|About the Book|
an excerpt from the beginning PERHAPS the most sacred, though least secret of [Zuñi] esoteric societies, is the Kâ-kâ, or great dance organization-truly the church of these pagan worshipers, if church they may be said to possess, for in it areMorean excerpt from the beginning PERHAPS the most sacred, though least secret of [Zuñi] esoteric societies, is the Kâ-kâ, or great dance organization-truly the church of these pagan worshipers, if church they may be said to possess, for in it are included priests, laymen and song-leaders. The public celebrations of this Kâ-kâ consist of wonderfully fantastic dances, in which gods, demons and the men of ancient times are dramatically represented by costumed actors. Inside one of the estufas, or subterranean council chambers, which, on occasions of great moment are embellished with fringed and plumed bows strung across their entrance-ladders, rituals are repeated, prayers and sacrifices offered during a whole night preceding the public appearance of the actors. But during the day the worship consists almost wholly of dances to the time of loud invocation chants and wild metric music. To describe the various features of this worship would be to give a history of the whole Zuñi mythology and delineate a hundred diverse and striking costumes and maskings. In each celebration, however, certain elements are constant. Such are the clowns--priests annually elected from the membership of the Kâ-kâ, and disguised as monsters, with warty, wen-eyed, pucker-mouthed pink masks and mud-bedaubed equally pink bodies. First appear the dancers, some fifty of them, costumed and masked with such similarity that individuals are as indistinguishable as the birds or the animals they conventionally represent are from each other. Large-jawed and staring-eyed demons of one kind or another marshal them into the open plaza of the village under the guidance of a sedate unmasked priest bearing sacred relies and prayer-meal. One of the demons sounds a rattle and howls the first clause in the song stanza- then all fall into line, all in equal time sing the weird song, and go through the pantomime and dance which invariably illustrate its theme. When four verses have been completed, the actors, bathed in perspiration, retire to their estufa to rest and pray, while the priest-clowns appear with drum, cabalistic prayer-plumes and the paraphernalia of guess-games.