Native American Face Paint

Published on March 27, 2012 by Amy

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Native American Face Paint
Native American Face Paint

The Native American face paint and body paint is so often presented in the wrong light. Many people often think of the painted face as being war paint. Although some Native traditions used warpaint it was more to frighten the enemy and to add to the Warrior’s expression of bravery.

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The painted face is used in two types of personal medicine, the face paint of the warrior and his special gifts and the Ceremonial Paint which celebrated the individual spirit to all others of a tribe. Basically the ceremonial painted face was a form of self-expression. Never used as a way to disguise one’s identity but rather to make their identity known in a much more personal way.

The warpaint was used on the warrior and his horse to show their team spirit of working together. The medicine shown in the painted face and body was also used on the horse to protect it with the same medicine as the rider. A warrior would receive his special battle medicine from a medicine dream.

Whether the painted face was presented in a battle or for ceremonial use the colors used and the symbol used had special meaning to the individual wearing the paint. Made from powder pulverized from specific clays for color the powders were mixed with bear grease or Buffalo tallow to make the paint. Sometimes grasses and herbs were used to give a specific color to the clay powder.

Traditional colors of red, black, white, and yellow are normally found in the Native American face paint which represent the colors of the Four Directions. The colors of blue and green were not a normal color choice because they were more difficult to make with natural materials. If one was able to make the colors they represented Father Sky in the color blue and Mother Earth in the color green.

A face that was painted totally black indicated the loss of a loved one and the wearer was in mourning. Eye sockets painted black tells the ones who see them that the person acknowledges the direction of West, he/she sees the truth, they are a fair judge, are as strong as a bear, and they would make a good adviser of the People.

A red line down the middle of the nose could mean two separate things. One meaning would be that the person wearing the line trusts the path they are following. Our nose leads us in every direction we go so a red nose would indicate a leader who has gained the trust of the People.

Each symbol of one’s personal medicine will be painted in the color of the direction that brought the knowledge to them. Most traditions use yellow for East, red for South, black for West, white for North, blue for Above, green or brown for Below, and green for Within.

The Native American face paint indicated the gifts that person was given by Great Spirit and shared the knowledge of those medicines with his People as a form of self-expression.

Source: native-american-totems Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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