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Ceremony: native/American mythology?

November 17, 2012

Early Indian Languages of the USA

A follow up to our discussion from last week: concerning the ways Ceremony weaves Native American mythology into its story, and the desire in American environmental writing (ever since Thoreau) to discover or create a mythology appropriate for the nature of the nation.

Is Ceremony’s mythology specific to Native American, and more specifically, Pueblo, culture? Or, is there a broader mythology, perhaps an allegory in the illness of Tayo, that can speak to an American audience, and toward the restoration of a national nature?

Katherine’s blog on Ceremony explores some of these issues, reading in the novel’s conflict between white/Christian conceptions of science and spirit and the Pueblo conceptions of a communal consciousness a larger story or (my term) allegory that can be extrapolated out to the effects of globalization on culture, evident even today.

This novel is an example of how globalization can ruin cultures and traditions. The introduction of the white man in North America completely ruined almost every aspect of Native American lifestyles. Christianity and technological advancements that have been forced upon Native Americans have threatened their religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and relationship with the land. However, Tayo seems to feel best when he is immersed in nature and his traditional Native American background. When drinking from a spring, Tayo “tasted the deep heartrock of the earth, where the water came from, and he thought maybe this wasn’t the end after all” (42). Compared to how he feels when he at the bar and drinking beer, Tayo’s closer and more spiritual experience at the spring makes him feel more at ease and less depressed or angry at his unfortunate situation.

That last detail is particularly insightful, and evocative: the contrasting imagery of natural spring drinking and a can of beer. This is a question worth pursuing as you head into the conclusion of the novel: is the story here only local, only for the Pueblo and only for what is past and lost? or is there a lesson for American nature woven into the story, translatable for today? Is this an American or a Native American novel? Can it be both?

Emily’s blog takes up the idea of allegory in some interesting ways–and provides an insightful reading and good grasp of the characterization important in the novel, Tayo and Auntie in particular.

Tom has posted a very cool image and exploration of Silko’s weaving of spider mythology and storytelling. Take a look.

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