Navajo yei rug
Navajo yei rug
44" wide x 44 1/2" high
handspun wool, some of it synthetic dyed
ex: Private Collection
When someone is ill or needs help from the deities, the Navajo appeal to the yei (supernatural beings) by hiring a medicine man to perform a sandpainting ceremony. The yei are go-betweens to the deities who bring healing to the person in need. At the height of the ceremony, the Navajo medicine man paints a proscribed and detailed sandpainting, which is erased from the ground at the end of the ceremony. Traditionally, the Navajo considered it a sacrilege to portray the ceremony in a permanent form.
During the 1920s, there were a few medicine men who were concerned that the detailed information of the sandpainting ceremony would be lost. They therefore wove or had a relative weave the design into a textile. While this practice is still not common, the yei began to be woven in a pictorial form, not an accurate design as presented in the ceremony. Commercially, the yei rugs are greatly appreciated by the collecting market.
This particular yei rug was woven for the commercial market. It has a clear reference to fertility and growth with the placement of a corn stalk in the center of the design. There is a rainbow figure that surrounds the yei, offering protection to them. The abrache of the natural wools adds a wonderful depth and feeling to this textile.
Please note that on one side of the textile, there is a strip of velcro that was stitched onto unbleached muslin, which was in turn loosely stitched onto the rug. Conservators approve of this method of display and the strip can easily be removed from the textile with no damage, should the owner desire it.