Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Navajo Wedding Baskets

As in all cultures, weddings and the activities surrounding them are a very personal and preferential thing. This being said, some traditions are enduring, having been repeated time and time again. For the Navajo people, weddings have always been cause for celebration.  Within the Navajo culture, wedding baskets are symbolic and of great importance.

Coiled Medicine/ Wedding basket by Rose Johnson (Navajo)


It has been told, that the wedding basket was given to the Navajo people by the White Shell woman, while the ability to weave came from the Thunder.  The braided rim is believed to have come about when a Navajo woman fell asleep under a juniper tree; her unfinished basket in her lap.  It has been said that a small spring of the tree was tossed into her basket by the holy people, giving her the idea to finish the basket with a braided rim.    

Coiled Medicine/ Wedding basket by Natalie Edgewater (Navajo)

The Navajo Wedding basket is a coiled, woven basket made from willow, which is bundled together with stitching made from split willow or sumac. The typical coloring of the baskets are red, black, and white. Many of these colors come from natural dyes such as cochineal, bee plant or wild spinach. When the basket is in use, the opening or ‘spirit path’ faces to the east.

The design of the basket is deliberate and every bit holds significance. The white on the outside represents the outside world. The black on the outside embodies the rain clouds and the darkness, while the red pathway is for rainbows and sun rays.

The black on the inside represents the sacred mountains. There are four to six depicted, depending on the basket.  The scared mountains are as follows:

1.  Blanca Peak (Sisnaajiní) - EAST
2.  Mount Taylor (Tsoodził) - SOUTH 
3.  San Francisco Peaks (Dook’o’oosłiid) - WEST 
4.  Mount Hesperus (Dibé Nitsaa) - NORTH
5. El Huerfano (Dziłná’oodiłii) - DOORWAY
6.  Gobernador Knob (Ch’óol’í’í) - CHIMNEY
The white inside of the basket represents the Navajo people into the current fourth world.

Coiled Medicine/ Wedding basket by Ray Growler (Navajo)


The Navajo wedding basket is used in traditional wedding ceremonies.  One of the most common purposes is to serve corn meal as part of the ceremony. A mixture of corn meal (white to symbolize the male and yellow the female) are combined to represent a marriage bond.  The couple feed one another as a sign of their everlasting commitment to each other.  It is then passed around to the wedding guests, who partake in the symbolic sharing of corn meal. This ritual has been continue over the years and is still commonly practiced today.

A basket as rich in history, symbolism and value as these are considered one of the greatest legacies passed down through generations.  


Navajo Wedding Blessing

May you find the strength of an eagle’s wings,
And the courage and faith to soar to great heights,
And may you be granted the universal wisdom to
carry you there.

—NAVAJO SONG OF BLESSING AFTER VOWS


To view Navajo wedding baskets for purchase; click here.

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