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Or Starrs of Morning,
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on every leaf and every flouer
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Impearls: HIC 5.04: New year ceremonies

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

New year ceremonies

The Karok brought out more clearly than the Yurok the esoteric first fruits or new year's element that underlies all the great dances of the northwestern tribes.  They named the ceremonies “world making.”  But they reckoned their neighbors' celebrations as equivalent to theirs and visited them regularly.  A Karok said that there were 10 of these ceremonies and listed them in geographical order as follows — actually he mentioned only 9:

Inam Karok. Takimitlding Hupa.
Katimin Karok. Kepel Yurok.
Amaikiara Karok. Pekwan Yurok.
Panamenik Karok. Rekwoi Yurok.
Weitspus Yurok.

Among all three nations the ceremonies were mostly held in early autumn, the remainder in spring, and undoubtedly all have reference either to the beginning of the acorn crop or the run of summer salmon.  Among the Karok, that at Amaikiara came about April.  Late in August the autumn series commenced at Inam.  Some weeks later came Panamenik, and two days subsequently Katimin.  The season of these last is close to that of the Takimitlding acorn feast and the Weitspus Deerskin dance; but, so far as evidence goes, conflicts did not take place.  A great man could not bring his property to two dances at once; therefore the sequence was, no doubt, nicely adjusted, although the Indians, of course, mention ancient spirit ordainment as the cause.  They probably reason that the gods wished the wealth of the rich to be displayed at as many gorgeous dances as possible.  The formula speaker at Panamenik, at any rate, began his 10 days' rites in the waning moon, timed so as to conclude with its death.  That afternoon and the next day the dancers exhibited their deerskins; and then, as the new moon appeared, visitors and residents alike moved up to Katimin, where the local priest, notified of the start at Panamenik, had so gauged the beginning of his fast that the multitude was present for its ending.  Then the Deerskin dance was made for five days.  The Inam ceremony having come a month or so earlier, everyone had time to attend, return home from this remote spot, and prepare for the two subsequent ceremonies.  At Inam they also danced with white deerskins, but only about a day and a half as a Panamenik.  The Amaikiara rite falling in spring, had no competition except for the Salmon ceremony and spring Jumping dance in Hupa, and possibly the similar Yurok ceremony at the far-away mouth of the river.  It was followed by the Jumping dance, which the Karok made only at this place.

It seems that the choice of seasons for the ceremonies may also have been determined in part by the climate.  September is still normally dry and sunny, and the regalia become little exposed to rain.  It is true that the Indians do not cease a dance if it begins to rain; but they do break it off or materially shorten it for a downpour or a storm.  Moreover, as visitors can not begin to be accommodated in the houses of the town, and sleep in the open or under the rudest of brush coverings, the rainy season would be very unfavorable for a 2 or 5 or 10 days' dance.  It is true that there is still considerable rain at the time of the spring ceremonies; but they are less numerous, and, while of no smaller religious import, are, on the whole, attended by less sumptuous dancing.  All the surviving Deerskin dances, among the Yurok and Hupa as well as Karok, come in autumn.  In central California, where elaborate regalia are again encountered, the Kuksu dances fall during the rainy season; but they are definitely held in the dry and roomy earth house.  Southern California is so nearly arid that ceremonies could be held in a roofless inclosure and their time determined other than by the weather.

The esoteric portions of their four great dances were gone through with in full by the Karok priests each year, as is only proper for rites that renew and establish the world.  So far as actual records go, however, the Deerskin dances were made only in alternate years, although those of Panamenik and Katimin came in the same year.  Biennially the war dance was substituted for them.  This calls for no display of wealth and is likely, therefore, to have drawn visitors only from nearer towns, thus lessening the burden of entertainment on the rich men of the home village.  Whether the great dances were made biennially or annually before the American intruded is not certain.

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