Navajo Wool Textile of a Single Figure Yei Rug - C3969G
A Yei (pronounced "yay") is a spirit being of the Navajo (Diné) people. Yei are summoned by medicine men during Navajo healing ceremonies. The medicine man will create a dry painting to recreate specific stories which, along with songs, aid the patient in the healing process, to bring him or her back to harmony. The paintings are intricate, and for the ceremony to be successful, everything must be executed precisely. It can take years to learn the proper songs and the corresponding paintings that ensure harmony for the patient. The correct depiction of the Yei are essential components of the ceremony.
In the early 20th century, trading posts came into prominence on the Navajo reservation. The traders at individual posts promoted certain textile styles and patterns which they encouraged the weavers in their area to weave. Trader Will Evans at the Shiprock Trading Company fostered and marketed the pictorial designs which included Yei. Although Yei are religious beings from Navajo ceremonies, the weavings themselves have no religious significance. These rugs require a high degree of technical skill to weave and only the very best weavers could accomplish the task of creating a pictorial Yei weaving.