Sunday, December 21, 2014

Kachina Cycle

Weather: Clear night Tuesday allowed heat to escape and cooled the lower atmosphere so the moisture passing through from the Pacific fell as snow all day Wednesday. The snow melted into the ground as it continued to fall. The wet layer froze in the night. Thursday morning, mist enveloped the mesa and all but my closest neighbors’ houses. Later the sun broke through, but mists continued to rise between the badlands and the Jémez. Since, snow has been melting down to the freeze level and pooling into mud above.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas. Leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, vinca, oriental poppy, sweet pea, alfilerillo, dandelion; needle, June, pampas, and other grasses.

What’s gray: Winterfat, snow-in-summer; four-wing salt bushes are gray-green; buddleia, pinks and catmint leaves are blue gray.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot and apple; purple aster leaves.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe and weeping willows; some arborvitae have browned.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit tracks in snow, small birds.

Weekly update: Winter, summer, the great opposition. Santa Clara is divided between the winter people and summer ones. Traditionally, power was transferred from one to the other at this time of year. Following adoption of a tribal constitution in 1935, a governor has been elected on the first Saturday of January who serves for a year.

The Hopi still see the world in binary terms, but don’t lapse into the rigidity of modern Manichaeans who see good and evil, then reduce humans to one or the other. They also don’t fall into the legalism of some who answer crises with the mantra something wasn’t done right, we have strayed from the single pure way. Instead of reproaching themselves for error, they look for alternative ways to satisfy unmet demands of the spirits.

When one reads descriptions of ceremonies one is struck by differences. Some can be accounted for by responses to changes constantly being imposed by the dominant American culture. Thus, Jesse Walter Fewkes, Alexander Stephen and Heinrich Richert Voth saw different rituals in the 1890s than Crow-wing did in 1921 or Mischa Titiev in the early 1930s.

But even in the same year, there were variations between the twelve Hopi pueblos. Voth was at Oraibi on the Third Mesa when conservatives were beginning to withdraw from communal life. They later left to establish Hotevilla in 1906. They are the exception to the freedom from rigidity.

In the same years, Stephen was living near the federal agency at Keams Canyon and visiting Walpi on First Mesa. He noted differences between Hopi towns, and between them and the Tewa-speakers at Hano on First Mesa. He also observed Zuñi, Navajo and Havasupai who visited Walpi ceremonies. In the 1930s, Titiev described young men in Oraibi who attended ritual dances in other pueblos, much like young men everywhere visit social gatherings in nearby communities.

Some new practices were adopted, and other possibilities ignored. Stephen noted the Hopi who visited a Ghost Dance at Havasupai in 1891 were more mystified than interested in the cult then spreading among the plains bands.

The underlying view of the universe has been more durable than surface variations might suggest. The Hopi embrace the dichotomies of winter and summer, night and day, the living and the dead. Whether the Kachina rituals represent some post-drought addition or evolved from what went before, matters less than the continuities embedded in the ceremonies.

Legend says Kachinas are spirits who act as intermediaries between humans and those with power over nature. Titiev was told, they used to come as themselves but were killed or insulted. Those who remained began using the paraphernalia the Kachinas left to invoke their aid in inducing monsoon rains for their crops.

Now Kachinas arrive as clouds with the winter solstice and leave in July after the first, ritual corn crop matures. The first is Soyal, the second Niman. The only Kachina dances that occur between Niman and the next Soyal are at Hano and Zuñi where there is no ritual leave taking.

Each of the main ceremonies has both a private part held in the kiva of the clan responsible for the ceremony and a public part held in the kivas of the other clans. Voth, a Mennonite missionary born in Alexanderwohl, Ukraine, has been the only outsider ever to have been permitted to observe some of the more esoteric rituals.

Stephen had more access than many anthropologists, perhaps because he only knew a little Hopi. He communicated through Navajo, the lingua franca between the Hopi and Zuñi. If he asked about something too secret, he could be put off. He once complained, "I have been bamboozled from pillar to post all day, have received no scrap of information" about preparations for the Water Serpent in 1893.

Each ceremony is eight days long, but the public one begins the day after the private one. Both are composed of two cycles of four. The private ones begin eight days after the solstices. Many observers combine the two calendars and count nine days. There often are pre-ceremonies four days before, and post-ceremonies four days after.

Public ceremonies are held indoors from December until April, then they move outdoors. The February ritual, Powamu, focuses on beans, the others on corn. The primary rituals occur annually on a set schedule. The late spring festivals are sponsored voluntarily by individuals or kivas when and if they choose.

The late spring festivals include the Water Serpent Dance and the Puppet Doll Dance. The post-Niman ones include some best known to outsiders, those of the Flute and Snake-Antelope Societies. Women’s society rituals like Lakon follow the harvest.

Dualities permeate ceremonies. All envision different roles for men and women, with most of the official ritual life reserved for men. Gifts to young boys always include small bows and arrows. Young girls receive dolls made from cottonwood roots trimmed as Kachinas. All public performances feature both dancers who enact a ritual and clowns who secularize it.

Hopi aren’t the only ones who believe in Kachinas. It’s thought the masked dancers were known in most of the pueblos before Juan de Oñate arrived at San Juan in 1598, but they were suppressed by the Spanish. They survived in the more isolated pueblos west of the Continental Divide where Spanish friars, bureaucrats, soldiers and colonists had few material interests. The ambitious wanted to be near the center of power in Santa Fé, and most of those really wanted to be back in Mexico City.

After the reconquest, the Spanish made only token demands on the Hopi. The Hopi destroyed the pueblo of Awátovi in 1700 because it was too open to the return of the friars. They became the acknowledged curator of a tradition that had been very much in flux after the droughts of the late 1200s and again after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Notes: Fewkes and Voth have written extensively about the Hopi. Some references to books by them by them appeared in earlier posts. For clarity, I’m using common terms like kachina here, and not more correct tribal ones like katsina.

Crow-wing. A Pueblo Indian Journal 1920-1921, edited by Elsie Clews Parsons, 1925.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi, 1944.

_____. The Hopi Indians of Old Oraibi, 1972.

Photographs: The Black Mesa on the east side of the Río Grande and Tchicoma, the highest peak in the Jémez to the west (11,561'), are the two sacred landmark geological features.

1. Sun obscured by clouds near Black Mesa on Tuesday, 16 December at 3:52 pm.

2. Sky near Tchicoma in the Jémez the morning after snow fell Sunday, 14 December at 8:38 am.

3. Traditional sun and cloud symbols, Black Mesa in right fore corner, "Mother Corn" mural, design by Rose B. Simpson of Santa Clara, with collaborative support from Warren Montoya of Santa Ana Pueblo. For more details, see posting for 2 November 2014.

4. Realistic sun and clouds near Tchicoma, same mural as #3.

5. Photograph of sun and clouds near Tchicoma, 12 May 2013, 7:36 pm.

6. Rain falling on Tchicoma, 22 April 2012, 4:12 pm.

7. Mists rising from the Río Grande, 5 December 2014, 7:10 am.

8. Mists rising between the badlands and the Jémez, 6 December 2014, 6:55 am.

9. Mists rising behind the badlands, the Jémez shrouded in clouds, 14 December 7:22 am.

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