Zuni CeremonialismOnline Learning
The emergence myth is said to be the basis of Zuni ceremonialism, which thus explains the social organization of the pre and post-Spanish contact organization of groups. The ceremonies, which have stemmed from this myth, allow the Zuni access to a creator power. They use imitative magic, or the acting out of power by its behavioral form, to access the power. This power can aid in healing, control nature, such as the rain, and the corn. The purpose of ceremonies is to access the power. There are ceremonies every 20 days in a cycle beginning in the Winter solstice, then to the Summer solstice, and back to winter again. Men are essentially expected to make their rounds at these ceremonies otherwise they “are seen as deserving of punishment or as potential witches. Men are expected to join many societies and cult associations and participate in rituals. If the men are not present for the prayers, chants, songs: long series of specific words, chanted in slow serious tones, they are fundamentally ignoring lessons taught from older ceremonial society members.
Social Organization and Ceremonial Societies
The fission (splits) and fusion (grouping up) idea was a Pre-Spanish contact form of organization that the Zuni utilized when considering ways to organize socially to accommodate larger groups. The coming of the Spanish forced the Zuni to fuse into one group. When the relationship of the Zuni and Spanish was peaceful, the Zuni finally were able to live together, all the various clans, all the different ceremonial groups. This social organization maintained the previous Zuni belief in fission – fusion social patterning. People didn’t move in groups but rather in different roles, which explains the importance of the male’s movement within each social organization for ceremonial purposes.
This united front of community members was essential for the Zuni social organization and the basis of their culture. Zuni are dependent on corn and hunting/gathering of resources and they tend to build up a reserve around their corn based river drainage locations. This, of course, means that there was a limit of the size of groups that could occupy an area. Therefore, a successful group had more stored food. When some groups, however, did not have enough resources, they would target those that did. This was the reason for the ceremonial society.
Ceremonial societies existed to meet the needs of those affected by drought and the shortage of food. Those groups of people, who became larger, eventually had more access to food and would have to change their social organization to fit the needs of the newly structured group, and the addition of new members. Furthermore, these ceremonial societies allowed organizations that are not kinship based to coexist with clans (matrilineages). Consequently, continuous participation required in ceremonial societies, especially by men in particular, promotes a united sense of community.
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