Posts Tagged With: ritual

RAISING A TEPEE.

American Indians built tepees big enough to shelter a family in winter or summer. Old movie westerns showed tepees that were open structures with a flap over the entrance. In the movies a tall person had to stoop a bit to enter and maybe four people could fit inside seated around a fire. I was privileged to watch Harvey White Bear and his wife Cathy put up this authentic teepee at Sky Hawk Ranch in Murphys.

The poles are 25 feet long and each one is a birch tree. Over several hundred years, the nomadic plains Indians learned to build a comfortable, practical dwelling  that served them well through summer and winter. Harvey walks a rope around and around the structure.  Each set of poles is tied the required six times.

The people took down their dwellings about every six months as they followed the herds of buffalo, their main source of food and materials. Precise ways, tried and true, are followed to make the job faster and easier to pick up and move on as a group.

Harvey spreads the canvas centered on one pole. He secures it at the required distance from the top so it won’t slip when it is raised. It is a ritual. He loves staying in touch with his heritage by erecting this tepee according to the custom of his forefathers. “I don’t get much practice,” he said. “I was very happy the Clan asked me to put it up.” Harvey belongs to the Bear Clan centered in Idaho. He lives in Wallace and is Cherokee, raised by Comanche with Miwuk cousins. There is another tepee like this one erected near Laytonville by the Owl Clan.

Cathy and “Grandmother Jan” loosely fold the canvas over the pole. Elder women and men are called “grandfather” and “grandmother.” They are treated with special respect. It is an honor to be a grandmother or grandfather who council the young, and teach them the accumulated wisdom and  history of the tribe through the years.

Cathy picks  up the heavy end so Harvey can get a rope under the heavy mass of wood and canvas. He ties it in two places.

Cindy holds the heavy end, Harvey takes the great weight in the middle and Jan balances with the top of the pole. Cindy will place the end on the ground and keep her foot wedged against it while Harvey and Jan raise it up to the top.

That plan didn’t work. It was too heavy to get to the top with just three people. And, it also hit some tree branches before it could be placed. Grandmother Jan suggested seating it narrow end first and avoid the branches.

Grandmother Jan got reinforcements by waking up a night working neighbor, Rob. Harvey climbed up a ladder and guided it into the right slot.

From the inside, the poles are pushed out as far as they will go pushing into the canvas and tightening it.

Harvey laces up the door which must face East.

The last two poles are inserted into leather cones that have been sewn into the canvas. This is the air conditioning and draft mechanism for the fire. They can be positioned to take advantage of the wind. They vent the smoke and can be flipped to the other side of the tepee if needed.

The last task is to stake the tent to the ground. Native Americans use metal stakes and canvas and every modern tool they can to make the job easier. Their ancestors had fewer choices. Grandfather John, joined us late in the process.

It took about three hours to raise the tepee. In summer, the air flows up from the bottom and out the top. The air conditioning.

During winter, another canvas is attached to the inside covering the draft. It can be rolled up and down as needed. This tepee will not be used as a dwelling, so the inside cover is not placed. Harvey is active with the boy scouts to teach his particular skills. But, he doesn’t get many opportunities to put up a grand tepee. The ceremony to bless the dwelling with a gathering of the clan will depend on the health of Grandmother Tanya, who is ill and is the head of the Clan. The Clan is of mixed tribes who have joined together for their own preservation.  Harvey mentioned that there were about 9,000 different Tribes in North America heavily populated with estimates close to a billion people. Now only 500 distinct tribes exist, most on the west coast. Their combined population is 5,295,700.  They’ve been decimated by European diseases, Indian Removal Acts, Broken Treaties, Indoctrination, Re-education, Confinement to Reservation life and killing off the buffalo. The loss of dignity, their oral history, art, respect, hope, language and pervasive alcoholism threatens the thin chain of life for many. Another stage of American imperialism and shame. Europeans are a patriarchal society and could never understand or respect a matriarchal society.

The tide is turning but it is still an uphill battle. I hope to be invited to the up-coming ceremony.

 

 

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DHARMARAJIKA STUPA, VARANASI SUNSET

Long lines awaited our little group of 16 as we came to see a Buddhist ruin.

The Dharmarajika Stupa dominates the scene. Stupas were built to hold relics of Lord Buddha.

 

Inside the stupa, a green marble casket was found. Inside of it was a stone box. No one knows what the box held, but it is now in a Calcutta Museum. The casket was thrown in the River Ganges.

 

Layers of brick were laid over the old brick to enlarge the stupa. A set of stairs was built from four directions, meeting at the top so the guardians could climb up and enter the stupa.  The stair structure was torn down by order of King Banaras in 1794 A.D. to use as building materials.

 

In time, the same fate applied to the rest of the buildings on the site.

Today, a wide path around the stupa is used by the faithful to walk around clockwise, then counterclockwise. They still place flowers near or on the stupa. Signs encourage them not to place flowers, but they persist. Hugo and Kris made friends with a charming little boy on their walk around the stupa.

 

Archeologists dug up the ruins and discovered beautiful carvings on the faces of some of the brick work.

Buddha is carved in the circle on the right.

These little beauties survived in decent shape for over 2,000 years. Pretty amazing.

Before visiting the Stupa, we spent two  hours at Museum Sarnath where artifacts from the stupa site are housed, along with a photo section showing some of archeology  work and a history of Buddha. The beautiful and very special Buddha housed here has disappeared from my photo album. Due to human error. Human, that’s me, I’m sad to say. Who can understand electronics? That’s my excuse.

We packed into electric rickshaws and headed for the River Ganges to watch the ceremony at sunset. As you can see the streets are crowded.

The rickshaws are also limited in how close they can get to the river. Our guide, takes us through a short cut, that I mistakenly blogged as happening on yesterday’s trip to the river.

The short cut was a crush. You could hardly take a picture for being jostled.

Street cooks were making dinner.

A be sure to miss event for such as we.

We again load into boats. This beautiful tourist boat sits high above the water, but it was not for us.

As the sun went down, we could see the fires on shore. I couldn’t see my camera settings well enough to set it for flash. Flash can only reach about 20 feet or less, but it would have helped.

Our guide explains  the candles tradition. You send them off with a prayer for yourself, or a loved one who has died.

We silently make our prayer.

Then set them afloat in the sacred water.

A beautiful view from our boat.

As we get closer to shore, we can see the priests and people celebrating in what is their special ritual.

As we climb the stairs on our way out, we find other tourists like us taking pictures of the crowd. The priests, with the help of their apprentices, offer prayers, light the candles with flowers then ring great bells. Someone from our group once commented, “…its their religion, kind of a shame that this has become a tourist attraction.”

But, as Ranvir told us, this goes on every day, every night. 365 days a year. It is a never-ending ritual, celebrating dying. With the hope to be reincarnated on a higher plain, a new life.

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VARANASI, CONTINUED

Varanasi again. This may be overload, but I will only be here once and the culture fascinates me. At the river, we continued watching the bathers. Some soap up, others swim.

There are no rules. If this were the U.S., guards  would be making you stand your turn in-line and directing you to go this way or that and keeping order.

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Thousands of people on this river every day, bathing, and burning and depositing ashes. The government has to dredge ashes and move them out to sea.

Before we leave the boats, we pass the laundry. All that bathing, towels, and a change of clothes.

Untouchables do  laundry. Our guide tells us the great fault of their religion is the caste system that designates children born of untouchable parents cannot change their lot. (An excellent book about the fate of an untouchable woman is, “The Space Between Us”, by Thrity Umrigar.

On shore, people are setting up for business. In back, on the steps, people eating breakfast.

Long and steep stairs are covered with water during monsoon up to where the railing ends. Cremations move up with the river.

On shore, I see cell phones in use everywhere.  In my hometown, in the grand USA, I do not get a dependable signal for a cell phone. I use it from my car when I travel.

A girl hides in the corner, her crippled feet wrapped in rags. A women gives her food. My entire time in India, I never heard a word spoken in anger.

 

Among the priests, there is no uniform clothing.

And if someone casually sits on your ghat to rest, no one seems to mind.

The priests have various markings on their foreheads, what they stand for I don’t know.

Two makeshift barbershops. They shave their heads to honor a loved or maybe to be part of a cremation ceremony.

Those anointed have horizontal or vertical marks. Our guide tells us they indicate something about the person, maybe cast, or what sect they belong to?

A simple gesture, its meaning clear;  but there was no hostility or anger because I aimed my camera at him.

The cobra handler’s eyes mesmerize, intense.

The musical instrument he plays looks more like a pop gun, but the snake is flared.

Instruments are rudimentary, home-made and for sale. Interesting shapes. They didn’t wake up his well fed dogs.

When we arrived in the cold, early morning, this bull was asleep on the steps.  Someone anointed him.

We walk back to the bus. Ranvir points out the pilgrims headed for the river are barefoot.

This group of women were laughing and giggling.

I asked what was so funny. It seems one of them had broken her shoe.

Best friends.

Breakfast or lunch is ready.

Hefting their wares closer to the river for sale.

More beggars.

 

A young father with his son. We reach the parking area and load into the bus.

On the way home, Ranvir asks the bus to slow down so we can see a typical laundry. The main necessity, a steady source of water.

After lunch, some visit a silk rug shop. I was hoping the first rug shop would show the entire process. The removal of the silk worm larvae, winding the fibers, dying the fibers and then weaving rugs. I’ve seen it before, but Theo has been sleeping a lot and chose to stay in his room.

The bus took us for an afternoon visit to a Buddhist Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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YEARLY BERRY PICKING

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Doug and Jose have a yearly ritual of picking wild blackberries. They pick enough for pies, jam, and some for best friends, as well. Doug is the pro and leads the pack. His banner year was 57 quarts when the berries cooperated. Doug is washing his pick while Norma is picking thorns out of her husband’s arms.

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Grandson Stewart picked for the first time this year, as well has my son Ken, who hasn’t lived in the county since his last year of high school.

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Ken showed his pick.

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And his scars. Doug decided Ken deserved his berry picking medal.

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They picked three huge thorns out of his head, too. (Mom’s hint: WEAR LONG PANTS, LONG SLEEVES AND A HAT.)

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Antony said, I picked some of those, too. He has the stains on his shirt to prove it. He picked into small containers and dumped into the bigger bowls. He is only six but likes to be like the big guys.

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Everyone went to the flume to cool off after picking. Ken’s legs got rinsed and cooled.

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Norma, who has never picked before,  decided this was the year. Abby fell asleep in the car after a short dunk in the flume. She’s only four.

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Everyone snacked and listened to berry tales of derring-do. Stewart is a skeptic.

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Laurie and Stewart played Cribbage, and Stewart beat his mom. Mason claims he doesn’t play because he always wins and it’s boring. (The challenge has been hurtled, Mason.)

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I can’t figure out why Doug likes to barbeque in the heat. Laurie brought a Mexican coleslaw with black beans, peppers and fresh corn. Norma brought Enchiladas that we could warm in the microwave. The chicken and ribs were delish along with some marinated carnitas Norma brought, just for us to taste.

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The guys went out for a second round of picking in the late afternoon when it had cooled a bit. Norma and I stayed inside. She brought me two big Aloe Vera plants and potted them and arranged them in my greenhouse. When Doug was seriously burned, about fifteen years ago, he was able to avoid skin grafts by squeezing fresh aloe vera juice on his burns. When his partner bought the aloe vera salve in a tube, it didn’t have the same effect. It was a long, painful experience. He couldn’t wear a shoe on his foot and he was out of work for nine months. It ended well because of aloe vera. Norma claims she peels it into thin filets and puts it in a blender with milk and other fruits and it retards pain. She has a neuropathy in her foot that is very painful.

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I’m looking forward to trying her smoothie idea.

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