The Winter’s Healing painting series by Daniel A. Walters is based in the traditional healing concept of the Navajo. The imagery usually consists of a spiritual figure, called “Yei”, set before a collection of aspen trees, misty clouds and a blue bird. Yei are also referred to as the “Holy People” of the Navajo. The term “Yei-Bi-Chei” is a man portraying a Yei. The YeiBiChei or Night Chant ceremony is a healing rite used by the Navajo during the winter months. Healing through the Night Chant involves all aspects of the patients life; health, family, financial, etc.
Walters illustrates the idea of Yei, a spiritual being. There are no human physical characteristics attached to the Yei in the painting. The Yei is donned in a mask above a wreath of spruce branches about the neck and a blanket that drapes into the background. Attached to the mask is a hollowed out gourd to create the beak of the mouth, long hair and symbolic designs are painted on the mask. The Yei has at least two eagle feathers attached to back of the mask. The Yei carries a large gourd rattle in his right hand and a cluster of sage in the left.
The mask is painted with a corn stalk in center with 5 ears. The corn represents man and woman, according to the Navajo Creation Story people were created from white and yellow corn; the 5 ears represent the fingers of the hand. The zig zag lines represent the clouds which bring water in the form of rain to nourish the corn. The entire figure represent the spiritual healing present and the blue bird is the link between the spiritual and physical. It is important to understand that the Winter’s Healing painting is not an actual representation of the Night Chant, and it is not to be used as an interpretation of the complex and quantified ceremonial rite. It is the artist’s personal experience he wishes to share.
As a young child walking to school, Walters experienced a Yei among a cluster trees. This is the inspiration for the paintings.