Helbing Collection A-Z is a continuing feature of our blog. Each week, I will highlight an item or items from our Helbing Collection of Native American Arts and Crafts.
The dancers are part of the Nightway ceremony – a major curative ceremony which restores harmony. It invokes the Yeis, a special category of Holy People who are inclined to help the Navajo. A nine day ceremony, it is performed during the cold months when there is no chance of being hit by lightning and when the snakes are hibernating.
During ceremony, a team will be composed of fourteen dancers: the leader Yeibichai – the Talking God, six male dancers, six women dancers, and finally, the Water Sprinkler – the God of Precipitated Waters. On the final night, teams of dancers appear in public in what is referred to as the Yeibichai Dance until just before dawn. The ceremony ends with the chanting of the “Bluebird Song” which celebrates the happiness and the peace that the bluebird symbolizes.
Cleora wrote, “This all white wool, 33 by 31 inch wall hanging is decorated with woven Yeibichai dancers done in blue, maroon, yellow, brown, and orange wool. Two of these dancer figures are in the center of the piece. The third dancer forms the border with head and body on one side, and very elongated legs running at the base of the other dancers and up the other side. This is a Navajo wall hanging.”