Four Directional Ceremonial, 2004, Evelyn Cly, ET513.C-11
Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Four Symbolism

The number four is pervasive in Diné (Navjo) belief and practice. Asdzą́ą́ Nádleehé (Changing Woman) originally created four Diné clans that continue today: Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House), Honágháahnii (One Who Walks Around You), Tódích’íí’nii (Bitter Water), and Hashtł’ishnii (Mud Clan). Four sacred mountains encircle Dinétah (the Diné homeland), and the four cardinal directions, four colors, four seasons and four stages of life ground the lived experience of the Diné. The Diné origin stories begin in First World, where four corners anchored the world and over which four clouds appeared. The clouds contained the elements of the world and were colored black, white, blue, and yellow. From this world, the Diné began a journey of emergence through Second World, Third World, and finally into the present, the Fourth World or Glittering World. In Diné ceremonies and rituals, four songs are typically sung, each one four times. In some ceremonies, four deep breaths help participants return to balance and harmony.