Healing carpets of Navajo

It is long known that the symbols woven into Persian carpets each carry with it a certain energy. These energies vary from protection to good health to good fortune to fertility. Used together in one carpet they become a united well-wishing token and the weavers are acutely aware of effect it has and the power it carries.

The Navajo in America uses symbols for balancing/healing in their tribe, but instead of weaving it into a carpet they draw the symbols with sand on top of a skin or cloth. The medicine man draws a carpet with symbols of the sand, by letting the sand flow through his fingers in a controlled manner whilst chanting. The sand carpet contains symbols of healing and also of the Holy People. Based on the nature of balancing/healing required the medicine man will determine which symbols to draw and this requires years of training because the Navajo have between 600 to 1,000 different designs to use. The colours for the painting are usually accomplished with naturally coloured sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Brown can be made by mixing red and black; red and white make pink. Other colouring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark.

The accuracy of the medicine man’s sand carpet design will determine the effectiveness of the balancing/healing that the person wishes to achieve. The person who requires the balancing/healing sits in the middle of the carpet whilst the healing ceremony commences. The sand carpets are not viewed as lifeless drawings, but as living spiritual beings that must be respected greatly. During the balancing/healing ceremony the medicine man and tribe chants to invite the sand carpet (via the symbols in it) to interact with the person and assist with correcting the imbalances present in them. Depending on the severity of the imbalance up to 30 different sand paintings can be done for one balancing/healing and the chanting ceremonies can last for days, in which at least one new sand painting carpet must be drawn daily.

The paintings are destroyed after each ceremony. There are hardly any pictures available of these creations since the Navajo believe that the energies might be disturbed if strangers are allowed and the whole balancing/healing of a person solely depends on achieving the right energy balance. An esteemed Navajo master weaver and medicine man, Hosteen Klah, painted one of his sand carpets, but Navajo traditionalists view it as sacrilege, something to not be seen unless in a balancing/healing ceremony of the Navajo by the Navajo. A carpet was later woven of his painting by Mrs Sam Maurelito.