New House Dedication




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Bringing in the Fire
Child to the Universe
Dance into Manhood
Naming Ceremony
New House Dedication
Peace Pipe Ceremony
Song of the Pleiades
Sunrise Ceremony
Thanks to Mother Earth
Thunder Ceremony

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By Julia M. Seton

My dream house was finished. I had had the unusual privilege and opportunity of not only planning it in all its foolishments, but in with the actual manual labor of construction.

I had done my poor little best in digging the foundation; the hired laborers had thought me crazy to expend so much energy with so littIe visible result. I had laid the cornerstone of the building, I had scratched the skin from my fingers with the stones of the chimney and fireplace.  I had put on the first trowels of stucco till my hands were raw with the burn of the lime, I had painted some of the less conspicuous walls, I had done my duty by the workmen when the bush went up (Among all European nations, it is the custom to decorate the highest point of a new building with a green bush.  This is the recognized signal that now the workmen may celebrate with a libation supplied by the owner of the house).

And now, the rubbish was all cleared away, the laborers had left for good, and the house was swept clean and bright.

Could I simply move in? After all the weeks of planning and building, could I just put in furniture and call it a home?

There was some missing link. There was a wordless want within me that, for a while, was baffling.

Then the answer came; and for others who will feel the same need, I give what we I and one kindred spirit did to satisfy our craving for a ritual, a form of dedication that would hallow the place and sanctify the labor of love that had reared it.

The Ceremony

The woman sweeps out the house with a wisp of grass; then, standing in the doorway, hands a shallow basket of corn meal out to the man.

He enters, and rubs a handful of the dry meal on the south doorway timber, as high as he can reach. Then, walking in the direction that the sun travels, he does the same on the main timber of the south walI of the house, then the west, then the north, then the east, and lastly on the north timber of the doorway. While making these gifts, he preserves a strict silence.

With a sweeping motion of his hand from left to right, he sprinkles the meal around the outer circumference of the floor, saying in low measured tone:

 "May the house wherein I dwell be blessed; 
May good thoughts here possess me; 
May my path of life be straight and true; 
My dreams as here I lie be joyous; 
All above, below, about me 
May the house I love be hallowed."

He then sprinkles two or three handfuls out of the doorway, saying: "May this road of light lead good friends hither."

Now, with the rubbing sticks, he lights the first fire. As it blazes, he stands before it, and says: "As the Great Central Fire of all reaches out to the four corners of the earth, and kindles blazing lights, so at our sacred symbol Fire light we our four lamps, one each for Beauty, Truth, Fortitude, and Love. (He lights four candles, and places them in a row on the hearth.) And while these lights are blazing bright, we know that we shall grow." (Birch Bark Roll, early editions.)

The woman approaches, sprinkles a handful of meal on the fire, and says in a subdued voice:

"May this Fire, the symbol of the All Above, be the Home Fire of my children and my children's children."

She then tosses a handful up the chimney, saying:

"May the four winds carry off our troubles, even as they do this sacred meal."

Now it is the privilege of the friends and neighbors to enter the new house. Each brings a branch or stick of wood, and says: "Let me add this fagot to your fire, in hope to make it brighter blaze."

Any form of festivity may follow, now that the serious part of the dedication has been accomplished.

Dr. Cosmos Mindeleff, in the Seventeenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, has given the Navaho dedication of a house; I have used this in part for the ceremony as given.

Native Ceremonies






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Bringing in the Fire ] Child to the Universe ] Dance into Manhood ] Naming Ceremony ] [ New House Dedication ] Peace Pipe Ceremony ] Song of the Pleiades ] Sunrise Ceremony ] Thanks to Mother Earth ] Thunder Ceremony ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.