How to weave a Tsikuri (Ojo de Dios or God’s Eye)

One of my favourite crafts to do with kids is this simple activity, weaving squares on crossed sticks. Often called god’s eyes, tsikuri (sometimes spelt ‘tzixuri’ or ‘sikuli’ ) are woven diamond-shapes, made by winding wool in a simple pattern around four crossed sticks.

There’s nothing else to it – no fancy stitches or knots, so anyone can learn how to weave a god’s eye very quickly. And yet the simplicity belies how much enjoyment you can get from this easy task, repetitive weaving round and round.

It’s both meditative and relaxing, and great for hands that need to be kept busy!

Not got much time or just want the bullet points on how to make these? Click here for the Quick Read Instructions.

The origins of Tsikuri – a little bit of history…

God’s Eye, or tsikuri originated with the Wixárika people (often also referred to as the Huichol – a name given to them by the Spanish) of the Sierra Madre region of Mexico. For the Wixárika, tsikuri are ritualistic objects that are offered as gifts to their gods, for protection and favour. The crossed sticks represent the elements of earth, air, fire, and water, as well as the five sacred directions of north, south, east, west and centre.

The name ‘ojo de dios’ (or god’s eye) came from the Spanish conquistadors, from whom we have the earliest recorded mentions of tsikuri as long ago as the 15th century. However the Wixárika were making tsikuri long before this. After the arrival of the Spanish, they were forced to retreat deep into the inhospitable mountains of Sierra Madre, and became isolated from the influence of European colonisation. As a result the Wixárika are one of the few indigenous people of the Americas to survive to the modern day with their pre-Columbic traditions and religion mostly intact, and they continue to make tsikuri to this day.

The Wixárika have over a hundred gods, mostly connected with or reflecting the natural world around them. The word ‘tsikuri’ has been translated as ‘the power to see and understand things unknown’, or ‘magic sight’. Some myths say that the Wixárika god, Kauyumari, the Blue Deer, used a tsikuri to see everything in creation, and this would seem to be the origin of the name ‘god’s eye.

A God's Eye or Ojo de Dios, from Quemado Mountain, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
A God’s Eye or Ojo de Dios, from Quemado Mountain, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Image source

Rituals and traditions

Traditionally, when a baby is born, a parent makes a tsikuri for the child. This first tsikuri has just one colour for the central rhombus. Each year after, the parent will make a new tsikuri, with one additional ring of colour every year, until the child is five years old. These tsikuri are given to the gods as an offering of thanks that the child survived to that age. After the age of five, the child is old enough to make their own offering.

Giving gifts and offerings to the gods is a really important part of Wixárika culture. Families have their own altar (or xiriki), and they also leave offerings at sacred places or along their paths on journeys and pilgrimages. The offerings are often small, colourful artworks made with wool, bone, stones, and beads, for which the Wixárika have become well known. They are meant to both delight the gods and also remind them to look after and protect their people.

If you’d like to learn more about the Wixárika and their culture, I recommend taking a look at the website for the Huichol Centre, which has lots of interesting information. I also recommend the very fascinating and moving 2014 film, Huicholes, the Last Peyote Guardians, for a look at the issues the Wixárika face in continuing to protect their unique culture, way of life, and their land.

A beautiful piece of Wixárika yarn art, made by pressing wool into wax-coated boards. Image source

How to weave Tsikuri (God’s Eyes)

Weaving god’s eyes has become an incredibly popular craft, and is often done as a children’s activity because it is so simple, yet the end result is so effective. It doesn’t hurt that you also only need a couple of things – wool, sticks, and something to cut your wool with!

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Materials needed

Tsikuri or god’s eye weaving instructions

Getting started

1. Cut or break two sticks so that they are roughly the same length. About 15cm (6 inches) is a good length for a small god’s eye.

Place the sticks so that they cross at right angles at the middle point of both sticks.

Securing the centre of your god’s eye

1. Leaving a tail of a few centimetres/an inch, start wrapping your wool diagonally across the centre where the sticks cross.

(You can tie the end of your wool to one of the sticks if this is easier, especially for young children.)

2. Then repeat (ideally with the same number of ‘wraps’ across the opposite diagonal, to form an ‘X’.

Make sure to pull the wool tight so that the sticks don’t move once they are secured.

Weaving the god’s eye pattern

3. Once the centre is secure, you can start weaving the god’s eye pattern. To do this, pass the wool over the top of one stick, and loop under and around it, back to where you started.

5. Take the wool over to the next stick and repeat, making sure to go over the stick and then under when you make your loop, as before. You will need to keep the tension of the wool tight.

6. Repeat this pattern, going around each of the sticks in turn and pulling the wool tight to the middle. Soon, you’ll probably find that you can do the motion very quickly, as it’s just a simple loop.

After a while it will start to look like this…

Changing colours

7. If and when you want to change colour, cut your wool so you have a tail of about 3cm (1 inch).

Either tie on or (leaving a tail) position a new thread, and carry on with the same pattern as before.

You can trim off these tails later.

Finishing off your god’s eye weaving

8. Continue until the sikuli is the size you want, then tie off the wool on one of the sticks.

9. Optional – add decorative tassels, feathers, leaves or pompoms to the ends of your stick. See how to make a tassel for our quick tutorial.

10. Finally, tie on a loop of thread to hang up your sikuli for display.


Mastered the basic god’s eye? Try something more complicated!

Once you’ve got the hang of making a simple tsikuri, you can make even more elaborate versions with a few simple changes, or by adding other decorative bits, such as tassels.

Adding another stick will turn your god’s eye from a diamond-shape, to a hexagon, for example. Or use four sticks for an octagon. You can also layer multiple god’s eyes together, to create complex patterns and mandelas.

This tsikuri has been made using three sticks instead of two, for a hexagon shape. See how we added the conker centre here!

Multiple god’s eyes can be made as one large piece, as in the picture at the top of this post. To make a tsikuri like that, use extra-long sticks for the central tsikuri, with enough space to attach shorter sticks above and to either side. Once the central god’s eye is made, create new smaller crosses around it, and weave further tsikuri on these. Finally, add tassels, feathers, beads, or ribbons to decorate the ends of the sticks.


More from Rhubarb and Wren

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Quick-Read Instructions for weaving a god’s eye

For when you just want to get right to the point…

Materials needed: 
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Wool (yarn)
Sticks
Scissors

Method:
1. Overlap two sticks to form a cross or ‘x’ shape, then tie a piece of wool to one of the sticks.
2. Wrap the wool several times diagonally across the centre point where the sticks cross.
3. Repeat, this time wrapping across the opposite diagonal. Keep doing this (alternating diagonals) until the sticks are securely tied together.
4. To start weaving the traditional sikuli pattern, pass the wool over the top of one stick, and wrap all the way around it until you are back where you started.
5. Take the wool over to the next stick and repeat, making sure to go over the stick and then under and around, as before. You will need to keep the tension of the wool tight.
6. Repeat this pattern, going around each of the sticks in turn.
7. If you want to change colour, cut your wool so you have a tail of about 3cm (1 inch). Tuck this into the weave (alternatively tie on to one of the sticks), and then tie on a new thread, and carry on with the same pattern as before.
8. Continue until the sikuli is the size you want, then tie off the wool on one of the sticks.
9. Optional – add decorative tassels, feathers, leaves or pompoms to the ends of your stick.
10. Tie on a loop of thread to hang up your sikuli for display.

2 Comments

  1. É a minha primeira vez aqui no seu site. Estou amando.
    Gosto de como você aborda os artesanatos, falando das suas origens , dos seus sigficadados para o povo que os criaram.
    Parabéns por contribuir para o conhecimento sobre as várias culturas .
    Obs: Sou do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro.

    • Muito obrigada, Debora! I think it’s so important, especially with indigenous cultures that are in danger of being lost, to acknowledge and celebrate their stories and histories, so I’m really happy you enjoyed that part of this post 🙂

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