Whirling Logs – The Navajo Sandpainting

According to Navajo tradition, the Whirling Logs sandpainting was a religious item.The Navajo people used the sandpainting in healing ceremony.Also, the Navajos referred to the sandpainting as an iikaah meaning an opening for the gods to enter and leave.The sandpainting was an essential device in the healing ceremony that could last up to nine days.A singer, who also was a medicine man, performed the healing ceremony. During the ceremony, the medicine man directed other Navajos in creating the sandpainting on the ground to illustrate an allegory within the healing ceremony. The sandpainters used crushed stones, flowers, gypsums, and pollen to create and complete the sandpainting in one day.Then, they destroyed it later that night in order to dispel evil and restore health.
In the Whirling Logs sandpainting, the Navajos depicted a story of Tsil-ol-ne, a hero who went on a long journey.Tsil-ol-ne floated on a hollow log traveling down the river, which is known as the San Juan River today, and there he learned ritual ceremonies to cure sickness and how to farm.When Tsil-ol-ne turned to his home, he shared all new ideas with his people.The sandpainting got its name as Whirling Logs due to the hero and his logs which were trapped in a whirlpool where the San Juan River and Colorado River meet, and he was rescued by the gods.
In the center of the sandpainting is the whirling cross with Yeis, who are the gods of the Navajos, seating in pair on each of the four ends. One is a male dressing in black with a round head mask, and the other is a female dressing in white with a square head mask.The Yeis taught Tsil-ol-ne how to farm and grow seeds.At the four corners of the whirling cross, starting from the top right corner clockwise, there are plants: corn, beans, squash, and tobacco.Figures around the four ends of the whirling cross, clockwise, are also the gods: Talking God, the teacher and the elder of other gods, w