The Navajo Indian man in this photograph is wearing the costume of Tonenili, the God of Water, for a ceremony called the night chant or Yebichai. His costume is made of spruce tree branches and a mark. This photograph was taken about 1904.
Click on image for full size
Edward S. Curtis, photographer
Tonenili, Navajo God of Water
Tonenili, who is also known as the Water Sprinkler, is the Navaho God of Water. He is responsible for rain, sleet, and snow. He also causes thunder and lightning
Tonenili is a very mischievous guy. He means no harm, but he likes to play tricks. He has been known to cause downpours at times when people were hoping for blue sky, like during a picnic. He often acts like a clown.
Tonenili is often present at Navaho ceremonies. A person dresses up as Tonenili in the braches of a spruce tree and a mask and then plays the part of the clown like god of water during the ceremony. This comical element is often welcome in rituals that are very serious such as the Navajo night chant. The night chant is done to either heal someone who is ill or heal the world when it is out of balance. A chant repeated over and over combined with dances repeated over and over makes for a mesmerizing experience. As the clown, Tonenili is able to lighten the mood during the night chant. He sprinkles water around and has fun while the chanters chant and the dancers dance.
Last modified July 23, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Rain is precipitation that falls to the Earth in drops of 5mm or more in diameter according to the US National Weather Service. Virga is rain that evaporates before reaching the ground. Raindrops form...more
Sleet forms when a partially melted snowflake or raindrop turns back into ice as it is falling through the air. Sleet starts out in the clouds as a snowflake or a raindrop. If it starts out as a snowflake,...more
Lightning is the most spectacular element of a thunderstorm. In fact it is how thunderstorms got their name. Wait a minute, what does thunder have to do with lightning? Well, lightning causes thunder....more
Ahsonnutli was the sky father and chief god for the Navajo. He created heaven, Earth, and the sky. Each of the four directions, or cardinal points, are supported by a giant. Each direction is symbolized...more
Amphitrite was one of the sea-nymphs called the Nereids. One day the sea god Poseidon saw her dancing and fell desperately in love with her. He promptly asked her to marry him but unfortunately she refused....more
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was known to the Romans as Venus. To the perfection of her figure and the purity of her features she added an innocent grace. On her sweet face she...more
In Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Jupiter(in Greek Zeus) and Leto (Letona). He was the god of the Sun, logic, and reason, and was also a fine musician and healer. Leto travelled all over Greece...more