In our last Moon Mail, we took a brief look at a few of the themes that Mark Raney, author of “Secrets of the Pueblo Universe” shared with us after years of investigation. Although many of the stellar constellations would look strange to western eyes (for instance, the stars we know of as Auriga, the Chariotier were known to the Pueblo as the Turtle, while Cygnus the Swan is depicted in Mimbres pottery as the Eagle, both birds), the underlying principles at work here extend from culture to culture around the world. The Ancient Pueblo saw the Big Dipper as a long-tailed bear. So did the Finns, Greeks, Norse, and Algonquin cultures.
Show me a long-tailed bear.
It doesn’t exist here on the earth, but it certainly is pervasive among various peoples who looked to the heavens.
Quoting from Mark’s conclusion:
“Ever since man first looked up into the heavens, the sky has been a source of wonder and inspiration. Religions and cultures around the world have marveled at and paid homage to the stars, as do and did the indigenous peoples of the Southwest.”
“Animistic in nature, the ancient people of the Southwest felt forces and power in their surroundings. Those feelings that come naturally when living on and with the land were intensified by their surroundings- which hold some of the greatest geologic marvels on earth. Effigies in windswept sandstone cliffs and granite faces testified to great forces and justified belief in heroes of days long past. The awe of early southwestern humans was not confined to the terrestrial. Their close connection with their surroundings included the heavens, where sparkling bodies in flight were personified and attributed with great powers.”
“Ardent astronomers, the people of the Southwest followed the movements of stellar positions and events, particularly as the sacred times of sunset and sunrise- when the stars world appear and disappear. Fertility, crops, rain, hunting and curing all had entities associated with them. Wishing to influence life-nurturing events, the people learned that they could petition the heavenly entities through prayer and dance…”
“As I wrote this book on star lore, I often marveled at two aspects rarely considered. One is that the native people could keep a secret of this magnitude for so long. The other is that with all the research that has gone into Pueblo life and religion in the past 100-plus years, there has been so little speculation about the stars or star worship.”
“Many facets have contributed to the current Pueblo social norms of secrecy. Fear of bringing harm to oneself or one’s neighbors- either from tribal members or from entities above- is certainly a strong motivator. Add to that the fear some tribal members have that revealing sacred knowledge will signal the end of the world or era and the start of another. Combine those fears with a certain satisfaction in keeping something from those who not only can’t see the gods but whose oversight has often been a source of conflict and we have one of the best-kept secrets in America.”
“However, the lack of knowledge about Pueblo stars and star worship goes beyond secrecy. Researchers knew there were aspects of the Pueblo religions being held secret. They knew there was a reverence for the sun and moon. Yet the concept of star worship was larged ignored. I am not sure why this happened, and must leave it to the reader to speculate.”
“I appreciate that there will be skepticism and controversy over this book. To the skeptics, I offer one last argument in the form of a question. What is the one factor that can transcend time and culture and explain the myriad aspects of Pueblo religion- as expressed in petroglyphs, pottery, legends, masked dancers and ceremonial calendars?
“I submit that there is only one component of Pueblo ideology that can do so, and it is the heavens.”
I wish that I had said that.