Sand painting

DEFINITION

From a Navajo Indian word "iikaah", meaning "the place where the gods come and go". Sand Paintings are linked to the Southwest Navajo culture and have been a part of their religious rituals, especially healing, from time undocumented in white culture. For the healing ceremony, traditionally a Sand Painting is made under the guidance of a medicine man and should be destroyed before dawn. If not destroyed, dire retribution could be visited upon both the medicine man and the person he is attempting to help. The patient was supposed to sit in the middle of the completed painting, face the east toward the door of the hogan, an eight-sided home. Then the Navajo gods would arrive from the east and impart their healing powers to the Sand Painting. Until the latter part of the 20th century, Sand Paintings were one to three inches thick and composed of a sprinkling through a cupped hand of different colored materials such as flower petals, rocks, fresh sand and pollen. Four principal colors were used: White symbolizing dawn and the sacred mountain of Shell Peak or Mount Blanca in Colorado; Turqoise blue for the sky and for Turquoise Mountain or Mount Tailor in New Mexico; Yellow for twilight and for Abalone Shell Mountain or San Francisco Peak in Arizona; and Black for darkness and for Black Coal Mountain or Mount Hesperus in Colorado. A woven batten made from cloth or animal skin was used to smooth the mixture. In the 1940s, the Navajos began making permanent sand paintings, which have been purchased by reservation visitors and which allow designs to be kept for posterity. The components are sprinkled onto an exoxy-covered board, but designs are original to protect the magic and special significance of the traditional paintings. Also, dating from the 1930s, Navajos have used traditional sand-painting designs in weavings, but again motifs are varied so as not to violate sacred meanings. Source: Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson, Scripps Howard News Service, "Scottsdale Tribune", 7/9/2005, D2 (LPD)

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