a Kiva Ceremony
is possible to imagine a gathering of the Anasazi filling this magnificent
kiva. They would have traveled from dozens of villages, on foot, for
days, to attend this special event. They may have carried with them
their own sacred relics in carefully wrapped bundles, and then placed
these items in the niches lining the kiva walls. Perhaps visiting
village leaders who carried the bundles took those seats beneath their
the packed earth floor, hundreds of other village representatives
sat cross-legged awaiting the beginning of the ceremony. Some sat
on the edge of circular pits, surrounding musical instruments. The
drumming begins in the fire lit room. Sacred woods and plants are
burnt to fill the room with a specific fragrance as an incense. Flutes
were played, people closed their eyes, and were transported as a storyteller
began to weave a tale of their ancestors.
ceremonial figures dressed in cotton cloth, decorated with features,
wearing masks and body paint, would emerge from the underground passageway
and enter the main round room as if arriving from a world beneath
this world. The story being told is of the Emergence – of their ancestors
arriving from the world below this world, an being lead by Holy People
who teach them how to survive in this new world. Voices begin chanting
the story, and through the smoke of the fires and incense, the Holy
People dance and make music with copper bells, drums or flutes.
place of Emergence, called the Sipapu, is the symbolic gateway between
worlds. Every person in the kiva, on the floor on the surrounding
bench, would re-experience this emergence each time they attended
this ceremony – reliving their own person birth and entry into this
world, and reliving their shared memory of their People’s first entry
into this world.
today, standing in the round, roofless kiva, once can almost hear
the drums, smell the firewood and incense, and feel the pounding of
the dancing feet. You can imagine the excitement and anticipation
of waiting for the Holy People to Emerge, bringing health, wellness,
knowledge, safety, prosperity and renewed hope to all who may have
witnessed such a powerful religious ceremony.
non-Native peoples can only imagine what took place in those kivas,
and we can learn from the ceremonies and mythologies still carried
forwards by today’s native peoples. As we seek to understand the ways
of Anasazi life, imagination is an important tool in considering what
their life would have been like.