The Tree of Life Design. From Central Asia to Navajoland and Back (with a Mexican Detour) Part 3

The Tree of Life design or Bird Pictorial in Navajo rugs first appeared around the turn of the 20th century. Usually this style portrays either a cornstalk or a tree growing from a basket. Birds are perched on them, and flowers, bees, and butterflies rabbits, squirrels or even farm animals may also be included. In my opinion, the Navajo Tree of Life design has a double origin, which merged in some examples to create the so-called Tree of Life/Bird Pictorial rugs. The first source of inspiration comes from the Chant Weaves, or Saindpainting rugs: the oldest wall hangings and rugs show a type of design that alternates yei and cornstalks, almost always with a bird on their tips or portrays Corn People as cornstalks with yei heads with birds perched on the leaves. The Cornstalk on top of a mound is the Pueblo version of the Tree of life. The second source comes from Asian and Middle Eastern carpets and rugs. When the Navajo weavers, inspired by Oriental models, wove a real tree, not a cornstalk, however, they were both reproducing the Central Asian shamanic tree with the soul-birds perched on its boughs, and recognized the fundamental identity of the cornstalk and the birch, spruce or larch tree of the Asian nomads as symbols of life and connection with the spiritual world.