Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nightway Chant, Whirling Logs, Navajo Sandpainting

In the Navajo culture, there are many chants and ceremonies that can bring healing to a patient. The Nightway Chant from the Whirling Logs narrative is a nine night long chant. Traditionally, the medicine man will direct the creation of a sandpainting which would depict the allegorical lesson of the night. Before dawn, the sandpainting was the be destroyed because if kept into the morning, bad things would come to the seer and the patient. It wasn't until 1930 that a Navajo tribesman stepped away from tradition  and wove the stories of the sandpaintings into textile for the preservation of culture. 

The Whirling Logs story from the Nightway chant tells the story of a hero who, with the help of the gods, carves out a log and heads down river despite the many attempts of others to dissuade him. Along the way there are many difficulties as on any journey, this hero ends up gaining important knowledge on religious ceremonies. This specific piece of textile features the Talking God and the Calling God. The Talking God is evidenced by his tall stick and the Calling God represents farming and fertility. The other two characters on the left and right are seed-planters and crop gatherers. 


  1. The Navajo call it "Whirling Logs". In India the same formation is called the Manji. Literally translated the Manji is "The Whirlwind". If that isn't curious enough the Whirling Logs/ Manji is often used in Native American sand paintings. Sand paintings are first cousins to Medicine Wheels and Medicine Shields used for centuries in North America. Its almost universally accepted that Medicine Shields and Medicine Wheels are a form of the Buddhist/Hindu Mandala. The fact that the Whirling Logs are so often used in sand painting
    mandalas should make it obvious to somebody that this is no coincidence and is actually tied to
    foreign influences in pre Columbian America.

    1. When we see ritual art in Australia and North America depicting hands we don't assume, "What a coincidence! There must have been prehistoric contact between Australians and Native Americans". We understand that all people have hands. Jung tells us that when we see similar religious symbols in various cultures around the globe it is not necessarily a result of contact but instead these symbols are archetypal and arise from a common structures of the human mind and common experience of our universe. Jung wrote extensively on the universality of mandala symbolism among human cultures.

  2. Can anyone identify the weaver of this particular work?
    Is this rug on display for the public somewhere?
    Where did this image come from?
    Is this rug available to purchase?