The Navajo art of Sandpainting began as a spiritual healing system rather than art for art's sake. Traditional Diné healing incorporates ritualism, prayer, ceremonies, and herbology to increase wellness and promote harmony with the universe. Sandpaintings are part of religious chants in which "Earth People and Holy People come into harmony, giving healing and protection."
Many Sandpaintings include yéi figures (see below), which are Navajo spiritual beings. The healing ceremonies involve medicine men chanting particular songs and simultaneously creating a Sandpainting on the ground. The medicine man asks for the yéis to come into the painting and help to heal the patient by restoring balance and harmony.
Once a healing ceremony is complete, the Sandpainting is destroyed. The Sandpaintings one sees in shops and on the Internet are commercially produced and contain important errors. As the real Sandpaintings are considered sacred, should one come into possession of a correctly completed Sandpainting, the Navajos fear that evil would befall the person in possession of what "amounted to a never-ending cry beseeching the Holy People's appearance."
(commercial sand painting depicting the 5 yéis)