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Yeis & Yei Be Chais
Yei is the Navajo name for a deity or a holy one. The portrayal of Navajo ceremonial art in rugs is generally attributed to Hosteen Klah, a Navajo medicine man and weaver born in 1867 and died in 1937. Hosteen Klah reproduced in rugs the sacred sandpainting images that are part of Navajo healing ceremonies. The weaving of Yei figures in Navajo rugs became prevalent after the popularity of Hosteen Klah’s sandpainting pictorials. The Yeis are woven facing outward. They are usually depicted with long bodies and skirts and hold sacred plants or symbols. Most Yeis are depicted as female with square shaped heads but less commonly the round headed males are woven. Yei figures in rugs are usually bordered by a rainbow guardian on three sides and other traditional guardians such as bats, and rattles are also used. Traditionally it is considered sacrilegious to weave the eyes and mouths of the Yeis so these features are often embroidered in after the rug is woven. Navajo Yei Be Chai rugs are a pictorial showing the masked dancers that impersonate the Yei gods on the last day of many ceremonies. These figures are traditionally depicted in profile with blue masks with the Talking God at the head and the water sprinkler or clown Yei in the rear.