with which I have dealt most (Matthews 1902, pp.16-9, PI. III, D; Curtis, p.110).

Fringed Mouth (zaxado'liai, zaxa'do'liai) (P) is a major character of the Night Chant, whose costume and properties are conceived in great detail. It is, however, difficult to get a clear idea of his function. The name is taken from the mask, which has fringe around the eyes and mouth. There are two kinds of Fringed Mouths, Land Fringed Mouths (tsentci' zaxado'ltsa') and Water Fringed Mouths (ta'tla'dii zaxado'lia'i). The few references indicate that they are the lifting force of lightning.
When the log containing Self Teacher was stuck at a falls in the San Juan River, the gods labored in vain to release it until the Water Fringed Mouths roped the log with the lightning onto their bodies, and lifted it.
When the log containing the Visionary was stuck in an eddy, the Land and Water Fringed Mouths found out who was responsible and offerings were made to Beaver, Otter, Fish, and Water Coyote to release it.
The Eagles of the Bead Chant found difficulty in lifting the earth boy, Scavenger. When they tried, he spun round so that they were not able to rise. Wind took the news to Land Fringed Mouth, who came with Talking God. The Eagles had wrapped the boy in a dark cloud attached with lightning and rainbow strings. It was dark inside; Talking God and Fringed Mouth put a crystal inside to furnish light and gave him a yellow tube of reed through which to breathe. They placed Fringed Mouth's headdress on Scavenger's head and a reed wand in his hand. The Eagles were able to raise him, so prepared, to the sky (Matthews 1897, pp.168, 170, 215; 1902, p. 11ff., 178; Sapir-Hoijer, pp.157, 505; Curtis, p.108; Reichard 1939, p.29).

Gray God (xa'ctce' lbahi) (P) is specifically envisaged. Though he is not described, his functions are referred to in the Night Chant. With Talking God and Female God he performs the ritual of the circular prayersticks; he participates in the ritual with the Night Chant talisman and he, instead of xactc'e'oyan, may administer the medicine. He is one of the begging gods.
He conducted the Stricken Twins on a part of their journey. When they came to the House of Gods, he held up two fox-skins; as he pulled them apart, cloud curtains rolled back and the twins entered.
According to Sapir (probably through Father Berard), Gray God, Water Sprinkler, and xactc'e'do'di' are three names for the same deity (Matthews 1902, pp.69, 94, 126, 130, 238; Sapir-Hoijer, p.511, 91n).

Hard-flint-people (be'c ntlizi') (P) seem to be a personification of flint and are probably the mythological prototype of the Black Dancers of the War Ceremony. Their noisy behavior was shocking to Monster Slayer, but it was not dangerous because their leader, a woman, had medicine in her quiver which would prevent the enemy from hearing the noise. An unexplained remark doubtless refers to the fearsome flashing of flint- 'reddish light shone through her leg tendons.' Flint People were dressed in flint and protected by lightning, sunrays, and rainbows. They had arrows of heat and cold; they stole food from the gardens of the enemy. Monster Slayer had to admit that their power was greater than his (Ch. 12, Red; Haile 1938b, pp. 159-62).

Male God (xa'ctce' baka', yei' baka') (P) perhaps means 'some male god or other.' He doubtless has different specific aspects and functions in the various ceremonies in which he appears. So far as I know, he is not a part of any of the chants to which the Shooting chants are most closely related.
Male God, paired with Talking God, is a part of a corn-planting rite of the Night Chant, probably another manifestation of Talking God (Matthews 1902, pp. 15-7, 202).

Pollen Boy (ta'didi'n 'acki') (P), symbol of the male generative element, is of prime importance in blessing and protective rites. He is paired with Cornbeetle Girl, one of the group, otherwise composed of birds, that brings and accompanies happiness. The names of both occur in all the formulas I have found (Newcomb-Reichard, Fig. 10, PI. II, B, D, XXI, XXII; Wheelwright 1942, Set II, 4).

Racing Gods (ta' dza'sti'n, 'He-simply-lies,' and 'acki' nde'sgai, 'Boy-radiating-white-streaks') (P) are vivid examples of the 'Dirty Boy' theme. They were treated as inferior creatures to be despised and mocked. The one is described with some detail; the other is said to be like his brother. The office of the meal sprinkler in the Fire Dance is one of great honor. Two are chosen, carefully decorated, and given wands and fawnskin bags containing meal. Since these couriers have to cover a great deal of ground in order to invite people, even strangers, the office requires speed and endurance for which only exceptional persons can qualify. The fullest version of the mythical couriers is in the myth of the Mountain Chant.

When those having charge of the chant sung over Reared-in-the-mountain on the fifth day asked for volunteers to carry out the meal-scattering, no one responded, and even though the young men were coaxed, all refused to go. At night an old woman entered the hogan where the elders were arranging the ceremony and announced, without preliminaries, "I will send my grandson as a meal sprinkler." The people were so astounded that they thought the offer a great joke. The old woman lived near by and whenever anyone visited her hogan, her grandson lay on the ground asleep. He never went out to hunt, and the people concluded he was lazy and worthless. His hair was unkempt, short, and matted; he was dirty, lean, and bent. Because of their low opinion of the boy, the people did not reply to the old woman's offer except with laughter, significant looks, or silence. After the fourth offer, the leader told her to bring in the grandson to show him off. The old woman waited until morning.
When in the morning the boy appeared among the group of singers, he was the ideal Navaho youth. His hair was thick, glossy, and so long that it fell below his knees; his legs were strong and firm; he held his head erect and walked with poise and self-confidence. His brother, no less handsome, came in and sat opposite him. The men in charge were so astonished that, without a word, they began to prepare the youths for the journey.
After careful instructions the boys walked slowly away from the hogan. Those left behind gave way once more to misgivings, saying that the young men would never accomplish their mission. The lads went out of sight just as the sun rose. Those left behind continued to make fun of the runners as, waiting, they played games. About the middle of the afternoon-ordinarily the runners do not return until night-the two couriers were seen returning, one from the north and one from the south. The people said they must have forgotten something and were coming back for it, meaning they had not even got started.
The boys entered, handed their bags to the chanter, and sat down. One pouch contained some corncakes baked in ashes that were still warm, the other some maguey jelly, proving that the couriers had reached their respective destinations, had sprinkled the meal, and received tokens of acceptance from those invited. Not until night did they tell the story of their trip, for they waited until the people who 'had no sense' had gone out. This time they wore valuable jewelry and embroidered blankets such as the gods once wore but which man no longer sees.
Later in the evening when the guests had all arrived, a chief went among the crowd and found the old grandmother sitting humbly apart. He spoke to her: "Your grandsons have done a great honor to us. . . . Tell me, won't you, how they accomplished this wonderful deed."
The old woman explained, "They are Holy People. For many years my grandson has risen early every morning and run clear around Mt. Taylor time and again before sunrise. That is the reason people have not seen him in the daytime; he has been asleep. At the base of Mt. Taylor are numerous rockpiles, all made by my grandson, who dropped a rock every time he ran around the mountain."
The well-dressed young men, after reporting to the singers, went about the camp visiting and flirting with the wives and sweethearts of those who had mocked, and everywhere the woman fell for their blandishments. There was nothing for the men to do but sulk.

In the myth of the Stricken Twins, the Holy Ones from Red-rock-projects were said to be the best runners and acted as couriers to carry the news of the success of the boys in their attack on Awatobi. The names are not given; these may have been Red Gods (Matthews 1887, pp. 411-5; 1902, pp. 25, 256; Reichard 1944d, pp. 89-93; Haile 1943a, p. 31).

Red God (xa'ctce' ltci") (P) seems to be a particular manifestation of Racing God.
Red gods were dispatched to find the hero of the Night Chant after he had been gone unduly long.
At their home, Where-red-rock-stands-up, Red gods refused to help the Stricken Twins: "It is not our province to cure. We are the bearers of the whip, the Racing People. It is our duty to punish the runners who lose in the race" (Matthews 1902, pp. 194, 223).

Round Darkness (tcaxalxe'I didjoli') (H) and Round Wind were called by First Man to celebrate The Twins' victory over Big Monster. They sang and danced with much spirit. Round Darkness was said to have been a dwarf (Haile 1938b, pp.113, 252, 41n).

Round Wind (n'ltc'i didjoli') (H) informed Monster Slayer about the fierceness of Burrowing Monster (Haile 1938b, p.113).

Shooting God (xa'ctce'oltohi) (P) succeeded in persuading Changing Woman to move to the west when other armored gods had failed.
In the Night Chant, a man wearing a female costume is called Shooting God. According to Stephen's manuscript, Shooting God was a berdache. One lived at each of the sacred mountains with Talking God and xactc'e'oyan (Newcomb-Reichard, pp. 34-5, Fig. 4, PI. XVI; Matthews 1902, pp. 24-5).

Sky (ya' dilxil) (P) is paired with Earth as the origin of all things. It is black, with the chief heavenly bodies depicted on its body, the stars and constellations and their positions differing at various times of the year (Newcomb-Reichard, p. 37).

Sky Pillars (yaya' nzini) (H), 'Those-who-stand-under-the-sky,' had their origin in the difficulties of getting the sun into the sky. Changing Woman lit a turquoise disk with a crystal (even though up to this time there had been neither light nor heat!) and it became heat incarnate. The heavens were so close to the 'people' that they could hardly stand upright. When the people looked up, they saw two rainbows crossed. There was so little space between the earth and sky that the heads and feet of the rainbows almost touched the heads of the people. As the people were vainly trying to raise the sun, First Man and First Woman suddenly appeared. The First Pair raised the sun somewhat by means of a sunbeam, a crystal, and a rainbow, but their power gave out before the heat was ameliorated.
Then they made two poles of turquoise and two of white-shell, and with the four poles the twelve men at each of the four cardinal points raised the sun still higher. Even this was not sufficient to prevent burning, and the men were driven to stretching the earth by blowing, a device that finally succeeded in getting the sun into a place that allows for a satisfactory temperature. Earth's position depends upon the support of the Sky People, assigned their duty by Changing Woman. When The Twins visited Sun, he led them out to the edge of the world where the sky and earth come close together and beyond which there is nothing. Here sixteen poles-four of whiteshell, four of turquoise, four of abalone, and four of redshell-reached from earth to sky. A deep stream flowed between the party and the poles. When asked on which ones they would ascend, The Twins, prompted by Wind, chose the red poles, since they stood for war.
The earth's center (xadji'na'i, ni' alni") is a holy place, indicating the Place-of-emergence, which has various geographical locations, none actually fitting the description. The corresponding point in the sky is the Skyhole, the place to which Sun led The Twins when giving them their geography test of the world. It was edged with four smooth, steep, shiny cliffs of the same precious stones as the poles that supported the sky. Sun sat at the west side of the hole, the boys at the east. Even keeping their places would have been impossible, had not Wind blown up through the hole and kept the youths from slipping down through it.

The number of Sky Pillars varies.
One time First Man ground rock and broadcast it; rocks stood up in a line. Then the four People-who-stand-under-the-earth began to sing and, moving away from each other, stretched out the earth.

These supporting people are pictured in a sandpainting of the Hail Chant with the explanation that the twelve people, six males at the north, six females at the south, hold up the earth. Their names are ni' yo'tso, 'Earth-big-whiteshell,' and yaya' nzini, 'Those-who-stand-under-the-sky.' The same kind of pillars-of reed or precious stones-hold up earth and sky.
The Wheelwright creation story describes the Earth Columns as twelve Big Winds in each direction, explaining that all kinds of winds were sent to support the sky and the stars (Stevenson, pp. 276-7; Matthews 1897, p. 113; Goddard, p. 137; Reichard 1944d, p. 103; Wheelwright 1942, pp. 66-7; 1946, p. 192).

Superior God (xactc'e' 'ayoi) (P) is mischievous and only incidentally helpful. In one myth he seems to be identified with the Visionary of the Night Chant.
His offerings are described. He made a device to hinder the progress of the whirling log of the Night Chant, pretended to be friends of the Holy Ones concerned with its progress, but did not help them.

In two myths of the Night Chant, Superior God kidnaped co, the hero.
Superior God, accompanied by Talking God, met the Stricken Twins at a crater in the vicinity of Mt. Taylor and told them that anyone trespassing on the territory of Superior Gods would be whipped and would never again return to his own people (Matthews 1902, pp. 162, 181, 204, 237).

The Brothers (dine na'kitsa'da) (P), 'the twelve people,' are idealized individuals who control rare game and game lore. According to Matthews, there were eleven, who lived with and provided well for their only sister; according to my version, there were twelve. Both stories concern The Youngest Brother more than the others; the life of the older ones is suggested rather than revealed. One was named Reared-in-the-earth by the Holy Ones because they had hidden him in the earth to spy upon his sister. This name, which was given also to a counterpart of Monster Slayer for other reasons, suggests that The Brothers may be duplicates of The Twins. There is reason to conclude that all are children of Sun and Changing Woman.
In my version of the myth, The Brothers fear Coyote; in Matthews' version, they openly flaunt him. Although they were destroyed in the contest with Coyote, Changing Woman restored them; their remark puts them in the class of intermediaries: "We do not visit the people, but we stand on the mountains and watch them."
The twelve snakes on each side of the center of the Grinding Snakes' painting are said to represent the Twelve Brothers, as are twelve Medicine People on each side of the Hole-of-emergence in an unpublished painting (Matthews 1897, pp.92-9, 103, 149, 226; Reichard, Endurance Chant ms.; 1939, PI. XV; Newcomb-Reichard, PI. IX; Huckel ms.).

Turquoise Boy (do'tliji' 'acki') (P) appears in a curious description by Sandoval:
In the third world, at the east side of the eastern mountain, lived Turquoise Boy, with twelve male companions and the Mirage People. After First Man had decreed many things about this third world, including the months and seasons, he said to Turquoise Boy, "Step inside the sun and put the reed flute with twelve holes under your shirt. Let the Mirage People step inside with you to keep you invisible to Earth People." Turquoise Boy agreed and said that whenever he passed by he should be recompensed by the death of a person. Whiteshell Boy was put into the moon for the same purpose.

There is perhaps some connection between this happening and the gift of the agate or turquoise 'man' Sun gave The Twins, represented by the pollen ball in the Shooting Chant (Pollen ball, Con. B; Goddard, pp.128, 135).

Water Horse (te 'Ii") (U), depicted in sandpainting and occasionally referred to in myth, was said to be Water Monster's pet; the name means literally 'deep-water-pet.' He was the guardian of Water Monster's home.

When The Twins were about to visit Hanging Cloud, the assembly which was to consider the matter of originating chants was announced by Water Monster and Water Horse, and was held at their home (Newcomb-Reichard p. 62, PI. XXIX, XXXIII; Matthews 1897, p.168; Reichard, Shooting Chant ms.).

Water Monster (te'xo'ltso'di') (U) is said to look much like an otter with fine fur, but has horns like a buffalo. The young look something like buffalo calves, but have spots of all colors, yellow hands, and a generally strange appearance. In sandpaintings Water Monster resembles Thunder, but has an elongated body. Monster Slayer transformed parts of the subdued Traveling Rock into Water Monster, who promised to keep mountain springs open and rivers flowing.
Water Monster was a character of the lower worlds.

Spider Woman stole Water Monster's child in the second world and it has been lost to this day.
Water Monster kept following the people to get back his child. The people made Spider give it back and Water Monster returned to the world below.

Water Monster is everybody's friend.

After the separated men and women agreed to live together again, a woman and her two daughters were left behind. The men promised to fetch them the next morning, but the women were so eager they jumped into the water. The mother drowned and the daughters were seized by Water Monsters. The people, aided by White Body (Talking God) and Blue Body (Water Sprinkler), went under the waters to the home of Water Monster. Coyote sneaked along. The monster refused to return the girls and Coyote stole two of his children, concealing them under his robe. He thereby caused the floods that drove people out of the fourth world.
Water Monster represented a large group of Water People who grabbed Self Teacher as he traveled in the whirling log. He defied Water Sprinkler, who came after the youth, but gave up to Black God when he set fire to the waters. An incident of the War Ceremony, in which Coyote and Owl sing, represents the conquest of Water Monster by Monster Slayer. In another version, Monster Slayer, attacked on his way to Sun's home, overcame Water Monster with a prayer. When I first wrote of sandpaintings l called this creature Water Ox, because I thought the horns distinguished him from Water Horse. The name was unfortunate, for horns do not characterize, but symbolize, power. The name means 'One-who-grabs-in-deep-water' (Newcomb-Reichard, p.62; Matthews 1897, pp.73-7, 168-70, 212, 8n; 232, lion; Wheelwright 1942, p.55; Stephen 1930, pp.100-i; Goddard, p.131; Haile 1938b, pp. 127-8).

Water Sprinkler (to ninili', to neinili') (P) often accompanies Black God, but he appears too with Talking God. Water Sprinkler, said to be the 'same' as Blue Body of the fourth world, is the rain bringer and water-carrier of the gods. The jar of collected waters is his symbol in story and sand-painting, though, curiously enough, he does not carry it in the masked impersonations. He controls rain and waters. He causes rain by sprinkling the collected waters in his jar in the four directions. He can separate and walk through deep or underground waters.
In the Night Chant, he is impersonated as a clown. His clothing is of inferior quality because he 'might get wet.' He is usually out of step with the other dancers. He gets in their way, peers about while the others concentrate on song and steps, moves away to inspect little things among the audience, or sits on the ground with his hands clasped around his knees and rocks his body to and fro. Sometimes he dances with the group, concentrating so seriously that he does not notice they have left the dance place; then discovering that he is alone, he runs after them as fast as he can go. Sometimes he carries the skin of a small animal which he drops and pretends not to notice. Suddenly he hunts everywhere for it in great agitation, although it lies in plain sight. When, after much tomfoolery, he finds it, he jumps on it as if trying to kill. At length he lifts it like a heavy burden and carries it away on his back. He is said to act like this because he is pleased with what is being done in the ceremony.
One of Water Sprinkler's duties, besides separating deep waters, is to extinguish fire made by Black God; in addition, he is often sent to investigate things in the water. He went to see what stopped the whirling log at an eddy and found a dam, but could not find the people who had made it. When the Fringed Mouths discovered it had been the Flat Tails, he helped to negotiate with them. When the log stopped again, Water Sprinkler found the people who had made the dam.
Water Sprinkler taught the Visionary of the Night Chant how to prepare and preserve the products of his garden.
Nearly all the gods officiate in some capacity at the bath rite of novices. At one of Rainboy's baths, numerous gods participated: the yucca roots had been pounded on one side and they were supposed to stand upright. Water Sprinkler volunteered to hold them up. Changing Woman made suds while Talking God sang, Water Sprinkler poured water into the basket, and Changing Woman removed the yucca roots.
Water Sprinkler lived at Big Willow, a long distance from Talking God's home in the canyon, but when anything happened that concerned them both, they met for consultation in between (Matthews 1897, pp. 68, 166, 168, 170; 1902, pp. 29, 175, 178, 180, 189-92, 208; Curtis, p. 106; Reichard 1939, p.31; 1944d, p. 79).

Water Woman (to 'asdza"n) (P) lives in the water and presides over all small tributaries. Rain is her child (Stephen ms.).

Water's Child (to biyaji) (H) is said by Father Berard to be spring water and by Matthews to be the splash of rain falling into a quiet pool (Haile 1938b, p. 254, 98n; Matthews 1902, p. 311, 22n).

Whirlwind (niyol) (U) is a common phenomenon in the Navaho country. If a person sees one coming toward him, he may rush toward it and say "s-s-su!" (the Navaho equivalent of "Scat!") and the whirlwind will turn in the opposite direction and subside.

Whirlwind and Flint Boy helped Youngest Brother when he was hidden in the fireplace, watching Changing-bear-maiden and Coyote. They made tunnels for him to hide in, gave him weapons and the monitors, Wind and Darkness (Matthews 1897, p. 101).
Whistling God, Sucking God, Squeaking God (xactc'e''idiltso'si') (U) is quite well described by Matthews. He gets his name from the sucking noise which the Navaho compare with that of a mouse. He has a black face and dwells in a cave in which there is a white rainbow; he is considered 'bad.'

He joined Superior God in hindering the progress of the whirling log.
Whistling Gods released the cave trap which had caught the Stricken Twins. These gods moved very fast and carried a four-stranded yucca whip. One of them told the Stricken Twins that every one who came to their house, even the gods, must be whipped; naturally they had few visitors.

Offerings are described for Whistling God.
There are some hints that Whistling God may be related to Wind (Sapir-Hoijer, pp. 177, 185, 224-7, 511, 93n; Matthews 1902, pp.181, 215, 236).

xactce'o'yan, xactc'e'oyan (P) is an untranslatable name of the weaker companion of the pair dominated by Talking God. Matthews translates it 'House God,' and strangely, his translation has been followed by all his successors except Goddard. Sandoval from Shiprock, who worked with Goddard, thought the misconception very amusing. Tla'h, who was from Newcomb, thought the translation ridiculous, but was more annoyed than amused by it. The informants at Ganado agreed in not attaching a meaning to the name.
xactc'e'oyan is minutely described by Matthews. What has been said of Talking God to the effect that symbols are emphasized, not exclusive, holds for his companion as well. xactc'e'oyan is represented as having charge of farm songs and is the god of evening or sunset.
Two origins are given for him: Yellow Body stood for xactc'e'oyan in the third world; he is said to have been created by Whiteshell Woman from a yellow corn ear.

As the gods flocked around the Visionary marveling at his turkey, he explained every symbol of its body. When he finished, the youth said to xactc'e'oyan, "That is the way my pet turkey is dressed. Tell me now, how is your pet turkey dressed?" The god answered, "I have no pet turkey. Things that belong to the water are mine.

Water Boy is said to be the son of xactc'e'oyan. The young man pitted against the sometime successful Gambler, the one who finally overcame him, was the son of xactc'e'oyan, whose name is not given; he was a young married man who had no children.
The god xactc'e'oyan is mentioned as often as Talking God, usually as his companion. xactc'e'oyan helped the Visionary by negotiating with the Water People, who impeded the whirling log; he blew upon the rainbow on which the Visionary moved his crops to start it. xactc'e'oyan was severe to the Stricken Twins until they had obtained the treasures of Awatobi; later, he was prominent in the ceremony for their treatment.
xactc'e'oyan is concerned with fees: Sun told his son by Rough Woman, groomed to beat Gambler, to get the stakes for betting from xactc'e'oyan. After everything had been prepared and the young man was ready to start off, the god asked about his fee. When it was promised, xactc'e'oyan advised the party to wait yet another day in order to make the mind of Gambler 'forked,' that is, to keep him from concentrating on his games; an additional fee was paid for this information.
When Monster Slayer caught his first eagle, he gave twelve choice tail feathers to Talking God and twelve tail feathers of the second eagle to xactc'e'oyan; these may now be seen in their headdresses and as rays of the rising and setting sun.
According to Stephen, xactc'e'oyan lives with Talking God inside La Plata Mountain; both guard the game animals.
When the gods took co, hero of the Night Chant, on a round of visits to the gods, they came to the home of one of the xactc'e'oyan (one of these gods was in the party but the house was not his). It was made of blue sky. On top of it grew four spruce trees: at the east, a white one with a pigeon on its tip; at the south a blue spruce with a bluebird; at the west, a yellow spruce with a pygmy owl; and at the north, a black spruce with a yellow-shouldered blackbird.
During their wanderings the Stricken Twins, with the conivance of Talking God, came into an assembly led by xactc'e'oyan at Broad Rock. The house was among the rocks; on its front there was a rainbow of two colors; as soon as the boys touched the rock,it flew open and they entered an empty chamber. On the opposite wall they saw an arched door of three rainbow colors, which also flew open. They continued through three rooms, each of which had one more color in the arch of the secret door, until they entered the fourth door, over which was a rainbow of five colors. The door itself was covered with beautiful rock crystals glittering like stars. When they entered the fourth room, they were confronted with so many Holy People that the lame boy was abashed and hung his head (Matthews 1897, pp. 68, 82-3, 225; 1902, pp. 10, 16, 179, 192, 208, 218, 263, 316, Pl. III, B, VI; Stevenson, p. 227; Goddard, pp. 142-3; Newcomb 1940b, pp. 63, 73; Stephen ms.).

xactc'e'do'di (P) is said to be another name for Water Sprinkler and Gray God.
When the Stricken Twins approached the gods' home, their dog barked. xactc'e'oyan, sent by Talking God to investigate, led the twins in.
xactc'e'do'di had a blue face and a quiver of puma skin, and accompanied Monster Slayer and Child-of-the-water in a rite.
When the Stricken Twins returned with the treasures of Awatobi, xactc'e'do'di' accompanied xactc'e'oyan as he went to meet them.
xactc'e'do'di helped Water Sprinkler to get sand for a sandpainting.
Possibly xactc'e'do'di is identified with Crane (Sapir-Hoijer, p. 511, 91n; Matthews 1902, pp. 230, 232, 256, 263; cp. Haile 1943a, p. 22).

xa'dactcici' (P), associated with yucca, appears in some forms of the Night Chant. His home is called Narrow-yucca-spreads; he carries a yucca plant on his back and a whip of yucca fiber in his hand. Whipping with yucca, believed to relieve lumbago or headache, is his only power.
xa'dactcici' conducted the Stricken Twins into one of the homes of the gods.
One of the mountain sheep that turned into gods became xa'dactcici' (Matthews 1897, p. 251, 266n; 1902, pp. 14-5, 233; Stevenson, p. 283).

Navajo Religion, Vol II; Gladys A. Reichard, 1950


After the medicine woman told the people about the prayersticks she told them that there was a place in the underworld where two rivers crossed. It was called ni tqin'kae tsosi, fine fiber cotton (Indian hemp). There were two persons who brought the seed of that plant, they were spiders. They said that the people were to use the plant instead of skins for their clothing. So this seed was planted in the earth. When the seeds were planted, the plant ripe, and the cotton gathered, the people shaped a little wheel, 3 or 4 inches in diameter, and they put a slender stick through it. This was used in the spinning of cotton. When they began spinning they pushed away from the body toward the knee. Then the chief medicine woman said: "You must spin towards your person, as you wish to have the beautiful goods come to you; do not spin away from you." For it was in their minds to make cloth which they could trade for shell and turquoise beads and she knew their thoughts. She said :"You must spin towards you, or the beautiful goods will depart from you." There were two names given to the spindle, yudi yilt ya'hote, meaning, turning or shooting around with the beautiful goods. This the Spider Man suggested; but his wife said: "It shall be called by another name, ntl is yilt ya'hote, turning with the mixed chips." After they had spun the thread they rolled it into good-sized balls. They brought straight poles and laid them down; one down, one opposite. They tied two other poles at the ends, making a rectangular frame. They rolled or wound the thread on two of the poles as the sun travels, east to west, over and under the poles. The Spider Man said that the ball of thread should be called, yudi yilt nasmas agha, rolling with the beautiful goods. His wife said: "No, it shall be called ntsli yilt nasmas agha, rolling with the mixed chips." After the loom was finished the cross poles were erected and other poles placed on the ground to hold the loom frame solidly, and the loom was stretched and lifted into place. Then the Spider Man said: "It will be called yoteblitz nes thon, looping with the beautiful goods." His wife said: "From hence forth it shall be called nil tliz biltz nes thon, looping with mixed chips." Then they used a narrow stick about two and a half feet long, and they wound the yarn or thread over it, and where there is no design they ran it along. That was given the same name as the ball of thread. The Spider Man held that it should have the same name as the ball; but his wife said: "No, it shall be called nil tliz nasmas agha." Then they used the wide flat stick for tapping down the thread. The Spider Man said: "It shall be called nil tliz na'ygolte" ; but his wife said: "It shall be called nil tliz na'ygolte, twining with the mixed chips". When they got this far with the weaving, the threads of the warp mixed together and were too near or too far apart. So another kind of stick was used. It had long, narrow teeth. It was also used for the purpose of tapping down the thread. The Spider Man said: "It shall be called yote yo'golte, hoeing with the beautiful goods." His wife said: "It shall be called nil iltz yo'golte." The Spider Man said: "Now you know all that I have named for you. It is yours to work with and to use following your own wishes. But from now on when a baby girl is born to your tribe you shall go and find a spider web which is woven at the mouth of some hole; you must take it and rub it on the baby's hand and arm. Thus, when she grows up she will weave, and her fingers and arms will not tire form the weaving." To this day that is done to all baby girls. The weaving progressed, and they made all kinds of articles. They used cotton and yucca fiber and Indian hemp. These were the thread. They raised turkeys, and they used the feathers for feather blankets. They ate the turkey flesh for their meat. They killed rabbits and cut the fur into strips, and they made fur blankets. They wove different kinds of grass into mats for their floors, and also, to hang in front of the openings of their houses. There were many kinds of weaving. The people lived peacefully and were happy in working out designs in the new art. They raised great quantities of corn. All this made them grow in number; they became a very strong people and their past troubles were forgotten; but this was not to last. Pg. 37, 38

The Dine': Origin Myths of the Navajo Indians; 1956, Aileen O'Bryan.

Weaving has been carried to a high degree of perfection by the Navaho. The art as it exists among them today is not an invention of their own, as nothing similar is found among any other tribe of the Athapascan stock. It is pretty safe to say that the Navaho learned the art of weaving from the Pueblos. Their own legends, however, account for it in their own way. The hanelnaeheke hani', or moving upward chant legend, records that the art of weaving was taught by the Spider Man and Spider Woman in the following manner. "The Spider Man drew some cotton (ndaka') from his side and instructed the Navaho to make a loom. The cotton-warp was made of spider-web (nashjei bitlol). The upper cross-pole was called yabitlol (sky or upper cord), the lower cross-pole ni'bitlol (earth or lower cord). The warp-sticks were made of shabitlol (sun rays), the upper strings, fastening the warp to the pole, of atsinltlish (lightning), the lower strings of shabitlajilchi (sun halo), the heald was a tsaghadindini isenil (rock crystal heald), the cord-heald stick was made of atsolaghal (sheet lightning), and was secured to the warp strands by means of nltsatlol billdestlo' (rain ray cords)." "The batten-stick was also made of shabitlajilchi (sun halo), while the beidzoi (comb) was of yolgai (white shell). Four spindles or distaffs were added to this, the disks of which were of cannel-coal, turquoise, abalone and white bead, respectively, and the spindle-sticks of atsinltlish (zigzag lightning), hajilgish (flash lightning), atsolaghal (sheet lightning), and nltsatlol (rain ray), respectively." "The dark, blue, yellow and white winds quickened the spindles (beedizi) according to their color, and enabled them to travel around the world."

Presumably, this legend accounts for the now vanishing tradition that weaving should be done with proper moderation. Overdone weaving (akeitlo) is ameliorated by a sacrifice offered to the spindle (beedizi). Its prayerstick (bik'et'an) consists of yucca, precious stones, bird and turkey feathers, tassels of grass (tlo'zol) and pollen, and forms part of the blessing rite (hozhoji). The hach'eyatqei, or ch'aeyatqei (prayer to the gods), is recited with the sacrifice. The custom withholding maidens from weaving before marriage, which was formerly observed, is also explained by the fear of overdoing weaving. Little or no attention, however, is paid to this tradition today. Pgs. 221, 223

For references to steps in weaving, coloring and dyeing of wool, setting up of loom, weaving, Implements, use of loom, designs and knitting refer to below Pgs. 223-256

An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers.

Take, for instance, the famous art of Navajo weaving. If you ask a member of the tribe today when weaving was learned, she - for Navajo weavers are women - will tell you that they were taught by Spider Woman, "in the beginning." Yet the Navajo weaving technique, point for point, exactly duplicates that of the Pueblos, who have been weaving since A.D. 600. It is a complicated art, and Navajo girls today need years to learn it from a female relative, practicing every day. It is difficult to believe that the Navajos had worked out the loom, the spindle, and all the other equipment before this era of "learning by marriage." A blanket got in trade, a loom glimpsed on a visit to some pueblo would never have given them enough information. Then there is the problem of sex etiquette, for most Pueblo weavers today are men. Indian proprieties would surely forbid a Navajo woman to receive daily instruction from a strange man. But if she married him! It is possible to imagine the skilled weaver working in a Navajo home, trying to teach his sons who were still wedded to the life of hunting and fighting and, finally, imparting the art to his daughters. That this did not happen too early in Navajo history can be gathered from the fact that all known specimens of Navajo weaving are in wool. Therefore they were made after the Spaniards had come and after the Navajos had sheep. And sheep did not come to the Navajos in any quantity until after the Pueblo revolt. Pgs. 46-47

The Navajos; 1956, Ruth M. Underhill.

Even such everyday tasks as weaving must be done only in moderation. Many women will not weave more than about two hours at a stretch; in the old days unmarried girls were not allowed to weave for fear they would overdo, and there is a folk rite for curing the results of excess in this activity. Closely related is the fear of completely finishing anything: as a "spirit outlet," the weaver leaves a small slit between the threads. Pgs. 225-226

The Navaho; 1946, Clyde Kluckhohn and Dorothea Leighton.

The Navajos believe in the Greek maxim "Nothing to excess " believing that overdoing a thing brings bad luck as an offense to the spirits. For the same reason nothing must be too perfect. A rug or basket design with a solid border must have a break in it or flaw to let the spirit of the maker, who has spent so much time and energy, escape. It is natural that things which bring one a livelihood should also have some restrictions. Many commercially minded weavers and other craftsmen have begun to ignore the taboos of their trades as being too restrictive. The large number of taboos relating to pottery making have been given credit for the decline of that craft, and none are listed here.


Don 't hit anyone with weaving tools - crack the tools.

They will be paralyzed in the future.


Don't spank your children with weaving tools.

They'll get sick.


Don't have a weaving comb with six points.

Your baby might have six fingers.


Don't go between the poles of the loom when a woman is weaving.

You won't grow - cause evil - won't get much for the rug.


Don't have the loom of the weaving stand too long.

It will tire and hurt you.


Don't eat or drink while you prepare the loom for the rug.

You'll get poor - won't get much for the rug.


Don't eat while you are weaving.

It will go slow - won't be any good.


Don't weave a Yei figure with one eye smaller or one leg shorter.

It will affect you that way in later life - affect your baby.


Don't leave a Yei figure in a rug unfinished.

The Yeis will get angry - bring bad luck.


This is interesting as a compromise taboo. Yeis are Holy People and as such are supposed to be represented only in the sandpaintings which are used and destroyed before sundown but never done in any permanent form. The famous hermaphroditic medicine man Hosteen Clah was one of the first to weave rug versions of the sandpaintings. In the Shiprock area Yei rugs and other pictorial tapestries became increasingly popular after WWII.


Don't be stubborn while weaving a rug.

It won't be worth much.


Don't throw weaving tools.

You 'II never finish the weaving.


Don't burn weaving tools.

The "Yeis" will get angry - bad luck.


Don't weave if you don't know a weaving song.

It won't be any good.


Don't leave tools in the loom when they are not in use.

You won't finish right away.


Don't weave when it is raining.

It will cause the loom to fall.


Don't stand by the loom when it is raining.

Lightning will strike you.


Don't pass things through the loom.

Anything you pass through will be lost -food, yarn, beads.


Don't bump into or move around a loom you are preparing for a rug.

It will be crooked - you won't be able to get it straight.


Don't leave carded wool too long.

When you start weaving it won't like it and you'll have trouble.


Don't make fun of your weaving.

It will get worse - you'll be poor.


Don't leave a loom outside.

It will collect bad things.


Don't cut off a loom once it is made.

You will have a short life.


Don't steal a rug - wool - weaving tools.

You'll never be lucky - always have bad luck.


Don't weave immoral things in a rug.

You'll be sterile.


Don't weave any taboo animal into a rug.

You will have all the bad luck associated with that animal.


Don 't hang rugs out in the sun.

The sun will take it as an insult.


Don't weave at all (boys).

It will affect the reproductive organs.


Don't weave on the north side of the hogan.

The rug won't be worth anything.


Don't drag your rugs on the ground.

Causes poverty.


Don't leave an unfinished rug outside at night.

It might be witched - you won't be able to finish it or sell it.


Don't put a rug over your horse's face.

It will go blind.


Pgs. 179-183

Navajo Taboos; 1991, Ernie Bulow.

The principal occupation of the present-day Navajo is raising sheep, goats, and a few cattle. And yet four hundred years ago he had seen no sheep or horses. Under the treaty of 1886, each Navajo was given two sheep - about twelve thousand sheep altogether, since not more than sic thousand Navajos survived Bosque Redondo. Now a million sheep graze on the Navajo land. Since the introduction of sheep to this country by Coronado's men, Navajo women have been weaving rugs on crude hand looms - an art which was not entirely new to them, since they already wove with yucca and other vegetable fibers. Pg. 167

Navajos, Gods, Tom-toms; By S.H. Babington, 1950.

There is a saying that a rug is not good unless a weaver puts her "soul" in it. Like Changing Woman, the Holy Person whom the Navajo woman personifies, the weaver is an eternal creator who weaves both an individual product of her own mind and a more universal product from the mind of the tribe. Pgs. 10-11

Sitting on the Blue-Eyed Bear, Navajo Myths and Legends; 1975, Gerald Hausman.