Storm: Navajo Textiles

The Storm pattern originated near Tuba City and Kayenta, Arizona between 1903-1911 and is highly symbolic. The connecting zigzag lines from the four corners to the center represent lightning bolts. They carry blessings back and forth between the mountaintops, bestowing good spirits on the weaver and her household. [Artist: Marion Sam, Four Corners, Size: 46”x33”, Kel Darnell and Marc McDonald Collection]

The traditional Storm design which appears on many Navajo rugs originated near Tuba City and Kayenta, Arizona between 1903-1911 and is highly symbolic, though representative details about its origin are unclear due to variations in familial, regional, and personal interpretations. The Storm pattern is associated with the seasonal rainstorms that bring about success during the growing season and is recognized as an interpretation of the Navajo creation story. 

Instead of applying a central diamond, like many other Navajo weaving styles, the central element is often a rectangle, connecting to the four corners of the weaving with diagonal or zig-zag lines. This central element is often described as a motif for the center of the universe, the Hogan (a traditional dwelling and ceremonial structure) or a lake. The zig-zag lines are recognized as symbols of lightning, which bestow blessings on the weaver. The four corners, which are often highlighted as distinct design features, represent the four sacred mountains connecting the Navajo Nation or the four winds. Despite the well-defined design elements, you will see Storm weavings in a variety of colored yarns. 

“The People’s Tapestry: Weaving Tradition in Navajo Culture” is now on display at the Moab Museum, featuring a variety of Navajo textile styles, including the Storm design. In this column throughout the summer, the Museum team will feature a variety of weaving styles and their associated backgrounds and stories.  

This exhibition is a celebration of the magnificent weavings created by the Diné (which means “the people” in Navajo). Diné textiles reflect the concept of hózhóó, or balance and harmony, expressed in primarily symmetrical designs. The significance of Diné textiles transcends artistic expression; weavers beautify their world through the spiritual act of weaving and integrate their art into the web of everyday life. The Navajo weaver’s song declares, “with beauty, it is woven.”

This article was originally published in the Moab Sun News on July 23, 2023.