May 5, 2008

Ojo de Dios: The Eye of God

The Battle of Puebla, fought on May 5, 1862, was waged as a result of 7,000 French soldiers (the best equipped army in the world) attacking a Mexican fort,whose troops consisted almost entirely of indigenous soldiers. With Mexican troops that numbered half those of the French and severely under-equipped,they faced a battle that might have been seen as totally improbable or even impossible. As fate would have it,the Mexicans were blessed with a heavy thunderstorm that drenched the combatants, obscuring visibility and making the grounds outside the fort slippery. Before the day was over, the Mexicans. led by General Ignacio Zaragoza, had won against all odds. That victory is celebrated as Cinqo de Mayo, today...The Fifth of May.

In honor of this day, I illustrate the making of 'Ojos de Dios'...the Eyes of God as both crafted and yes, even quilted. Most commonly found among the Huichol Indians of northwestern Mexico, but seen in cultures across the globe, the diamond pattern of interlacing strands is a version of an oblique mandala. With its four points representing earth, fire, air and water, it is a symbolic representation for expressing in the physical, a prayer that the eye of God will watch over us.

The ojo is made with a crossing of two sticks, using the basic dimensions of the Christian cross, with yarn wrapped from stick to stick to make a diamond shape. The colors change every few inches, in an outwardly progression. The Huichol Indians placed theirs in corn fields 'to keep away ghosts.' In Tibet, similar sticks of yarn are created and placed on rooftops to keep away evil spirits.

In any belief system, they are lovely...made with rainbow colors and used in everything from crafts for children, to jewelry. But what I love most, is that they are the diamond of our string quilting, repeated over and over again.

Most quilters work with string or strip quilting without seemingly noticing the same linear mandalas appeared in the diamond shaped patterns...repeating again and again.

It is our love of this symbolic and almost sub-conscious pattern that so draws us to the balance between linear patterns and the imbalance of a multitude of colors and forms at once. Quilters either love or hate string quilting for this reason...many seeing it as too vibrant, too wild, too chaotic for them...others drawn to the intense symmetry and explosion of rainbow coloration, subconsciously drawn deeper and perhaps, even into the artistic vision of creation that truly is...'the Ojo de Dios.' ( See String Quilting for more information and free quilt patterns)

So whether you attempt a yarn or a fabric creation, celebrate Cinqo de Mayo by sharing the gift of creating your own patterns, your interplay of control and chaos... in art, just as in life. What may seem improbable or even impossible can often be the start of something new and wonderful as we look deeply into, and are transformed by.... 'the eye of God' in craft or quilt.

shown above:
1.Ojo de Dios in yarnstick crafted bolo tie
2.Ojo de Dios, as I see them, in string quilting
3. Eye of God as nickname for The Helix Nebula NGC 7293 This nebula lies about 650 light-years away towards the constellationof Aquarius and spans about 2.5 light-years.

Links:How to make an Ojo De Dios


Jan said...

What an interesting article you wrote--I never knew the story behind Cinqo de Mayo--thanks for sharing!!

Paula, the quilter said...

Cinqo de Mayo is a very large celebration around here! Your post brought back memories of the Ojo de Dios I made in summer camp one year. And now I need to go down to the Tortilleria La Autentica (y Panaderia) and pick up some tortillas (made fresh every day). Maybe a couple of burrito de pollo con chipotle, too. Yum.

Patti said...

I never cease to be astounded by the depth of your knowledge - truly amazing!

I can remember having the Sunday school kids make those back years ago.

I didn't know the origin of Cinqo de Mayo - thanks for the lesson!

Shelina said...

We've made the Ojo de Dios in many elementary school classes. I didn't see a connection to the string quilts until now. Thanks.

Holly said...

You did my homework for me again - you go girl! *hehe* Now I know what's behind May 5th.

Adorable preemie quilts.

Anonymous said...

Cinqo de Mayo has been a very special day for me for about the last 10 years. In some ways it was my personal independance day as well.

Anonymous said...

If im in the situation of the owner of this blog. I dont know how to post this kind of topic. he has a nice idea.