The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 92 pages of information about The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi.

=Religion Not For Morality=

The Hopi is religious, and he is moral, but there is no logical connection between the two.

Mrs. Coolidge says:[18] “In all that has been said concerning the gods and the Kachinas, the spiritual unity of all animate life, the personification of nature and the correct conduct for attaining favor with the gods, no reference has been made to morality as their object.  The purpose of religion in the mind of the Indian is to gain the favorable, or to ward off evil, influences which the super-spirits are capable of bringing to the tribe or the individual.  Goodness, unselfishness, truth-telling, respect for property, family, and filial duty, are cumulative by-products of communal living, closely connected with religious beliefs and conduct, but not their object.  The Indian, like other people, has found by experience that honesty is the best policy among friends and neighbors, but not necessarily so among enemies; that village life is only tolerable on terms of mutual safety of property and person; that industry and devotion to the family interest make for prosperity and happiness.  Moral principles are with him the incidental product of his ancestral experience, not primarily inculcated by the teaching of any priest or shaman.  Yet the Pueblos show a great advance over many primitive tribes in that their legends and their priests reiterate constantly the idea that ’prayer is not effective except the heart be good.’”

[Footnote 18:  Coolidge, Mary Roberts, The Rain-makers:  Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1929, p. 203.]

VIII.  CEREMONIES; GENERAL DISCUSSION

* * * * *

=Beliefs and Ceremonials=

The beliefs of a tribe, philosophical, religious, and magical, are, for the most part, expressed in objective ceremonies.  The formal procedure or ritual is essentially a representation or dramatization of the main idea, usually based upon a narrative.  Often the ceremony opens with or is preceded by the narration of the myth on which it is based, or the leader may merely refer to it on the assumption that everyone present knows it.

As to the purpose of the ceremony, there are those who maintain that entertainment is the main incentive, but the celebration or holiday seems to be a secondary consideration according to the explanation of the primitives themselves.

If there chances to be a so-called educated native present to answer your inquiry on the point, he will perhaps patiently explain to you that just as July Fourth is celebrated for something more than parades and firecrackers, and Thanksgiving was instituted for other considerations than the eating of turkey, so the Hopi Snake Dance, for instance, is given not so much to entertain the throng of attentive and respectful Hopi, and the much larger throng of more or less attentive and more or less respectful white visitors, as to perpetuate, according to their traditions, certain symbolic rites in whose efficacy they have profoundly believed for centuries and do still believe.

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The Unwritten Literature of the Hopi from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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