Monday, January 19, 2015


Weather: Snow Tuesday clung for a while to stems and seed heads; I wonder which appreciated the winter moisture and which were harmed; last snow 1/13.

What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas. Rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle; small alfilerillo plants hidden between chunks of gravel in drive.

What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach and apricot, purple aster leaves; sandbar willow wood is getting red, apple branches almost burgundy.

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

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: Powamu, the second part of the annual Hopi Kachina cycle, begins soon. The Badger clan officiates at Oraibi in place of Muyingwa, the god of germination.

Powalawu, the opening ceremony, occurs on the day after the dark of the moon. This year the darkest day would be Tuesday. Early in the morning, men gather in the Badger kiva where the chief makes prayer sticks. A member of the Sand Clan is sent to bring sand for the mosaic of four sacred colors representing the house of the sun.

Four prayer sticks are placed in the mosaic with four herbs: Bigelovia bigelovii in the north, Artemisia filifolia in the west, Fallugia paradoxa in the south, and another form of Bigelovia bigelovii in the east.

The two forms of rabbit bush, Apache plume, and sand sagebrush sandwort are shrubs used as windbreaks. Alfred Whiting says the first comes in many varieties and in the 1930s were identified as Chrysothamnus speciosus gnaphalodes. Today they are grouped under Ericameria nauseosa.

Midway through the song cycle, a messenger is sent to bury four ceremonial balls in four places southwest of the village to protect it against sand storms.

After the last song, messengers again leave with more food balls. One is deposited with a dead mouse on an ant hill to ask the insects to leave the crops alone.

The next morning the Badger chief takes the remaining prayer sticks to each kiva where he smokes, then tells men they may plant beans. Men bring containers of soil from a place east of the mesa. In the evening, they plant beans of all types. For the next three evenings, they continue sowing.

The kivas now must be kept warm. Men are appointed each night to stay and keep fires going. During the day they clean fields and make gifts for the young children. In the evenings they practice the songs and steps for the dances that come on the final day.

Powamu begins eight days later, when half the waxing moon is visible. The beans may have broken ground and men wait for leaves and vines to appear.

In years when there are enough children of age, they are made formal members of the communities. In the past, the initiation climaxed with ritual whippings of both boys and girls with yucca whips. Younger children were shorn of their hair.

Around three in the morning on the eighth day men harvest most of the bean plants. Some they tie to the children’s presents. The Eototo and Aholi kachinas appear. The first represents the village chief.

The afternoon includes a feast in the Badger kiva of gravy, piki, and boiled bean plants. In the homes, people eat mutton stew and beans. The first full display of kachinas occurs when they emerge from all the kivas to deliver the gifts to children.

At night, while the moon is still nearly full, the kachinas go from kiva to kiva to dance. Half are dressed as women who form a separate line. The Bean Dance lasts until dawn.

On the final afternoon, the last of the beans are cut. In a ritual that was archaic in the 1890s, young women dressed as katchimama carried trays of harvested beans to four places outside the village. Then the kachinas resumed their human forms to take the trays home.

Three days after the close of Powamu the first foot races of the season are run in widening circles outside the village. They stay within the boundaries set by the balls planted in Powalawu.

Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi, 1944;

Voth, Henry R. The Oraibi Powamu Ceremony, 1901.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939.

1. Native Seeds/Search says Hatiko (the white) and Hopi Gray (the brown skinned) are "sprouted and used during Spring ceremonies. Both are limas.

2-3. A few hours after being dropped in water, the skin of Hopi Gray and Hatiko had begun to pucker, 11 January 2014. As they absorbed more water, the skins smoothed again.

4. The first sign of germination by Hopi Gray was the outer skin splitting, 16 January 2014.

5. The first sign of germination by Hatiko was air bubbles above the beans, 18 January 2014.

6-7. The root emerged on both a day or so later, 19 January 2014.

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