After the exclusion of such public observances as the shaman initiation, menstrual dance, and victory celebration, which, while generally participated in, are performed primarily for the benefit of individuals, the ceremonies of the California Indians which are of a really public or communal purpose and character fall into three classes: (1) mourning ceremonies; (2) initiation ceremonies connected with a secret society; and (3) a more varied group of dances and other observances which all, however, have in common the benefit either of the community or of the world at large, in that they cause a good crop of acorns and natural products, make the avoidance of rattlesnake bites possible, or prevent the occurrence of disease, earthquake, flood, and other calamities.
Of these three classes of ceremonies the mourning ceremonies
are at least as important as the others and by far the most distinctive of the state as an ethnographic province, although neither they nor the secret society are found in the specialized Northwestern area. The mourning ceremonies further do not occur among the Athabascan, Yuki, and Pomo tribes to the south of the Northwestern tribes as far as the bay of San Francisco; but outside of this strip in the northern coast region they are universal in the state. Among the Maidu they are usually known as "burning," among the Miwok as "cry." Among the Yokuts they have been called "dance of the dead," and among the Mohave and Yuma "annual." These ceremonies are usually participated in by a number of visiting communities or villages. They last for one or more nights, during which crying and wailing, sometimes accompanied by singing and exhortation, are indulged in, and find their climax in a great destruction of property. While those who have recently lost relatives naturally take a prominent part, the ceremony as a whole is not a personal but a tribal one. Among the Yokuts and probably other groups it is immediately followed by a dance of a festive nature, and usually there is a definitely expressed idea that this general ceremony puts an end to all individual mourning among the participants. A typical form of the mourning ceremony is found among the Maidu, who call it östu. Each village or political unit possesses its burning ground. Participation in the ceremony is effected by receipt of a membership-string or necklace, both the receipt and return of which are marked by payments or presents. The ceremony is held in autumn in a circular brush enclosure. Property to be destroyed is tied to poles which are erected on the ground. After an opening exhortation by the chief or shaman in charge of the ceremony, the wailing begins, to continue throughout the night, many exclamations to the dead being uttered. Toward morning the numerous articles displayed on the poles are taken down and burned. When everything has been destroyed the assembly breaks up for gambling and feasting. The purpose of the ceremony is to supply the ghosts of the dead with clothing, property, and food. Although its general tenor is communal, each family offers only to its own relatives. In some cases elaborate images of stuffed skins ornamented with dancing apparel
are made to represent important people who have died. These are burned with the property offered to the dead.
Initiation ceremonies which result in something analogous to a secret society are found in the whole state except in the Northwestern region and among the agricultural tribes at the extreme southeast in the Colorado valley. They are apparently as well developed among the Yuki and Pomo, who practice tribal mourning ceremonies, as among their neighbors who do. In a strict sense there is no secret society, even though the precepts taught boys at initiation are not made public. There are usually no paraphernalia or insignia of a society, no degrees or ranks, no membership or other organization, nor is there a definite purpose for the society. The great majority of the males of the tribes are made to undergo the initiation, and in many eases there is a distinct desire to force it upon every man, whether he be willing or unwilling. In so far as a society may therefore be said to exist at all, its principal purpose and public function are the initiation of new members. There is however often a special name for those who have been initiated, such as yeponi among the Maidu and pumal among the Luiseño, and to a certain extent the initiates are regarded as a class or council having a more or less indefinite decision over religious matters affecting the community. The precepts imparted to the initiates, other than the ritualistic knowledge relating to the initiation ceremony itself, seems to be of the most general kind and pertains principally to daily life and the most obvious maxims of native morality. In some ways this initiation is a puberty ceremony for boys corresponding to the first-menstruation-ceremony of girls. The initiates are however not limited as to age, men being sometimes included. Among at least the Yokuts in Central California and the Mission Indians of Southern California the initiation was accompanied by the drinking of toloache or jimson-weed, datura meteloides, the stupor and visions produced by which were regarded as supernatural. In Southern California the idea of an ordeal and instruction was specially developed. Boys were made to undergo severe tests of pain and endurance and were given numerous injunctions regarding their adult life. Among the Maidu of the Sacramento valley instruction both in the myths
of the tribe and in the more important ceremonies was imparted. Among certain of the Maidu the secret society, in so far as it comprises the more adult men; is difficult to distinguish from an association of shamans.
The public ceremonies other than mourning and initiation observances, in other words the tribal dances of California, differ thoroughly in the three culture regions, which must therefore be considered separately.
In Central California these dances, like the initiation ceremonies, have disappeared to a much greater extent than the mourning ceremonies, and where they survive have often been more or less influenced by modern ideas. As a rule they were held in the large assembly or ceremonial chamber, more often at night than during the day, and either lasted for a number of nights or consisted of a series of successive dances extending over a considerable period, Some of the dances, though a minority, were named after animals, and in such there was usually some imitation of the actions of animals. Sometimes rude paraphernalia were used to represent the animal itself, but this was not very common and masks were never employed. At least in the Sacramento valley and northern Coast Range region there was some impersonation of mythical characters, as of Taikomol, creator among the Yuki, and of the mythical being Kuksu among the Pomo and Maidu. Such impersonators usually wore either the "big head," an enormous head-dress of feathers attached to radiating sticks, or a large cape of feathers fastened to a network, which concealed both body and face, or both pieces of apparel. There seems to have been nothing corresponding to an altar. The dancers were painted but crudely, and such symbolism as was denoted by the painting was of the simplest. One or more of the posts that supported the roof of the assembly chamber were usually of ceremonial importance. The dancers frequently entered and left the house by a hole above instead of the door at the ground. A rude drum consisting of a hollow slab placed on, the ground and stamped with the feet was often used. An important character in most ceremonies was the clown or buffoon, part of whose duties was to caricature the more serious performance. In some cases shamanistic exhibitions of magic were included
in the ceremony. At times an exchange or compulsory giving of property formed part of the ceremony. The participants were rarely if ever called upon to undergo severe trials of endurance, pain, or courage, as among so many other Indians. The whole ritual was comparatively simple.
The exact nature and relation of the various dances are very little known among most of the tribes of the Central region. Probably a typical example of these dances is furnished by the Maidu of the Sacramento valley, who declare that their ceremonies were obtained from their neighbors, the Wintun. This statement is borne out by indirect evidence. Among the Maidu the ceremonies were performed in winter and constituted a series of fifteen or more distinct dances, coming for the most part in a definite order. So far as known they were the following: Hesi, Luyi, Loli, Salalu-ngkasi, Duck, Bear, Coyote, Creeper, Turtle, Aloli-ngkasi, Yokola-ngkasi, Moloko-ngkasi, Deer, Aki, Hesi. The majority of these dances were performed by men, but some by women only. There is no evidence that participation in these dances was dependent upon anything like membership in an association. Each had its characteristic paraphernalia or combinations of paraphernalia. In several there are participants with special apparel and with a distinctive name. At least some of these seem to represent mythical characters. In several instances these performers enact ceremonial operations, largely in the nature of complex approaches and departures which take place outside the assembly chamber. The names of several of these ceremonies occur also among neighboring Indians speaking entirely different languages, and thus give proof of the transmission of the ceremonies from one locality to another. The Hesi, the most important of the Maidu series, is danced also by the Wintun. The Loli is an important ceremony among the Maidu, Miwok, and Pomo. The performer called Kuksu, who refers to important myths, is found, among the Maidu, Wintun, Pomo, and either the Miwok or Costanoan Indians formerly at Mission San José. There is every reason to believe that a fuller acquaintance with the tribes whose ceremonies are as yet least known will reveal other instances of ceremonies held in common and known under the same name. Farther to the south, among the Yokuts of the
[paragraph continues] Tulare basin, these ceremonies do not seem to have penetrated. Here the majority of the public ceremonies, like the rattlesnake ceremony that has been mentioned, were of the nature of shamanistic performances. Throughout the Central region the dances, while they might be held only in structures of certain kinds, were never rigorously attached to a specific locality.
In Northwestern California the more important ceremonies can always be held only at certain spots, and the performance of ceremonies of the same name always varies somewhat at different places. The performers do not represent mythological or other characters and do not imitate animals. The more important dances last at least a number of days, not infrequently as many as ten. The dances are held either out-doors or in certain sacred houses, which are however not different from the ordinary living-house of the region except through their traditionary and ceremonial associations. The essential religious portion of the ceremony consists of the actions gone through by a priest, with sometimes one or two assistants. The more important part of his procedure is the recital of one of the sacred formulae so characteristic of the region. This formula relates specifically to the exact locality at which the dance is held, and therefore often varies considerably from spot to spot. The formula is reminded as it were as private property, and its knowledge is sufficient to institute the priest in his capacity. The public portions of the ceremony, such as the dancing, are practically dissociated from this purely religious element. The dancers are mostly young men without any knowledge of the ceremony other than of the simple dance-step and songs. The paraphernalia which they wear belong neither to them nor to the priests, but to wealthy men of the tribe, for whom the occasion is an all-important opportunity for the display of their wealth, which consists in large part of the dancing regalia, and the possession of which is the chief factor toward their social prominence. The dancers appear in from two to five parties, representing neighboring villages, each of which is aided by the wealthy men of other villages; and these parties vie with each other primarily in the display of their regalia. The most important ceremonies are the Deerskin dance and the Jumping dance, which are held either annually or
biennially, the former always out-doors, the latter at some places out-doors, sometimes in boats, at others in-doors. The purpose of both dances, which where both are practiced are usually given in close succession, is the good of the world. Earthquake and disease are prevented and a food supply insured. Very little of the sacred formulae and accompanying ritual, and nothing in the remainder of the dance, has however any specific reference to this purpose. A third, minor ceremony, the Brush dance, completes the series of public ceremonies in this region, the remaining dances being held only on occasion of war, a girl's puberty, or the initiation of a shaman. Even the Brush dance is not fully of a tribal character, inasmuch as it is performed for the benefit of a single individual, a sick child, although it is participated in by an entire village with the assistance of visitors from others, and though there seems to be a desire to perform the ceremony at least once a year in each of the larger villages.
In Southern California mourning ceremonies are everywhere the most prominent. In the coast region, among the various groups of Mission Indians, initiation ceremonies make up most of the public rituals that are not connected with mourning. In the interior the Mohave possess no initiation ceremonies. In both regions such ceremonies as partake neither of the, nature of mourning nor initiation are conspicuous by the prominence of the myth element. They consist essentially of long series of songs, occupying one or more nights in the recital, which recount, in part directly but more often by allusion, an important myth. At times, the myth is, actually related in the intervals between the songs. In some cases dancing by men or women accompanies the singing, but this is never spectacular and in many cases is entirely lacking. Being only ceremonial recitations of myths, these ceremonies are not attached in their performance to specific localities, and when dancing regalia are used they are of the simplest character; nor is there opportunity for either altar or ritual. The predominance of the mourning element in the ceremonies of this region is further shown by the fact that among some tribes, as the Mohave, these same singing ceremonies, besides being performed in dependently, are also sung for many hours at every death. The series of songs selected for each individual
on this occasion is that with which he is acquainted. In accord with what has been said of the dream as the basis of Mohave religious life, these singing ceremonies are almost always believed by each person to have been dreamed by himself.