Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winter Solstice

Weather: As the grays darkened late Monday afternoon, rain came down, then snow. More fell on Christmas. Yesterday and this morning temperatures fell to the lowest of the season, just over 10. It’s the time of year when the sun comes into my eyes in the house around 8 in the morning.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas. Stems of roses; 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; sandbar willow wood is now rust brown.

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

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: The winter solstice is the darkest time of year; light appears for only 9 hours and 45 minutes for three days, from December 19 to 21. Humans quake as successive days grow shorter, cold rains and snows arrive, and temperatures fall. In Santa Fé, the sun sets at 4:50 from December 3 to 10.

Then, slowly, one notices the sun sets a little later. One breathes easier. Some of our oldest rituals celebrate the days following the solstice. As civilizations changed, we clung to those remnants of the past that assuaged our deepest fears.

Every year, we see Santas that hark back to Siberian shamans, trees borrowed from pagan northern Europe, Italian Holy families, and snowmen taken from a 1950 Gene Autry recording. Neighbors usually only display one, but inflatable snowmen and Santas do appear together, and reindeer often graze outside creches.

The Hopi winter solstice ceremony, Soyal, is a similar compression of history. Ko’hituwa says Bear and Parrot journeyed together from Jémez, the one riding on the head of the other. As they neared First Mesa from the east, Parrot flew ahead to arrive first.

The Bear Clan officiates at Soyal, except at Walpi where the clan died out. There the Pátki Clan substitutes. The Parrot Clan became the Kachina Clan.

Men first were hunters. Andrew Stephen was told, sparrow hawk "is a great hunter, Eagle" and an unidentified hawk "are not very good hunters." A hawk impersonation is the most important event on the fourth night, and is repeated on the eighth night at Walpi. Walpi schedules a four-day rabbit hunt when Soyal ends.

After Bear came the warriors, the Snake from southern Utah. Masi’ told Stephen a Snake youth used to wonder where a stream went. He asked his father, who also had wondered. The man hollowed a cottonwood log for the boy to use as a boat. At the end of his journey, he met Spider Woman who greeted him as her grandson. Her two grandsons are the war gods.

Jesse Walter Fewkes was told brothers in the Horn Clan married women from the Snake. The children were not accepted by other clans, and so the brothers left. The first arrived from the east with Keres language songs, the other from the south where it had united with the Flute Clan. Fewkes believes it possible the women were Shoshone.

The Oraibi Horn Clan chief bears the greatest responsibility for Soyal. He determines when the joint initiation rites begin for four societies that must end seventeen days before Soyal. To enter the officiating kiva of Soyal, a man must be a member one of the societies, Wüwütcimtû.

On the last night of Naash’naiya, the elders stay away. At dawn they see the first kachina who appears as a sleepy old man. Sixteen days later Soyal begins.

The Horn chief at Oraibi again watches the sun on the morning of the fourth day of Soyal to confirm it has moved. Once he gives a signal, rituals for the day begin and sun watching is transferred to the chief of the Gray Flute Clan.

On the final morning, around 2:45 am, the Star priest enters the main kiva carrying a long crook with a black ear of corn. He dances "backward and forward east of the fireplace." Then he leaps toward the officiating priest, trades the crook for a sun symbol, and continues dancing "north of the fireplace sideways from east to west and west to east" and twirls "the sun symbol very fast in the same directions."

Heinrich Voth, whose description is quoted, said the Star priest at Oraibi was a member of the Sun Clan in the 1890s. That group is related to the Reed Clan who played the same role at Walpi. Fewkes believed the crook represented an ancient weapon. They appear on the altars of both Soyal and the Antelope Society, once the exclusive domain of the Snake Clan.

The chief of the Reed Clan is also head of the warrior society. According to Pautiwa of the Eagle Clan at Walpi, they originally lived in an eastern pueblo. Fewkes believes they lived for a while with the Zuñi and that many of their rituals are like those of the Zuñi bow priest. Their stars are like warrior symbols Polly Schaafsma has documented on southern and eastern Río Grande rock art.

The war chief is from the Badger Clan, whose ancestors migrated from a pueblo a few miles to the north of the mesas. On the fourth night at Oraibi, he carries the symbols of the older war twin, a stone tomahawk and old shield. During the seventh song, the head of the Coyote Clan attacks him. Coyote are related to the Snake.

On the same night at Walpi, members of Wüwütcimtû from Sichomovi enter with their chief who is wearing parrot feathers on his head and a sun disk on his back. He chants for some twenty minutes before being given a shield. Four older men attack him. He staggers up the ladder and returns to Sichomovi, home of the Badger women.

During the ninth song at Oraibi, the head of the Badger Clan drinks from the medicine tray. Then each man dips a shell or stone into the water to drink. They mix the water in their mouths with clay and return to their homes where they rub the clay on all members of their families.

Crow-wing said, at Hano, the war chief made prayer sticks for the war gods, the two brothers. He’s a member of the Reed Clan, and all male members of his clan help. After they eat supper, they return with a gun or bow and arrow to sing all night. The next morning two men dressed as the two brothers go from house to house with medicine water for boys to drink and girls to rub on themselves.

Hano came after the Reconquest. Diego de Vargas forced the Tewa speakers out of the Santa Cruz valley where they had moved from Galisteo after the Revolt. They went to Jémez for a year, then wandered from place to place. Kalakwai says the Snake Clan chief asked them to come after the destruction of Awátovi to protect First Mesa against the Ute. They accepted the fourth invitation. After they defeated the Utes, they were given farm land.

Oraibi repeats the distribution of war medicine on the last day. Four days after the close of Soyal and the day after the rabbit hunt feast, members of the Reed Clan gather in their maternal home to perpetuate war rituals whose pragmatic function had been nullified by the regional peace imposed by the United States calvary.

Soyal agricultural and fertility rituals will be discussed next week. More on the annual Kachina cycle, the towns and observers, maybe found in last week’s post.

Notes: Day length data taken from Robert Thomas, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2013, and Steve Edwards, Sunrise Sunset website.

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

Fewkes, Jesse Walter. "Tusayan Migration Traditions," Bureau of American Ethnography Report, 1901. Wiki, Wikyatiwa, and Kopeli provided information on the Snake Clan, Pütce the tales of the Horn and Flute Clans, Pautiwa of the Eagle Clan those of the parent Reed clan, and Kalakwai those of Hano.

_____. "The Winter Solstice Ceremony at Walpi," The American Anthropologist 11:65-87:1898 and 11:101-115:1898.

Schaafsma, Polly. Warrior, Shield and Star, 2000.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons. Bear myth from Ko’hituwa of the Bear Clan in Shunopovi, 1888. Snake myth from Masi’.

Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi, 1944.

Voth, H. R. and George A. Dorsey. The Oraibi Soyal Ceremony, 1901.

Photographs: The spread of Christmas tree ornamentation from evergreens to other plants.

1-2. Tire Factory wraps lights around its buddleia and Russian sage, which are alternated at the front curb; night and day views.

3. Lights strung in a deciduous tree; early morning with sun coming through the glass.

4-5. Balls hanging from branches of deciduous trees, daytime.

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