As a child, you may remember having made one or several ojos de Dios or God’s Eye during art class. But you probably were never taught about their cultural and spiritual significance. This Mexican folk art, like many others throughout the world, is more than simply a beautiful craft. For the Huichol people, God’s Eyes are an integral part of a child’s development.
The Huichol tribe (wixárikas/wixáricas in their own language) is an indigenous group that lives in central Western Mexico in the Sierra Madre Occidental, many in Jalisco. Their best-known traditional religious offerings, nierika (nearika), are small diamonds or circles that have threads of yarn pressed into them. The sikuli, or God’s Eye, is actually a special type of nierika that is also called a Huichol cross.
Early anthropologists gave them the name in English and Spanish, noting that nierika comes from the Huichol verb nieriya, “to see”. Viewed as a talisman and placed in religious shrines and other sacred places, the sikuli came to be called the ojo de Dios.
The Purpose of God’s Eyes
The spiritual purpose of the ojos de Dios is to protect children in the first years of their lives. When a Huichol child is born, parents create the central part of a God’s Eye by tying together the two sticks into a cross. As the child grows, each year the parents add another color, until the age of five.
The resulting God’s Eye, considered a protective talisman, is then treasured throughout the person’s life and may be used in rituals and traditional medicine. The colors parents use to make it have different meanings, just as the points of the ojo de Dios represent the elements and the cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West).
While God’s Eyes are the most famous of their folk arts, the Huichol are also well-known for other more modern artisan pieces used as Latin decor such as intricately beaded sculptures and yarn painting.
How to Make Your Own Ojo de Dios
Given their significance in the lives of children, it’s appropriate that God’s eyes are a common craft for young people.
Want to give it a try? You’ll need two sticks (Popsicle sticks will work) and several colors of yarns or embroidery thread.
- Make an X with the sticks, tie a slipknot with the first color of thread, and wind the thread several times in figure eights around the joined sticks.
- Once they are firmly in place, don’t cut them – you’ll start weaving with the same color.
- Going counter-clockwise, weave the thread over and under each stick, making a loop around each.
- Once you have gone over and under all four, you have completed a round.
- Change colors by tying a new thread onto the strand. Finish up by wrapping the sticks with the remaining thread.
Need a visual? Here’s an easy tutorial with video about making your God’s eye.
If you have little ones around, give it a shot! And this time, you can let them know what this Hispanic tradition means to the Huichol people.