Art: MAGIC IN SAND

According to legend, the Navajo Indians learned art from their gods. The gods painted lasting pictures on buckskin, but they told the Navajos to make sand-paintings and destroy them as soon as they were used. Art is magic, the gods explained, and magic for mortals is a sometime thing.

The sand-painting on this page is one of scores that Navajo medicine men know by heart and create (and destroy) within a day. It is an integral part of the Navajo Night Chant, a nine-day rite which takes place soon after autumn's first frost. Its purpose...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!