Green Corn of Santo Domingo
Green Corn Dance of Santo Domingo
During the year a number of Indian couples have been married according to their own customs; but on August fourth of each year, these marriages must be sanctified in the Catholic Church. The ceremony is simple and sweet, and acceded to by the Indians without enthusiasm either way. They know they have been married anyway, but since the Whites so desire it, they will humor them by going through the form of marriage as moderns see it.
Dr. Edgar L. Hewett says: "It has nothing whatever to do with the conception of the universe which the Redman entertains and is convinced of. It is easy for him to tolerate the Christian intrusion, since it represents for him one more belief in the unquestionable goodness in things around him. It is otherwise as foreign to them essentially as all white attempts upon the Red soul inevitably must be." (Art and Archxology, March, 19 2 2, Pp. 114 115 )
On this day in 1927, we arrived at the pueblo just as the Recessional was coming from the church. A kettle drum led the crowd, beating loud soft soft loud loud soft really a rapid 618 time. This was followed by the Catholic Priest, then an Indian carrying the Cross. A group of about ten young Indian boys came next, each carrying a tall white candle; then four boys each holding one corner of a canopy under which was the image of Santo Domingo, borne by four men. The saint had been adorned for the occasion by a new colored silk hanky about his tieck.* Behind the image of Santo Domingo came the newly weds, couple by couple; after them, the rabble, all chanting softly.
The Recessional paraded through all the streets of the village, ending at a bower built as the repository of the Saint for the day. This was at oiie end of the plaza where the CORN DANCE was to go on all afternoon. "N 11 old Indian bearing a gun stayed on guard at the booth all day to keep off the evil spirits.
An Indian, in accordance with the prevailing clan system, is born vitlier a Summer (Calabash) Indian, or a Winter (Turquoise) Indian, t liou&h this has no relation to the season of his birth; and so he must Always remain. There are, therefore, in Santo Domingo, two kivas (or
The silk hankies of most brilliant color in the Southwestern small town trading stores are
favored by the cowboys in purple, green and pink combinations, and across the center of hi(h arc the word.%: "Let 'cr buck." Such was the neckerchief of Santo Domingo, reverently Vl.i(cd there by these simplc licartcd bclicvcri.
,,fas, as they call them here) one for the Summer people and the Winter.
Everyone in the pueblo is supposed to participate in the ceremo ;he CORN DANCE. It is not only an invocation, but a thanksgiving. At I 1: 3 0 A.M., there issued from each kiva a group of Koshare, elev )ne group, and ten in the other. The Koshare are a secret order ich the Whites know very little, except that the order is dying ou, ~re are about twenty five members in this pueblo, but in some it uced to two. We do not know what the qualifications are, but reali t these individuals are held in high esteem by the other inhabitan vy represent the ancestral spirits of the people and are supposed invisible to the rest of the pueblo.
Before their appearance for this dance, they have been purified in ~a by the Rainbow Woman. This woman is held very sacred in be, but no White knows who she is.
According to the ancient legend, when the Indians first came in e world, they were much beset by hardships. They were finally re iced to such straits 'that they lost courage and became disheartene iis made matters worse until the gods, in order to make them forg eir troubles, painted one of their number white, and decorated hi :)st fantastically. This Koshare, Dancing Man, or "Delight Maker," tridelier calls him, came among the people and capered and danced un s antics made them laugh. Thus encouraged, they again took up the' irden and carried on to triumph.
For the ceremony of the CorN DANCE the Koshare were dressed as follows (see Fig. 67): Their bodies were painted mostly white with round spots of black all over. Several had one whole leg blue. One group wore branches of evergreens across the breast and back from shoulder to hip. The other group were entirely nude above the waist, except for paint.
Each wore a ragged square of black cloth about the neck, hanging some eight inches down chest and back. A strip of black rag was knotted about each wrist and below each knee.
A belt of cloth was strung with rattles. The breech clout was a long strip of black cloth, passing between the legs, slung over the belt and hanging in apron effect front and back.
Branches of spruce were tied about the ankles. Some wore moccasins, others were barefoot; rattles and anklets of beef toes and turtle shells completed the costume.
Their hair was pulled up tight from the head all around, and painted white like their bodies, then rolled up in a knot at the top; for head
dress, a bunch of dried corn husks, points up.
Each carried a gourd rattle in the right hand.
They marched through all the streets of the pueblo, singing, and
vigorously shaking their rattles, moving both hands in unison to each two counts. The song is strongly accented on the first count of each four, thus:
Huh' huh huh huh
Huh' huh huh huh;
and is sung in a very fast tempo; but has very little melody, and no words merely vocables in strong rhythmic chant.
At i P.m., led by the standard (called tiponi), there entered the plaza forty eight couples man, woman, man, woman the women a little diagonally behind the men. The men used the back trot step, the women walked in the same rhythm, but without the lift.
The women wore black cloth dresses reaching to their calves. The right arm was covered with a short sleeve, the left arm and shoulder bare. A red underskirt showed about one inch under the black dress; and under that, a white embroidered petticoat hung about two inches longer. A knitted belt of red worsted, striped in thin white and black, was tied about the waistline, the two ends hanging down the right side. The
feet were bare.
In each hand they carried a bunch of evergreen which they moved
alternately in time to the music. The arms were held close to the body from shoulder to elbow. The hands were turned rather out to the sides; the movement was entirely from the wrist.
I wore their beautiful glossy hair hanging; in most cases it was lo [i to reach the thighs. ie headdress (called tablita) was of thin wood, turquoise color, c e terraces at the top edge. The center one was turquoise like t, )art, the two side ones yellow on the front, red on the back. Nel nter were various geometric figures cut out of the wood. T hite feathers hung from each outer point at the top, and two hal own each side. These tablitas were tied under the chin to kee n place. ery detail of the costume has a symbolic meaning.
te costume of the men was as follows: The upper body was nu
for a strip or conue shells from right shoulder to left nip, an of beads about the neck. All had one large brilliant shell at t :)f the throat. i each arm, just above the elbow, they wore a band of turquoi Cin, about four inches wide, some straight edged, some terrace held branches of evergreen close to the outside of the arm. closed on the inside of the arm to within about two inches, the
ch wore a short white apron of native weave, embroidered I wools green, red, and black with symbols of clouds, earth a Hanging down the back from the waistline was a gray fox ski ush almost reaching the ground. A string of bells encircled t
ider the knees each had tied a hank of green and black worste 4ad bells on one leg. The right forearm and foreleg were painte mbolic pattern in white zigzag lines probably lightning. ch carried a rattle in the right hand and a branch of spruce Et. Their hands worked simultaneously, not alternately like t
tey wore the hair in a thick bang to the brows, bobbed square at les just below the ear; then most were long at the back, though a' rogressives were bobbed all around. le headdress was a tuft of short, green, soft macaw feathers. wore branches of spruce tied about the ankles, and moccasinm broad band of skunk skin, black at the top, with a fringe of white bottom.
i the one side was massed the chorus ~'solid like a cluster of bees" .ty seven in one group, forty nine in the other; mostly old or r. There was a drummer for each group who stood at the f ront ,at the tomb6 vigorously. There was also for each group a leader illed out what was probably the figures of the dance, or maybe the of the song. All were clad in long, loose pants, and loose shirts
of brilliant colors, bright belts, and head hankies about the forehead. They wore the hair in a hanging knot at the back about four inches long, tied with a hank of colored worsted. All used their hands in uniform gestures.
The song consisted of about ten phrases, repeated over and over again all day. It started with an eKplosion, the first line high in the scale; then diminishing in force and dropping into the lower notes of the scale, as do the climaxes of most Indian songs. There were many quarter tones or quavers, almost impossible to imitate; but no part singing. The drum beat was not accented in any definite rhythm just a fast, steady, vigorous thumping.
There was a tiponi or standard for each kiva. During the rest period, it stood on the roof of its kiva as a sign that the dancers were within.
Each round of dancing lasted forty minutes; toward the close of which period the dancing group would gradually progress in the direction of its kiva, while the other group, which had been resting for the time, came in to the same rhythm. In this way, there was never a break in the song.
The Koshare are remarkably graceful dancers. They did not follow the figures of the group, but wound in and out among them, "like queer spotted dogs," no two working together. There seemed to be in the movements of their flexible hands certain stereotyped gestures, "calling something down from . . . sky, calling something up from . . . earth." (D. H. Lawrence, Theatre Arts Monthly, July, 1924, P. 4 5 6.) But these gestures have become so ritualized that it is almost impossible to identify them.
Often, one would dance about, looking under one hand which shaded )iis eyes, as if seeking something. There were many rapid twists of direction.
These Koshare were invisible to the dancers, but toward the end of the day one would occasionally speak to a dancer as he passed, evidently keeping up the spirits.
Within the large group of dancers the men did the sharp back trot step, lif ting the foot high behind at each snap of the knee. It was extremely strenuous, though monotonous. "The ripple of bells on kneegarters, the seedlike shudder of gourd rattles, great necklaces of shell cores springing on their naked breasts, neck shells flapping up and down, kept time to the hopping leap of the dance, the strong lifting of the knees, the downward plunge of the feet in buckskin boots, coming down with a lovely, heavy, soft precision, first one, then the other, dropping always plumb to earth."
dance of the women was, on the face of it, monotonous. The tically nothing but the shuffle step, the only motion a short ste Je, scarcely moving, yet edging rhythmically along with flat fe ~med to cleave to earth softly and softly lift away. . . . The body quite erect, alternately advancing either shoulder slightl Lves them a peculiar swaying or rocking motion, like the wavin' d rocked stalk of corn."
e is a peculiar vibration of the whole body. Every cord in t rining up from the toes, moves in time to the music. "Not ~t will be seen that the whole flesh is quivering with the rhyth rum."
!times there was a very short progression backwards, so that t the big toe was like a ripple of the sand. (Fig. 74.)
ntervals during the dance, the upper end of the standard w and waved over the group. This is the blessing, and every indi asses under it at some time during the day.
main figures of the dance were as follows (see Figs. 68 to 73): g. 1. The women close, but diagonally behind the men in ws really making 4 lines. All face right and progress forwar that direction, using the back trot step (2 steps to each measure cept in the 9th, i oth, and 3 1 st measures, where the time change three part rhythm). In these 3 measures trot on ist count, an 4d foot up behind for other 2 counts; then continue
g. 11. The couples facing each other in two long lines trot ste place. Then they weave in and out with opposite couples,,t :)man always remaining behind the man, stepping exactly I
g. III. In one long line, following the leader around, and re
rming in one long line, stepping as in I M
g. IV. (a) Each group of 6 couples circling, then resolving int )) two perpendicular lines for each circle
g. V. As in IV (a), then resolving into two horizontal lines for
ch circle 45 meas,
At 6:15 P.M., instead of the dancing group preparing to rest, the two Summer and Winter, danced toward each other. They did not lance the same part at the same time, but more in the manner of . They did not mingle, but the "two singings, like two great urged one past the other" (Lawrence), then back again.
After about twenty minutes of this, one group, to the sound of a
white circles represent the men, the black circles the women. The tiny line out of each ! direction of the face.
rifle and the kettle drum, marched in single file into the bower where the image of Santo Domingo had watched the dance all day; paid their respects, and passed on into its kiva.
The other group continued to dance about forty minutes longer, then did likewise. Santo Domingo was then reverently raised and carried
back into the church in the same manner in which he had been brought out in the morning.
These dancers had fasted all the day of the dance, perhaps longer
(some say three days). The women now carried into the kivas huge baskets of bread, bowls of soup, etc. They break their fast in a feast.
the dancers. The pattern of their feet on the floor of the plaza was like watered silk. The music of the dance had passed into the earth, and was made visible.
So much for bare, observational details, easy enough to note dow in the day. But, by late afternoon the atmosphere that pervade lace was of another world.
11 day without a break of rhythm, the alternation of the Sum. Winter dancers had continued in a prayer of intense, sustain'ieei
r. All day the vigor of the dance had gradually increased , until nset there was an accumulation of force and uplift that penetrated )ectators; as well as bound the dancers. There was a hypnotic spell all. "The blended effect . . . was an organic pxan in praise of All the dancers were united in a flame of massed movement which it the beholders in a similar flame of passionate life."
: was no longer possible to follow the steps or see individuals. It ~ecome a rhythm of mad color the blue of the tablitas almost still, ther colors wildly but rhythmically bobbing. It had lost its char. as a dance it was pure emotion.
he dust, the houses, the ground, the air, vibrated with the prayer f
,3%.% U to
The rhythm of their prayer, "a rhythm more deep than that of any MUSIC3 33 had rocked the air and the clouds. It was something more powerful than prayer it brought to pass that which it desired to accomplish.
For, swift with the cessation of the dance, came the rain.
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.