This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can make an Ojo de Dios with your whole family together!
The Ojo de Dios art exploration accompanies Unit 3-12 about Native American Art. Our online catalog pages are a treasure trove of resources where you can find additional project ideas, web links, printables, and more. Visit Unit 3-12 to see “Links & Videos” and “Extras,” like this project, that you can add to each Layers of Learning unit. Layers of Learning has hands-on experiments in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.
Ojo de Dios (oh-ho-day-DEE-ohs) is Spanish for “Eye of God.” When the early Spaniards came to Mexico they encountered the Huichol (wet-chol) people who lived in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. The Huichol Indians who lived in the mountains made God’s eyes (or Ojos de Dios) to watch over them. They were woven on to crisscrossing sticks, joining in the center. The center eye represented the sun and stood for the power of seeing and understanding things we normally cannot see. The ends of the sticks represented the basic elements–earth, water, wind, and fire.
Some say it represents the cross of Jesus Christ, but originally this was not so. The Huichol people focused their worship on nature and the earth rather than a specific divine being. Other Native American tribes since have adopted the practice of making and using Ojos de Dios as well. Making one is inviting the Eye of God to watch over them. Often they are made for little children as gifts. They accompany wishes of health, long life, and protection. Themes of nature and the natural world are common in Native American arts.
Step 1: Library Research
Before you begin exploring, read a book or two about Native American art. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about Native Americans and Native American arts, and crafts. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.
North American Indian
by David Murdoch
Native North American Art
by Janet Berlo & Ruth Phillips
Spirits of The Earth
by Bobby Lake-Thom
Step 2: Ojo de Dios
You need craft sticks, scissors, and several colors of yarn. We like to use one multi-colored skein of yarn.
1. First, tie the sticks together to create a cross. (Optionally, you can put a dab of glue on the knot to secure it.) Begin weaving by wrapping the yarn around the stick centers in an X. Your goal is to cover the center square as completely as possible.
2. Once your center is covered, begin going around the center, over and around the sticks, one corner after another. The pattern will keep getting larger as you progress outward, creating a square pattern as you work your way out. When you’re ready for a new color, just tie the new color to the end of the first color and continue weaving and wrapping. If you are using multi-colored yarn, just keep going until it is big enough.
3. Once you’ve done all your colors tie it off at the end. If you’d like, you can leave enough of a string to create a loop to hang it from.
The Huichol people traditionally used very bright colors. Native American art is known and recognized for its vibrant bright colors and patterns. They create energetic and lively art and music. Choose colors that you love for their vibrancy and life!
Step 3: Show What You Know
Write a narration that goes with your Ojo de Dios project that tells about the connection to nature that Native Americans had, explaining the sun symbolism and the sticks representing the four elements – earth, wind, water, and fire, as well as other connections you see. Show off your project and read your narration out loud.
Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.
Create a poem about the four elements – earth, wind, water, and fire. Begin each line with an element and then desecribe it vividly.
Earth is a mound of brown that seems lifeless, but is the medium for life to grow from.
When a child is born, the central eye of the Ojo de Dios is woven by the father, then one eye is added for every of the child’s life until he or she reaches five years old. The Ojo de Dios is then given as a gift of protection from father to child.
Take your books about Native American art outside into the natural world. As you read them, discuss the connection to nature that many Native Americans had, and observe things in the natural world that could be symbolic reminders.
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