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Navajo culture is reflected in artwork and religious ceremonies. The Navajo people are famous for their beautiful silver jewelry. Navajo silversmiths fashioned belts, necklaces, earrings, and rings from silver. They also used silver to create “ketohs” – specialized braces placed upon the wrist to protect it from the backsnap of a bow. Ketohs allowed the archer to shoot arrows with precision. Navajo artists also made colorful blankets from wool.
The Navajo people held many interesting religious ceremonies and celebrations. Most of their ceremonies were held to restore harmony. The Navajo believed in good and evil, but that evil could take over if the universe was not in harmony. Ceremonies were held to honor the “holy people” of Navajo culture such as Coyote, Changing Woman, and the Corn People.
Sings and Blessingways
A “sing” was one of the most important Navajo ceremonies. In a sing, a medicine man might perform an old, complicated song and dance designed to restore harmony, heal the sick, protect a family, promote the growth of crops, or protect a village’s herds. The sing was always dedicated to one of the “holy people.” A “blessingway” was a ceremony in which something was requested of the “Holy People.” The request could be as simple as a blessing over a newborn baby or newly conceived marriage, or, for protection against enemies in a pending raid. The Navajos believed that the “Holy People” would grant their requests if they approved of the blessingway, or, if they were displeased, evil spirits could interfere.
The Navajos made “sand paintings” as part of a Sing or Blessingway. A sand painting was a large picture made on the floor of a hut made of different colored sands that were carefully crafted between the second and third fingers. The pictures could be ten or twelve feet long and told of magical stories or characters with super powers. Sand paintings were made in the hopes of healing people. Such paintings were destroyed before nightfall so that evil spirits could not infiltrate them. Traditionally, sand paintings were made by medicine men who wished to restore harmony toward a sick person. After the sand painting was finished, the “patient” sat on it and hoped that the powers of the “holy people” could be absorbed. After the ceremony, the sand painting was considered poisonous because it absorbed an illness or disease.