According to Philip, in Mythology, there are many ways to tell a story. Many myths "are ‘told’ through ritual, dance, or art rather than through narrative storytelling. In the chantways of the Native American Navajo, sand painting, song, prayer, dance, and ritual combine to relive complex myths, which are remembered not only for their story content but for their healing spiritual power". In many cultures costumes worn by dancers, body painting, and woven textiles are also used to tell stories.
Native American Navajo chantways include complex and sacred sand paintings. The chantways are ceremonies in which skilled painters create complex pictures, with colored sand, under the direction of a "singer" who is in charge of the ritual. The family sponsoring the ceremony gathers the colored pigments. A mortar and pestle is used to grind sandstone, chalk, charcoal, cornmeal, and dried flower petals into fine powders to be carefully trickled onto the sand (earth mother).
An average sand painting takes six men about four hours. These temporary altars are sprinkled with pollen by the singer and then destroyed as part of the healing ritual. The grains are swept onto a blanket and then released to the wind. There are over a thousand types of sand paintings; very few are remembered today. The more frequently created chantways include: The Beauty Chant and sand painting (coiled snakes around a center coiled snake), The Blessing-way (to ensure blessing and the sanctity of the earth), and The Healing-way (a secret oral tradition where the singer decides on the chant and the sand painting to fit the needs of the patient).
Tibetan sand paintings, or dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala from colored powder), are sacred works of art created in the form of a mandala or cosmogram. Powdered, dyed marble is applied with a special metal funnel, known as a chang-bu, forming ritual diagrams that are made up of geometric figures, both counterbalanced and concentric. These mandalas are used for contemplation and concentration. Made up of outer, inner, and secret symbols, the archetypal images restore balance and activate archetypal energies. The outer aspects represent the outer world in divine form, the inner aspects symbolize the transformation into enlightened mind, and the secret aspects represent the primordial balance of body and mind. The creation of dul-tson-kyil-kor results of the purification and healing of these three levels or aspects.
Images and symbols used include the cardinal points, a protective barrier, and the colors black – the east and the wind, red – the south and fire, white – the north and water, and yellow – the west and the earth. Ritual music may accompany the creation of the mandala. When it is complete, the grains are swept into a jar, taken to nearby water, and poured into the water source to carry healing energies to the world. The common goals of the Navajo and Tibetan rituals are to reinstate balance and harmony and to restore the relationship with the self.
Philip, N., Mythology:An Illustrated Guide, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1998