By the time you read this, the Harvest feast of Sept. 30th, 2014 at the Taos Pueblo will have ended. As I write this, we are just busting out for the preparation of the feast. Mud plastering the ancient walls, the race track being cleaned, the ceremonial pole of life are all being prepared as we speak. The faint savory aroma of baking bread, prune pies, roasting chili is reminiscent of days gone by like a nocturnal instinct taking you back to childhood when we would ditch school and help with the chopping of cedar-wood for the baking.
Men young and old start to think of the sprint, pulling muscles, pounding earth and giving up the breath of life.
Things in Taos, whether some want to admit it or not, are bound to each other here in northern New Mexico villages and pueblos. Our annual events fused together by many gods. This is the San Geronimo Feast Day. As you walk into most pueblos, you will see a church dedicated to a particular Roman Catholic saint; Santo Doming (Kewa), San Juan (Oke Oweengeh) or Taos Pueblo to St. Jerome church in all its glory and dogma for whom the day of commemoration honors. You will also see the old English/ French trappers, Southern Plains/ Pueblo Indian trade fair that grabs and reaches back to the frontier era. The one I prefer is the old time, older than dirt times when this originated with the seasons, climate and the seed. I like this event to be the ancient annual harvest – the celebration of the end of summer into fall and for survival through the winter. San Geronimo Feast Day a celebration and honor rooted in the ritual life of the Taos people.
My Grandma and Grandpa would say, “Whatever you believe in doesn’t matter as long as you believe in something…”
Some claim the church and never set foot inside the kivas, and others complain about the church. However, many still don’t go to the kivas. Sometimes I think, as I look on the emptiness of the village, that the church and kiva are in a race where nobody wins.
The feast day begins with an afternoon Catholic Mass, Sept. 29, in the San Geronimo church in the Pueblo’s Plaza which is invaded and followed by a mass of pueblo men dressed in their finest, singing a song of the aspen’s.
On Sept. 30, traditional foot race in the morning on the north side of the historic village, then into one of the houses for the first of several feast day eats, corn this and that, chili this and that, green jello, watermelon, etc…. This is a feast day, like you won’t believe – family and friends from afar are invited to various homes.
Somewhere in the mid-afternoon, the society delight-makers (known in Tiwa as “Tsee-pu-nah”) will appear in the village plaza to joke with the vendors and tribal members. The watchers are instructed to harass tribal members if necessary in proper, humble behavior or discipline. This can apply by getting thrown in the river for misbehavior or talking back or messing with them. I’ve never been thrown in..heehee
The intricacies of the day and the complexities of age old rituals of the delight-makers are known to a few of the people. As the day goes, on people walk around the different booths of native art. This is where the Grandmas would buy the beaded moccasins and blankets. It’s where my momma would buy me a present for my birthday…hint hint…
The rituals of the day continue with crazy antics by the clowns underlining humor that can only be understood at times if you know the language. They will gather at the base of a tall pole in the center of the plaza atop which are a variety of goodies. Looking up into it, they will try to climb the pole to get the harvest gifts. The one who gets to the top will then set about lowering all the items.
We don’t have a religion because we don’t have a dogma. We have a way of life. I heard my uncle say, “If you want to believe in this way, it’s in front of you. I’m not going to look for you and force you to believe in it. We are the chosen few – you either walk it or stay out of the way…”
This was a small writing caption of the day of harvest and feasting. Wonder, wonder, and if you ever get to see my world, the pueblo world, leave your cameras, cell phones, recorders, attitude behind or get disciplined by the ancients..
Have fun with your harvest..