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Gods And Katcinas

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



In such a frame are set the world-powers venerated by the Pueblo dwellers. These cosmic potencies may be classed in two great categories: the gods, which represent the powers and divisions of nature; and the Katcinas, primarily the spirits of ancestors, but in a secondary usage the spirit-powers of other beings, even of the gods.

Father Sun and Mother Earth are the greater deities of the pantheon; but each is known by many names, and may indeed be said to separate into numerous personalities — among the Hopi, for example, the Sun is called Heart of the Sky, while Mother of Germs or Seed, Old Woman, Spider Woman, Corn Maid, and Goddess of Growth are all appellations of the Earth. Superior even to this primeval pair, the Zuņi recognize Awonawilona, the supreme life-giving power, the initiator and embodiment of the life of the world, referred to as He-She, whose earliest avatar was the person of the Sun Father, but whose pervasivelife is confined to no one being.' No similar Hopi being is reported.

Along with the Sun are other celestial gods, the Moon Mother and the Morning and Evening Stars, the Galaxy, Pleiades, Orion, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the Polar Star, and the knife-feathered monster whom the Zuņi name Achiyalatopa. Sun and Moon are masked by shields as they traverse the skies, but, little by little, Awonawilona draws aside the veil from Moon Mother's shield and as gradually replaces it, thus imaging the course of man's life from infancy to the fulness of maturity and thence to the decline of age. These, with the meteorological beings, the cloud-masked rain-bringers, are the di superi, "Those Above." The di inferi, "Those Below," dwellers in the bosom of Mother Earth, include the twin Gods of War, who in the years of the beginnings de-livered mankind from the monsters; the Corn Father and Corn Mother, the latter being Earth or Earth's Daughters; and the mineral "Men" and "Women" representing Salt, Red Shell, White Shell, and Turquoise;" as well as the animal-gods, or Ancients, which are the intermediaries between men and the higher gods, and which also act as the tutelaries or patrons of the several fraternities. Another deity, associated with both the subterranean and the celestial powers, is the Plumed Serpent, called Koloowisi by the Zuņi, Palulukoņ by the Hopi. This god is connected both with the lightning and with fertility: a moving serpent is a natural symbol for the zigzag flash of lightning, and it is probably this analogy which has given rise in the South-West to the myth of sky-travelling snakes; on the other hand, lightning is associated with rain-fall, and rain, according to the South-Western view, is carried aloft from the subterranean reservoirs of water; the connexion of rain with fertility is obvious; in the Zuņi initiation of boys into the Kotikili (of which all who may enter the Dance-House of the Gods, after death, must be members), Koloowisi is represented by a large image from whose mouth water and maize issue, and in the highly dramatic Palulukoņti of the Hopi Indians there are several acts which seem to represent the fructification of the maize by the Plumed Snake. Possibly this deity is of Mexican origin, for far to the south, among the Mayan and Nahuatlan peoples, the Plumed Serpent is a potent divinity.

The second great group of higher powers is composed of the ancestral and totemic Katcinas which play an important part in the Pueblo scheme of things." "While the term Katcina," says Fewkes, "was originally limited to the spirits, or personified medicine power, of ancients, personifications of a similar power in other objects have likewise come to be called Katcinas. Thus the magic power or medicine of the sun may be called Katcina, or that of the earth may be known by the same general name, this use of the term being common among the Hopis. The term may also be applied to personations of these spirits or magic potencies by men or their representation by pictures or graven objects, or by other means." The number of Katcinas is very great, for every clan has its own, not to be personated by members of any other clan; while others are introduced by being adopted as a result of initiation into the rites of neighbouring pueblos. In general, the Katcinas are anthropomorphic. In ritual and in picture they appear as masked, and to their representation is due the long series of masques which characterize Pueblo ceremonial life.

The mask is certainly more than a symbolic disguise. The mythology of the South-West, despite the extensive appearance of animal-powers and the use of animal fetishes, is pre-dominantly anthropomorphic in cast: the Sun and the Moon are manlike beings, hidden by shields; clouds are shields or screens concealing the manlike Rain-Bringers. The Hopi place cotton masks upon the faces of their dead, and the Zuņi blacken the countenances of their deceased chieftains. Now the dead depart to the Underworld 10 (though the Zuņi believe that members of the warrior society, the Bow Priesthood, ascend to the Sky, thence to shoot their lightning shafts, while the Rain-makers roll their thunderous gaming stones), there to become themselves rain-bringers, or at least more potent intercessors for rain than are their mortal brethren. "The earth," Mrs. Stevenson writes, "is watered by the deceased Zuņi, of both sexes, who are controlled and directed by a council composed of ancestral gods. These shadow people collect water in vases and gourd jugs from the six great waters of the world, and pass to and fro over the middle plane, protected from the view of the people below by cloud masks." These six great waters are the waters of the six springs in the hearts of the six mountains of the cosmic points. The Uwannami, as the Zuņi name these shadowy rain-makers, are carried by the vapour which arises from these springs, each Uwannami holding fast a bunch of breathplumes to facilitate ascension. Clouds of different forms have varying significance : cirrus clouds tell that the Uwannami are passing about for pleasure; cumulus and nimbus that the earth is to be watered. Yet it is not from, but through, the clouds that the rain really comes: each cloud is a sieve into which the water is poured directly or sprinkled by means of the plumed sticks, such as the Zuņi use in their prayers for rain. Of this same tribe Mrs. Stevenson says again: "These people rarely cast their eyes upward without invoking the rain-makers, for in their arid land rain is the prime object of prayer. Their water vases are covered with cloud and rain emblems, and the water in the vase symbolizes the life, or soul, of the vase." This picturesque conception of the office of the ancestral gods is not shared by the Hopi, who regard the rain as coming directly from a special group of gods, the Omowuhs; but the Hopi do believe that the dead are potent intercessors with these deities, and they call the mask which is placed over the face of the deceased a "prayer to the dead to bring rain."

Pueblo maskers personate divine and mythological beings of many descriptions, as well as the ancestral dead, and to the masks themselves attaches a kind of veneration, due to their sacred employment. Besides the masks, however, many other objects are used as ritualistic sacra. Sticks painted with symbolic colours, and adorned with plumes which convey the breath of prayer upward to the gods, are offered by the thousand, the placing of such prayer-plumes at notable shrines being a feature of the ceremonial life of each individual." The fraternities, or cult societies, erect elaborate altars, sand-paintings, images, and symbolic objects, indicating the powers to which they are devoted. Meal and pollen, seeds, cords of native cotton, maize of various colours, tobacco in the form of cigarettes, and stone implements, nodules, and figures are all important adjuncts of worship. What are called fetishes are employed in numbers, and vary in character from true fetishes to true idols. Many of the stone fetishes are private property, of the nature of the "medicine" universal in North America. Others are properties of the fraternities, and are in the keeping of certain priests or initiates who bring them forth on the occasion of the appropriate festivals. Still others are of the nature of tribal palladia, in charge of the higher priest-hoods. Thus, at Zuņi, the images of the Gods of War (wooden stocks with crudely drawn faces, such as must have been the most ancient xoana) are under the guardianship of the Bow Priesthood, who are servants of the Lightning-Makers.

In Zuņi the supreme sacerdotal group consists of the Ashiwanni, the rain priesthood, which comprises fourteen rain priests, two priests of the bow, and the priestess of fecundity. Six of the rain priests are known as Directors of the House, this house being the chamber which marks the Middle Place of the world, in which is kept the fetish of the rain priests of the North, who are supposed to be exactly over the very heart of the world. The priest of the sun and the director and deputy of the Kotikili, added to the Ashiwanni, form the whole body of Zuņi priests duplicating in the flesh the Council of the Gods, which assembles in Kothiuwalawa, the Dance-House of the Gods. The Kokko constitute the entire group of anthropic gods worshipped by the Zuņi. The Kotikili is the society of those who may personate them in masques (including in its membership all of the men and a few of the women of Zuņi); and it is only the members of the Kotikili sand, the placing of such prayer-plumes at notable shrines being a feature of the ceremonial life of each individual." The fraternities, or cult societies, erect elaborate altars, sand-paintings, images, and symbolic objects, indicating the powers to which they are devoted. Meal and pollen, seeds, cords of native cotton, maize of various colours, tobacco in the form of cigarettes, and stone implements, nodules, and figures are all important adjuncts of worship. What are called fetishes are employed in numbers, and vary in character from true fetishes to true idols. Many of the stone fetishes are private property, of the nature of the "medicine" universal in North America. Others are properties of the fraternities, and are in the keeping of certain priests or initiates who bring them forth on the occasion of the appropriate festivals. Still others are of the nature of tribal palladia, in charge of the higher priesthoods. Thus, at Zuņi, the images of the Gods of War (wooden stocks with crudely drawn faces, such as must have been the most ancient xoana) are under the guardianship of the Bow Priesthood, who are servants of the Lightning-Makers.

In Zuņi the supreme sacerdotal group consists of the Ashiwanni, the rain priesthood, which comprises fourteen rain priests, two priests of the bow, and the priestess of fecundity. Six of the rain priests are known as Directors of the House, this house being the chamber which marks the Middle Place of the world, in which is kept the fetish of the rain priests of the North, who are supposed to be exactly over the very heart of the world. The priest of the sun and the director and deputy of the Kotikili, added to the Ashiwanni, form the whole body of Zuņi priests duplicating in the flesh the Council of the Gods, which assembles in Kothluwalawa, the Dance-House of the Gods. The Kokko constitute the entire group of anthropic gods worshipped by the Zuņi. The Kotikili is the society of those who may personate them in masques (including in its membership all of the men and a few of the women of Zuņi) ; and it is only the members of the Kotikili who are admitted into Kothluwalawa after death. The other fraternities of Zuņi have in charge the service of animal, not anthropic, deities — beings regarded rather as powerful intermediaries between men and gods, and as magical assistants of hunters and doctors, than as rulers of creation. In the Hopi towns priests and fraternities likewise form the sacerdotal organization, though with a clearer dependence upon what is evidently a more ancient and primitive system of clan worship.



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