Thursday, December 6, 2012

Native American Skies: Pawnee Morning Star Ritual, Part 2

Morning of Spring Equinox, 1838. 
Mars (Morning Star) is rising and chasing
 Venus (Evening Star)  higher and to the right
[captured from Starry Night software]
In part 1, I presented the last known Pawnee Morning Star Ritual involving human sacrifice – the sacrificing of Haxti, an Oglala Sioux teenager captured specifically for the ritual.  It is difficult for us to understand why anyone would do such a seemingly cruel and violent act.  In this article, I will try to give the Pawnee side.

According to Ray A. Williamson, in his book “Living the Sky”, “The practice of sacrifice to Morning Star was part of the rites of the Skidi band of the Pawnee, a group that had developed a unique relationship to the stars.  Of all the Native American groups, no one had developed such an intricate and direct affinity to the stars.  For them, the stars were kindred souls; they took much of the direction of their life from the sky.”

James R. Murie, whose mother was Skidi Pawnee, wrote, “Over all is Tirawa (or Tirawahat), the One Above, changeless and supreme.  From Tirawa comes all things: Tirawa made the heavens and the stars.

“In the west dwelt the White Star Woman, the Evening Star, who must be sought and overcome that creation might be achieved.  From the east went forth the Great Star, the Morning Star, to find and overcome the Evening Star, that creation might be achieved.  The Morning star called to his younger brother: “Take the Sacred Bundle, bear it over thy shoulder and follow.”  And the Morning Star journeyed to the west.  As ever as he journeyed, the Evening Star moved, came and drew him towards her.  (For men may see how the Evening Star moves nightly.  One night she is low in the heavens, another night she is high in the heavens.  Even so she moved and drew the Morning Star.)  Yet when the Evening Star beheld the Morning Star draw near, she placed in his path Hard Things to hinder his approach.  Thus, even as the Morning Star first saw the Evening Star, she rose and looked on him and beckoned him.  He started towards her, but the earth opened and waters swept down, and in waters was a serpent with mouth wide opened to devour.”
Mars (Morning Star) catches up to
Venus (Evening Star) July 23, 1838
[From Starry Night program]

Morning Star [Mars] defeated the serpent by throwing a fireball into its mouth.  But then Evening Star [Venus] put up nine more “hardships” to discourage him which he also defeated.  When he finally reached her lodge, he had to defeat four beasts guarding the four directions.  Again from Murie, “And the Morning Star spoke [to the stars] and said, “I have conquered, and ye shall obey my command.  Thou, black Star, shalt stand in the northeast, whence cometh night.  Thou art Autumn.  Thou, Yellow Star, shalt stand in the northwest, where is the golden setting of the sun.  Thou art Spring.  Thou, White Star, shalt stand in the south, facing north, whence cometh the snow.  Thou art Winter.  Thou, Red Star, shalt stand in the southeast.  Thou art Summer.”

But Evening Star was not ready to relent to Morning Star and placed more “hardships” before him.  He even had to create the rain and the sun to provide water, light, and heat for her garden.  When, at last, Evening Star submitted to Morning Star, their maiden child descended to earth and married a boy and their children peopled the earth.

Astronomer Von Del Chamberlain suggests that the details of the capture and preparation of a maiden for sacrifice is all part of the symbolic re-enactment of the original conquering acts of Morning Star, as seen in the heavens.  The ritual ceremony was critical to ensure the fertility of the earth for planting and the abundance of buffalo for hunting.

In Part 3, I will explain how the Pawnee used their knowledge of the stars to guide their lives.

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