Wednesday, February 8, 2017

About the Hopi Indian Birth Ceremony

About the Hopi Indian Birth Ceremony



The story of the Hopi, who does every important thing in his life according to a traditional pattern and accompanied by appropriate religious ceremony, would not be complete without some account of birth, marriage, and burial. Not having seen these ceremonies, the writer offers the record of authoritative observers.
Birth
Babies are welcomed and well cared for in Hopiland, and now that the young mothers are learning to discard unripe corn, fruit, and melons as baby food, the infant mortality, once very high, is decreasing.
Natal ceremonies are considered important. Goddard[33] gives us a brief picture of the usual proceedings: "The Hopi baby is first washed and dressed by its paternal grandmother or by one of her sisters. On the day of its birth she makes four marks with corn meal on the four walls of the room. She erases one of these on the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, and twentieth day of the child's life. On each of these days the baby and its mother have their heads washed with yucca suds. On the twentieth day, which marks the end of the lying-in period, the grandmother comes early, bathes the baby and puts some corn meal to its lips. She utters a prayer in which she requests that the child shall reach old age and in this prayer gives it a name. A few of the women members of the father's clan come in one at a time, bathe the baby and give it additional names. After the names have been given, the paternal grandmother goes with the mother and the child to the eastern edge of the mesa, starting so as to arrive about sunrise. Two ears of white corn which have been lying near the child during the twenty days, are carried with them. The grandmother touches these ears of corn to the baby's breast and waves them to the east. She also strews corn meal toward the sun, placing a little on the child's mouth. As she does this, she prays, uttering in the course of her prayer the various names which have been given to the child. The mother goes through a similar ceremony and utters a similar prayer.
"The names given relate in some way to the clan of the one who bestows them. Of the various names given to the child, one, because it strikes the fancy of the family, generally sticks ... until the individual is initiated into some ceremony. At that time a new name is given."
For instance, a Hopi man of middle age, known to the writer as George (school name), tells her that his adopted father belonged to the Tobacco Clan, so the name selected for him by the paternal aunts was "Sackongsie" or "green tobacco plant with the blossoms on." Bessie, born in the same family, was named "Sackhongeva" or "green tobacco plant standing straight." The nine month's baby daughter of a Hopi girl once in the employ of the writer is merrily called "Topsy," although formally named Christine in honor of the school superintendent's wife. Her mother explains that the father's clan is Tobacco, and the aunts named this baby "Topt-si," "the red blossom on top of the tobacco plant," which sounds so exactly like Topsy that the family sense of humor has permitted the nickname. One of the writer's Hopi girls was named "two straight, tall rows of corn," another, "Falling Snow." These pretty names, too long for convenience, are nevertheless cherished, as a matter of sentiment, by their owners.