As the Navajos were influenced by the Spanish and began to work with silver, they incorporated the Naja. Bridles for prized Navajo horses were some of the first silver work created. The bridle cheek pieces and browband were covered with single pieces of hand-worked silver. The Naja hung from the browband where it lay in the middle of the horse's forehead. The Naja was a talisman used to protect the horse from injury during raids on other tribes. Horses were also introduced by the Spanish into Navajo culture. The wealth of a family was determined by the size of his herd. Horses are still prized by the Navajo. They represent freedom and cooperation.
As the Navajo began to make personal adornment out of silver, they incorporated the Naja into their necklaces (late 1800s squash blossoms). Jewelry became a sign of wealth and status for a family.
The Moorish Naja looks like an omega sign and sometimes it has hands on the ends. Hands are a sign of friendship. In the Arab world the Hand of Fatima (an upward facing hand with closed fingers) is placed on doorways and worn on jewelry to ward off evil. The Navajo Naja has evolved from that design.
Squash Blossom Necklaces and Najas from the 1960's - 1980's were set with Natural Turquoise from American Mines.Sometimes a cross or dragonfly (pueblo cross) is featured in the middle of the Naja.
Today, the Naja is an integral part of traditional and contemporary Native American jewelry. It is also, in my mind, a sign of the influence of different cultures exploring each other.
In September, my report from Santa Fe Indian Market!!