Shiprock Yei authentic Navajo weaving.
The Vintage Navajo Rug weaving measures 30″ x 60″.
History of Navajo Yei
“Yei” (pronounced “yay”) is the Navajo name for the benevolent supernatural beings who bring their healing power to medicinal ceremonies still performed today. In fact, they were first portrayed in traditional sandpainting designs created for these ceremonies, but the modern Yei rug is more of a pictorial composition, showing a row of the front- facing stylized stick figures. Between the Yeis cornstalks, feathers and arrows may appear, and a Rainbow Guardian often surrounds and protects the figures on three sides, indicating the sandpainting roots of this particular style.
Some weavers of Yeis have a ceremony performed to show respect and keep harmony in their lives. In color, anything goes in the weaving of a Yei rug. A dozen or more hues may be used.
They have to have a sing done by a medicine man. That’s how they weave them.
— Hele Kirk, Kinlichee, Arizona A Guide to Navajo Rugs
These intriguing rugs are strongly representative of the Navajo culture. Navajo ceremonialism centers on a desire for healing: not only physical health, but also mental, emotional, spiritual, and even material well-being. The “Holy People” portrayed in the Yei rugs are believed to restore healh when called upon in a properly conducted ceremony.
A Guide to Navajo Rugs
There is an ageless beauty to Navajo weaving. Navajo weavings are many things to people. Above all else, Navajo weavings are masterworks, regardless of whose criteria of art is used to judge them. They are evocative, timeless portraits which, like all good art, transcend time and space. Navajo weaving has captured the imagination of many not only because they are beautiful, well-woven textiles but also because they so accurately mirror the social and economic history of Navajo people. Succinctly, Navajo women wove their life experiences into the pieces.
Navajo people tell us they learned to weave from Spider Woman and that the first loom was of sky and earth cords, with weaving tools of sunlight, lightning, white shell, and crystal. Anthropologists speculate Navajos learned to weave from Pueblo people by 1650. There is little doubt Pueblo weaving was already influenced by the Spanish by the time they shared their weaving skills with Navajo people. Spanish influence includes the substitution of wool for cotton, the introduction of indigo (blue) dye, and simple stripe patterning. Besides the “manta” (a wider-than-long wearing blanket), Navajo weavers also made a tunic-like dress, belts, garters, hair ties, men’s shirts, breechcloths, and a “serape-style” wearing blanket.