Sunday, February 01, 2015
Corn in Parts
Weather: Friday’s snow is still on the ground.
What’s still green: Juniper, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas. Rose stems; leaves on grape hyacinth, Japanese honeysuckle, alfilerillo. Men were pruning their apple trees this week.
What’s gray: Salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer.
What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach, apricot, apple, sandcherry and sandbar willow; purple aster leaves.
What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe and weeping willows; arborvitae have browned.
What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.
Animal sightings: Small birds. Horses have been brought into the valley for winter feeding.
Weekly update: Corn and beans were the staples of the Hopi diet, with corn more important in the ceremonial life. Almost every part had a role.
Pollen and meal were sprinkled on objects, people and kachinas. Meal had other uses, but there was much more of it. When pollen was unavailable, symbolic grains were made from meal. Among the neighboring Navajo pollen was considered the more sacred.
Silk is the conduit that transfers pollen fallen from the tassels above to the ovaries to which it is connected. Isleta used strands in their Corn Dances.
Dried husks hold tobacco for smoking. They also are used as wraps for collections of foods and objects distributed during Powamu. At Zuñi such packets are given to healers who perform curing ceremonies.
The entire plant is used in the rituals that follow Powamu. Mischa Titiev called them repeats. They redo the central part of the February ceremony, raising young plants, but with the more important corn.
For the Water Serpent Dance, plants are brought into the central kiva where they are placed in conical mounds arranged in rows like a field. The water serpent looks over and them and is fed meal. When satisfied, he knocks over the stalks, signifying they are ready to harvest.
During the Puppet Dance, the germination god, Muyingwa, stands with a female doll on each side behind the rows of planted corn. The dolls bend over mealing stones to grind. At the end, a bowl of sweet corn meal is passed among those watching.
Niman, the last of the ceremonies in the kachina calendar, is the most realistic. Sweet corn is raised outdoors. When it’s ripe, the kachinas are sent home to oversee the summer monsoons. The corn is eaten. The feast is repeated in September, after the regular sweet corn crop is harvested.
Elmore, Francis H. Ethnobotany of the Navajo, 1944.
Jones, Volney H. The Ethnobotany of the Isleta Indians, 1931.
Stevenson, Matilda Coxe. Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians, 1915.
Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi, 1944.
Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939.
1-3. Corn grown by Dani Kellogg in Santa Fé, 3 August 2010. #1 shows flower debris captured by the upturned leaves, #2 the female silk flower with pollen in hairs, #3 the male tassel.
4-5. Corn purchased off-season, January 2015; can see how the silk connects under the kernels and how the cob serves as a receptacles for seeds.