National Geographic : 1991 Oct
carefree, innocent state of early childhood to the status of adult, one of the Dry Food People. For four days the boys are made to carry a load of firewood they have chopped themselves, and the girls a basket of corn meal they have ground themselves, to the homes of their sponsors. A sponsor instructs each child in the beliefs and practices of the vil lage. On the fourth night, the deities come to the kiva, and the child may go to watch. Afterward, the sponsor bathes the child, pouring water over him. From this time, the child is given duties judged proper for his sex. A finishing ritual a few years later brings the girls and boys to adult hood. For the boys it is particularly meaningful, for they now become eli gible to assist and participate in the coming of the gods in their moiety's kiva. Thus the bonds of the moiety are further strengthened. T IS AT DEATH that the bond of moiety is broken and the solidarity of the whole society emphasized again. This echoes the genesis story, for after the people had divided into two for their journey from the lake, they came together again when they arrived at their destination. When a Tewa dies, relatives dress the corpse. The moc casins are reversed-for the Tewa believe everything in the afterlife is reversed from this life. There is a Spanish Catholic wake, a Requiem Mass, then the trip to the cemetery. There the priest completes the church's funeral rites: the sprinkling of holy water, a prayer, a hand ful of dirt thrown into the grave. Then all non-Indians leave. A bag containing the clothing of the deceased is now placed under his head as a pillow, along with other personal possessions. When the grave is covered, a Tewa official tells the survivors that the deceased has gone to the place "of endless cicada singing," that he will be happy, and he admonishes them not to let the loss divide the home. During the four days following death, the soul, or Dry Food Who Is No Longer, is believed to wander about in this world in the company of the ancestors. These four days produce a time of unease. There is the fear among relatives that the soul may become lonely and return to take one of them for company. Children are deemed most susceptible. The house itself must not be left unoccupied. The uneasiness ends on the fourth night, when relatives gather again to perform the releasing rite. There are rituals with tobacco, a piece of charcoal, a series of four lines drawn on the floor. A pottery bowl, used in his naming ceremony long ago and cherished by him all his life, is bro ken, or "killed." Then a prayer reveals the purpose of the symbols: We have muddied the waters for you [the smoke]. We have cast shadows between us [the charcoal]. We have made steep gullies between us [the lines]. Do not, therefore, reachfor even a hair on our heads. Rather, help us attain that which we are always seeking: Long life, that our children may grow, abundant game, the raisingof crops. . . . Now you must go, for you are now free. With the soul released, all breathe a sigh of relief. They wash their hands. As each finishes, he says, "May you have life." The others respond, "Let it be so." Everyone now eats. The Tewa begin and end life as one people; we call the life cycle poeh, or emergence path. As a Tewa elder told me: "In the beginning we were one. Then we divided into Summer People and Winter People; in the end we came together again as we are today." This is the path of our lives.