Beyond Mother Earth and Father Sky: Sex and gender in Ancient Southwestern visual arts and ethnography

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Traditional Navajo sandpaintings function in the context of healing ceremonies that focus on bringing the world into harmony. As originally given to the Navajo by the Holy people, sandpaintings should be made for no other purpose. Yet contemporary artists reproduce some sandpaintings in permanent form for sale. One of the most popular images shows Mother Earth and Father Sky (Fig. 10.1), who are benevolent, ‘persuadable’ beings (Parezo 1983: 93). Most sandpainting symbols are considered dangerous outside a ritual setting, but Mother Earth and Father Sky can be painted without causing harm to artists or their families. Buyers like them, too. Visitors to the southwestern United States find Native art and culture captivating for many reasons, among them ‘The Indian’s’ reverence for Mother Earth. As Gaia or the Great Goddess, Mother Earth is also an ancient figure in European religious thought. She enjoys a revival in Europe and in North America in the women’s spirituality movement (e.g. Sjoo 1975). Those who look to ‘pre-patriarchal’ European cultures for spiritual inspiration often say they feel kinship with Native American traditionalists in the causes of ecology, human rights, and non-violence, because members of both groups respect Mother Earth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Identities
Subtitle of host publicationA Reader
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781134120512
ISBN (Print)9780203965986
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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