Lightning Basket Set, detail, 1995, Elsie Holiday, ET513.CB-6 Photo:  Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Lightning Symbolism

In the physical world, lightning is a potent force. In Dinétah (the Navajo homeland) it can be seen streaking across the sky, bounding off the mesas, and striking fire in the forests. The energy of lighting is also found in Diné stories and ceremonies. In the story of Na'ashjé'íí Asdzą́ą́ (Spider Woman) and the introduction of weaving on a loom, lightning was used to make the tools for weaving. Lightning was often used as a powerful weapon during the epic battles of the Diné (Navajo) emersion. Bolts of lightning are depicted as dynamic zigzags in ceremonial sand paintings. In rugs and baskets, lightning embodies power and strength for the weaver, the culture, and the object itself. That power can be destructive, but it can also be used to restore life, as when Lightning Beings helped restore Coyote’s children after he killed them.