The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather of the Dine’ (Navajo)

The Dine’, more commonly known as the Navajo, is the largest American Indian nation in North America.

The Sacred Talking Prayer Feather is part of their creation stories and teachings.

 

Sacred Talking Prayer Feather by Alan Nash, Navajo

 

 

 

Feathers are beings and represent many beliefs. These beings, as birds and their feathers, are used to guide and control a person’s mind and body.

 

The eagle helps to heal and guide; the eagle’s feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. The eagle feather is called the Sacred Talking Prayer Feather and is used in various ceremonies for physical as well as social healing.

At one time, eagle feathers were put in a moccasin to protect the wearer and give guidance and swiftness.

 

Because it is illegal to own or sell eagle feathers, today Sacred Talking Prayer Feathers and other Native American feathers and fans are made using natural turkey feathers or white turkey feathers than have been hand painted to look like an eagle feather.

 

Hand Painted Feather Hair Tie by Alan Monroe, Oglala Lakota

 

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Native American Symbol – Dreamcatcher

Native American Symbol:

Dreamcatcher

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Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatcher – Some consider the dreamcatcher a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures.

Dreamcatchers are an authentic American Indian tradition from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe. A dreamcatcher is a based on a hoop (traditionally of willow), on which is woven a net or web of sinew in a somewhat similar pattern to how the Ojibway tied webbing for snowshoes. A “dream-catcher” was hung in the sleeping area as a charm to protect children from nightmares. A legend holds that a dreamcatcher filters a person’s dreams, letting through the good ones and trapping bad dreams in the web. Some believe that a dreamcatcher can help us remember our dreams.

Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatchers are often decorated with personal and sacred items such as feathers, totems and beads. While these additions may make a dreamcatcher appealing and add to them as a work of art, it is suggested by some that such ornaments are not appropriate on dreamcatchers used for “catching dreams” as they could interfere with the spiraling motion of the web and can cause disturbing dreams.

Generally, a dreamcatcher is suspended near the place where you sleep, on the wall, or perhaps from a lampshade or bedpost.

Mandala – Sometimes misspelled mandalla or mandella, it is from the Sanskrit, circle. A mandala is a circular image or item with ritualistic geometric designs that link to and are symbolic of the universe. Used mostly in Hinduism and Buddhism, a mandala is similar to a dreamcatcher but it has no web. Instead, the circle is filled with designs or can be filled with yarn, feathers, fur and usually has feathers hanging from the bottom. A mandala is something you use as an aid in meditation or hang for prosperity and good fortune on a door or wall inside your office, home, hogan, or tipi.

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver

Native American Symbols – The Naja

Native American Symbol - The Naja

Native American Symbol - The Naja

The Naja has its origin with the Moors in Spain. It is a good luck charm to ward off the evil eye. It was often used on the browband of Moorish Horses. It is thought that it was handed down from the Spanish Moors to Mexico and then to the Navajo Indians. The sterling silver naja pendant shown at above was made by Navajo artist Francis Begay.

The naja is the base of many ornate squash blossom necklaces.



How Zuni Navajo Native American Fetishes Are Made

How Zuñi & Navajo Native American Fetish Carvings are Made

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Stones UsedZuni Horse Fetish Carving

Although fetishes are carved from many types of rock today, fish rock is the stone traditionally used for fetish carvings. Also popular are pipestone, serpentine, Picasso marble, turquoise, jet, picture jasper, argite, lapis, azurite, sodalite, marble, dolomite, mother of pearl (MOP), onyx, and spiny oyster. See more about Stones.

Medicine Bundle

Zuni Bear Fetish carving with medicine bundleMany fetishes have a medicine bundle, offering bundle, or adornment tied on the back of the animal that can consists of coral seed beads, shell heishi, feathers and other stone pieces. These may be used as an offering to the fetish, to evoke the spirit of the fetish or to increase the strength of a fetish.

Coral bits, from the ocean, represent marine life or the heart of the fetish.

Turquoise represents the sky and water.

Penn shell heishi is brown and represents the earth.

Use of the six colors (see Six Directions below) white, yellow, red, blue, black and speckled or multi-colored, together symbolize the six directions.

Feathers are very powerful medicine when added to fetishes, so are rarely added to rock carvings for the market.

Arrowhead

Medicine Bundle on Zuni fetish carvingSometimes a stone arrow is included in the bundle. It used to be these were real arrowheads but now they are small arrowheads carved out of shell. The arrowhead can protect the fetish from harm on its journey and the arrowhead can strengthen the power of the fetish.

If the arrow points ahead, it protects the fetish from things it will encounter.

If the arrow points backward, it protects the fetish from things that might come up from behind.

The bundle is tied on with sinew, which is from muscle fiber and symbolizes strength. Some contemporary artists use leather or heavy beading thread.

DetailZuni Horse Fetish carving from Fishrock

The style and detail of carving varies among artists but usually includes detail on the face, ears, tail and mane. Often the eyes and other spots of adornment on the animal are inset pieces of contrasting stones such as turquoise and coral.

Heart Line

Zuni Fetish Carving with Heart LineSingle, double and triple heart lines are inset in some fetishes. The heart line is a line etched, painted or inlaid along one or both sides of the animal. It usually extends from the mouth to the region of the heart.

There are many interpretations as to what a heart line represents, but it is often said to represent the pathway of the breath of the animal to the life force, which is the heart. Others feel that the heart line points to the soul of the animal. It is thought that a heart line gives the fetish healing or medicinal power.

A Brief Glimpse into the World of the Navajo

NAVAJO LIFE

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Navajo legend says that Dine had to pass through three different worlds before emerging into the present world – the Fourth World or Glittering World. So, the Holy People put four sacred mountains in four different directions. Mt. Blanca in the east. Mt. Taylor in the south, San Francisco Peaks in the west, and Mt. Hesperus in the north, thus creating the boundaries of Navajoland.

The Navajo (Diné) and Apache tribal groups of the American Southwest speak dialects of the language family referred to as Athabaskan. The Navajo people are very dynamic and creative people who strongly believe in the power of the mind to think and create; finding expression in the myriad symbolic creations of the Navajo language, art and ritual ceremonies.

Aside from being the mother tongue of the Navajo Nation, the Navajo language also has played a highly significant role in helping the entire nation. During World War II, the Navajo language was used as a code to confuse the enemy. Navajo bravery and patriotism is unequaled. Navajos were inducted and trained in the U.S. Marine Corps to become “code talkers” on the front-line. Shrouded in secrecy at the time, these men are known today as the famed Navajo Code Talkers, proved to be the only code that could not be broken during World War II.

Family is very important to the Navajos. There is the immediate family, and the extended family. The extended family is broken up into clans, which were created by the Holy Ones. The four original clans are ‘Towering House’, ‘Bitterwater’, ‘Big Water’ and’ One-who-walks-around’.

Today there are about 130 clans. When one Navajo meets another for the first time they tell each other what clan they are from.

A Navaho house is called a “hogan” and is made of logs, brush, and earth. Summer houses are also utilized and made of brush with a windbreak.

Each symbol has specific meaning with its own story.

The Story of Navajo Creation

THE STORY OF NAVAJO CREATION

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It is said that the Creator had a thought that was Light in the East. The thought went South and created Water, West and created Air, then North and created Pollen from emptiness. Pollen became the Earth.

Light, air, water, and earth is part of everything in nature which is interconnected and equal. When all of the elements mixed together, the first thing created were the Holy People. The Holy People were responsible for teaching what is right and wrong. When the Holy people were given the original laws, they created the earth and human beings.

The Creator and the Holy People created the Natural World including humans, birds, and all animals. This Natural World was put in Hozjo (BALANCE). Hozjo (harmony, balance, and peace) only occurs when there is interconnectedness. All members of the Natural World depend on each other.

The emergence of highest level of Navajo Hozjo was Xajiinai, a hole in the La Plata mountains of SW Colorado. The Holy People have the power to hurt or help, and centuries ago taught Dine (The People) how to live in harmony with Mother Earth, Father Sky and the other elements: man, animals, plants, insects. The Dine believe that when the ceremonies cease the world will cease.