According to Navajo Medicine man, John Holiday, ceremonial baskets tell the story of the Southwest and when the world was created. From John Holiday, Monument Valley, Utah, April 16, 2001:
“Before the earth was created as we know it now, there were the jewel baskets–one of white shell, one of turquoise, one of jet, one of abalone, and two others. When First Man and First Woman were created, then the regular ceremonial basket came after these baskets. This ceremonial basket is all of the jewel baskets combined into one.”
It’s true. The original of the ceremonial basket reaches back into the deepest parts of Navajo history. The basket’s place is firmly embedded in the first stories of the people and their gods.
In order to understand the basket’s importance in ceremonial and everyday life, we turn to these stories to learn about its role in providing a sacred, protected space. It also gives visual instruction about a person’s own life, and the history of the Navajo people.
Here we see jewel baskets, the foundation of all ceremonial baskets throughout Navajo history. And, to understand the origin of these baskets, we must journey back to the origins of the Navajo people, back to their First World.
But… That story is for another time. For now, enjoy John Holiday’s words, his beautiful spirit, and his infectious joy of life.
(We would like to thank Georgiana Simpson, author of Navajo Ceremonial Baskets, Sacred Symbols, Sacred Space for the astonishing amount of work she has put into capturing the old stories and art in books for all time!)