Religion and Metaphysics
Most Tua aren't what we would call religious. They take part in the festivals and other practices (graces, fire lightings, etc.) but don't spend much time thinking about the divine beings. Or you could say they are very religious, but that they live their religion but don't make a big deal about it. In fact, they disapprove of those who do. Although vital to society, shamans are somewhat scandalous. Priests, however, have established roles and do not function religiously outside of them so they are accepted. So perhaps the distinction might be made between religious practice and religious experience, and it could be said that the Tua celebrate the former but look down on the latter.
The religion of Tua is triune, consisting of three somewhat overlapping but not necessarily interlocking cults. The first cult is more of a philosophy than a religion. The other two are each a cult devoted to its own class of divine beings; the Sypekdho vy and the Hansu vy.
I. Dav and Kerssegh ("Round" and "Straight")
The Dav, the Round, is the circling, repeating, enclosing pattern according to which the Universe operates. The Kerssegh, the Straight, is the path of the unfettered soul, the individual making its own path with no light but its own. Kerssegh is the axis mundi, and Dav the turning about it.
Although all technically believe in them, they don’t make much difference in the lives of the average person, being mostly limited to the intelligentsia of Belso Kely. There the College of Priests trains mystics in their ways. As the heads of the Dav and Kerssegh cult the College is nominally the heads of the religion of Tuadem. In practice, however, since they do not concern themselves much with the Sypekdho vy or Hansu vy they have very little direct influence on the everyday religious life of the community. What influence they do have does not give them the authority to lay down rules, although they do have much moral authority.
II. Sypekdho Vy (The Watchers)
These form a religion which may be complete in itself; indeed, for the average Tua they, together with the Hansu vy, suffice. This was the religion of the original Tua, although in their homeland they most likely also revered the Hansu vy of places. There have been other changes as a result of Hilatua influence. A female Watcher is called a Sypedhja, and a male one a Sypedhto.
There is a standard order in which they are listed. This corresponds to the order of the months assigned to them in the year.
Dwoter vy (or Dhwerter vy), The Two (or Door) Brothers. Govern: Doors, Gateways, Beginnings, Transformations, Initiations, Hospitality, Borders, Dawn, Sunset, All changes from one state to another. They do not have individual names. Always represented in a pair, as young men (about 17), in riding gear but bareheaded. They are sometimes shown on horseback. They have red hair. It is their faces one finds carved or sometimes painted on door- and gateposts. When represented as standing one holds a sword pointing up and one holds a sword pointing down. As such they represent the opposites that are nonetheless the same. It is they who are confronted during transitions from one phase of anything to another, so that they are actually the force that opposes change. They can therefore be positive (protection) or negative (inertia). (The force that compels change is Wanerja.) They fill a peculiar set of roles. They are at once the still pillars, almost grim in their immobility, and the wild horsemen, roaming the plains with their capes and hair streaming in the wind. In the latter role they frequently accompany Praima. Their priests are male twins. Twin colts, not a common occurrence, are dedicated to them. There are traces in parts of Tuadem of a myth in which the Dwoter vy are the children of Hekwomater and Praima. Attributes: Twin pillars; two swords or spears, one pointing up and one down. Animal forms: Pair of stallions. Nov 1 - 28. Patrons of Twins.
Kodhu, Shining Maker. Governs: Knowledge, Crafts (except blacksmithing and weaving), Commerce, Measurement, Writing. Represented as a mature man (about 30) with red hair and a beard, wearing work clothes. He is the God of civilization, and may be thought of as a personification of the civilizing force. (In the male puberty rites that is his function.) He is the opposite of Komort. He is sometimes thought of as negative, as leading to stagnation. Attributes: Nail, metal hammer. Nov 29 - Dec 26. Patron of Silversmiths, Goldsmiths, Potters, Architects, and Scribes.
Kaitarto, Lord of the Wilderness; Kerwoto, Antlered One. Governs: Wild Animals, Forests, Madness, Wild Fire, The Hunt. He is the Wild Man, the total lack of civilization. He may be considered to be the personification of uncivilization. (In the male puberty rites, that is the role he plays.) He is considered to be the opposite of Praima; death-dealing in a primitive form. Woodcutters offer to Kaitarto before cutting a tree, although it can't be said that they worship him. Rather they fear and respect him, ever-mindful that he is not fond of their craft. Hunters, however, do worship Kaitarto, and he is their patron, so long as they do not overhunt. If he is properly treated and if the spirits of the game are properly respected, he sends the game and they come freely. Infrequently represented in full form, when he is, he has antlers and is bearded with long unkempt brown hair. His face is rough. He may be nude or dressed in skins. Places in the forest where the trunks thin out to form a clearing but their branches meet overhead to form a roof are called Kaitarto's halls. They are his natural temples. Offerings made to him are left in such places or at the forest's edge. Attribute: Rack of antlers. Animal form: Stag. Dec 27 - Jan 23. Patron of Hunters and Woodcutters.
Marenji, Fire Maiden; Tatatja, Melter; Haidhtana, Hearth Fire Queen. Governs: Hearth, Household, Beginning of Warming, Tame Fire, Hospitality, Silver and Goldsmithing. Represented as a young woman (about 17) with red hair and golden clothes. She is depicted either with her hair up as if married or with her hair down and moving as if blown by a breeze (a representation of fire.) As patroness of the home, she is present totally in every home. You might say she represents "homeness." This is in contrast with the Kodompoth vy, who are identified with the family and its associates; they are household deities and she is the Goddess of the Home. Pine incense is burned in her honor because it is used as kindling and gives great warmth and many sparks. Because of this, Tuadem houses smell of pine. Ghee is also offered to the fire at the beginning of her month. Since household offerings are poured out onto the hearthfire, Marenji is the intermediary between the Sypekdho vy and men, at least for the home. She is said to bring the beginnings of Spring, which is the reason for the name "Tatatja." Attribute: Flame. Animal form: Vixen. Jan 24 - Feb 20. Patron of Bakers, New Wives, Silversmiths, Goldsmiths, and Messengers.
Mari (Mari) Young Woman. Governs: Love, Beauty, Rain, Dance, Humor, Youth, Flowers, Virginity, Gentleness, Temptation, Raw Sexuality, Untamed Female Power. Represented as young maiden (about 16), ready to marry but not yet married. She is dressed in white or pastels, frequently quite revealingly or even nude (the only Sypedhja to be customarily depicted thus). Attributes: Spring flowers. Animal form: Dove, Hare. Feb 21 - Mar 20. Patron of young women old enough to be married but not.
Praima, Mighty Friend; Wadhoth, Redeemer. Governs: Covenants, Travel, Messengers, Friendship, Cattle, Fairness, Social Roles, Justice, Rising Sun. He is the dealer of death in the service of civilization and as such is held to be the perfect example of a civilized man. In him violence and control are in perfect balance. The purpose of the male puberty rites is to bring the boy to assume the role of him. He became one of the favorite Gods of merchants through association with sacrifice. Sacrifice is an image of the relationship between men and the Sypekdho vy, one of covenant, agreement, and honor. Thus also his role as God of fairness, friendship, and covenants. Apparently among the early Tua the bull was the favored sacrificial animal. This is in keeping with their apparent origins as a nomadic cattle-herding people. His name "Redeemer" is used in the meaning of a fulfiller of oaths. Praima is the force which ensures the fulfillment of oaths; indeed, he is even the very fulfillment of them. His role as God of Justice applies only to agreements freely entered into. He doesn't enforce natural or imposed law, although he is the image of the perfect man in society. Represented as a clean-shaven blond young man (about 25) in riding gear. He is sometimes shown on horseback. Cow milk, and cow and bull blood is offered to him. Knives are frequently dedicated to him. Attribute: Knife and Bull's head. Animal form: Bull. Patron of Merchants, Cowherds, Butchers, and Warriors.
Hauso, Dawn Goddess; Keritja, Growth. Governs: Growth, Healing, Fruits, Vegetables, Dawn, Hope, Morning Mist. Represented as a girl on the verge of puberty with long blond or red hair worn down. She wears reds, pinks, and yellows, frequently in combination. In fact, the colors of dawn are sometimes called "Hauso’s cloak." Dew is Hauso’s tears, cried at the beauty of the new day. Dawn is a complicated concept among the Tua. Although Hauso is the Goddess of dawn, she is more accurately the governess of the growing light and the time in which it occurs. The actual moment of dawn, however, as well as the actual moment of sunset (more specifically, from first appearance of the solar disk until it clears the horizon and vice versa) is governed by the Dwoter vy. The morning sun itself is sometimes saluted as Praima, just as the evening sun is sometimes saluted as Senwiro. Water is used in her rites. Sometimes water to be used for this is left out before false dawn until the sun has cleared the horizon. The most sacred water used is dew. Since this is considered to be her tears it is collected and used in quantity only by her priests, but anyone may wet their hands and face with it before praying to her, and husuls (see "Personal Piety" below) for her are left outside the night before such a rite so they can soak up the dew. She is frequently prayed to before beginning anything new. Pregnant mothers sometimes pray to her, asking that they give birth as easily as the sun rises. This is because she is sometimes thought of as easing the sun's birth. Some of the Hymns imply, however, that she holds it back, and thus must be prayed to to allow the dawn to happen. Either way she is worth propitiating at beginnings. Attributes: Young plant, Sprout, Rising Sun. Apr 18 - May 15. Patron of Farmers and Young Girls.
Hekwomater, Horse Mother. Governs: Horses, Childbirth. Represented as a mature woman (about 30), well built, but not fat. She is an Earth Mother type, substantial and caring. She has black hair with some silver in it. She is usually shown on horseback. In her form as patroness of midwives she is sometimes depicted nude and giving birth, (and even sometimes with a horse's head) but these images are only used in birth mysteries. Among the Tua the horse is held in great reverence. There is some evidence of a horse sacrifice far in the past, but killing a horse is now taboo. Warriors who inadvertently do so must be purified. The eating of horse flesh is also taboo, although horse milk is drunk and made into cheese. "She's under the horse" ("Sy nerdhero hekwo soth") is an idiom for "pregnant". Another is "She's wearing the Hekwomater's belt" ("Au wes Hekwomater rhai joth soth"). This is because pregnant women wear a cord of horsehair loosely tied about their waists or in their hair. It is said to prevent miscarriage and bring an easy delivery. Horse milk and blood are offered to her. Attributes: Horse's head, horse's hoofprint. Animal form: Pregnant or nursing mare. May 16 - June 12. Patron of Midwives and Horseherders.
Komort, Hammerer; Perkut, Oakman (or "Striker"). Governs: Humor, War, Conflict, Strength, Wind, Lightning, Storms, Blacksmithing, Anything loud, boisterous, and rowdy. He is the personification of a breakdown of civilization. This is not necessarily seen as a bad thing. He plays a vital role in the male puberty rites, as well as preparation for battle. By many he is viewed as the force which continues life, and therefore as very positive. He is the opposite of Kodhu. He is represented with red hair and a beard, with a ruddy complexion, and heavily muscled. He is dressed for battle, and holds a hammer with a stone head. He walks into battle, although on other occasions he rides in a chariot pulled by goats. The sound of this chariot is thunder. He is frequently drunk. In his rites beer is drunk and poured out. The words that best describe him are intense and rowdy. He has a group of Hansu vy with which he celebrates. They all have names that are related to such things as oak, goat, thunder, lightning, carousing, battle, wind, and storm clouds. Their names and personalities vary throughout Tuadem. Attribute: Stone hammer. Animal forms: Bear, goat. June 13 - July 10. Patron of Warriors and Blacksmiths.
Seredja, High Protectoress. Governs: Love, Beauty, Marriage, Happiness, Children, Chastity, Peace, Soothing of Quarrels, Justice, Law. Represented as a mature woman (about 35) with brown hair worn up, She is demurely but beautifully attired. She is sometimes shown with a breast exposed in her role as protector of children. She frequently carries a shield, but never weapons. She is usually depicted enthroned. Attribute: Shield. (Due both to her function as protector and because of the similarity between a shield boss and a breast.) Animal form: Cow. July 11 - Aug 7. Patron of Midwives, Shieldmakers, Builders, and Dairy Workers.
Wanerja, Dream Inspirer. Governs: Sex, Inspiration, Mead, Poetry, Art, Dreams, Sleep, Music, Weaving, Altered States of Consciousness, Fog, Menstruation. Generally represented as a young woman (about 20) with white hair and thin face, but she frequently shifts her shape. Indeed, she can appear as anything, from beautiful to terrifying (and even as both at once). Her hair is variously described; besides white its most common colors are black and pale reddish gold. It is always shown long, however, and curled and tossed as if alive in itself. It is she who leads people to changes in their lives. Wanerja’s devotees make a habit of appropriating other Sypekdho vy's attributes, such as a spider's webs (Mean), etc., but her animal forms are also used as attributes, particularly the bee. The bee is sacred to her because its honey is made into mead, the primary means of changing states of consciousness among the Tua. Mead is drunk and poured out in her rites. Its "kick" is proof that it is alive. In fact, mead is treated as if it were a living thing and is included in the prayers to the spirits of animals at Zyzypeng. Marijuana is almost equally popular, especially in women's mysteries. It is used by burning as incense in small enclosed spaces. A kind of sweat lodge is used and the dried plants are burned on the hot stones. Attributes: Bee, Smoke. Animal forms: Otter, Magpie, Bee, but of course she can be anything. Aug 8 - Sep 4. Patron of Beekeepers, Brewers, Ropemakers, Shamans, Artists, Weavers, and Bards.
Senwiro, The Old Man. Governs: Wisdom, Old Age, Time, Piety, Silence, Setting Sun. Represented as an old man, but strong and straight. He frequently has his hands across his chest like a corpse. He is balding and bearded. He is not the subject of much cultic activity, except among older people, especially men, but a number of mystics have considered him the most important of the Sypekdho vy. Attributes: Snake wrapped around a pillar, Turtle. Animal forms: Snake, turtle. Sep 5 - Oct 2.
Mean, The Old Reaper. Governs: Judgement, Wisdom, Punishment, Justice, Orphans, Silence. (Crone). Represented as an old woman in a black robe with a hood covering her face. Her face is never shown; in fact, "to see the face of Mean" ("dhau Mean sy wyltu") is an idiom for knowing that one is about to die. She carries a sickle. In some rites a sickle is set up, its handle stuck in the ground, and covered with a black cloth, to serve as an image of her. In the Women's Mysteries it is said that women pour out their blood to her monthly and that men do the same in their own way in their puberty rite and in war. And of course, in the end, she receives the blood of all living things. At Zyzypeng blood is given by everyone to an image of her. Attribute: Sickle, Spider, Spider's web. Animal form: Raven, Spider. Oct 3 - Oct 30.
Zyzypeng ("Great Sacrifice") is the evening of Oct 30. On that night the women extinguish the hearthfires. The next day is a day out of time and is sacred to no Sypekdho. On the morning of the day the men go hunting. The women accompany them to the edge of the village and then go to their lodge. After secret rites there they return to their homes. Children stay in the towns but are not allowed inside until the extinguishing rite is over. Although the rite is in the Book of Hymns, it is possible there are secret elements to it. A fire is lit in the midst of the town's square after dark by the Haraja using a bow drill. The men return after this carrying their kills and led by the Hunters. The leader of the Hunters carries a torch lit from the Hunters' wildfire. This fire is lit by flint and iron. The flint is in the shape of a stone knife and the iron is a piece of a meteorite. The torch is added to the central fire and the animals killed by the men are roasted over it (there must be at least one pig) and a feast follows. At midnight the people go out the north gate to a place a good distance far from town. This is the spot where the bones from animals eaten during the year have been taken. (It is bad luck for the bones to stay in the home overnight.) Also taken there is any excess fat (there is not much of this). For Zyzypeng a large stack of brush and wood is placed on top of the bones and the whole is sprinkled with ghee. The fire is lit from the newly lit town fire. In the morning the Harajato leads the Bull Sacrifice. The bull is then roasted and the feast continues for two days. At sunset of the third day, days the fire in the square is extinguished, and the rites for the beginning of the month of Dwoter vy are held. The ashes are used to mark the entry pillars of the homes and to scatter in the fields.
Each village or town has an outdoor temple or henge with images of the Sypekdho vy in a circle, arranged in calendar order. Usually they are merely posts with faces carved on them with attributes. These are called "Setawena" ("Godposts"). This temple is outside the village, to the north. Each month is begun with a ritual in which libations are poured to the outgoing Sypekdho as well as to the incoming one. Sometimes the reigning Sypekdho is crowned with appropriate leaves or flowers.
III. Hansu vy (The Spirits)
A. Selpater vy (Tribal or Town Hansu vy)
The Selpater ("Town Father") is the patron of the town. He is never named, oddly enough. The image of Selpater in front of the Harajato's house is considered to be the home of the god. The Selpater of each town is different. When there is a need for distinction, as at Belso Kely, where images of the Selpater vy of the various towns are kept, the custom is to say, for example,"Selpater Kely". The geographical element of the name of the town is dropped and the unique town name is used for the name of the Selpater. Since Belso Kely is the religious and cultural center of the Tua, Selpater Kely is also sometimes called Tuapater and is believed to be the protector of the Tua as a whole.
B. Geographical Hansu vy.
Certain geographical features are thought to have Hansu vy. Most common are mountains, bodies of water, and large stones of peculiar shape. Theoretically, all objects in nature have Hansu vy, but practice limits recognition of this to the more individualized natural objects.
C. Spirits of the Wild (Overlap somewhat with B.)
They are under the rule of Kaitarto. There are two kinds of these, those spirits that roam the forests, mountains, and plains; and those that are associated with trees.
D. Kodemsa vy (Household Guardians)
Technically, these are a male and female pair (Dompoto and Dompotja), but they are never thought of separately. They are acquired by anyone setting up a household. They are in some undefined way associated with the ancestors. There is some belief in the inheriting of them, passed as usual down the female line. Although they are considered male and female and in some sense people, they do not actually have personalities.
E. Swansu vy
These are personal guardians (Power Animals, Guardian Angels). They are acquired by shamans, who may have several.
F. Various specific Hansu vy such as those of weapons, food plants, tools, etc.
Every unique entity, either individual or collective has its own associated spirit. Indeed, the recognition of the existence of the entity as such is the recognition of its spirit. This rock is separate from the mountain because it has its own Hansu and the mountain includes the rock because the mountain has its own Hansu. There is no contradiction here. There is not even paradox. As the Tua proverb puts it, "sy zy sy sy zy, "things are as they are."
Every household has a shrine on the North side of the table. It contains images or symbols of the Kodemsa. It may also contain images or symbols of the Sypekdho vy for the family trades. The Chieftains or Elders would also have an image of the Selpater. An image of Marenji is kept at the hearth. Shrines have bowls for offerings. Offerings are made on New Moons to Kodemsa and on Full Moons to the Spirits of the Wild. Offerings are left in the bowls overnight and then either burned in the center fire (Kodemsa) or scattered in the forest (Spirits of the Wild). There is a pair of pillars on either side of the door to houses as well as entrances to towns and temples with faces or heads carved into them. These are sacred to Dwoter vy.
As mentioned earlier, the Tua are not religious in the sense of pondering eternal questions or having personal experiences of the divine, but they do take part in a large number of religious practices. Some of these have been mentioned: the cult of the hearthfire, the Kodemsa, the seasonal events, etc.
But on occasion the need is felt for a closer relationship with a particular divine being. A farmer may be having troubles with his crop, or a wife and husband with their marriage, or an apprentice with his craft. These people would turn to various religious or magical practices associated with the Sypekdho vy and the Hansu vy. The appropriate words can usually be found in the Book of Hymns and may be supplemented by the supplicator. Priests and shamans wear special clothes when working, but this is not practical for the average person. Of course, there are often appropriate clothes already possessed. Our apprentice or farmer might wear their work clothes, and our couple nothing at all.
But there is something uniquely Tua (although probably originating with the Hilatua) that can be used by anyone to make their ordinary clothes into a sacred costume.
When invoking a deity, the devotee wears a thin strip of undyed linen cloth with a center square panel with the deity's symbol. It is traditionally as wide as the wearer's two small fingers together. This is tied about the head. The strip, called a "husul" (the term is also used for the whole thing) is quite long, cut to the same length as the height of the wearer, and the untied ends hang down the wearer's back. The square can be metal, wool, wood, leather, or cloth. The husul is of undyed linen, while the square, called a "fikh", is an appropriate color (unless of metal, of course). The material and color of the fikh is different from each Sypekdho or Hansu.
People have two husul vy. The usual one is, as already mentioned, of undyed linen. There is also one, however, made of natural black wool. This is the husul of Mean, and it has no fikh.
Husul vy and fikh vy are stored in a wooden box. It has three compartments. One is for the linen husul, one for fikh vy. The third is for the husul of Mean. The linen husul is at one end, the fikh vy in the middle, and the Mean husul at the other. The section with the Mean husul has a separate lid.
Hansu vy are so variant and so numerous that I could not hope to list them here. Their fikh vy could be almost anything, but are usually based on plants or animals associated with them.
For images of the Sypekdho vy, other than in permanent shrines to them, cata vy are used. Essentially small Godposts, they are either flat pieces split from wood, or sticks split in half or with one area sanded flat. They are about a foot long and an inch wide. Near the top the symbol of a Sypekdho is painted, carved, or burned. They are stuck in the ground in front of the devotee before a ritual and taken up afterward. Rituals to Kaitarto frequently use a plain stick that came off the tree naturally instead, especially one that is forked or branching. Rituals to Mean frequently use nothing or an actual sickle draped with a black cloth.
Shamans are frequently hermits. They rarely live within town walls. They use rattles, drums, and chanting. Shamans with bird Swehansu vy frequently use pipes. Shamans are called by a spirit of some sort, that may be anything from the most local of Hansu vy to the Sypekdho vy. They are also devoted, although to a lesser degree, to Wanerja. Their practices appear to be Hilatua.
If non-shamans require shamanic magic they usually go to shamans for help. They may, however, use mind altering substances and invoke Wanerja and try to do it themselves. During the month of Wanerja there are public rites in which this is done.
In addition to wearing a Husul for their patron, shamans cover their heads when they work. Sometimes the Husul is worn outside their head covering and serves to tie it shut. "He's taken the hood" is an idiom for "He's become a shaman."
Whenever possible, dying is a conscious act, attended by the next of kin. A shaman attends as well to provide sacred drumming, but otherwise he stays out of it.
The intent is for the soul to go on a journey, accompanied by the next of kin. When the right moment is reached, final farewells are said and one soul goes on and one soul comes back. The song is given in the Book of Hymns. Frequently a husband will not come back when accompanying his wife's soul. He will die with her and their funeral will be celebrated together.
Dying is referred to euphemistically as "putting on the husul of Mean." This is because after the person is dead a Mean husul is put on him or her. It is left on throughout the funeral. This is the only time the husul of Mean is worn.
The Tua believe in reincarnation. In between lives an indeterminate length of time is spent in an in-between world ruled over by Senwiro and Mean. The gates to the other world are guarded by Dwoter vy and opened by Wanerja. Rebirth is effected in part by the operation of Hauso. Although rebirth is generally determined by the acts of the person while alive, among many people there is a belief in the ability of the Sypekdho vy to mediate, especially Praima and Hauso.
Women are buried naked (except for the husul of Mean) in the fetal position. Men are cremated wearing their craft or religious clothes, accompanied by their tools. They are laid out flat and straight, with their hands crossed on their chests. A man’s ashes are placed in the arms of his wife when she is buried. If he dies first (this is considered the natural order of things) his ashes are kept in an urn until her funeral. If she dies first her grave may be reopened later. In fact, when a wife dies before her husband the grave is frequently covered with a rock slab and not filled in until after his death. Suicide by a husband at his wife's death is not uncommon; the reverse, however, is quite rare. Unmarried men are cremated and their ashes thrown into a stream to go to the sea. Unmarried women are simply buried, often near their parents' tombs and sometimes with a phallic marker. Boys are not burned but are buried.
Boys going through puberty are sent on a vision quest. They are expected to make contact with their adult Sawensu and to receive a vision of their new names. They start with a group ritual, but they end on their own quest.
During the opening of the boys' ritual, shamanic techniques are used to bring them out of their old world. Wanerja is used here. She is the only Sypedhja invoked during these rites (although Mean is present by implication). She leads them to the edge, where they encounter the Dwoter vy. After passing them, they are reduced to wildness by Komort and come under the influence of Kaitarto. Some never come out of this phase and stay as hunters. They are sent out into the wilderness to take part in their first hunt. After the hunt, the main part of their quests begins.
Although the quest may theoretically be successful on its first night, the questers must still stay the full three. This allows time to consolidate the vision. If no vision is received by the third night, the quest is deemed a failure and the boy must consult the priests after the whole rites are over. During the quest the boy is expected to receive a vision of his Sawensu who will give him his adult name. After the quest, they are brought back together and the influence of Kodhu is felt, and they slowly return to a level of Praima. This is the properly socialized person, following the laws of society but not forgetting the violence that underlies it.
Girls going through puberty are brought through in groups. The rites are performed in a cave or an underground room and are secret. They are all performed in a group and the initiates all stay together in the cave for the duration of the ritual. In the cave is the great drum called the "Heart Drum", a large wooden drum with no leather head that is only used in women's rites.
The drum beats continually for several days. During this time the girls fast. As time goes by, they trance, separately at first. When each comes out of her trance, she relates her vision. This goes on for quite some time. As it does so, more of them start to trance at the same time, until finally they are all trancing together. Not only are they trancing at the same time, however; they are having the same vision. It is in this vision that the final teachings are given, along with the names. They start to menstruate and immediately return. There is some more instruction and the drumming stops. They come out and are fed.
After the private rites, men relate their visions at a public rite. Women keep them secret outside the woman's lodge. Men's puberty rites are held every four years on Midsummers. All boys who have come of age since the last one attend. A boy is eligible if he is fourteen or older.
Women's puberty rites are in two parts. The second, described already, is held each year at Midsummers. The first is performed starting with the first menstruation and is repeated each month until Midsummers. It takes place in the women's house, but not much is known of exactly what goes on. Most of the time the girl is alone, meditating on the great change she is undergoing, but sometimes the women of the village sit with her. She must undergo this rite of seclusion each period until Midsummers. After that she may or may not; it is up to her. The meaning of this seems to be that the new woman's power has to be brought into the service of the community. Until then it is dangerous.
Every four years, of course, the second rite coincides with the men's. Those who have gone through the rites in the intervening years frequently do not attend these fourth year ones, even though as women of the village they are expected to attend all of them.