Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Zuni rain priest asks nicely

We are not alone on this earth, and it is always okay to ask for help from the deeper powers that support our lives. It is also wise to ask nicely. Here is a beautiful sample of what that means: a “prayer to the U’wanami made by a rain priest” recorded by anthropologist Ruth Bunzel at Zuni Pueblo in 1928.

From wherever you abide permanently

You will make your roads come forth.

Your little wind blown clouds,

Your thin wisps of clouds,

Your great masses of clouds

Replete with living waters, you will send forth to stay with us.

Your fine rain caressing the earth,

Your heavy rain caressing the earth,

Here at Itiwana,

The abiding place of our fathers,

Our mothers,

The ones who first had being,

With your great pile of waters

You will come together.

When you have come together

Our mothers,

Our children,

All the different kinds of corn,

Nourishing themselves with their

Father’s waters

Tenderly will bring forth their young. Clasping their children

All will finish their roads.

Source: Ruth L. Bunzel, Introduction to Zuni ceremonialism, Forty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Americam Ethnology, Washington, D.C: Smithsonian Institution, 1929-30.

Zuni Shalako God Festival rain makers. 1904 lithograph


Savannah said...

This is beautiful... this asking nicely feels less like a question than a gentle way-making vision. I imagine the rain makers would look favourably on a vision of all finishing their roads and tending to young life.

Robert Moss said...

Savannah - I once made the error of asking a rain priest of the Southwest how to STOP the rain. He wouldn't talk to me for a while after that. Different climates, different prayers.

Irène said...

"Different climates, different prayers." What lovely words in and of themselves. This prayer fills me with undefined nostalgia. I'm deeply touched by the mentioning of corn, one of the three sisters, in this prayer. After reading the prayer, I shut my eyes and saw a sufi dancer with outstreached arms spinning and generating silk threads from his wrists like spiderman. And he was wearing a cornhusk skirt and top looking much like the cornhusk dolls I loved to make and play with as a child.

Robert Moss said...

Irene - "You can earn your living any way you like, but you must always spread cornmeal for butterflies." - Words of an ancient medicine woman of the Southwest who appeared to me long ago.

Carol Davis said...

Beautiful. Evocative. Wonderful images of heartfelt vision. I feel the living waters as I read it.

As for your last comment about cornmeal: Many years ago, I spread cornmeal on our land in Niskayuna. It was a time when I would look out the window and catch glimpses of a longhouse, or deerskins or bearskins. I would walk across the land and sense the Mohawk River nearby and in my vision glimpse dugout canoes and people fishing. I actually drove around the neighborhood and walked by the Mohawk river longingly searching with my inner eye, trying to understand what I was seeing and wondering about it all. I would sometimes see cornfields. Finally, I researched the name Niskayuna and found it referred to the cornfields or "place of corn flats". I felt close to those people. I felt called and I wanted to honor the land and those who had lived here so I reverently, tenderly spread cornmeal over the land and asked for blessings for those who had been here before us. Perhaps the soul of the land and the souls of the people were able to connect with my soul. I feel a deep sense of peace as I remember this. Perhaps we are helping each other finish our roads.

Robert Moss said...

Carol - I love the vision of you offering cornmeal in the place of the corn flats. As you know, in Mohawk belief corn is one of the Three Sisters (corns, bean and squash) that are our life supporters. Just before reading your post, I woke from a dream - underscored by synchronicity - that led me to reflect on how, through dreaming into the life of an 18th century resident of your neighborhood, I first came to know something of the ways of the Mohawk. (See "Egyptian bird in the sky", the next post here").

Yes, I believe we can help each other to "finish our roads" - and to get back on them when we have lost the way!

Irène said...

I love corn, and will certainly spread the meal for the butterflies. Thanks!