Navajo Rug with Nightway Chant Whirling Logs


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Weaver Unknown

Navajo textiles woven following the return of the Diné from Bosque Redondo to their homeland retained features of the blankets woven before their incarceration. One of those features was a borderless textile. Wearing blankets did not have borders, nor did earlier floor rugs.

This textile is typical of the early rugs and likely dates to the early 1900s, perhaps to 1910. The white background wool is soft texture and probably from churro sheep raised by the weaver. Each of the snowflake designs is outlined in red. The three patterns nearest the border are dark blue, the adjoining row is a carded white and gray wool surrounding a small hourglass of beige color, and the two in the next row are of the same beige color.

The four Whirling Logs of beige color have legs tipped in dark blue. The single Whirling Log design is a mixture of red and blue. The Whirling Log element, sometimes referred to as a Swastika, needs clarification as it is a design lifted from a Navajo ceremonial sandpainting from the Nightway ceremony.

Whirling Log design

As shown in the sandpainting image, the two cross bars represent logs that the Twin War Gods rode down the river in a twirling manner. The Twin War Gods of the sandpainting were converted to a solid bar on each edge of the logs when the symbol was transferred from a sandpainting to a textile by a weaver. So, the bars of what appears to be a Swastika are actually representatives of the Twin War Gods.

It is realized that this explanation will not overcome the hurt and anger associated with the Swastika, but hopefully it will soften the impact once understood in relation to the Diné people. This symbol was popular throughout the reservation in the early 1900s, but was discontinued in use by the Diné in the early 1930s, likely influenced by traders who explained the current impact of the symbol.

The red dye is from an aniline source. It is difficult to determine if the dark blue is indigo or an aniline dye. Its richness in color would make one suspect it was indigo dye.

The current owner stitched a strip of cloth at the top of the textile in which to insert a rod so that the rug could be displayed on a wall. The strip of cloth can be removed if one chose to use this on the floor rather than on the wall.

A useful way of remembering which is warp and which is weft is: 'one of them goes from weft to wight'.

Warp and Weft: In weaving, the weft is the term for the yarn, which is drawn through, inserted over-and-under, the lengthwise warp yarns that are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Warp is the lengthwise or longitudinal thread in a roll, while weft is the transverse thread. The weft is a thread usually made of spun fiber. The original fibers used were wool or cotton. Because the weft does not have to be stretched on a loom in the way that the warp is, it can generally be less strong. The weft is threaded through the warp using a "shuttle." -Wikipedia

Condition: very good condition with one small hand stitched repair and minor edge cord loss.

Provenance: this Navajo Rug with Nightway Chant Whirling Logs is from a Santa Fe resident who purchased it in the early 1970s from Rick Dillingham and Joe Carr when they shared a business in Santa Fe.

Recommended Reading: Rodee, Marian E. One Hundred Years of Navajo Rugs, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque

TAGS: textilesNavajo Nation


Weaver Unknown
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