March 2008 Artifact of the Month

Artifact: Ye'ii bicheii

Traditionally, for the Diné (Navajo), the Ye'ii bicheii (yeh-bih-chay) is a vital part of a complex winter healing ceremony known as “Night Way.”  This series of Ye'ii bicheii dolls represent the human representation of the “Yei.”  In short, Yeis are deities or Holy People and are represented via songs, dances, sandpaintings and textile weavings.






Ye’ii bicheii (yeh-bih-chay) are spirit beings that are depicted and represented through many forms and practices within the Diné (Navajo) healing ceremony known as “Tleeji,” meaning “Night Way.”  Normally, it is translated into English as “Night Chant.”

Historically, Night Chant was used as a blessing to protect those going into battle.  This very complicated and detailed practice is now performed as a special winter ceremony for those who are ailing with paralysis, blindness, or deafness.  The Night Chant is facilitated by a selected Diné Medicine Man who is the only one with the knowledge of proper Night Chant practice.  He oversees and leads a variety of elaborate rituals and tasks over the course of the nine-day ceremony.  With the assistance of initiated and trained Diné men, these tasks include a series of healing chants, Ye'ii bicheii dances, the construction of sandpaintings, and the use of prayer sticks.

The Ye’ii bicheii dance is performed for purification rites and the dancers appear on the ninth and final night of the Night Chant.

The Night Chant sets the “patient” on the path toward reestablishing the natural harmony and balance that allow for health.  To the Diné, this is known as achieving Hózhó –harmony and balance.