Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kinalda: A Navajo Girl's Puberty Ceremony

(hogan prepared for Kinalda)

Several weeks ago I had the honor of attending a traditional Navajo puberty ceremony for the daughter of family freinds in Saw Mill.

First I had to find my way to Saw Mill.  I arrived in time for the Noon run.  The girl must run to the east from the entrance of the hogan, three times a day, morning, noon and evening.  Her friends and family join her and cheer her on with long, loud, high- pitched yelping sounds.  I ran too.

Then we all helped to prepare a feast and ate:  mutton, stewed and roasted, fry bread, gravy, mashed potatos, blue corn meal mush, potato salad and fruit.

(grandma knows just how much sugar water for the Kinalda cake.)

And then it is time to make the cake.  The young woman being honored ground the corn the day before.  In the hogan we stir the cornmeal batter in huge tubs in a clockwise direction with willow wisks from the canyon.  It is a lot of work and takes all afternoon.  The community spirit is strong and there is much joking and laughter.

A perfectly semetrical round hole in the ground was prepared the day before to the east of the hogan. Now we line it with cornhusks.  The tips of the husks must point up and out in a design that resembles the sun.  Everthing has a reason.

The corn batter with raisins and sugar is poured into the cornhusk lined hole, covered with more corn husks and then sand and hot coals.  The fire burns all night.

 I think it looks like a giant sunflower.

Another run to the east, a rainbow for good luck and then sunset at Saw Mill.

After a snack of left overs another run to the east and a nap, we all gather in the hogan where grandpa chants and sings of the creation of the Navajo People(Dine).  It is a beauty way ceremony.  Several times we bless ourselves with corn pollen.  Grandpa asks for others to join in the singing and he will take requests...the weaving song, sheep herding song.  At an appropriate time some of us creep out to sleep.  But the guest of honor must stay up all night.

Sunrise outside the hogan.

In the morning there is a run at sunrise.  We have all placed our shawls and blankets on the ground and the honored girl lays down to be stretched, our shawls and blankets have been blessed along with rugs and saddles.  I am told you can bring car keys and dream catchers...anything you would like to have blessed.  The bear skin is sacred.

The young girl's hair is untied and washed with yucca root to make it soft and shiny.   It is time to cut the cake always in a clockwise direction and with special instructions, the cake is cut into rainbow shapes.  It is warm and moist with maybe just a little sand in some bits.  Children race to grab the crumbs.  The young woman gives each guest a piece of cake.  And we get bags of other treats too.
Back inside the hogan the young woman puts a streak of white clay on our cheeks.  She blesses us in turn, running her hands down our body.  We can ask for special healing.  I ask that she give attention to my knees.  Others joke she should make them thin.

This young woman is tired, staying up for days, grinding corn, mixing the batter, running to the east.  Even her heavy velvet dress and silver and turquoise weigh her down.  She has a loving family who have ushered her into womanhood.  It is a joyful exciting time, one auntie tells me but it is a bit sad too becuase this is the beginning of letting her go into the world.


Morock said...

Great story and beautiful pictures.Thank you Karen!

Sharon said...

That was beautiful, Karen. So moving, so essential. I wish our culture had a way of beautifully and with such meaningful rituals, ushering young girls into young womanhood. Very touching.

Leslie Davis Guccione said...

Wonderfully moving & lovely photos. Thanks for sharing.

Barbara O'Connor said...

Love this!

suzanne said...

Fascinating. Would make a good children's book, too.

suzanne said...

Fascinating. Would make a good children's book, too.

suzanne said...

Fascinating. Would make a good children's book, too.