Navajo Ceremonial Wedding Basket
Artist: Lillie Black
Size: 10 1/4" x 2"
The Navajo wedding basket also reflects many values of traditional life and so often contains all six sacred mountains, including Huerfano and Gobernador Knob, though the size of the basket may determine the numher of mountains in the design. The center spot in the basket represents the beginning of this world, where the Navajo people emerged from a reed. This is where the spirit of the basket lives. The white part around the center is the earth, the black symbolizing the sacred mountains upon which are found water bowls. Above them are clouds of different colors. The white and black ones represent the making of rain. A red section next to the mountains stands for the sun's rays that make things grow. (Sacred Land Sacred View, Robert McPherson 1992).
A word might be said regarding the symbolism attached to the design of Navajo wedding trays, for it is one of the few southwestern basketry decorations which probably has meaning. One very simple interpretation is that the inner black steps represent the underworld; the red band is the earth and life; and the outer black steps stand for the upper world. Fishler recites the following interpretation which he obtained from one of his Navajo informants. The center spot (often a tiny opening) in the basket "represents the beginning of this earth as the Navajo merged from the cane"; the white around this is the earth. Stepped black designs represent the mountains, boundaries of Navajo lands; water bags and rainbows are draped on the mountains, clouds also rise from thm. All the white in the basket represents dawn, all red the sun's rays, and all black the clouds, said the informant. Fishler adds much symbolism relative to numbers of coils; he then tells how Navajo legend relates that this wedding basket design was given to this tribe by White Shell Woman, and Thunder taught them to weave the water jar and carrying basket. The braided rim is explained by the Navajo in terms of this legend: A Navajo woman was weaving under a juniper tree, trying to think of finishing the rim in some manner different from that of the regular stitch. A god tore a small sprig from the tree and tossed it into her basket. Immediately she thought of the braided rim. (Indian Baskets of the Southwest Clara Lee Tanner 1983).
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