Published on September 21, 2010 by John
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‘Indian Altar and Ruins of Old Zuni’, 1853-1855
Life for these agricultural people revolves around their religious beliefs. They have a cycle of religious ceremonies which takes precedence over all else. Their religious beliefs are centered on the three most powerful of their deities â€“ Earth Mother, Sun Father, and Moonlight-Giving Mother. The Sun is especially worshipped. In fact the Zuni words for daylight and life are the same word. The Sun is, therefore, seen as the giver of life. Each person’s life is marked by important ceremonies to celebrate their coming to certain milestones in their existence. Birth, coming of age, marriage and death are especially celebrated.
Zuni religiously pilgrimage every four years on the Barefoot Trail to KoÅ‚uwala:wa, also called Zuni Heaven or Kachina Village; a 12,482-acre detached portion of the Zuni Reservation about sixty miles Southwest of Zuni Pueblo. The four-day observance occurs around the summer solstice, practiced for many hundreds of years and is well known to local residents.
Another pilgrimage conducted annually for centuries by the Zuni and other southwestern tribes is made to Zuni Salt Lake for the harvesting of salt during the dry months, and for religious purposes. The lake is home to the Salt Mother, Ma’l Okyattsik’i and is led to by several ancient Pueblo roads and trails.
Coming of age, or rite of passage, is celebrated differently by boys and girls. A girl who is ready to declare herself as a maiden will go to the home of her father’s mother early in the morning and grind corn all day long. Corn is a sacred food and a staple in the diet of the Zuni. The girl is, therefore, declaring that she is ready to play a role in the welfare of her people. When it is time for a boy to become a man he will be taken under the wing of a spiritual ‘father’, selected by the parents. This one will instruct the boy through the ceremony to follow. The boy will go through certain initiation rites to enter one of the men’s societies. He will learn how to take on either religious, secular or political duties within that order.