Coyote Directional, detail, 1980s, Peggy Black, ET513.E-6
Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Directions Symbolism

The four cardinal directions play a fundamental role in orienting the Diné (Navajo) physically and spiritually. They are inseparable from the four sacred mountains and four sacred colors. The order in which the Diné name the four directions reflects the movement of the sun across the sky: east (white) is dawn light; south (blue) is the day; west (yellow) the evening, and north (black) the night. Dawn light in the east is holy and it is from the east that blessings come. Thus, ts’aa’ (ceremonial baskets) and sand paintings are oriented to the east during ceremonies and pollen is administered first facing east, then south, west, north and back to the east. Hogan entrances face east, and upon entering, one moves clockwise around the space like the movement of the sun. The Diné recognize many other directions as well, including ahead, behind, below, above, all around me, and at the tip of my tongue.