UbuWeb Ethnopoetics : Visuals



Sand painting from the Bead Chant, third in the present series with continuing narrative. While the Snakes lift Scavenger through the sky hole, Reichard notes the following: "In this painting we have an illustration of the subtle variation the Navajo make on a single theme. The boy is [again] depicted as a person. … He has the wands given him by [the gods] Talking God and Fringed Mouth in his hands. … The element which gives this painting distinction and originality is the introduction and arrangement of the peculiar bird-snake figures. The description of the legend is identical with the picture. The combination of snake body with lines running down it, the peculiar appendages at the angles of the body, and the birdhead show the cooperation of snake, lightning and bird power, all of which were necessary to lift the heavy human through the last distance between earth and sky after pure bird power had failed." (Gladys A. Reichard, Navajo Medicine Men, 1939)

The Bead Chant sand paintings continue through nine installments, accompanied by songs and other appropriate actions. The medicine man and artist in question is identified as Miguelito, year of birth about 1865 at Fort Sumner. Reichard’s biographical account forms a chapter of Navajo Medicine Men.

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