Dancing Gods, by Erna Fergusson, , at sacred-texts.com
The finest dances may be seen in Zuñi, for there even the masked dances are open to all visitors, except Mexicans, who are apparently the sole heirs of the ancient resentment against the Spanish conquerors. There is a firm belief that if a Mexican looks upon a mask, he will die; I have seen Mexicans violently driven away from the pueblo during dances. Otherwise whites may see whatever the whole pueblo may see. The attitude toward visitors is one of complete indifference, probably because Zuñi has been much less influenced by missionaries than have the Rio Grande pueblos. Even the Catholic Church withdrew from Zuñi for almost half a century, and today all Christian influence is negligible. The Zuñi religion is so powerful that its rites go on serenely, too haughty to pay the white man even the doubtful compliment of exclusion. Often, thanks to the habit of borrowing dances, one may see at Zuñi dances which he could not witness in their native villages.
Forty miles from the railroad, Zuñi Pueblo has all the charm of remoteness; and its outline, as it sits massed on a hill above the river, is probably little changed since it
was settled just after the revolution of 1680. Its terraced houses mount against the sky in a terra-cotta pyramid, with ladder-poles and house-top ovens rising above the empty skull of the abandoned mission. There are too many staring white windows for pure beauty, but even they do not spoil the color tone. The river-bank is the same color as the stone and adobe houses, and where it breaks down to the sluggish stream, it is fringed with silver-gray cedar fences, which sometimes support shelters for stock or ragged green straw stacks. Puffs of gray-blue smoke always drift over Zuñi; and all these colors--terra-cotta and gray, dull green. and smoke-blue -are repeated in Corn Mountain, whose sculptured buttes rise a thousand feet above the plain. Corn Mountain not only dominates the scene, but dominates the lives of the people, for there the Zuñis lived for many years, and hidden in its rocks are sacred shrines to which the priests make pilgrimage at appropriate! seasons.
The year is divided at Zuñi according to the solstices. Just before the winter solstice the whole village fasts for eight days to the extent of not eating meat or fats. During this time they remain continent, and they do no trading, buying, or selling. No fires are made outside the houses, and all the cone-shaped ovens are cold. Then two masked priests go to a shrine on Corn Mountain, where the Fire-god used to live, and there they ceremonially strike new flame and bring it back to the village. Meanwhile before dawn every housewife has dumped out the last bit of fire, smoldering coal, or ash and swept clean her fire-place, her ovens, even her American stove, that the fire for the new year may be absolutely fresh.
Once every four or eight years there is a ceremonial cleansing of the ovens performed by a masked figure. He is painted black, and from his black cone-shaped mask flames one red plume as the fire flames from the ovens. Attended by members of the two clown societies, he visits every home, climbs into every oven, throws imaginary refuse out of it with yells and hoots, and finally leaves it not only clean, but purified of all evil. On this occasion the clowns must eat everything offered to them, and the Zuñis amuse themselves by offering incredible things like fur and dirt, pieces of metal and so on.
All of this should occur exactly at the winter solstice, and usually the primitive calculations of the priest set it fairly accurately. One year, however, it came very late and I asked a Zuñi about it.
"Oh," he said, "the Sun-priest lost the moon, so everything is late."
That error in calculation was a serious one, and it almost cost the Sun-priest the loss of his honorable position, especially as it was rumored about the village that his reluctance to leave his fascinating spouse for the required eight days had something to do with it.
The bringing of new fires opens Zuñi's great ceremonial season. The personators of the Shalako are appointed for the year, plumes are removed from last year's Shalako houses to those which will entertain the coming season, special dances are announced, and officers are changed, if necessary. Annual elections are not held in Zuñi, as in the Rio Grande pueblos, but officers serve an indefinite term.
The outstanding winter ceremonies are the initiation of boys, which occurs only once every four years, and the
dance of the sword-swallowers. In addition there is almost continuous dancing, for all the summer dances, as well as all the winter ones, are given, and hardly a week. passes without ceremonial. At the spring equinox dancing ends and planting begins. Like farmers everywhere, Zuñis are too busy for anything else in the spring, and there is a recess from dancing until the summer solstice opens the season of dancing for rain. The Rain-dance is given many times, and others may take place; but no dance is given in the summer unless it was given during the preceding winter. The summer dances end when the harvest begins, and the great fall festival, the Shalako, occurs after the crops are in.
In Zuñi the important ceremonial units are the fraternities, groups of people embodying certain features of the creation legend, and potent in curing, or in bringing rain or success in war or the bunt. The Mudheads or Koyemshi and the Galaxy Fraternity or Newewe are the clowns. The Mudheads appear most frequently, wearing mud-daubed masks, like pitifully deformed human faces, for they typify the idiot children of an incestuous union and as such they are a warning against all evil. Their costumes are always the same: ragged kirtle and triangular neck-piece of black wool, and bare bodies daubed with clay the same color as the masks. They appear in most dances during the year, and they are largely supported by contributions. A Koyemshi must never be refused anything he asks, for anyone who denies him any gift will immediately be punished by an apparently accidental fire. In 1929, for instance, a child fell into a fire-place and was so badly burned
that she died in spite of the efforts of the government doctor and nurse to save her. All the Zuñis said it was a punishment against the child's mother, who had refused a gift asked by a Mudhead.
The Galaxy, or Newewe, are more purely a fun-making group, and, like the Rio Grande Koshare and Chiffonete, they have absolute license in what they do or say.
There is no cacique, as in the Rio Grande pueblos. The Sun-priest most nearly approximates him, but he can be removed by the other priests for cause. There are six priests, besides the Priests of the Bow, an order which is about to die out, for only those are eligible who have taken a Navajo scalp, and modern prejudice is opposed to that traditional custom. These priests have charge of all ceremonial life, and the Sun-priest must ascertain and announce the dates for all dances. They have no direct part in government, but their indirect influence is great, as they appoint the governor and his assistant and may remove them.
Sacred meal and prayer-sticks are used in Zuñi as in the other pueblos. They make Katchina dolls, and fetishes, quaint animal-like stones of various size or carved wooden birds which swing on cords from the roof above the altar. All fraternity members use the mili in ceremonies. It is an ear of corn, perfect to the last kernel, and entirely covered with exquisitely arranged feathers in many colors, laid in spirals; and tapering into macaw-feathers at the tip.
The distinctive feature of Zuñi dances is the masks, which are more elaborate, more varied, and in every way more highly developed than any made by other American Indians. People from the other pueblos always say that
[paragraph continues] Zuñis have the finest masks. Made of leather or sheepskin, they are molded in every size from close skull-fitting hoods to Gargantuan heads, and they are painted with fantastic symbols which only remotely suggest human features. However exquisite the workmanship and strikingly harmonious the color effects, they are always weird, inhuman, and grotesque in effect. These Zuñis show a fertility of imagination probably not exceeded by any of the world's mask-makers; and all the world has made masks, from the most primitive savage to the mask-makers of our modern theater; even the medieval monk masked as the devil in mystery plays, just before he came to America to forbid the converted Indian his masks.
When the ancestors of the Zuñis were wandering in search of the middle of the world, the Wood Fraternity separated from the rest and went northward, carrying two precious fetishes. Once when they made cloud symbols of sacred meal and prayed for rain, snow fell. The people had never seen snow before and they were filled with amazement. They understood its value, however, for making tree and grass roots grow, so these prayers became their special province. This is why the sword- swallowers, who belong to the Wood Fraternity, perform their ceremony only in winter. If they should do it in summer, it would, of course, bring cold rains and kill the corn. The art of sword-swallowing they learned from Achiyalatopa, a curious being with knives for a tail, whose picture may
be seen even now on their altars. The Wood people were accompanied on their wanderings by six animals, still sacred to them: the bear, the cougar, the badger, the wolf, the shrew, and the snake. All sword-swallowers originally belonged to one of these clans, but as some of them have died out, this is no longer true.
At Black Rock, where the Indian school now stands, the people stopped and the original director disappeared into the spring, which became a sacred spot to them. They made pilgrimages to it through all the ages until the government made a dam which swallowed up the sacred spring in an artificial lake. They believed that underground roads led from that spring into the fourth, and most sacred, world. In time these wanderings came to an end, and the Wood fraternity found their people at the very middle of the world, where Zuñi now stands. Here possibly we have an example of a legend founded upon the actual wandering of a small group of people who joined a larger group, bringing their ceremonies with them.
The legend continues with much detail of the reception of the Wood Fraternity by Zuñi. The Rain-priest of the North accepted all their sacred objects and assigned to them two more fetishes, one from the Badger and one from the Crane clan. He also appointed maidens to bear the beautiful slender stalks with silver leaves which the corn-maidens brought when they came from the underworld. In time the leaves fell off and were replaced by fluffy white feathers, as we see the corn-maidens carry them, today. He also chose two maidens and a youth, all virgins, to dance with them. The beast gods who came with
them were assigned the task of making music for their dances by rubbing the leg bones of deer over notched sticks.
The medicine of the Wood Fraternity is especially good for sore throat, a wise provision, as they are most active in the season of that affliction. In the treatment, besides prayers, they give the patient a brew of such potency that an outsider breathing the fumes, or even coming into the room, would be overcome. This is also true of the brew used in their ceremonies; so the ceremonial chamber is sealed and nobody, during the rites, must touch a dancer, as the death of one or the other would surely result. A cured patient may request admission to the fraternity, and new members are also solicited. Initiations take place during January and February, when the dances occur.
Several days before the outdoor ceremonies, members of the fraternity gather in the ceremonial chamber to practice songs and to tell tales, especially those relating to the wandering of their people. At this time men and women are appointed to act as directors, the virgins are chosen, the Bow-priests, who dance the circle dance, are invited, prayer-plumes are made. An altar is set up, its central figure the curious bird with knives for a tail. Initiates are ceremonially shampooed and taught the difficult art of swallowing swords. The dangerous medicine, made of a plant which has not been identified, is prepared; but only after every door but one has been plastered over. All the
properties are brought from their biding-places and put in order.
For four days these preliminary rites continue. An important feature is the daily drinking of the sacred medicine to induce vomiting, which is supposed to enlarge the throat. This is not likely, but a doctor whom I asked told me that it might contain a drug which would relax the muscles of the throat and so make the swallowing easier. The swords are continually swallowed during these rites and there is dancing every night and until the morning star appears. Continence is observed, and fasting from whatever the original wanderers could not have had: all food bought in stores, summer fruits, and sweets.
On the fourth night the sword-swallowers dance in the house where the virgins rehearse, and white visitors are admitted. The house shows no preparation for the event. The three young people, wrapped in blankets, sit on the wooden bench against the wall. A group of men chant prayers, smoke, occasionally sing, hawk and spit, laugh and chat; Indians always appear to be on such close terms with the gods that the ordinary affairs of life may be carried on during the most sacred observances. Children spill down the steps from an adjoining room where an iron bed stands unmade, and women move about with bowls of food. Nobody ever seems to put a Zuñi child to bed until it literally falls over with sleep. Those still awake watch their elders with bright black eyes and move their feet in perfect time with the chanting. In the middle of the floor stand two whitewashed boxes, painted with the six beast gods of the fraternity and the curious knife-tailed creature.
[paragraph continues] On them lie the six notched sticks and the six deer-bones which are to make music, or at least rhythm, for the dancing.
Preparation for the arrival of the dancers consists only in sprinkling the floor. One of the directors dips a gourdful of water from a tin bucket, fills his mouth, and sprinkles widely and accurately until the dirt floor is too moist to raise any dust. Then, about ten o'clock, there is a tightening in the manner of the singers, and a change in the song. Calls are heard outside, and the sword-swallowers enter, following the woman leader. She wears a white ceremonial blanket over the ordinary black wool dress, and a fluffy white eagle-plume in her hair. She carries a pottery basket of sacred meal and the mili of the fraternity. The man leader follows her. These two typify the original pair whose wanderings led to the discovery of the art of sword-swallowing and of bringing snow. In his left hand the man carries the original sword, with a turquoise-blue handle, and in his right the regular feathered sword of the fraternity. The swords are made of juniper, as long as from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow, slightly curved, about three quarters of an inch wide, feathered at the top, greased with bear-fat, and colored red. The top, tipped with turkey-plumes, is about twice as long as the blade which is swallowed. The leaders are followed by the warrior of the fraternity, an old man who must belong to the Bear clan. A red feather is tied to his crown and he carries a sword with a zigzag handle, painted blue. His sword ends in an arrow-point, rounded, it is true, but nevertheless very difficult to swallow. His body is bare with the
exception of a kirtle and he wears the buckskin baldric and medicine-bag of the Bow-priests.
The size of the group may vary; five women and fifteen men are average. The women wear the black squaw dress, and their faces are covered with the bang, as is true in all dances. The men wear black kirtles and have red or white plumes tied to their heads. One, the headman, wears a kirtle of cougar-skin. Each man carries his sword in his left hand, and in his right a rattle with which he pounds the beat of the chanting. Some of the women carry two eagle-feathers in the right hand, and the sword in the left; most of them carry, and swallow, two swords. If a woman cannot swallow her sword, her "fraternity father," who precedes her in the dance, does it for her--quickly and readily, but with an expression easy to understand if he has been doing this extra service regularly for a week.
The dancing is vigorous, with the men raising their feet higher and stamping harder than the women. They circle the boxes several times, all chanting; then the swallowing begins. Each dancer, as he passes the boxes, waves his sword over them, throws his head back, takes the sword in his right hand, and quickly slides it down his gullet, full length. Some swagger a bit, dancing several steps with the sword within, and pull it out again with the other hand. They pass three times around the boxes, each dancer swallowing the sword every time; then they leave the room.
A few spectators, mostly young men in black blankets and cowboy hats, stand entranced, watching every movement.
[paragraph continues] Nobody touches a dancer, as to do so would mean death. No attention whatever is paid to white visitors.
After the sword-swallowers leave, the virgins are brought on to the floor. The girls wear the black wool dress and wrapped leggings. The boy has a black kirtle around his slim body, which is otherwise bare. This is obviously a practice affair, as the directors fuss about the dancers a good deal, calling orders. The dancers' figures are slender and pretty; the boy's face shows weariness, but the girls' features are hidden by their long bangs. They have been practicing for four nights and they dance an hour at a time without resting. The girls bold in each hand a bunch of shredded corn-husks, the boy holds one close to his face with both hands.
The first movement is no more than a slight bending of the knees, a strained and difficult gesture, done in time to the chanting. They do this several times, the hands moving up and down; then, on a sudden change of rhythm, they bend at the waist, bringing the corn-husks down in a hard insistent motion. The chanting is varied by one voice wailing the word "muwaiye," which is the Zuñi name for the dance. Suddenly the rhythm changes, the wailing voice ceases, and there seems to be hope in the music and a beautiful lightness in the dancing. Now the dancers fling their arms wide as they bend their knees, the right hand coming to the left shoulder as the left arm flies out in a free floating gesture, very graceful and very young. Then the right arm straightens and the left hand comes to the right shoulder. The knees still bend rhythmically, but more easily, and the dancers move slowly the length of the room
and back. Then the music changes to the original hopeless note and the figures are repeated. With occasional rests the dancing lasts until the morning star rises.
Wishing to see the very beginning of the big day, we got up before dawn and went to the sacred plaza. Crossing the village was an eerie walk. It was cold, cold, a still and bitter cold. Lights in only a few houses. No sound at all. Occasionally a blanketed figure slipped from a door and melted into the shadows, not seeing us. We made ourselves as comfortable as we could with many blankets in a corner of the deserted little plaza and waited. Finally three men came in, carrying the painted boxes, which they placed ready with the sticks and bones upon them. As they turned to go away, one of them saw the intruders. He approached us, peered, laughed low, and turned back to the others.
"Belicana," he said, using the Navajo word for Americans.
They all laughed, and disappeared through the south passage. Then more still and cold, with increasing light, which crawled down the terra-cotta walls and brought out, step by step, the hideous board stairway which defaces one corner of the beautiful old plaza.
Smoke came straight up from a chimney-pot here and there, and when the light was full, the leader of the sword-swallowers appeared from the ceremonial room, carrying the long, slender poles of the Bow-priests, which he left on the house-top. Meanwhile a ceremony was going on inside
the house, which visitors are not allowed to see. In fact, nobody sees it except the old warrior of the fraternity, but he reports that when he is there alone, the knife-tailed bird on the altar performs magic and utters oracles.
Finally three musicians entered the plaza and began the grinding of bones on the notched sticks. Two directors entered and prayed and then four girls appeared, carrying the fetishes of four clans; heavy stones, wrapped in buckskin and tied with many strings of wampum and beads. The priests directed the girls as they took their places facing east, and then sprinkled the ground with sacred meal, typifying snow-clouds. Finally another girl came in, carrying the very fetish which the original Wood People brought with them. She wore white moccasins and a white wrap; the others walked awkwardly in the pointed-heeled shoes and the stockings of purple or orange silk which seem to be favored for general wear in Zuñi. Their blankets were from the stores, but they were gay in color and comfortingly warm-looking on this cold morning.
The chanting and praying lasted about an hour, while the kneeling musicians made rhythmic growlings with the bones on the sticks, and the sun gradually warmed the walls to rose, and the houses around the plaza woke. A tiny boy slipped round the corner and leaned his shoulder against the wall with grown-up nonchalance. A blue-framed window parted its pink ruffled curtains and a baby peeped out. Then a woman tied the curtains back, showing herself in brilliant silk scarf over her black dress, and a fire crackling temptingly behind her. The baby, in pink, stood framed in that blue window until the end of the ceremony, which occurred
when the sun reached a certain point. During this time the girls holding the heavy fetishes were relieved by twos, each pair at once leaving the plaza arm-in-arm and giggling. When they had all gone, the directors lifted one of the boxes and took out from under it a small purple basket holding a snowy mound of meal. They passed it from hand to hand, breathing over it to gain its virtue. Then they replaced the basket and went, leaving only one man on guard.
During the morning a sand painting must be made in the house of the Bear clan and only when that is done do the dancers appear, probably in the early afternoon. The visitor knows when to go to the sacred plaza because he sees the whole village moving that way. Men stalk along, their eyes glinting between their high hats and black blankets held across their faces. The women wear their gayest shawls and scarfs; even the children are as gaudy as possible. All movement is quiet; the crowd seems to materialize on the roofs around the plaza, not to walk there, certainly not to push and force themselves in. There is low talk and laughter, but no loud noise.
The Bow-priests enter quietly, carrying their wands, slender sticks the length of the two arms extended, and painted in the colors of the six directions. Seeds are tied at the bottom of each one, feathers at the top; and in the middle, which is supposed to come directly over the heart, are miniature shield, war-club, and bow and arrows. As
the men take their places on the north side of the plaza, they are joined by women. Each man and each woman grasp a staff with each hand, so they all form a continuous line. They dance in the intervals of the sword-swallowers' dance, their circle never being closed. They use a curious step, crossing their feet, which is very unusual in Indian dancing. An attendant, gorgeous in black velvet jacket, with gaudy bunches of ribbons floating from the shoulders, goes about begging young people to enter this dance. There used to be two men and two women to perform this office, and the circle would enlarge until it filled the plaza with giggling girls holding back to be urged and with eager youths dancing beside the chosen ones. Now we see only one discouraged man who makes half-hearted efforts to interest these Indian school-children, all of whom refuse him. Finally he gives up with a hopeless gesture and sits down, watching the dancing of the small group of priests and women. It is a good example of the passing of an old folk-custom.
As the sword-swallowers enter, they present a very different picture from the practice group of the night before. A drummer leads, wearing a velvet shirt, much jewelry, and a red headband. The woman leader is dressed as before, but the man is now brilliant in snowy shirt with full sleeves, white kirtle and sash, and dance moccasins of red and turquoise-blue. Feathers float from his long hair, which has been braided to make it wavy. The other officers and the dancers are all painted yellow; they wear white kirtles, fox-skins pendent behind, and yucca wreaths on their heads. In addition to the noise of the rattles, we have today
the jingle of the bells tied under each man's knee with black yarn. There is also a hank of black yarn around the neck, among innumerable strings of turquoise, wampum, coral, and silver beads. They dance with precision and beauty, picking up and setting down their feet with the delicate strength of a pianist touching the keys. The women wear the black dress, as before, but masses of turquoise hang from their chins to their waists, their hands and arms are heavy with silver and turquoise, they wear white moccasins, and they hold their swords erect, so that the feathers seem to float above their heads. They dance and swallow as before, but individuals now show more virtuosity. One woman swallows two swords at once, several men dance several vigorous steps with the swords in them. The sun is brilliant and the roofs are crowded with an intently watching crowd in every color of shawl and blanket: saffrons and reds, magentas and purples, blues and reds; and there is always the sharp accent of the tall young men in black.
After four appearances with circle dancing in the intervals, the sword-swallowers disappear for the last time. When the plaza is empty and most of the spectators have gone, the leader and the old warrior come in alone, carrying armfuls of swords. Then follows a queerly impressive ceremony. The leader, taking long steps, moves first to the east of the boxes, where he stamps hard on the ground, hoots aloud, and swallows two swords, his own and a feathered one. Then he makes similar steps in each direction, repeating his hooting and swallowing, while the old man follows to hand him swords. The old man finally
swallows his arrow-pointed sword and another, and the two solemnly leave the plaza.
Just before sunset two members of the Bear clan enter the plaza, which is again filling with its colorful audience. They make crosses of meal on the ground and place baskets on them. They overturn the boxes so that they open upward, and move the notched sticks and the bones to the baskets, where they make music, chanting all the time. Almost at once a group appears at the southern entrance: a leader carrying a meal-filled basket hanging from a stick, and eight girls. The first four carry the wands which the corn-maidens brought from the underworld, and the others the four fetishes. They wear ordinary dress and store shoes and they are wrapped in blankets; but their progress is stately and the feathered wands are beautiful. They scatter meal into the boxes as they slither slowly along, followed by a chorus of men, who move their feet in time to a richly melodious song, unaffected by the other singers. When this group reaches the north side of the plaza, they stand, and attention is again turned to the south entrance.
There appear the three virgins, lovely as great white chrysanthemums in their ceremonial garb. They move sideways into the plaza. The girls wear white ceremonial robes, draped to give the effect of a full skirt with ruffled peplum, and a blouse which leaves one brown shoulder bare. Their feet are in white moccasins with shiny black soles turned
up at the toes in tiny triangles. Each girl wears all the turquoise she can carry, a solid mass from the chin to the waist, ears and arms and hands laden. Each is topped by a head-dress of shining black fur, under which her own hair hangs to the waist behind, to the lips in front. The headdress bears bunches of yellow and fluffy white feathers, but its special beauty is in a tall slim tablita of rose and turquoise-blue which is cut into the shapes of sun and moon and stars. They carry wands daintily feathered with white down, which enhance the beauty of the lovely floating movement in that part of the dance. The youth is a white figure also, in kirtle and sash and full-sleeved shirt. His hair must be long, even if it requires the use of a wig. He carries a mili. The dancing is the same as the night before, but extraordinary in the evening light and in the beauty of the white costumes. This group moves very slowly, while the other groups go out before them. Finally the virgins leave the plaza at the west. They cease dancing there and walk almost to the ceremonial chamber, where they begin again and enter it dancing. Within they are received by their directors, who remove their costumes and wands.
The evening is a busy one in Zuñi, for all these dancers, singers, directors, and priests must be feasted. All night dancing continues in the house of the sword- swallowers, who outdo themselves in swallowing more swords, swallowing them deeper, and in dancing harder while they do so. Visitors are welcome, but, as always in Zuñi, getting into the room is a problem, as the whole village is there. The dancing ends finally at sunrise, when the leader recites in an impressive tone the tale of the original wanderings.
[paragraph continues] Then officers carry all the sacred things to their appointed places, prayer-plumes are planted in the fields to assure good crops, and the ceremony is over.
Zuñi sits on a low hill in the midst of a fertile valley, which is rimmed by flat-topped hills. Its fields of corn and beans, squash and chile are watered by the little Zuñi River, a most inadequate water-supply. Recently the government has put in a dam six miles away, which usually conserves enough water to last through the summer. Ultimately, however, that depends upon rainfall, and, as every Zuñi child knows, rainfall depends upon the proper observance of ancient prayers.
During the lengthening days when the crops are high and vigorously growing higher and men put in long hours of cultivation every day, the Sun-priest withdraws from the village. In his absence women know that their best pottery can be made. So they mold and paint their choicest vessels, for "then we think of the best things to paint." This is also the best time to fire pottery, because unseen forces minimize the terrible danger of cracking a fine piece in the heat; so in front of almost every Zuñi house women tend the low smudging fires in which the beautiful painted jars are brought to perfection. Also this is a time when everyone must keep his mind and heart pure, for the sun is making a turn as the priest sits there in his shrine, watching.
When the first beams of the rising sun strike in the same place on five successive mornings, the Sun-priest knows that the time has come, and he returns to tell his people. Thus is the summer solstice established in Zuñi.
Then all who will appear during the Shalako in the masks of gods go to the proper shrine. In some years they go to the Sacred Lake through which the Zuñis emerged when they came, ages ago, from the underworld. In alternate years they go to the Hot Spring. In either case the boy who impersonates the Fire-god must light his cedar brand ceremonially and set fire to dry grass or brush. The smoke-clouds which rise will certainly bring rain-clouds. Then the dancers return to the village and retire into the fraternity room to prepare altars and otherwise make ready for the dance. In the evening they dance, unmasked, and visitors may come.
The dancers are painted with a yellow mud from the Sacred Lake, even those who appear as women. No women take part in this dance, but eight men wear the squaw dress and white mantle, with their long hair done in the elaborate swirls which are the Hopi squash blossoms, emblem of fertility. They wear anklets of spruce, which typifies life, and carry cat-tails as symbols of moisture. The men, longhaired too, wear topknots of macaw-feathers and three fluffy white eagle-plumes on a string down the back. Their bodies are saffron-yellow above the white kirtles, spruce is tied to their bare ankles, and they carry live tortoises, as many as may be. Those who do not have tortoises carry gourd rattles. Dancing continues all night, as is the Zuñi
custom, with only occasional rests. None of the dancers may eat anything and they drink only "medicine water" prepared by the priest.
In the morning, very early, the Mudheads gather in the Sacred Plaza, where they entertain with many kinds of sleight-of-hand tricks, guessing-games, and frolic. They bring cat-tails, which are presented to one of the men who dances as the one woman who typifies the spirit of fecundity. He carries them into the ceremonial room, and soon after the dancers emerge. They are masked now in flat false faces of turquoise-blue, with long, black beards. The color effect is striking: yellow bodies, arms, and legs, bright-blue faces, black hair and beards, and tall waving green cat-tails. The men and women figures meet and pass and turn, performing complicated involutions like an old-fashioned quadrille. Four times they dance in the morning, in a different place each time, and four times in the afternoon.
On a hot and dusty afternoon it is a thrilling thing to see. Zuñis follow the dance group, seeking shade and standing against the houses, with one eye on the dancers, the other on the sky. It is not unusual, certainly, to see the great stationary white puffs of clouds begin slowly to draw together. As the dancing goes on hour after hour with its reiterated pounding beat, those clouds may suddenly turn black, rush, in sweeping waves, across the blue sky, meet with thunder and lightning, and pour long, black lines of rain upon the fields. Thus it should be. If it does not come, the Zuñis know that something has been done wrong and they will patiently try again.
This dance is repeated at any time, and any number of times during the growing months, though the coming-in of the gods does not occur again.
Zuñi's only concession to the Catholic influence is its Doll-dance, given some time in the fall; but that has been modified until it bears very little resemblance to the semi-Catholic affairs of the Rio Grande pueblos. The doll is a carved wooden saint kept by a certain family who claim to have had it for three hundred years. Probably the original figure was the Virgin, but the one now used certainly looks masculine, judging by the cut of its hair. However, it is dressed in blue silk, hung with jewels, and referred to as "she." A part of her equipment is a leather bag hung around her neck, into which her custodian drops a coin every time she is exhibited. If he collects a dollar and drops a dime into the bag, who should notice or comment on that fact?
The date of the dance is set in various ways. In 1929, Zuñis who had attended the Laguna fiesta on September 15 promised a dance in return, and the Doll-dance was given on October 12. Other years, other reasons. On the great day the image is carried, reverently enough, but with no Catholic participation, and set in a shelter built out from a house in the big plaza. The shelter is converted into a shrine by hangings of fine cloth, woven. garments, skins, and anything of value. Two men guard it with ancient muskets.
Slowly the people dribble in until the house-tops are loaded with them. Among the Zuñis, in their gayest shawls and blankets, are many Mexicans, for this is the one Zuñi festival which Mexicans are permitted to see, and they have been known to come from as far away as El Paso. They hold the image in great reverence, they kneel before it, murmuring prayers over their beads, and they greatly enrich the family that owns it. Often nuns and priests come.
On that October day, as I sat baking on a roof in the New Mexico sun, Flora Zuñi told me the story of the doll.
"They said that a long time ago Mexicans brought the doll to Zuñi. She was a queen and she was in the family way. She was not married, but the sun gave her a baby. They brought her to the old church which was used then, and there she had a baby. Her baby was a doll too.
"When she got up, after four days, the Acoma Indians came to Zuñi to dance, and the mother liked their dance so much that she wanted to go to Acoma. So she asked her daughter: 'Do you want to go to Acoma, or do you want to stay in Zuñi?'
"The daughter wanted to stay in Zuñi. So the mother went to Acoma, and the daughter stayed in Zuñi, and the Zuñis were so grateful because she liked Zuñi better that every year they have a dance for her!"
Dancing goes on all day, beginning in the morning "when they are ready." The dancers, boys and girls, are attended by a chorus of about ten men and one drummer. beating the staccato rhythm on a huge jar with a taut buckskin top. There should be an equal number of boys and girls, but that varies. The costuming is careful and
effective, its prevailing tone being that of the white Hopi kirtles. Each girl is a study in black and white, for the kirtle is draped over her black dress, her white wrapped moccasins are black-soled, and her black hair bangs to her chin. In each hand she carries turkey-feathers, and on her head is an arrangement of blue macaw-feathers, white down, and long streamers of bright ribbons reaching to her knees. The boys wear the white kirtle and sash, with the upper body bare, and blue moccasins. Both boys and girls are loaded with jewelry after the Zuñi manner.
They dance in the usual Corn-dance formation, but with a quicker movement than usual; the twenty-minute appearance may be a real test of endurance. If the dance is well liked, a repetition is asked for, and then it may be repeated on the following day. If enthusiasm mounts high, men join the chorus until a nucleus of ten grows to a hundred or more, stamping and singing vociferously and holding on until the alternate group almost has to push them out. Everybody has a good time, nobody stops until he has to.
The Shalako is Zuñi's greatest festival, arousing the most interest and activity in Zuñi and bringing most visitors from outside--for it is the culminating event of the ceremonial year and has been in preparation since the winter solstice preceding. At that time the personators of the gods are appointed, and all during the year they perform rites at certain intervals. However ordinary the life of Zuñi may appear to the superficial observer, it is underlaid with a
rich ceremonialism. Men who on the surface are occupied in farming, trading, driving cars into town, working on road gangs or about the stores or Indian schools slip away when no white man sees them and quietly perform their duties as those in whom the gods will for a time abide. Once a month they meet to practice songs and to make pilgrimage to some sacred shrine, usually a spring; and once during the last quarter of the moon they make and plant prayer-plumes.
Forty-nine days before the coming of the Shalako the personator of Sayatasha (the Rain-god of the North) and the leader of the Mudheads are each given a string tied in forty-nine knots, one of which he unties every day until the arrival of the gods. After this ceremonies take place every ten days until the Mudheads come to announce the arrival of the gods in four days, of the Shalako in eight. The announcement is made in the large plaza, where a large audience is gathered to hear the news and to greet the jokes with chuckles of delighted laughter. The Shalako does not occur on a definite date, but at any time from late November to late December. The Koyemshi also announce that the Zuñi dead will come, though only mediums will be able to see them. Long ago, when hearts were pure, both the gods and the dead used to come openly, but now the dead are invisible and the gods are present only in the persons of those who wear their masks. After this appearance the Mudheads retire to their own house, where they chant and pray until the gods arrive.
After four days all the performers make a pilgrimage to six shrines, at each of which the boy who is to personate
the Fire-god lights a fire with a cedar brand. This group then returns to the village, announces the arrival of the Shalako in four days, and goes into retreat. Early the next morning the governor calls from the house-top, reminding the people to give food to the dead; and in every house food is burned in the fire-place, that the ancestors of that family may eat.
During these last days activity in the village increases steadily; activity, but not hurry. Indians seem to know that all will be done, and they work along quietly without much conversation, everyone seeming to know his job and doing it. Watching, one sees no committees hurrying from place to place, no strident-voiced bosses speeding up the work; but it gets done, the houses get finished. Properly there should be a house to entertain each of the six Shalako, one for the Council of the Gods, and one for the Koyemshi. Actually there are often two Shalako in a house; and often none of the houses are new, but they are merely replastered for the occasion.
Entertaining the Shalako is expensive, though honorable. One man killed thirty sheep and twenty cows and spent or contracted for three hundred dollars besides. Often a family faces years of slim living after entertaining the Shalako. All through the year the host is assisted in his farm work by the dancers who will use his house, and the whole village helps him to garner his crops and to build his house. Nevertheless the brunt of the expense falls on
him. Beams must be brought about twenty miles, stones hewed and hauled, the house erected and finally finished by the women, who plaster and whitewash the walls and make the fire-place. At this point the effect is fine. Honey-colored beams top the softly gleaming white walls, and the comer fire-place, tall enough to take a two-foot log standing upright, flares to throw its heat in a generous circle. Shalako rooms are long, sometimes as much as sixty feet.
On the last day activity is intense. By this time the women are baking day and night, the outdoor ovens flaring their banners of flame long after dark and then smoldering to a dull glow when the bread is put in and they are closed for the baking. Men climb ladders to hang yards of calico or challis against the walls, while others sit on the floor dismembering sheep held in the lap, and women do unmentionable things to their insides. Odors of fresh bread and freshly killed meat and cedar fires and close rooms are indescribable. Women are grinding in many houses, where maidens dance with a perfect ear of corn in each hand, and old women sing the grinding-songs. Other women are making paper-bread on hot flat stones, and girls move stately from house to house bearing on their heads jars or baskets of food. Children are everywhere, but never in the way. On a sunny day it is an unforgettable sight.
Toward the end there is some change toward secretiveness. Doors that stood open are shut. Men wrapped in black blankets and wearing moccasins instead of store shoes move in quiet lines from place to place. They greet nobody and are not greeted. They are the personators of the gods going to appointed places for prayer. With luck one may see the
boy who will be the Fire-god. He will be wrapped in a blanket too and he moves as solemnly as the men, only his cropped hair showing that between times he is merely an Indian kid in a government school. He must be a member of the Badger clan, and he is invited to assume this distinction. One little boy who was invited in 1923 cried, so his mother said, for days because he knew the dancing was so hard. Finally he consented, and now that he is sixteen and about to be graduated from a government school, he is glad. Ten is the average age, though sometimes an older lad is chosen.
When the morning star rises on the great day, the personators of the gods and their attendants slip quietly from the village, bearing their masks and other paraphernalia hidden under blankets. The masks have all been newly painted and feathered in the ceremonial chamber. This is a task that only the initiated may see. Anyone else chancing on it is beaten by the whippers, who bear yucca blades for the purpose. This is very necessary, as otherwise the Shalako would fall while running. A personator of the gods who spoke to a woman would be given the same punishment.
During the last day everything is finished. Every ceremonial chamber is hung with bright cloths, blankets, brilliant silk shawls, feathers, and skins. A hole has been dug in front of each house; and a causeway of stones and dirt has been made across the river. Everything has been swept, food is ready, and people begin to appear in their best clothes. All day visitors drift in--long-legged Navajos on ponies, the women sitting astride in their voluminous skirts,
the men wearing beaver-skin caps; Indians from the Rio Grande pueblos with turquoise to trade; Hopis with ceremonial garments; and a complete assortment of white-man types, from families of Mormons from the near-by towns to the Greenwich Village æsthete and Eastern tourists in stiff city clothes.
About four in the afternoon one feels that electric something in the air which means that big things are coming. What comes first is a little thing-the small Fire-god, Shulawitsi, deputy to the Sun-god. He crosses the newly built causeway, his nude body painted black and spotted with red, yellow, blue, and white, the sun colors. His head is hidden under a close-fitting helmet of the same effect, and he wears enough jewelry, one would think, to beat his bare body sore as he dances. A fawnskin filled with seeds hangs from a strap over his shoulder, and he carries his smoldering cedar brand. He is attended only by his ceremonial father, dignified in white cotton shirt and trousers, a white deerskin wrap, and moccasins. This man carries a basket of prayer-plumes. The two visit every ceremonial house, and in each the boy mounts a ladder and leaves in a box nailed to the beam two prayer-plumes, which typify the original man and woman. They finally stop in the Sayatasha house.
Meanwhile a distant bony rattle is heard, and the Council of the Gods enters the village from the south. Many Zuñis wait to greet them, standing reverently in line as
the dancers approach and sprinkling each one with sacred meal from the bag hidden under his blanket. First comes Sayatasha, the Rain-god of the North. He is draped in white buckskin, weighted with jewelry of turquoise, shell, and coral, and his boot moccasins are beaded and painted red and blue. His mask of black and white stripes has a long born of vivid turquoise-blue on the right side and shining black goat's hair atop. He carries a bow and arrow in one hand, and in the other a bunch of deer-bones, which he shakes sharply at every step of his measured advance. Hu-tu-tu follows, the Rain-god of the South, in a similar costume, except that his mask has no horn. They are attended by two Yamukato, warriors of the East and West, and two whippers. The Yamukato's masks are small turquoise hoods, given a silly expression by round holes for nose and mouth. The whippers, armed with their yucca rods, may represent any two of the six directions, but usually they are Zenith, in a mask of many colors, and Nadir, in black. They are alert to punish not only dancers who fail to observe the rules, but anyone who drops to sleep watching the dancing.
This party makes the same round the Fire-god has made. In front of each house Sayatasha and Hu-tu-tu make elaborate passes at each other, shaking their bunches of bones and crying: "Hu-tu-tu," as they do a queer stamping dance. Finally they enter the Sayatasha house, through a hatchway in the roof, and are greeted by the householder and his family, who sprinkle them with sacred meal. The ceremony within takes place before a newly built altar and consists in marking each wall, the ceiling, and the floor
with meal in recognition of the six cardinal points. A long litany is intoned by members of the fraternity, the Fire-god places food for the gods, and finally all may eat.
Thus the Council of the Gods comes annually to Zuñi and is received with the reverence due those in whom the divine is actually present.
We call these figures gods probably because Matilda Stevenson did so when she first wrote of them in 1879, but my informant, a very intelligent and well-educated Indian woman, refuses the title absolutely.
"They are not gods," said she; "that word is wrong. The Zuñis have no gods; they are Ko-Ko."
"Just so," said I, expectant pencil poised, "and what is the English word for Ko-Ko?"
"There is no English word for Ko-Ko. I do not know. It is something different. I cannot tell you how it is to the Zuñi, but they are not gods."
So there it is, as inexplicable as everything Indian must always be to the white man. They are not gods; they are Ko-Ko, and for Ko-Ko there is no English word, and presumably no English idea. It seems likely, from many similar conversations and a sincere effort to get the Indian point of view, that the Indian has no anthropomorphic gods. Yet such creatures as these of the Zuñis impersonate something divine: possibly merely an aspect of the great hidden spirit, which in one manifestation is so brilliant that the sun is a shield to hide it.
So these spirits who bring rain from all the directions are not, after all, gods; but they are greeted with reverence
because they represent the divine, and we call them gods because we have no word and no exact idea which are better.
As the Council of the Gods disappears, interest is transferred to the Middle of the World, where the Shalako will enter. By this time it is sunset, and Corn Mountain glows like an opal, reflecting the brilliance of the west. The drab pile of rocks which marks the world center is filled with prayer-plumes, and the ground before it is white with scattered meal. White people have lined up their cars behind the barbed-wire fence, and hundreds of Indians filter slowly in among them, blanketed against the cold, eager to see how well this year's Shalako will perform their difficult dance. Guards hold all these spectators back from the field, keeping it clear for the Shalako and their attendants.
In a breathless moment of the swift winter dusk the Shalako appear. They come into sight round the shoulder of a hill, looming, as it were, on the far side of that deep impassable gulf which forever separates the mind of the Indian from the mind of the white. The six magnificent figures tower above their attendants; the eagle-feathers of their fantastic head-dresses raying like the sun, their flat turquoise faces and upper bodies swaying, their feet looking incredibly tiny under the hoop skirts of the double Hopi kirtles. They are about nine feet high, the tallest masks recorded, with the exception of a sixteen-foot feathered spire worn by a savage masker of New Guinea. The
turquoise face is matched by a breast piece, and the white and blue are accentuated by a ruff of shining raven's feathers and by long, black hair. The mask is carried on a long pole hidden under the draperies and steadied by a man who also manipulates strings which roll the great bulging eyes and clack the wooden beak as the figure moves. Each Shalako is attended by two: his manager, wrapped in a blanket, and the man who will relieve him. The task of dancing with the heavy superstructure is so great that no one man could stand it; even with two it is a test of endurance and skill which the whole village watches intently. The Shalako dancers wear only a black-velvet jacket, a close-fitting white buckskin cap, and a string of bells tied under the bare knee. Only the bells sound as the party approaches the Middle, where a group of priests wait to greet them with sacred meal. There the Shalako move through a brief but intricate ceremony, changing the images from man to man behind blankets held to conceal them. This care to screen the actors is due to the fact that children do not know that these are not really the gods, and that their faith must be preserved until they are initiated.
Here one first sees the smooth running motion typical of the Shalako. A mis-step and especially a fall would indicate that the dancer had not been true to his vows, and the whipper would be called upon--a contingency not within the memory of man, for it is a point of great pride to balance the mask adroitly and never to miss a step. Usually the running is perfect, the graceful figure swaying over the tiny feet, the beak clacking, queer cries between, and finally the daring swoop as the man bends his knees
and the Shalako precariously dips and rights itself. When each dancer has performed his part, the party moves to a sandy stretch by the river, which is sacred as the last resting-place of the Zuñis before they found the Middle. Finally, about dark, the Shalako cross the causeway, carefully steered by their attendants, and each one enters the house which has been prepared for him. Within, there is a ceremony similar to the greeting of the Sayatasha, the principal point being the announcement of the god that he is present, and that in return for his entertainment he will bring plenty of seeds for the ensuing year.
A deep student of comparative religions watched this ceremony intently, following the Shalako and their attendants as they retraced the wanderings of the Zuñis from the center of the earth to the resting-place on the river and finally into the modern village, where the great feathered heads bent to enter the house-doors. He saw the high seriousness of the people following, the sometimes almost despairing efforts of the guards to prevent intrusive whites from profaning the event; and finally, as the last great figure disappeared into the house, he said:
"No wonder missionaries have had no luck in converting these people to Christianity. It will never be done. The essential mental rhythm of the two races is too far apart. You could imagine reducing that Shalako figure two feet or even four; you could not possibly turn it into Christ on the cross."
Dancing lasts all night in all the houses, and many people go from house to house. In the early evening the Koyemshi house begins to fill with spectators. A group of men sits beside the altar, chanting to the accompaniment of a wooden flute and a pottery drum. The Mudheads are out, to visit the other ceremonial houses, where they perform sacred rites, varied by the monkey-shines and jokes which always bring laughter from Navajos and Zuñis. They enter their own house, all solemnity again, and are greeted by the householder, who leads each man to his place, and seats him. Here too the ceremony of the six directions is performed, and then the Mudhead masks are taken off, the deerskin pouches are hung against the wall, and everybody settles for a ceremonial smoke. Each Koyemshi is faced by a man, some sitting on chairs, some on upturned boxes, one I saw on a piano-stool, and one on the top-box of an old-fashioned sewing-machine. These men remove their shoes, and after the smoke they begin the long prayer, which lasts a couple of hours.
In every house similar praying is going on: a low, singsong chanting of men who sit with bowed heads praying unceasingly for hours. Meanwhile the rooms fill with visitors, who enter quietly, paying no attention to the praying. Every ceremonial chamber has large window openings into adjoining rooms where favored spectators sit, dressed in their gaudiest, like the élite in opera boxes. Others occupy chairs in the dancing-room, which is packed so close that only a narrow lane is left for the dancers. Zuñis occupy the chairs, mostly bright-shawled women carrying babies. The rest of the space is jammed with unwashed Navajos,
who sit or stand stolidly all night--the men smoking, the women nursing babies--moving only when food is brought by Zuñi girls and placed on the floor in bowls and baskets. Then the Navajos hitch along the floor, to break off great hunks of bread and to dip their fingers into the bowls of steaming stew. All guests are welcome to eat as much as they wish, and Navajos proverbially wish to eat a great deal.
Packed in among these people, one is reminded of the Zuñi legend that when their ancestors came from the underworld, they were protected by such a strong smell that no enemies could prevail against them. Nowadays only the most intrepid white, or one well protected by smelling-salts, can bear it long. Generally white visitors drift in and out; in when the cold without seems unbearable, out when the thickness of the indoor air forces them to face the cold again. A few young Indians also drift in and out, visitors from the other pueblos, and Zuñi youths muffled to the eyes in black blankets; but aside from this movement near the doors, the audience sits all night, quiet and attentive. By midnight many of the restless whites have left and deterioration has begun to attack those who remain. Ladies' city hats are riding at queer angles, figures which started alert and trim have settled awkwardly among the aborigines, men in proper clothes and spats are huddled into the welcome warmth of borrowed blankets.
About midnight the dancing begins in earnest. As an endurance test it is wonderful; each dancer takes about four times as many steps a minute as a Marathon runner and keeps it up much longer. Rest intervals are short. In the
[paragraph continues] Shalako houses the men alternate, yet the dancing is so difficult, with the heavy swaying superstructure to manage, that dancers have been known to fall under it, to be carried out, rubbed into strength, and returned. Nobody really gives up. The dancing is beautiful in the precision and grace of the steps, the striking costumes, the effect of high seriousness. Forgetting the men under the costumes and remembering only the gods, one is enthralled with the impressive gorgeousness of the scene, in spite of painful incongruities everywhere. Men in bright-blue trousers, silk shirts, and thick-toed collegiate shoes wait solemnly on the altars, the rooms are lit by the hideous glare of gasoline lamps, children snuffle, men spit, the odors are terribly thick. Yet when the Shalako rises and clacks his beak, when the chanting grows stronger and the great feathered head of the god moves with smooth stateliness the length of the room and gives its clear staccato call as the figure dips and sways--even the most cynical white man must feel that the god is there.
In the Sayatasha house the dancing is most varied. Sayatasha and Hu-tu-tu dance together, the East and West join them, Zenith and Nadir flash in and out, and always the little Fire-god strains his tiny body in the endless stamping of the dance. When the chanting stops and there is a moment's rest, he may droop with fatigue, but as soon as the music begins again, he snaps into vigor and pounds his blackened feet on the earthen floor as though nothing could weary him.
The wildest dancing is in the Koyemshi house. Relieved of their masks and moccasins, the Mudheads dance with
their deerskin pouches bouncing against them, their bodies glistening with sweat, their feet never faltering in the many changes of rhythm, their faces grinning whenever the song calls for a certain yell of triumph or defiance. In their hands they now carry feathered wands, one blue for the Sun Father, the other yellow for the Moon Mother.
Dancing lasts until dawn. White people have nearly all disappeared before that time, and those who remain are facing complete disintegration, all the symbols of civilization having been abandoned. With faces ashen with weariness and with staring eyes, they hold on only by the force of a determination to see the thing through. Navajos sit imperturbably. Zuñis never move. About dawn a group usually appears to do a Yebetchai, presenting the Navajo dance in honor or derision of the Navajo visitors; it is hard to say which. Every detail of costume is correct, and Navajos say that the Zuñis perform it better than they do.
At dawn the dancers are sprinkled again with sacred meal by all in the house, final prayers are chanted, and the doors are closed so the dancers may rest and eat. Nothing more may be seen until the going-out of the gods, about noon. The final ceremony is on the sandy stretch south of the causeway, where holes have been dug, six at each end of the runway. First the Council of the Gods comes, headed by the Fire-god. Seen under the brilliant midday sun, the figures are even more gorgeous than at night. Each one places prayer-plumes in the holes, and then they leave the village, passing long lines of Zuñis, who scatter meal on them. All during this ceremony Zenith and Nadir prance by the river, and the Shalako have been steered across
the causeway and seated on blankets south of the dance field.
When the Council of the Gods is gone, the Shalako rise for their final and most difficult race. They also deposit prayer-plumes in the holes, moving always with their peculiar running swooping motion, bells jingling, beaks clacking, voices calling, and all the people standing reverently with their meal ready. This is the final prayer for rain to fructify the earth and to fill all the watercourses, wells, and springs. It shows also how the Shalako, couriers of the gods, run back and forth all the year carrying messages, bringing moisture wherever it is needed. Finally the last plume is planted and the Shalako go, every boarding-school girl in high-heeled shoes, every mechanically trained youth standing as respectfully as the oldest blanketed Zuñi. At last Zenith and Nadir cease their prancing and go too, Nobody is irreverent enough to follow. The gods are gone. It is ended.
At this point most of the visitors leave, both whites and Navajos, and yet the days following are filled with fine dancing and most impressive ceremony.
For four days after the departure of the Shalako, there is dancing every night and on the last two days. The night dancing is in the Shalako houses and the day-time ceremonies in the Sacred Plaza. The Mudheads remain in their house and dance as before, only more vigorously, if anything. In their house the altar stands, but in the other
houses the altars are removed and most of the decorations taken down. More chairs have been placed for spectators. Dance groups are small the first night, but they increase in numbers until those consisting of three men on the first night may contain twenty on the last. This is because during these days every man in the village must dance. Every night the dance is the same, but the men are different. Each group has masks, but often they do not appear masked until the last night.
The first group are Bears. When they wear no masks, their hair hangs long, a floating orange feather over the right ear, a white one over the left, and in the back a couple of eagle-feathers. They wear the usual dance garments and Jewelry and carry a yucca wand. Every dancer in this and every group wears a yucca fillet around the head. There is no chorus, the dancers singing. Their masks, when they appear, are enough to frighten any unsuspecting observer. The top and back are of bearskin, and attached to the crown is a real duck, his head sticking rearward, the rest of him consisting only of feathers assembled from many birds. The face of the mask has an open mouth with terrible teeth such as Red Riding-hood knew, a long beard of black or gray, depending probably upon the complexion of the family horse, and a long, red leather tongue. One man may wear moccasins of bearskin or bearskin mittens on which the claws have been retained. Such a figure may dance alone, soloing up and down with angular gestures of fright or rage, leering with his hideous mask and swooping and turning until his buckskin skirt stands out like a ballet girl's. There are two groups of Bears, one dancing with no
accompaniment, the other accompanied by the beating of a stick on a large roll of sheeting, which must in its day have been a roll of buckskin.
The second group is "mixed": dancers who all wear the usual kirtle and moccasins, but whose head-gear are masks from many dances. One sees the woman figure from the summer Rain-dance, masks copied from the Rio Grande pueblos, Navajo and Hopi masks, and many of Zuñi. One group of twenty men may have twenty different masks, all weird in conception, but beautiful in color and in workmanship. In this and all the dances the song is the same every year, we are told, but the words are new.
Asked who makes the new words, a Zuñi woman said: "Well, a man going for wood might think of a new song, and then his group would sing that."
Often the audience laughs heartily, as though the man going for wood had thought of a good one. Every dance lasts the length of the song, though if anyone living in the house, or anyone of importance, asks for an encore, it is given without question and at the turn of the hand of the leader. These leaders are men of the fraternities, and each carries his mili and bowl of sacred meal. His dress may be anything--even bright-blue trousers, thick-toed tan shoes, and striped silk shirt--but his manner is utterly solemn. He enters first sprinkling meal from his bowl, which should, of course, be the ancient ceremonial vessel. Actually it may be a pressed-glass compote or a blue china pitcher. As a dance group enters, it is met by the headman of the fraternity, who sprinkles meal in a line and retires. The leader stands facing his dancers and gives the word
for starting and for stopping. At the end they are again escorted out. Often before one group finishes, another will be heard outside, stamping with the cold and uttering the raucous bird or animal cries indicated by their masks. Sometimes as the night wears on and the groups are larger, two groups may dance at once in a house, while another champs impatiently outside. Every group dances in every house, even the Mudheads who come led by a woman as well as a man.
In their own house on the last night the Mudheads may perform magic, such as making a small bowl disappear and reappear somewhere else. It is very clever sleight-of-hand.
An interesting group is that of the Tadpoles, who come from the Sacred Lake bearing tall poles which look like bamboo, but which the people call cane. This group wear close-fitting masks, painted with a many-colored butterfly on a black ground behind, and turquoise-blue in front. Bright-yellow spines stick out where the ears and mouth should be, and over the brow is a yellow lily made of feathers. They dance in a line facing the wall, each man holding his tall pole, which has a feather at the top, and they turn only for an occasional flashing view of the turquoise face and yellow lily. Often small boys appear in this group.
Late on the third afternoon and again on the fourth the dancers appear for an hour or so in the Sacred Plaza. Both times Mudheads come first, standing about, uttering their queer crowing comments, some of which cause mirth, others not. When the dancers come, each group is met by a Mudhead and escorted to position. When two or three
groups happen to dance at the same time, the effect is bewildering to a white eye and ear, but apparently not in the least disturbing to the dancers, who chant and stamp and dip and turn, each in his own rhythm without reference to the beat of his neighbor's time. The last night, dancing continues until dawn, but about eleven o'clock it is made clear that women and outsiders will be graciously allowed to depart. This night the Mudheads have their last meal until the very end of the performance, sometimes as much as forty-eight hours later.
On the fifth morning the Koyemshi are paid off for their appearances in every ceremony of the whole year. By nine o'clock they appear in the Sacred Plaza bearing their big rolls of sheeting. An intricate ceremony is performed, in which sacred meal is scattered over their hideous bent heads, priests climb solemnly in and out of the kiva, and slowly the people gather on the roofs. After this preliminary ceremony the Mudheads go out, each to the house of his maternal aunt, where his head is ceremonially shampooed and where he chants the appointed prayers. Meanwhile the plaza has filled until its roofs are gay with color, its doors and windows spilling babies, its one narrow entrance jammed.
Finally the Mudheads return, each one bent under a load of food stacked in a stiff sheep's carcass, which he holds by a couple of legs over his shoulders, the other legs being upheld by followers. Those carcasses are filled with
every sort of thing: bread, package goods from the stores, apples and popcorn in strings, yards of calico, even pink silk underwear trimmed with lace. Following each Mudhead come his clan people in a long procession, the men bent under more dead sheep and sacks of flour, the women bearing bowls and baskets of food on their heads. Each sheep is strung to the beams, where it hangs like a fantastic horn of plenty, spilling apples and packages and cloth while the rest of the food is piled on the ground against the wall.
At the point of greatest activity the scene is indescribable: smoothly gliding groups of men and women bringing gifts; busy groups stringing and piling the offerings; women kneeling beside soft piles of yellow, blue, and white corn-meal and scooping it into sacks; priests moving here and there; and all the people interestedly attentive, but never noisy. There is never a sense of confusion. Everything is done in order with quiet voices, deft handling, unhurried movement, until the whole plaza is filled with the ten great piles. Meanwhile the Mudheads stand, wrapped in their Navajo blankets, their ugly heads demurely bent, their arms filled with the feathered corn they have collected, looking like nothing so much as fantastic travesties of brides, and watching this accumulation of wealth.
During the morning an impressive figure appears from the kiva. His hair is brushed forward into a stiff horn over the brow, heavy white lines are painted across his eyes and mouth, and he is wrapped in a heavy blanket, his bare arms protruding. There are feathers tied to his wrists and knees, and bunches of feathers in each hand. This is a member of
the Galaxy Fraternity. Climbing solemnly down the ladder, he crosses the plaza, apparently unseen by anyone, and goes out by the narrow passage; only the shrill whistle held between his teeth is heard as he disappears. Watching from the roof, one can see that he goes to the river and plants prayer-plumes. He returns, still unnoticed, and with the stately tread of a Chinese mandarin, mounts the ladder again and disappears into the kiva.
When the offerings are all arranged, the people withdraw and leave the Koyemshi, still fasting, guarding the huge tantalizing piles of food, which they must not touch. Shadows--sun--finally dance groups. The dance groups enter for their final appearance, and again the dancing is bewildering in its varied figures and rhythms. It ends with the dismissal of the dancers by the appropriate priests, who make the final prayers, take from each dancer the ceremonial objects of the fraternity, and retire to the kiva. Finally each dance group makes a pilgrimage to the river, there to plant prayer-plumes before disappearing for the last time. Only the Mudheads remain in the plaza, where they must stay all day, guarding their gifts, and neither eating nor drinking until the end of the day, which may be very near the next morning.
At sunset the final act of the long drama occurs. Boys who personate the corn-maidens go out to the river, carrying watermelons and many seeds as emblems of plenty. On the river-bank they await the racing of a group of real girls and then take their places in line according to the rank of the racers, each boy taking the rank the girl of his elan has won for him. In this order they return to the
[paragraph continues] Sacred Plaza to be greeted by the leader of the Galaxy Fraternity. This group, entering when the sunset light is most lovely, is one of the most beautiful sights of all the Zuñi ceremonies. Each young man is; dressed like the virgin of the earlier dancing, all in white, with floating wavy hair, brilliant moccasins, and masses of jewelry. They are attended by the Director General of the Gods, who now makes his first appearance. His general costume is like that of Sayatasha, white buckskin wrap, dance moccasins, and mask. His mask, however, is turquoise-blue, with two large flat ears, black top, yellow feathers, and a boa of fur. The general effect of this group is white with daring dashes of turquoise-blue and black. They perform serious rites in the plaza and finally disappear into the kiva, received at the top of the ladder by the Galaxy priest, who greets them with the shrill note of the whistle held between his teeth. The rest of the ceremonies are secret.
Late into the night the Mudheads wait, but finally they are given permission to gather up their goods and depart to their house, where at last they may break their long fast.
This ends the Zuñi ceremonial year and brings them again to the fast with which the winter solstice must be ushered in.