The Sandpainting Of The Fire

: Things To See In Springtime

The Sandpainting of the Fire The Sandpainting of the Fire

When I was staying among the Navaho Indians, I met John Wetherall, the trader. He had spent half his life among them, and knew more of their ways than any other white man that I met. He told me that part of the education of Navaho priest was knowing the fifty sandpaintings of his tribe. A sandpainting is a d

sign made on the ground or floor with dry sands of different colours—black, white, gray, yellow, red, etc. It looks like a rug or a blanket on the ground, and is made up of many curious marks which stand for some man, place, thing, or idea. Thus, the first sandpainting is a map of the world as the Navaho knew it, with rivers and hills that are important in their history. These sandpaintings cannot be moved; a careless touch spoils them, and a gust of wind can wipe them out. They endure only in the hearts and memories of the people who love them.

In the Woodcraft Camp there is but one sandpainting that is much used; that is, the Sandpainting of the Fourfold Fire. When I make it in camp, I use only white sand or powdered lime; but indoors, or on paper, I use yellow (or orange) and white.

This is the story of the sandpainting. The fire is the symbol of the Great Spirit; around that we draw a great circle, as in the diagram.

At each of the four sides we light another fire; these four are called Fortitude, Beauty, Truth, and Love, and come from the Fire through Spirit, Body, Mind, and Service.

Then from each of these we draw three golden rays. These stand for the twelve laws of Woodcraft, and they are named in this way:

Be Brave, Be Silent and Obey;

Be Clean, Be Strong, Protect Wild Life alway;

Speak True, Be Reverent, Play Fair as you Strive!

Be Kind; Be Helpful; Glad you are alive.

And the final painting is as in the drawing. Of course the names are not written on the real thing though the Woodcraft scout should know them.