[Men’s worldview]



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Rites mark every phase of life from birth to adulthood, incorporating youth into community and giving them what they need to be successful adults

Gift exchange—if gift and countergift, then people become equals; if no countergift, then one owes respect and obedience. Seniors give to juniors and get respect/obedience. Marriage is also a gift exchange
Relations between sexes fairly balanced—women/feminine/corn and men/masculine/flint (see description)

Marriage was serial monogamy for most. Most successful adult men might have multiple wives.


Matrilineal/matrilocal—Home was center of community. Household consisted of grandmother, her husband, her sisters & their husbands, her daughters and their husbands, various children. Women controlled everything about the household. Men lived with wives but returned to the maternal household for ceremonies.
Transform any life or spirit form into kin through feeding. Thus women fed the sun, katsinas, animal fetishes, scalps of enemy dead, animal carcasses after the hunt, and foreign chiefs.

Sexual intercourse empowered women. It was a form of gift-giving. Through it they bore children, incorporated husbands into the household, tamed wild malevolent spirits. Required a counter-gift (e.g. labor) or the man was obligated to her. Symbol of cosmic harmony, uniting the feminine with the masculine. Used to incorporate outsiders also and tame the danger of enemy scalps. Note that men about to go hunting had to abstain from sex for several days ahead of time.

[Men’s worldview]

Town is at the center of the universe with the kiva at the center of the town, linking the four cardinal points, upward to the four skies above, and downward to the underworld. At the center of the floor was the shipapu, the earths navel through which the people emerged from the underworld and through which they would return. Kivas were circular to resemble the sky. A hole in the center of the roof symbolized the opening through which the Corn Mothers climbed onto the earth’s surface. The kiva floor had a fire altar to commemorate the gift of fire. Other altars bore stone fetishes representing all the animals and deities of the world. Special seats, covered with animal skins, were for katsinas to sit on if they visited it. Men’s claims to precedence over women were their capacity to bring what was outside the village to its core during religious rituals, to communicate with the gods, and thus to order and control a chaotic and hostile natural world.


The kiva was the physical symbol of political society—the pueblo was a theocracy. At the center was the Inside Chief. Around him were other chiefs with special knowledge of hunt, rain, etc. Next were unsuccessful seniors, then young men. Finally at the margins, as men saw it, were women, children, slaves and strays. [note that women saw themselves as central]


The Inside Chief (quasi-divine) was both a lawgiver and a peacemaker. He symbolized cosmic harmony. He was the town’s chief priest, a direct descendant of the Sun. His job was to keep the cosmos properly balanced. He called together men for ritual purposes and served as an arbiter of law and order. He was the keeper of sacred time. In ceremonials, he integrated the town and its diverse clans, lineages, and households into a communal whole. Lots of gifting and feasting helped cement those bonds.
Outside Chiefs, war chiefs protected the village from external, natural, and supernatural enemies. They were the divine sons of the Twin War Gods. They ruled over whatever was external to the village and used violence to keep threats at bay. They taught boys to be warriors, participated in warrior society kivas, made sure people followed proper hunting rituals.

Three other types of chiefs looked out for the important elements of fecundity and well-being: the rain chiefs, the hunt chiefs, and the medicine men. Rain chief was powerful because he could call the rain (like semen, rain gave life to the earth so it could produce corn). He could also call the katsinas (the dead) and ask them to bring rain, food, and fertility.


To call the katsinas, the rain chiefs offered them prayer sticks and gifts. Prayer sticks were 6-12 inches long, crossed sticks, with a face painted on them and cloaked in feathers. Catholics thought they looked like crosses.

Hunt chiefs taught boys how to hunt and led hunt societies to follow proper hunting rituals.

Chaianyi—medicine men—cured illnesses and exorcised disease-causing witches.

One of the jobs of the Inside Chief was to regulate sacred time. He watched the sun and mood and announced the summer and winter solstices, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and all the dates for planting, harvest, initiations, rains, and other rituals.

Puebloans conceived of the year as two gendered six-month cycles, one the masculine part of the year (January to June) and the other the feminine part of the year (June to December).

“In the beginning two females were born underneath the earth at a place called Shipapu. In total darkness Tsichtinako (Thought Woman) nursed the sisters, taught them language and gave them each a basket that their father Uchtsiti had sent them containing the seeds and fetishes of all the plants and animals that were to exist in the world.”


“As they were giving life to the snakes one fetish fell out of a basket unnoticed and came to life of its own power as the serpent Pishuni. Pishuni bred selfishness and competitiveness between the sisters. When this occurred, Pishuni asked Nautsiti: ‘Why are you lonely and unhappy? If you want what will make you happy, I can tell you what to do. If you bore someone like yourself, you would no longer be lonely. Tsichtinako wants to hold back this happiness from you,’ he said. Nautsiti believed Pishuni and agreed to meet him near a rainbow. On a rock near the specified rainbow, Nautsiti lay on her back, and as she did drops of rain entered her body. From this rain she conceived and bore twin sons. Father Sun had strictly forbidden the sisters to bear children, and when he learned that Nautsiti had, he took Thought Woman away.”

When Pueblo men practiced rain and war rituals, they whipped themselves or others with reeds. “They tied the naked candidate to a pillar, and all flogged him with some cruel thistles; afterward they entertained him with farces and other games, making a thousand gestures to induce him to laugh. If with all this he remained serene and did not cry out or make any movement at the one or laugh at the other, they confirmed him as a very valiant captain and performed great dances in his honor,” noted one observer. Among the kinds of flagellation Puebloan men performed was penis laceration.


When Puebloans rebelled in 1680, they covered mission statues with excrement, threw chalices into a basket of manure, stripped the paint of the crucifix with a whip, covered the communion table with feces, and hacked off the arms of a statue of Saint Francis with an axe.


One day, Fray Tomas Carrasco preached to the Indians, imploring them to live monogamously. A woman preached against monogamy. While she was speaking, a bolt of lightening (a generative force like semen) flashed from the sky and killed her, transforming her into a cloud spirit at once. This shows that what she said was true.

Among the matrilineal Puebloans, the mother provided one’s clan name, household fetishes, care and sustenance, and the use of seeds and land.

Hunt chiefs taught young men hunting techniques and hunt magic in return for corn and meat payments. Their knowledge of hunting gave these older men authority and access to meat. Hunting was a very important part of men’s lives and an important rite of passage for young men.
Traditionally, men spun, wove, hunted, and protected the community. Women cared for hearth and home and undertook all building construction.

Rites mark important stages of life in the context of the church—baptism, confirmation, communion, marriage, last rites, etc. Incorporate Christian into communion with God


In European Catholic culture, seniors gave gifts in return to for respect and obedience. But when juniors or inferiors give gifts, it was tribute/offering not a way to create equality. Gifts here marked inequality, not a way to establish equality.
Relations between sexes NOT balanced—men were seen as superior, more religious; women were more prone to evil and were seen as inferior.
Marriage was supposed to be monogamy. No divorce and not polygamy.

Patrilineal/patrilocal—Household was a basic social building block. Household consists of a man and his family. Women lived with husbands and might not return to maternal household. Although women were be responsible for running the household, they did not own the house or anything in it.


Within the Catholic church, communion was a ritual meal shared that incorporated participants into the Christian community and the body of Christ, literally taking in some of that body and blood.

In Catholic tradition, sexuality was seen as a necessary evil. Paul advised Christians that they should be celibate if possible. If not, they should contain sexuality within marriage. Also, it was something that a woman owed her husband. (This was different for the Puritans, note.)

Towns were important to Christianity (Franciscans even tried consolidate Pueblo peoples into bigger towns) with the church as the central sacred site. The church was the symbol of the celestial community and was usually big. It was sometimes constructed on a pre-existing sacred site (e.g. a kiva). Cathedrals were cross-shaped. Inside, the altar was the center of Christian ritual, during which God became man and bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ. Above the altar, the reredos reproduced central symbols and Christian saints. Space within the church was organized hierarchically, so that those with higher status got to sit or stand closer to the altar. Even after death, those with higher status might have their bones buried under the altar or in the church while those who violated Christian practice were denied burial in sacred ground.

Although the colony was not a theocracy, in New Mexico before 1680, the Franciscan friars held a great deal of power. They sought to impose Christian belief and practice on Pueblo people in their charge. Secular leaders subscribed to Catholic beliefs too.

Franciscan friars had dedicated their lives to God. They had forsaken the world to bear witness to Christ and were highly disciplined ascetic radicals. They went through a long process of training that was designed to purge a would-be friar of all that was flesh and blood (die to his old self) and unite him in a spiritual marriage with Christ. Friars presented themselves as able to control violence by keeping soldiers and settlers outside the community. They were also celibate. By controlling violence and fertility and situating themselves as being in charge of central Catholic rituatls, they looked like Inside Chiefs to the Puebloans.

In the Spanish New Mexico community, the governor and commanders of the soldiers seemed like the outside chiefs to the Puebloans. By keeping them outside the villages, the friars controlled violence and brought peace, as Inside Chiefs should do.

Planning their arrival in New Mexico for the rainy season, Franciscan friars deliberately made use of the Puebloans’ cosmology by presenting themselves as rain chiefs. They managed to stop a storm and then to bring rain by praying.

The cross (symbolizing Christ’s crucifixion to save humankind) was the dominant Christian symbol. It was a powerful talisman against evil and a symbol of God’s power. Apparently the Pueblans thought it resembled a prayer stick.

Friars had animal magic too, like hunt chiefs. This was evident because they came to the villages riding horses and controlling large numbers of docile animals that could be killed and eaten (cows, sheep, pigs)
Friars also cured minor ailments and a few major ones (healing a boy blind from birth). Amazed Pueblans were impressed by these men because their own chiefs were unable to stop them from entering the villages, and each friar seemed to be able to do the job of 5 chiefs.

The friars followed the Christian calendar, which commemorated the life of Jesus or his saints. The cycle of Christ’s life measured Christian time. Frequently these events corresponded with important times in the Pueblan calendar—for example, the celebration of Christ’s birth began at the same time as the Pueblo celebration of winter solstice. Where the calendars did not match so well (as when Easter came too early to match the summer solstice), the friars found other rituals. Easter was followed by a time devoted to the Virgin Mary. By the 18th century, the Virgin was presented in clothes decorated with corn ears and stalks with the moon at her feet, surrounded by flowers and butterflies, Indian symbols of fertility.


In practice, the liturgical calendar in New Mexico ended at the Feast of Corpus Christi at summer solstice. No major Christian feasts were celebrated between June and December. This may have left part of the year for Puebloan ceremonies to continue. But the friars may also have noted that the Christian rites celebrated masculine power while the Puebloan cycle in June to December celebrated the feminine cycle of seeds and germination. “Thus the Christian liturgical calendar would have reflected the gender representation of the conquest: virile Spanish victors had vanquished effeminate Puebloans.” (91)
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.”
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
On Good Friday, the congregation gathered at the church and recreated the stations of the cross, carrying a heavy cross through the village. Along the way, penitents whipped themselves with scourges, wire-studded whips, cacti, or nail boards. The padres and the governor whipped themselves until the blood flowed. Moreover, in colonial New Mexico, crucifixes depicted Christ with blood streaming from beneath his loincloth, a symbolic wound that does not appear in traditional Christian imagery (wounds should be on hands, feet, and side).

During colonial settlement, confiscated Puebloan sacred objects—fetishes, prayer sticks, etc. and destroyed them.


One day, Fray Tomas Carrasco preached to the Indians, imploring them to live monogamously. A woman preached against monogamy. While she was speaking, a bolt of lightening flashed from the sky and “killed that infernal agent of the demon right in the midst of those good Christian women who were resisting her evil teachings.” God had struck “the witch” dead.
Friars took on the role of mother, offering Puebloan children a Christian name, becoming the keeper of Christian religious items, teaching children how to be Christian and Spanish, providing seeds, plows, and beasts of burden, and offering land rights to men.
Friars gave young men livestock, meat, and an education in animal husbandry in exchange for promises to live monogamously.

The friars expected men to farm and construct buildings while women were to weave. Meat came from livestock, and warfare was restricted to professional soldiers.




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