String Games of the Navajo

 
Bulletin
STRING   of GAMES
            the International
                      OF THE  String Figure Association, Vol. 7, 119-214, 2000
                                 NAVAJO                                            119

     String Games of the Navajo
                                      by
                     WILL WIRT, Port Angeles, Washington
                     MARK SHERMAN, Pasadena, California

                         Cultural notes contributed by
                      MIKE MITCHELL, Rough Rock, Arizona

                                  ABSTRACT
In this article the authors describe seventy-four string figures and tricks
known to the Navajo Indians of Arizona. Methods for making sixty of these
were gathered during the winter of 1999-2000 on a series of visits to the
Navajo reservation. Thirty-four of these are new additions to the published
literature on Navajo string games. Remarkably, methods for twenty of the
twenty-seven Navajo string figures gathered by Caroline Furness Jayne
nearly a century ago were still remembered, suggesting that string games
are a stable element of Navajo material culture. The significance of string
games among the Navajo is examined in an appendix to this article.

INTRODUCTION
                                    1                     2
The prevalence of string games among the Navajo Indians of the American
Southwest was established nearly a century ago by Alfred. C. Haddon
(1903), Caroline Furness Jayne (1906), Stewart Culin (1907), and the Fran-
ciscan Fathers (1910). For many years Jayne’s collection of twenty-seven
designs (1906:387), which incorporates Haddon’s collection of six, was the
largest ever assembled from a single tribe. The size of her collection sug-
gested that the Navajo Indians were once quite fond of them. But have any of
these traditional games survived the onslaught of technology and Anglo cul-
ture? Have new designs been created or imported in the interim? Have any
   1Among the Navajo and many other Native American tribes, string figures are

routinely referred to as string games: a request for string figures is often greeted
with a blank stare. The Navajo word for string games is 1CbCV>bQb, meaning
‘continuous weaving.’
   2The Spanish word ‘Navajo’ is from the Tewa Pueblo Indian word ‘Navahú’

meaning ‘great planted fields’ or ‘take from fields.’ In the early part of the twentieth
century the spelling was anglicized to ‘Navaho’ at the request of the Indians, who
were tired of being called NavaJoes by white settlers. In recent years, the spelling
has reverted to ‘Navajo’. Most Navajo prefer the native term ‘Dineh’ or ‘Diné’
meaning ‘The People’. For a detailed discussion see Haile (1949).

                                         119
120                                       W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

of the taboos once associated with their manufacture been maintained? These
are the sorts of questions that inspired a series of three visits to the Navajo
Reservation in the winter of 1999-2000 (November, late January, and early
March). Visits were restricted to winter since traditionally this was the season
in which string games were played (Toelken 1979:95). The principal investi-
gator on all three
visits was Will
Wirt, accompanied                     Monument l                Utah Colorado
                                        Valley
by his wife Lillie.                                         Arizona New Mexico
                                                l Kayenta
During the second           Navajo Land
visit Mark Sherman                               Rough
                                                        l
                                                           l
                                                  Rock Many                     Navajo
and David Titus                                           Farms                 and               36°N
were also present.                                             Window
                                                                                Non-Navajo
                                                                                Land
                                      Hopi Land
On several occa-                                             l Rock
                                                                    l
                                                        Hubbel
sions specific indi-                      l
                                            Seba Dalkai
viduals known for
their cultural exper-                                                         0              50 Miles

tise were sought                                   110 °W                     0        50 Kilometers
out, these visits be-      Map of the Navajo Reservation showing sites visited
ing scheduled far in                 during the winter of 1999-2000.
advance by Lillie
Wirt. These informants, particularly Mike Mitchell at Rough Rock, provided
valuable information on the tribal lore still associated with Navajo string
games. But most often the games were gathered informally from chance ac-
quaintances, either from students at various schools or from staff members at
trading posts, restaurants, gas stations, and hotels.
   Methods for making fifty-six string figures and four tricks were gathered
during our three visits. Of the twenty-seven designs described or listed by
                                                                                      3
Jayne in 1906, methods for twenty were still remembered: eleven were re-
                                                                        4
membered at one of the seven locations visited and nine were remembered
at more than one location. Occasionally the name associated with the game
                               5
in Jayne’s book had changed, or alterations in its method of manufacture or
                                  6
extension had been introduced. Sometimes the same name was applied to
                       7                                                                       8
more than one game, or several names were given to a single game. No
chants or songs were found associated with any of the games.
   3 # 5, #13, #14/#15, #17/#18, #20, #25, #32, #44, #45, #52, #61.
   4 #1, #9, #23, #27, #28, #35, #63, #66, #68. If #7 is considered the same as #6, the
number increases to ten.
   5 #15, #25, #35, #63.
   6 #8(#6), #9, #17(#18), #35, #44, #49(#50), #64(#63).
   7 (#2, #29, #30), (#10, #33, #56, #57), (#21, #52), (#1, #53), (#47/#48, #63/#64),

(#13, #54).
   8 #4, #20, #35, #39, #63/#64.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                   121

   Variation in the method of extension was also observed. In most cases this
was idiosyncratic, i.e., selected by the performers based on what was com-
fortable or customary for them. This was particularly true of designs in the
                      9
‘Many Stars’ family. Some informants extended these designs between their
index and middle fingers, as described by Jayne (1906:51, step 7), whereas
others used their thumb and index (Jayne 1906:51-52, step 7A). Extensions
                                                         10
also varied for designs in the ‘Open the Gate’ family. These were either
extended with four fingers pointing toward the body, or with thumb and in-
dex (or thumb and little finger) pointing away from the body. Three exten-
sions for ‘Lightning’ were recorded (see pages 128-129). Unusual extensions
of ‘Navajo Rug’ (Apache Door) were also seen (see page 151).
   At most locations the seasonal taboo once associated with string games
was still observed: string games could only be played in winter, the season in
which spiders hibernate. Traditionalists we encountered defined winter as the
period between the first snowfall and the first thunder of spring, a sound
which awakens hibernating animals. This period most often corresponds to
the months of December and January. Others were willing to extend the defi-
nition of winter to include November and February. Beyond that, a special
ceremony was required to appease Spider Woman. Those violating the sea-
sonal taboo were warned that they would either be struck by lightning, fall
                                                    11
off a horse and die, or be urinated upon by spiders. A pregnancy taboo was
also noted at two separate locations. At one location the informant refused to
demonstrate string games because she was pregnant. At another location an
observer left the room because “pregnant women are not supposed to look at
others playing string games.”
   The games and tricks presented here are arranged according to the open-
ing employed. Within each category, games with similar movements are
grouped together. For ease of presentation the games are listed with their
English name. The Navajo name, when known, is given in the Notes that
follow the method. A drawing of the finished pattern extended on the hands
is provided for each game. Our report concludes with an essay on the cultural
significance of Navajo string games.
   Photographs have been omitted entirely since many traditionalists feel that
they capture the “soul” of the object or person being photographed, and
viewing them at inappropriate times can violate seasonal taboos. Cultural
  9  #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #30, #31, #32, #33, #45, #51, #55, #56, #57.
  10  #34, #54, #60.
    11 Similar explanations appear in the literature. According to Page & Page

(1995:111) playing string games in the summer will cause bad weather or bad luck,
and Spider Woman will tie your eyes shut. Gifford’s Navajo informants stated that
string games are played only in winter when spiders are not about, lest they bite
(Gifford 1940:56,149). When a rattlesnake came after Son of Old Man Hat, his
mother said “That’s what you get for making string figures in the summertime.”
(Dyk 1938:213).
122                              W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

notes gleaned from Mike Mitchell’s recent booklet (1999) are included
whenever relevant. This excellent booklet, written mainly in Navajo, lacks
methods but includes illustrations of twenty-nine string game designs, each
clearly labeled with its Navajo name. During our visits it proved to be a great
source of inspiration and an invaluable reference document.

LIST OF STRING GAME TITLES
Figures Beginning with the Navajo Opening
1. Two Stars I (Twin Stars)
2. Big Star I
3. Three Stars
4. Four Stars (Milky Way)
5. Bow
6. Lightning, Version A
7. Lightning, Version B
8. Lightning, Version C
9. Standing Measuring Worm
10. Owl I
11. Male Arrowhead
12. Female Arrowhead
13. Butterfly I

Figures Beginning with a Modification of the Navajo Opening
14. Replica of a Cloud
15. Pleiades
16. Storm Clouds
17. Chest
18. Breastbone and Ribs
19. Pinching Stars
20. Horned Toad (Lizard, Big Snake)
21. Arrow I

Figures Beginning with Opening A
22. Batten
23. Many Stars
24. Mexican Hat
25. Milky Way (Owl)
26. Ending to Milky Way
27. Star with Horns
28. Coyotes Running Opposite Ways
29. Big Star II
30. Big Star III
31. North Star
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                123

32.   Seven Stars
33.   Owl II
34.   Open the Gate
35.   Rug (Blanket, Apache Door)
36.   Open the Gate from Rug (Two Coyotes Running Away)
37.   Flip (Jump Over the Fence, Frog)
38.   Hair Tie
39.   Golden Eagle (Airplane)
40.   Upside-Down Golden Eagle
41.   Two Diamonds
42.   Four Diamonds
43.   Six Stars
44.   Opposite Hogans
45.   Carrying Wood
46.   Grinding
47.   Basket, Version A
48.   Basket, Version B
49.   Man Standing with Legs Apart
50.   A Man
51.   Bird
52.   Arrow II
53.   Two Stars II

Figures Beginning with a Modification of Opening A
54. Butterfly II
55. Bat
56. Owl III
57. Owl IV
58. Frog
59. Drum
60. Rocket

Figures Beginning with Other Openings
61. Measuring Worm
62. Five-pointed Star
63. Bird’s Nest (Basket), Version A
64. Bird’s Nest (Basket), Version B
65. Two Arrowheads
66. Sweathouse (Sweatlodge, Hogan)
67. Unnamed
68. Unraveling (Train)
69. Bull Snake
70. Ribs
124                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

International Figures
71. Bottom
72. Finger Trick
73. Cut the Neck
74. Hand Escape

NAVAJO STRING GAMES
The numbers in parentheses after each string figure title are location codes
that indicate where each figure was observed during our three visits to the
reservation. Navajo figures not seen by us but described in the literature are
also included in this article for sake of completeness.

1.    Gouldings Lodge, Monument Valley, Utah
2.    Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Arizona
3.    Many Farms Elementary School, Many Farms, Arizona
4.    Monument Valley High School, Monument Valley, Utah
5.    Navajo Nation Museum, Window Rock, Arizona
6.    Rough Rock Cultural Center, Rough Rock, Arizona
7.    Seba Dalkai School, Navajo Reservation, Arizona

The terms and abbreviations used in this article are explained and illustrated
on pages 357-366.

                            Navajo Opening (1-7)

1.    Grasp the loop in both hands with the hands only a few inches apart. 1
      and 2 point toward the center and pinch the string while 345 hold lateral
      sections of the loop.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                               125

2.   Wrap the section lying between the two hands around L2 by passing RH
     over L2, away from the body, then down and toward the body, and fi-
     nally up.
3.   Point L2 toward the body. Release the string held by R1 and R2, but
     maintain the grip of R345. Pass R2 into the L2 loop from the far side.
4.   Rotate 2 down, away from the body, and then up.
5.   As 2 completes its rotation 1 enters the 345 loop from the near side.
     Release the loop from 345 and extend, palms facing away, catching the
     released loop on 1.
6.   Return hands to normal position (palms facing each other). There are TV
     2n and 1f strings. An L2f-R1n string passes behind an L1n-R2f string.

Notes: The method we observed is more direct than the method described by
Jayne, in which a hanging loop is created (Jayne 1906:212). All of our infor-
mants used this method.

Figures Beginning with the Navajo Opening

                     1. Two Stars I (Twin Stars) (1, 3)

1.   Navajo Opening.
2.   1, from below, removes 2 loop keeping it on the upper part of 1.
3.   2, from above, passes through upper 1 loop, picks up lower 1f (a TV
     string) from the far side, and draws it through the upper loop.
4.   5, from below, passes up through both 1 loops and hooks down upper 1n
     (a TV string) through the lower loop.
5.   Release 1 loops and extend.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Twin Stars’ (Jayne 1906:228-
230). The Navajo know three variations of it (#2, #3, #4).
126                              W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

                              2. Big Star 1 (1, 3)

1.    Navajo Opening.
2.    Rotate RH a full turn with R1 and R2 pointing first away from the body,
      then down, then toward the body and up. R1 and R2 do not catch up any
      strings during the rotation. (This move is equivalent to >>R1 and >>R2)
3.    Steps 2 to 5 of Two Stars I.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is 6b 7UQJ. It represents the planet
Venus. Mike Mitchell writes: “There are actually two Big Stars. One is called
Mother and is visible in the early morning and the other is called Father and
is visible during evening twilight.” (Mitchell 1999:32). In sandpaintings and
Navajo blankets Big Star appears as a square diamond (see page 208). This
is one of many Navajo string games associated with starlore (see page 206).

                             3. Three Stars (1, 3)

1.    Navajo Opening.
2.    Rotate LH a full turn with L1 and L2 pointing first away from the body,
      then down, then toward the body and up. L1 and L2 do not catch up any
      strings during the rotation. (This move is equivalent to >>L1 and >>L2.)
3.    Steps 2 to 5 of Two Stars I.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                 127

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is 6b 7b. The three stars represent
a family: father on the left, mother on the right, and baby in the center.
(Mitchell 1999:18). At Many Farms this figure was called ]GbGUKU, meaning
“belt.” The informant stated that the three diamonds represent the three stars
in Orion’s belt. To others, this figure represents the Milky Way. In sandpaint-
ings, Milky Way appears as a row of diamonds (see page 199). A third name
for this figure is ]GGJ [KN\JQQ\J, “lined up in the ground.” This term refers
to a food item that is popular during the harvest season. It consists of sweet-
ened corn meal dough placed in corn husks that are tied at both ends with
yucca fibers. The bundles are then lined up in a trench and covered with hot
coals until thoroughly cooked (Young & Morgan 1980:516).

                      4. Four Stars (Milky Way) (1, 3)

1.   Navajo Opening.
2.   Rotate both hands a full turn with 1 and 2 pointing first away from the
     body, then down, then toward the body and up. 1 and 2 do not catch up
     any strings during the rotation. (This move is equivalent to >>1 and
     >>2.)
3.   Steps 2 to 5 of Two Stars I. 1 pushes the center of the palmar strings
     toward the middle, causing the four diamonds to open up.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is 6b 'b (Four Stars). This figure
is also called
128                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

                                   5. Bow (1)

1.    Navajo Opening.
2.    1, over 2n, picks up 2f.
3.    345 hook down 2n.
4.    3 picks up lower 1f and points upward. Release 1 loops and extend.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is also called ‘Bow’ (Jayne 1906:212-216).
The Navajo name for this figure is $>Vb. “When paired with the Arrow, the
Bow has power” (Mitchell 1999:28). The creation of wholeness through
pairing is a key concept in Navajo philosophy (see page 191).

                            6. Lightning, Version A

1.    Navajo Opening.
2.    1, over 2n, picks up 2f.
3.    3, over 2n, picks up lower 1f.
4.    4, over 3f, picks up 2n.
5.    5, over 4f, picks up 3f.
6.    Release 1 loops but do not extend. 1, under the loose 2f and 3n strings,
      enters the 5 loop, from below, but doesn’t return or extend. Flip 2f and
      3n over to far side of the figure and point fingers away while 1 raises the
      near string of the 5 loop (the 4f string).
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                129

Notes: The method described here is from Jayne’s book (1906:216-219)

                       7. Lightning, Version B (3, 4)

1.   Steps 1 to 5 of Lightning, Version A.
2.   Release 1 loops but do not extend. 1, under the loose 2f and 3n strings,
     enters the 5 loop from above and rapidly pushes down on the near string
     (the 4f string).

Notes: Versions A and B of ‘Lightning’ differ only in the way the design is
extended. In version A the thumbs lift 4f, whereas in version B they press
down on it. The method described by Jayne (1906:216-219) corresponds to
version A. The method recorded by A.C. Haddon (1903:222-223) is version
B. Kathleen Haddon describes version A in her book Artists in String
(1930:54-55), but version B in String Games for Beginners (1942:28). In
Pospisil’s paper, the informant is seen pressing down 4f (version B), but in
Kluckhorn’s paper the informant is seen lifting 4f (version A). When done
properly the extension is quite dramatic: a quick toss and the design suddenly
appears out of nowhere.

                         8. Lightning, Version C (4)

1.   Steps 1 to 5 of Lightning (Version A).
2.   Release 1 loops. 5 hooks down its near string (part of 4f) to the palm.
130                                W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

      1, under the loose 2f and 3n strings, passes under 4n. Flip 2f and 3n over
      to far side of the figure and point fingers away while 1 lifts the 4n string.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is $VUKPNV>bKUJ. The Navajo recognize
many types of lightning, including sheet lightning, flash lightning, and zigzag
lightning (Franciscan Fathers 1910:60). Symbols for each of these often ap-
pear in sandpaintings (see page 208). Male lightning has barbed ends,
whereas female lightning is simply crossed at each end (Reichard 1977:40-
41). Because it is so dangerous, only the symbol for lightning is depicted in
string games (Mitchell 1999:17).

                     9. Standing Measuring Worm (1, 2, 4)

1.    Navajo Opening. Note that 1n passes over 1f.
2.    Point thumb and fingers of both hands away from the body. Keeping the
      strings taut, the L hand immobilized, and the L palm facing right, swing
      the RH upward and then to the left of the LH, tracing out a 120° arc as
      it “orbits” the LH. At this point the LH strings touch the palmar surface
      of L1 and L2 rather than the dorsal surface; the R palm faces down. Now
      move the RH diagonally downward (i.e., toward the right foot), passing
      it close to the LH while drawing all the strings between L1 and L2 (the
      strings go slack as RH approaches L1 and L2, but recover their tension
      as the RH extends fully to the right). Repeat the same maneuver on the
      opposite side. Return both hands to the upright position. Now 1n passes
      under 1f. (Note: Among the Navajo, step 2 is a common method for
      rotating the 1 loop a full turn away).
3.    345 enter the 2 loop from below. 45 hook down 2n and then 3 hooks
      down 1f.
4.    Bring the hands together, passing R2 behind the L2f string and R1 in
      front of the L1n string, then pinch their tips together so that R1 and R2
      encircle the L1n and L2f strings. Allow R1n and R2f to fall toward the
      center of the figure so that four strings pass over the pinched tips of R1
      and R2.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                   131

5.   Withdraw L1 and L2 from their loops, pass L2 behind the hanging
     strings and L1 in front of them, then pinch their tips together so that they
     likewise encircle the four strings encircled by R1 and R2. Separate the
     hands to absorb the slack, but maintain the pinching position of 1 and 2
     on each hand.
6.   Slide the four strings onto 1, thus freeing 2. Pass 2 though the 1 loops
     from the far side, then pass 2 behind the string pinched between 3 and 4.
     Catch this string on the tip of 2 and draw it back though the 1 loops,
     rotating 2 toward the body and up. Release 1 and 3 loops, withdraw 4
     from 45 loop, and extend with 2 pointed upward.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘A Worm’ (Jayne 1906:222-228).
The method she describes is much more difficult to follow. The Navajo name
for this figure is :UK\P. Measuring worms cannot crawl backwards: when
a measuring worm runs into an object it stands up in order to turn around
(Mitchell 1999:23). Measuring Worm is also a Navajo constellation associ-
ated with the month of July (1942:59).

                                 10. Owl I (4)

1.   Steps 1 to 5 of Standing Measuring Worm.
2.   Slide the four strings onto 2, thus freeing 1. 1 passes through the 2 loops
     from the near side, picks up the string pinched between 3 and 4, and
     draws it through the 2 loops. Release 2 and 3 loops, withdraw 4 from 45
     loop, and extend with 1 pointed upward.

Notes: Among the Wailaki Indians of Northern California, ‘Standing Mea-
suring Worm’ (#9) and ‘Owl’ (#10) represent a boy and a girl, respectively,
and are used to predict the sex of an unborn child (Foster 1941). The Navajo
name for this figure is 1bGUJKCCb. Owl is a messenger and fortune teller
(Newcomb et al. 1956:64). He is a great medicine man who can perform
132                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

great magic, both good and evil. He carries a bundle of herbs, powders, and
medicines which he brought from the lower world. Now they are used by
medicine men in rites where peace is desired. Among his items are incense,
tobacco, sedatives, and dream inducers (Newcomb 1967:97-99).

                          11. Male Arrowhead (1, 4)

1.    Navajo Opening.
2.    1, from above, removes 2 loop.
3.    2, from above, passes through upper 1 loop, picks up lower 1f from the
      far side, and draws it through the upper loop.
4.    5, from below, passes up through both 1 loops and hooks down upper 1n
      through the lower loop.
5.    Release 1 loop. Release the R5 loop, then pass R345, from below, into
      the R2 loop and close R2n to the palm.
6.    Extend. As the figure is extended, use L1 to temporarily lift the cluster
      of strings that are sliding along the lower TV string. This helps create a
      symmetrical arrowhead.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is
%UJbCUVbQIKK %KMbKK. A male arrowhead has a tail
and looks like a spear point (Mitchell 1999:22). In
sandpaintings male arrowheads often cap lightning
bolts, sunbeams, and rainbows. These offer strong or
aggressive protection (Reichard 1977: 64).

                          12. Female Arrowhead (6)

1.    Form Male Arrowhead.
2.    Two loops pass over the upper TV string. Release RH loop, and with the
      RH grasp the upper TV string between the two loops. Extend.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                             133

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is %UJbCUVbQIKK %KbCFKK (Mitchell
1999:22). Female arrowheads lack tails. In sandpaintings female arrowheads
also cap lightning bolts, sunbeams, and rainbows (a simple bar appears near
the end). However, unlike male arrowheads, these
only offer weak or “submissive” protection (Reichard
1977: 64). Nearly all entities in the Navajo universe
have male and female counterparts. Their union cre-
ates wholeness (see page 191).

                            13. Butterfly 1 (2)

1.   Navajo Opening.
2.   Rotate 2, first toward the body and down, then away from the body and
     up. Repeat four more times.
3.   1 picks up 2n. Navajo 1 loops.
4.   Touch the tips of R1 to L1 and of R2 to L2. Slide R1 loop onto L1 and
     R2 loop onto L2 and point L1 and L2 upward.
5.   R2 removes upper L1 loop from below. R1 removes remaining L1 loop
     from above.
134                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

6.    R1 and R2 grasp L2 loops close to L2. Remove L2 from its loops. L2
      enters the original upper L2 loop from below. L1 enters the original
      lower L2 loop from above. Separate R1 and R2 and extend slowly.
7.    From below, 345 hook down 2f and 1n. Point 1 and 2 upward.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is also called ‘Butterfly’ (Jayne 1906:219-
221). The Navajo name for this figure is .bCCNIKK. A Navajo myth states that
Butterfly was the first character to use body paint as a form of attraction. His
brilliant colors are viewed as paint because they rub off easily. The resulting
powder, called “butterfly pollen,” is very powerful and somewhat evil. It is
never used by medicine men in healing ceremonies, only sorcerers
(Newcomb et al. 1956:44). Butterfly is also a Navajo constellation (see page
207).

Figures Beginning with a Modification of the Navajo Opening

                          14. Replica of a Cloud (1)

1.    Grasp the loop in both hands with the hands only a few inches apart. 1
      and 2 point toward the center and pinch the string while 345 hold lateral
      sections of the loop.
2.    Wrap the section lying between the two hands around L2 by passing RH
      over L2, away from the body, then down and toward the body, and fi-
      nally up.
3.    Point L2 toward the body. Release the string held by R1 and R2, but
      maintain the grip of R345. Pass R2 into the L2 loop from the far side.
4.    Rotate 2 toward the body and up, and extend, releasing 345. There are
      upper and lower 2n TV strings and an upper L2f to lower R2f string
      passing behind a lower L2f to upper R2f string.
5.    L1, over the lower L2 loop and under upper L2n, picks up upper L2f and
      returns.
6.    R1, under the upper R2 loop and over lower R2n, picks up lower R2f
      and returns.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                135

7.   L345, up through the lower L2 loop, hook down just the upper L2n
     string while R345, behind lower R2n, enter the upper R2 loop from be-
     low and hook down just the upper R2n string.
8.   3, from the far side, under a 2f string, passes over lower 2n and presses
     it against 4. 345, carrying the lower 2n string with them, withdraw from
     the loop surrounding them, thus drawing this string through the released
     loop. Press 3 against the palm behind and under all the other strings.
9.   45 enter the 3 loop from the far side and press against the palm. Release
     the 1 loop and extend.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘One Storm Cloud’ (Jayne
1906:236-243), and is part of a longer series (see #16). The opening for this
figure begins like the Navajo Opening but 2 is rotated toward instead of away
from the body. The Navajo name for this figure is .bQU
136                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Two Storm Clouds’ (Jayne
1906:236-243), and is part of a longer series (see #16). The informant who
showed us this figure called it 'KN[J (The Pleiades). However, this name
is most often applied to #32, otherwise known as ‘Seven Stars.’ 'KN[J is an
important constellation among the Navajo (see pages 201-202).

                               16. Storm Clouds

1.    Form Pleiades.
2.    Repeat steps 2 to 4 of Pleiades.
3.    2 picks up the upper TV string from the far side (it is the lower L2f to
      middle R2f string). Extend with 2 pointing upward.

Notes: The method described here is from Jayne’s book (1906:236-243). If a
long loop is used, a new cloud will be added each time steps 2 and 3 are
repeated. If the string tension becomes unmanageable, release the upper 2
loop just prior to step 3. See #14 for a discussion of cloud symbols in sand-
paintings.

                                 17. Chest (1)

1.    Grasp the loop in both hands with the hands only a few inches apart. 1
      and 2 point toward the center and pinch the string while 345 hold lateral
      sections of the loop.
2.    Wrap the section lying between the two hands around L2 by passing RH
      over L2, away from the body, then down and toward the body, and fi-
      nally up.
3.    Make a second wrap around R2 by passing the RH again over L2 and
      away from the body and then down and toward the body and finally
      upward.
4.    Point L2 toward the body. Release the string held by R1 and R2 but
      maintain the grip of R345. Pass R2 into the L2 loops from the far side.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                  137

     Rotate 2 toward the body and up. Release 345 loop and extend forming
     three loops around 2. Keep the loops separate so that none of the 2n TV
     strings overlap and the upper L2f string passes diagonally down to low-
     est R2f position.
5.   R345 hook down the right side of the L2f-R2f diagonal string while
     L345 pass under the lowest L2f string, reach upward between lowest L2f
     and the string above it (middle L2f), and hook down the left side of the
     L2f-R2f diagonal string.
6.   3 hooks down the lowest 2n string through the 345 loop. This movement
     is easier if 1 temporarily enlarges the 45 loop. 45 withdraw from their
     loop and enter the 3 loop, from the far side, along side 3.
7.   Repeat step 6 with the middle 2n string, then with the upper 2n string and
     finally with the upper 2f string.
8.   2 picks up one of the two upper 2f strings from the far side (these strings
     cross near the center of the design). Extend with 2 pointed upward.

Notes: This figure is a simplified version of ‘Breastbone and Ribs’ (K. Had-
don 1942:35-36). The Navajo name for this figure is $[KF, meaning
‘Sternum with Ribs’ (Franciscan Fathers 1910:84). Chest represents
“protection of that which is vital to the body, something that all things have”
(Mitchell 1999:19). These comments probably refer to P>EJb, the Holy
Wind, the breath of life within all living things. The Navajo believe that
breathing is a sacred act (see pages 190-191).

                           18. Breastbone and Ribs

1.   Grasp the loop in both hands with the hands only a few inches apart. 1
     and 2 point toward the center and pinch the string while 345 hold lateral
     sections of the loop.
2.   Wrap the section lying between the two hands around L2 by passing RH
138                             W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

    over L2, away from the body, then down and toward the body, and fi-
    nally up.
3. Make two additional wraps around R2 by repeating step 2 two more
    times.
4. Point L2 toward the body. Release the string held by R1 and R2 but
    maintain the grip of R345. Pass R2 into all the L2 loops from the far
    side. Rotate 2 toward the body and up. Release 345 loop and extend to
    create four loops on 2. Keep the loops separate so that none of the 2n TV
    strings overlap and the upper L2f string passes diagonally down to low-
    est R2f position.
5. R34 hook down the right side of the diagonal string. L34 pass under the
    lowest L2f string, reach upward between the lowest L2f string and the
    string above it, and hook down the left side of the diagonal string.
6. 34 pinch the lowest 2n string between them and draw it to the far side of
    the figure, through the 34 loop, which slips off. Press 3 against the palm
    to trap the retrieved string.
7. Raise 4 and pass it forward along side 3. 3 and 4 pinch the next lowest
    2n TV string between them and draw it to the far side of the figure,
    through the 34 loop, which slips off. Press 3 against the palm to trap the
    retrieved string.
8. Repeat step 7 two more times working up the remaining 2n strings then
    repeat it again with the next to uppermost 2f string and repeat it a final
    time with the upper 2f string.
9. Transfer the 3 loop to 5, inserting 5 from the same direction as 3.
10. 2 wraps one of the upper 2f TV strings an extra turn around 2 and ex-
    tends the figure, 2 pointing upward, 5 pressed to the palm.

Notes: This figure is simply a more elaborate version of ‘Chest’ (#17). The
method described here is from Kathleen Haddon’s String Games for Begin-
ners (K. Haddon 1942:35-36), which differs somewhat from the method
given in her previous book (K. Haddon 1930:63-64). It was collected by Mrs.
Jayne but was only mentioned in her book (Jayne 1906:387).
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                     139

                             19. Pinching Stars (3)

1.   Do steps 1-4 of the Navajo Opening.
2.   Remove the loop from 2 and rotate it 180 degrees, the right side of the
     loop passing away from the body and to the left while the left side passes
     toward the body and to the right. Replace it on 2 so that 2n is a TV
     string. The 2f strings now interlock rather than cross.
3.   Position the twist so it is in the exact center of the figure, then finish the
     Navajo Opening (steps 5-6).
4.   1, from below, removes 2 loop keeping it on the upper part of 1.
5.   2, from above, passes through upper 1 loop, picks up lower 1f from the
     far side, and draws it through the upper loop.
6.   5, from below, passes up through both 1 loops and hooks down upper 1n
     through the lower loop.
7.   Release 1 loops and extend.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is 6bCJVUbKb, literally “stars, the
ones that pinch together” (i.e., they are barely joined together, as by a slender
thread, Young & Morgan 1980:69). The figure represents two stars of the
Hyades cluster in the constellation Taurus. It is among the most symbolic of
all Navajo string games. According to Mike Mitchell, the Pinching Stars rep-
resent the relationship between heaven and earth (Mitchell 1999:27). For a
full discussion see pages 205-206.

                  20. Horned Toad (Lizard, Big Snake) (1)

1.   Steps 1 and 2 of Pinching Stars.
2.   Position the twist so it is close to the RH, then finish the Navajo Opening
     (steps 5-6).
3.   Steps 4 to 7 of Pinching Stars.
140                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Lizard’ (Jayne 1906:230-233).
The Navajo name for this figure is 1CbCUJbKK FKEJbK\JKK (Horned Toad) or
7>bKKUJ VUQJ (Big Snake) (Mitchell 1999:8). A horned toad is a desert-
dwelling reptile covered with horny plates. His body and small head are flat
and diamond-shaped. He symbolizes the dark, underneath world and is asso-
ciated with divination. In sandpaintings he wears armor of arrow points and
carries arrow-capped lightning bolts in his hands and feet (Newcomb et al.,
1956:22). In sandpaintings and pictographs Big Snake likewise appears as
two linked diamonds, the head being smaller and more square than the body
(see page 208). According to legend, Big Snake stays inside his hole and
sucks people to him. Animals may be a long way off, but Big Snake will draw
them closer and closer until they go faster and finally run to the Big Snake
(Newcomb et al. 1956:62). There is also a Navajo constellation called Big
Snake of the North, associated with the month of June (Klah 1942:59).

                                  21. Arrow I

1.    Navajo Opening but do not extend completely.
2.    L2 rotates away from the body, downward, and then toward the body
      without catching any strings. L3 enters the L2 loop from the far side.
      Pinch the L1n string between L2 and L3 and draw it away from the body
      through the L23 loop, which slips off as L2 returns to an upright position
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                  141

     (the captured string becomes a new L2 loop).
3.   Release R2 loop. R2 enters L2 loop from below and from the near side
     of the figure. Extend fully on 1 and 2 and adjust the figure so that it
     forms a fat hourglass shape.
4.   1, from below, removes 2 loop keeping it on the upper part of 1.
5.   2, from above, passes through upper 1 loop, picks up lower 1f from the
     far side, and draws it through the upper loop.
6.   5, from below, passes up through both 1 loops and hooks down upper 1n
     through the lower loop.
7.   Release 1 loops and extend.

Notes: The figure appears in Mike Mitchell’s booklet. The method described
here is a reconstruction based on Two Stars I (#1). The Navajo name for this
figure is .CbCb. Arrows are used for hunting and protection. Arrow acquires
power when paired with Bow (Mitchell 1999:26). Completeness through
pairing is an important concept in Navajo philosophy (see page 191).

                    Figures Beginning with Opening A

                                22. Batten (4)

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over 2n, picks up 2f.
3.   Navajo 1 loops. Release 5 loop.
4.   Extend with 1 pointed away from the body and 2 pointed downward.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is %GGbCbMbKPNV>KUJ A batten, used in
weaving, is a flat wooden stick that resembles a boomerang with no bend.
With a batten stick the weaver separates the warp strands by inserting it alter-
nately between them. The stick is then twisted to turn it flat-wise. This cre-
ates a space large enough to pass a ball of yarn through. Once the yarn is in
place, the stick is turned edge-wise and rammed down vigorously to force the
new weft strand into place. The amount of force used to batten the weft
strands determines the firmness and durability of the blanket (Franciscan Fa-
142                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

thers 1910:241). The resemblance between this string figure and the object it
represents is greatest when a long loop is used. Battens have other uses as
well: mistakes in sandpaintings are rubbed out with a weaving batten
(Griffin-Pierce 1992a:193). The Navajos of Black Mesa call this figure
‘Bird’s Nest’ (Page and Page 1995:111). Presumably they use a short loop.

                            23. Many Stars (1, 3, 4)

1.    Opening A.
2.    1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop, picks up
      lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.    1, over 2n, and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
4.    Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
      between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes the upper 1 loop
      from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.    1 enters upper 2 loop from below.
6.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near
      the palmar surface of 1. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through the
      1 loop, which slips off. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: There are a number of ways of carrying out steps 4 and 5. One alterna-
tive is:

4.    1, over 2 loop and under 3n picks up 3f, keeping it near the finger tip.
      Release 3 loop.
5.    2 picks up upper 1f.

The method of extension (step 6) also varies. A common alternative is:

6.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near
      the palmar surface of 1. 3, from below, enters the design and hooks
      down this string, drawing it through the 1 loop. Release 1 loop and ex-
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                143

     tend, palms facing each other, 2 pointing upward, 3 pressed against the
     palm.

This alternative extension can be applied to any figure in the ‘Many Stars’
family (#25, #27, #30, #31, #32, #33, #45, #55, #56, #57). In Jayne’s book
this figure is also called ‘Many Stars’ (Jayne 1906:48-53). Jayne describes
both endings, but applies the alternative ending to most of the figures in her
collection. The Navajo name for this figure is 6b>P. It represents the uni-
verse. This figure is used to teach children about constellations: “There are
many stars in the heavens, and some are in groups” (Mitchell 1999:29). See
pages 197-207 for a discussion of string games and starlore among the
Navajo.

                            24. Mexican Hat (1)

1.   Form Many Stars.
2.   5 removes 1 loop from the far side. Press 5 against the palm.
3.   The 2n string passes through a loop in the upper part of the figure close
     to 2. 1, from the near side, enters the design and catches 2n just below
     that loop.
4.   Release 2 loop and extend with 1 pointed upward, 5 pressed to the palm.
144                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

                           25. Milky Way (Owl) (1)

1.    Opening A.
2.    1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop picks up
      lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.    1, under 2n, over 2f, and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Re-
      lease 5 loop.
4.    Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
      between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes the upper 1 loop
      from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.    1 enters upper 2 loop from below.
6.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near
      the palmar surface of 1. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through the
      1 loop, which slips off. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Third Owl’ (1906:55-56). Except
for step 3, the steps in this figure are identical to those for ‘Many Stars’
(#23). At Monument Valley it was called ‘Milky Way’, probably because it
has four diamonds like design #4.

                         26. Ending to Milky Way (1)

1.    Form Milky Way.
2.    5 removes 1 loop from the far side. Press 5 against the palm.
3.    The 2n string passes through a loop in the upper part of the figure close
      to 2. 1, from the near side, enters the design and catches 2n just below
      that loop.
4.    Release 2 loops and extend with 1 pointed upward, 5 pressed against the
      palm.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                   145

Notes: This is the same ending used for making ‘Mexican Hat’ (#24) from
‘Many Stars’ (#23).

                          27. Star with Horns (1, 3)

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop picks up
     lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.   1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
4.   Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
     between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes the upper 1 loop
     from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.   Navajo 2 loops.
6.   1 picks up 2n. Navajo 1 loops.
7.   On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near the palmar surface of 1. 1
     hooks down this string, drawing it through the 1 loop, which slips off.
     Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Two-Horned Star’ (1906:58-60).
The first four steps in this figure are identical to those of ‘Many Stars’ (#23).
146                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

It was placed in the sky by First Man (Klah 1942:66). The Navajo name for
this figure is 6b%KFGGb. According to Mike Mitchell, the Star with Horns
was made at the beginning of time. The constellation is a protector of the
Navajo and is used in a ceremony (Mitchell 1999:4). Others claim it repre-
sents a comet (see page 207). In sandpaintings, horns are a symbol of power
(Newcomb et al. 1956:25).

                  28. Coyotes Running Opposite Ways (1, 3)

1.    Opening A.
2.    1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop picks up
      lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.    1, under 2n, over 2f, and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Re-
      lease 5 loop.
4.    Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
      between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes upper 1 loop
      from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.    Navajo 2 loops.
6.    1 picks up 2n. Navajo 1 loops.
7.    On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near the palmar surface of 1. 1
      hooks down this string, drawing it through the 1 loop, which slips off.
      Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Two Coyotes’ (1906:60-63).
Steps 1 to 4 are identical to those for ‘Milky Way’ (#25). Steps 5 to 7 are
identical to those for ‘Star with Horns’ (#27). The Navajo name for this fig-
ure is 0bKKbC>VUbb [KNYQ> (Coyotes Running Opposite Ways). The string
figure represents what happens when you suddenly come upon two coyotes.
(Mitchell 1999:10).
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                 147

                              29. Big Star II (4)

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop, picks up
     lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.   1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
4.   5 removes 3 loop from above. Release 2 loop and extend with fingers
     pointing away from the body.

Notes: See #2 for the Navajo name and a description of what Big Star repre-
sents.
                              30. Big Star III

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f.
3.   3, over palmar string and 2 loop, picks up lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
4.   1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
5.   Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
     between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes upper 1 loop
     from above by rotating toward the body and up.
6.   1 enters upper 2 loop from below.
148                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

7.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. A single TV string passes across the upper
      surface of the design. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through the 1
      loop, which slips off. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: The method described here is from Jayne’s book (1906:64). Except
for step 2, the steps in this figure are identical to those for ‘Many Stars’
(#23). See #2 for the Navajo name and a description of what Big Star repre-
sents.

                                 31. North Star

1.    Opening A.
2.    3, over 2 loop, removes 1 loop from below.
3.    1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
4.    Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
      between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes upper 1 loop
      from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.    1 enters upper 2 loop from below.
6.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near
      the palmar surface of 1. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through the
      1 loop, which slips off. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: The method described here is from Jayne’s book (1906:65). North
Star is an important symbol in Navajo starlore. It represents a campfire. Ac-
cording to legend it also serves as a light source for stars in the Big Dipper
and Cassiopeia. The Navajo have several names for North Star. See page 204
for a full discussion.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                  149

                              32. Seven Stars (2)

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop, picks up
     lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
3.   1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
4.   Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
     between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes upper 1 loop
     from above by rotating toward the body and up.
5.   1 enters both 2 loops from below.
6.   Navajo the lowest 1 loop over the two upper 1 loops.
7.   On each hand a string runs from upper 1n to upper 1f near the palmar
     surface of 1. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through both 1 loops,
     which slip off. Extend with palms facing away. Wrap the upper TV
     string (a 2f string) once around the tip of 2 to open up the design.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is also called ‘Seven Stars’ (Jayne
1906:56-58). Except for steps 5 and 6, the steps in this figure are identical to
those for ‘Many Stars’ (#23). According to Jayne the Navajo name for this
figure is 'KN[J, the Pleiades or ‘Seven Sisters’. 'KN[J is the most sacred
of all the Navajo constellations, appearing on the mask of Black God, the
creator of all constellations (Haile 1947:1-3). It is also used as a seasonal
indicator and a time keeper. For a full discussion, see pages 201-202.

                                  33. Owl II

1.   Opening A.
2.   Rotate the 2 loop one complete turn by pointing 2 away from body, then
     down, then toward the body, then up.
3.   1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n. 3, over palmar string and 2 loop, picks up
     lower 1f. Release 1 loops.
150                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

4.    1, over 2n and under all intervening strings, picks up 5f. Release 5 loop.
5.    Using the tips of the fingers, 1 enters 3 loop from below and pinches 3n
      between 1 and 2. 3 withdraws from the loop. 2 removes upper 1 loop
      from above by rotating toward the body and up.
6.    1 enters upper 2 loop from below.
7.    Navajo the 1 and 2 loops. On each hand a string runs from 1n to 1f near
      the palmar surface of 1. 1 hooks down this string, drawing it through the
      1 loop, which slips off. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: The method described here is from Jayne’s book, where the figure is
called ‘A Second Owl’ (Jayne 1906:54-55). Except for step 2, the move-
ments in this figure are identical to those for ‘Many Stars’ (#23). See #10 for
the Navajo name and a description of owls in Navajo folk lore. This figure
was not observed during our visits. However, a closely related figure called
‘Bat’ (#55) was shown to us at Many Farms.

            34. Open the Gate (Two Coyotes Running Away) (1, 3)
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                  151

1.   Opening A.
2.   1, over intervening strings, picks up 5n. 5, over intervening strings picks
     up lower 1f.
3.   2 hooks down palmar strings through 2 loop. Release 1 and 5 loops but
     do not extend.
4.   345 enter the 2 loop from the same direction as 2. Extend with palms
     facing the body, 2 pointed upward, 345 pressed against the palm. Two
     triangles will move in opposite directions.

Notes: An alternative method of extension in step 4 is to pass 1 and 5 into the
2 loops from below, release the 2 loops, and extend with the fingers pointing
away from the body.

The Navajo name for this figure is 0bKKbC>VUbb [KNYQ> (Two Coyotes Run-
ning in Opposite Directions). At Many Farms, where it was known to nearly
every child, it was most often called ‘Open the Gate.’

                 35. Rug (Blanket, Apache Door) (1, 3, 4, 7)

1.   Opening A.
2.   1 and 345 pass though the 2 loop from below. Allow the former 2 loop
     to fall onto the back of the wrist.
3.   1 picks up 5n. 5 picks up lower 1f.
4.   Pass L1, from above, to the near side of the near wrist string, then under
     all the strings and raise it on the far side of the figure.
152                                W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

5.    Grasp the two original L1 loops on the far side of L1 with R1 and R2 and
      remove them from L1 but continue to hold them in the same position. L1
      passes under the figure and to the near side, then over the figure and
      reenters the former 1 loops from above.
6.    Repeat steps 4 and 5 on the opposite side of the figure.
7.    Release the wrist loop and extend while moving the hands alternately up
      and down, allowing the loops on the TV strings to even themselves. Dis-
      play with fingers pointing away.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Apache Door’ (Jayne 1906:12-
16), a reference to the blanket that many Apaches hang over the front en-
trance to their homes as a privacy screen, especially in summer. In step 5, the
method of resetting the double thumb loops differs from that described by
Jayne (1906:15). Our informants reinserted their thumbs from above rather
than below. This method was observed numerous times, especially at Many
Farms. As a result the thumb loops lack a full twist in the final design and no
longer match the little finger loops (i.e., the pattern becomes asymmetric).
Inadequate loop length may be the cause of this alteration. This figure is
difficult to weave with a loop that is appropriate for most other Navajo fig-
ures. If the loop is too short, the maker is forced to remove the double thumb
loop with the index tip below it and thumb tip above it (i.e., palm facing up).
The only way to reset a loop removed in this manner is to insert the thumb
from above. Some informants actually untwisted the thumb and little finger
loops after the pattern was formed to given a cleaner looking design. Exam-
ples of these can be found in the literature (Pospisil 1932, plates 349,350;
and Culin 1907:765, fig. 1045).
   Nearly all of our informants called this figure ‘Navajo Rug’ (FK[QI) or
‘Navajo Blanket’ (DGGNFN), even though the traditional Navajo name for this
figure is ]GbGUKU, UKU meaning ‘sash’ or ‘woven belt’ (Wall & Morgan 1997).
Traditional women’s belts measured four inches wide and were woven on a
loom just like blankets (Franciscan Fathers 1910:248-249). At Many Farms
we were told that this string figure represents the Milky Way (]GGb = ‘dirt,
ashes’; UKU = ‘belt’ (Young & Morgan 1980); ]GbGUKU = ‘belt of ashes’, a
reference to a legend in which Coyote steals ash bread and leaves a trail in
the sky, see page 203). Other translations recorded in the literature include
‘Small Stomach of a Sheep’ (Franciscan Fathers 1910:489) and ‘Poncho’
(Culin 1907:765). Since a poncho (sarape) is nothing more than an ornamen-
tal blanket with a slit in it, this translation is consistent with the current inter-
pretation of this string figure. The quality and beauty of Navajo blankets is
acknowledged worldwide. Today they are equally well known for their fine
rugs, which they started weaving in the 1890s.
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                  153

                   36. Open the Gate Ending to Rug (1, 4)

1.   On each side of the figure there are double palmar strings. 2, from the far
     side, hooks down only the palmar strings at their center. Release the 1
     loops and the 5 loops but do not extend.
2.   345 enter the 2 loop from the same direction as 2. Extend with palms
     facing the body, 2 pointed upward and 345 pressed against the palm.
     Two triangles will move in opposite directions.

Notes: A number of other extensions are possible in step 2 (see #34).

               37. Flip (Jump Over the Fence, Frog) (1, 3, 4)

1.   Opening A.
2.   2 removes 1 loop from below.
3.   1 enters lower 2 loop from below, passes to the near side of upper 2n,
     and hooks it down through lower 2 loop.
4.   1, under intervening strings, picks up 5n. Release 5 loop.
5.   Release 1 loop but do not extend. Allow the ends of the former 1 loop to
     hang down. Be careful not to disturb them in step 6.
154                              W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

6.    1 removes upper 2 loop from below. 2345, over 2 loop, enter 1 loop
      from above, hooking down 2f, 2n, and 1f.
7.    Apply gentle sideways tension to the strings. Gradually lift TV 1n with
      2 until the central hanging loops come free and spring back and forth.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is b$VUbPKKV>QJ (belly-turn-over). At
Many Farms it was also called ‘Frog.’ When two Navajo men showed this
figure to Greg Keith they called it ‘Somersault’ (Keith 1994:4-5,9-10).
Among the Klamath Indians it represents the setting sun (Jayne 1906:82-84).

                            38. Hair Tie (1, 3, 4)

1.    Opening A.
2.    1, over intervening strings, picks up 5f.
3.    R1 and R2 remove the L5 loop and place it without twisting over L1 and
      L2. Repeat on the opposite side.
4.    Pass 1 and 2 down over their palmar strings and into their respective
      loops. Extend with palms facing away.

Notes: The Navajo name for this figure is 7UKKV>b>.
It represents the strings used to hold together a
man’s or woman’s hair bun (Mitchell 1999:11).
Long ago, hair ties were woven on a small loom.
They measured roughly two inches wide and resem-
bled the garter strings used for fastening leggings
(Franciscan Fathers 1910:249). Later, cords ob-
tained from traders were also used. The modern hair
tie consists of several cords knotted together at each
end. Traditionally, women dressed the hair of both
sexes. If a man was married his wife would form the       Hair Tie: Illustration
bun and tie it; if not, his mother or sister performed   from Newcomb (1967)
the duty (Kluckhohn, Hill, and Kluckhohn
1971:267-270).
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                                 155

                 39. Golden Eagle (Airplane) (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

1.   Opening A.
2.   2 passes away from the body, over 2f and 5 loop, then down behind the
     5 loop, then toward the body under all intervening strings and enters the
     1 loop from below. 2 catches up 1n and returns to position.
3.   Release 1 loop.
4.   1 hooks down the lower 2n string, passes under the intervening strings,
     picks up 5f, and returns.
5.   1 hooks down the upper 2n string, drawing it through the 1 loop, which
     slips off. Then 1 moves under the intervening strings and passes upward
     on the near side of 5n. Moving toward the center of the figure, 1 catches
     5n on its back then points downward on the near side of upper 2n
     (central segment).
6.   1 moves upward and catches on its back the center section of upper 2n
     and draws it through the 1 loop, which slips off. Release the 2 loops and
     extend with the fingers pointed away from the body.

Notes: This figure is also known to the Inuit of Alaska (Jayne 1906:362).
The Navajo name for this figure is $VU 1KVUCC (Golden Eagle). Eagle feath-
ers and bones are used in ceremonies. Today this figure has a different name
&JKF 1CCVbCb (Airplane) (Mitchell 1999:20). In the early 1970s two Navajo
men taught it to Greg Keith (1994:4,8-9). They called it ‘Eagle Diving upon
its Prey’ or ‘Road Going into the Distance Between Two Mountains.’

                   40. Upside-Down Golden Eagle (2, 3)

1.   Opening A.
2.   Turn the palms toward the body. 345 hook down the 2 and 1 loops. 5f
     becomes a loose string emerging from between 4 and 5.
3.   2 passes toward the body in front of all the strings, then away from the
     body under the held strings, catches the loose string (5f) on its tip and
     draws it to the front of the figure. Release the grip of 345, then release
     the 5 loop. Extend, rotating 2 toward the body and up.
156                               W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

4.    5 hooks down lower 2f, passes under the intervening strings, picks up 1n
      and returns to the back of the figure.
5.    5 hooks down upper 2f string, passes under the intervening strings and
      over 1f. 5 pulls 1f back over upper 2f string (central segment) and hooks
      it down.
6.    5 picks up the upper 2f string where it crosses the 5 loop and draws it
      through the 5 loop, which slips off. Release the 2 loops and extend with
      the fingers pointed away from the body.

Notes: The method described here is a reconstruction.

                           41. Two Diamonds (1, 4)

1.    Opening A.
2.    Release 1 loop. 1, over intervening strings, picks up 5f.
3.    Osage Ending. (1, from below, enters 2 loop near the base of 2. Navajo
      1 loops. 2, from above, enters triangle near base of 1. Release 5 loop.
      Rotate 2 a half turn away from you and extend, palms facing away.)

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Osage Two Diamonds’ (Jayne
1906:28-30).
STRING GAMES OF THE NAVAJO                                              157

                          42. Four Diamonds (1)

1.   Opening A.
2.   Release 1 loop. 1, under intervening strings, picks up 5f.
3.   1, over 2n, picks up 2f. Release 5 loop.
4.   5, over 2n, picks up lower 1f. Release 1 loop.
5.   1, over 2 loop, picks up 5n.
6.   Osage Ending. (1, from below, enters 2 loop near the base of 2. Navajo
     1 loops. 2, from above, enters triangle near base of 1. Release 5 loop.
     Rotate 2 a half turn away from you and extend, palms facing away.)

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Osage Diamonds’ (Jayne
1906:24-27). ‘Two Diamonds’ (#41) and ‘Four Diamonds’ (#42), although
known worldwide, were not commonly encountered during our visits to the
reservation. This made us question whether they are traditional Navajo fig-
ures. However, one informant insisted that she learned them from her mother,
and both were photographed by ethnographer Pospisil sometime prior to
1932 while working in the American Southwest (Pospisil 1932, plates 351
and 352).

                             43. Six Stars (1, 3)
158                                W. WIRT, M. SHERMAN, M. MITCHELL

1.    Opening A.
2.    Release 1 loop.
3.    1, under 2 loop, picks up 2f, returns, and hooks down 2n.
4.    1, under intervening strings, picks up 5f and pulls it through the loop
      originally held by hooked 1. Release 5 loop.
5.    5, over 2 loop, picks up 1f.
6.    Osage Ending. (1, from below, enters 2 loop near the base of 2. Navajo
      1 loops. 2, from above, enters triangle near base of 1. Release 5 loop.
      Rotate 2 a half turn away from you and extend, palms facing outward.)

                            44. Opposite Hogans (3)

1.    Opening A.
2.    The teeth, from above, pick up the four strings that cross in the center of
      the figure and draw them toward the body.
3.    Release loops from 1 and 2 but do not extend. Pass both hands upward
      through the 5 loop while releasing it from 5, thus forming a wrist loop.
4.    Below the wrist loop three hanging loops are held in the teeth: two
      shorter loops and a longer loop. 5 passes over the far wrist string, down,
      toward the body, and under the long loop. 5 hooks up the free end of the
      long loop and returns over the far wrist string, pressing its tip against the
      palm to secure the retrieved string.
5.    On each hand a string runs from the mouth to the far wrist string. 5 picks
      up this string, drawing it through the loop hooked down by 5, which slips
      off as 5 is straightened.
6.    Release the mouth strings and extend.

Notes: In Jayne’s book this figure is called ‘Two Hogans’ (Jayne 1906:121-
123). Our informants at Many Farms did not extend the design by biting the
center strings and displaying the hogans side-by-side, as described by Jayne.
This may have something to do with the mother-in-law avoidance taboo illus-
trated by this figure. Mike Mitchell writes: “During early times Navajos were
not allowed to look upon their in-laws. So an in-law would make his or her
house (hogan) facing the opposite way to prevent any eye contact.” (Mitchell
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