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 is the Navaho God of Water. He is also called the Water Sprinkler because he sprinkles water on people. He makes rain, sleet, and snow. He also makes 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.
At Navaho ceremonies there is often a man acting as Tonenili. He dresses up in the braches of a spruce tree and a mask. Then the acts like a clown just like Tonenili would during the ceremony. The funny things he does are often welcome during rituals that are very serious like the 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 is repeated over and over. Dances are repeated over and over too. Meanwhile, Tonenili acts like a clown and lightens the mood. He sprinkles water around and has fun while the chanters chant and the dancers dance.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist
specimens, and educational games
You might also be interested in:
Raindrops form when tiny water droplets collide together in clouds to form bigger ones. When they get too heavy, rain falls out of the clouds. Rain is more than 5mm in diameter. The types of clouds that...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 a cloud as a snowflake or a raindrop. It may be a snowflake or a raindrop,...more
Lightning is the coolest thing about 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. Lightning...more
Ahsonnutli was the sky father and chief god of the Navajo. He created heaven, Earth, and the sky. The four main directions are believed to be supported by giants. Each direction has a specific color: white-east;...more
In Roman and Greek mythology, Amphitrite was a beautiful sea nymph. Poseidon (Neptune), who was the god of the sea and earthquakes, fell in love with her at first sight. Amphitrite did not respond to his...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. He was known as the god who could...more