Thursday, March 7, 2013

4 - How the Chumash turned the wayward sun around

Hutash -- Chumash sunstick
Part 4: The Chumash Winter Solstice Ceremony
After the season of Hutash (autumn), the Chumash people became more and more fearful as the winter solsctice approached (around December 20th each year).  Guided by their astronomer/priest, the Alchuklash, and his twelve helpers, everyone participated in preparing for the winter solstice ceremony.  All the powers of the individual and the supernatural powers of the priests would be required to stop Sun from his journey south and turn him back to them.   Over many years of observing, they knew that the sun would rise and set at the same spot for two days before starting its progression back north.  So the winster solstice ceremony lasted for two days.

On the first day of winter solstice, the Antap (the Alchuklash and assistants of the various Chumash villages), prepared for the ceremony by digging a hole in the plaza where they would place a Hutash (sunstick, refer to Part 3) the next day.
Sun God gathered people on his travel

On second day of the winter solstice, the Alchuklash hid indoors so that Sun would not gather him up on his travel across the sky and eat him.  Ceremonies honoring the dead and offerings to Sun were presided over by the Antap.  All peoples settled their debts on this day so that they could start the new year with a clean slate.  In the afternoon, the chief priest of the village who assumed the role of “Image of the Sun” and twelve assistants who were “Rays of the Sun” erected the Hutash in the plaza to entice the sun to turn northward again.  At noon, the Hutash represented the center of the earth where the four cardinal directions intersected.   Once the Hutash was standing by itself, the “Rays of the Sun” encircled it holding goose or eagle down feathers and as the “Image of the Sun” stood, they tossed the down feathers simulating rain.  The “Image of the sun” chanted “It is raining.  You must go in your house”.  Then, he tapped the stone disk attached to the top of the Hutash twice to release its powers and began a ritual speech.  From Ray A. Williamson’s, Living the Sky,

“A miracle!  Here is the force of the Sun – see how it drives this into the earth.  Believe!  Courage!  Pay attention!  Bring all your children to see, so they can see the staff of Hutash.  Look!  It is going to stand!  Observe it in its place and always remember it so!  Yes, always remember!”
Chief Solares
in Dance Costume

The “Image of the Sun” ended with predictions for the year.  The “Rays of the Sun” then danced in honor of the Sun.  That night, all of the villagers returned to dance and decorate “Sun poles” with paint, beads, and feathers.   The dancers would dance around the Hutash in a clockwise direction until midnight and then reverse direction and dance until sunrise. 

During this one night only, any man could sing to any woman, married or not, and at the end of his song, all taboos were lifted and the woman would accompany him to a discrete location for sexual intercourse.

At sunrise, three elders sang to the Sun beckoning him to “Come out to see your grandfather”.  Then six women took up the singing with arms extended to welcome the Sun back and entice it to re-enter the Hutash.  That night, the people remembered the past year and the deceased.   Then they gathered to witness the sunrise and rejoiced when the sun rose north of the solstice point!  The Sun poles they had decorated were carried outside the village and erected  to the west with offerings to the twelve months of the new year.  The priests collected the Hutash and stored it for the next solstice and that ended the ceremony.  The wayward sun had been turned and a prosperous new year assured.

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