Sunday, September 26, 2010

Yurok Indian Spirituality

[on Klamath river , in Humboldt county, CA], 4
Yu-rok "spoke ... sa.>agoh, one of only two known Algonkin languages west of the Rockies. (The second is Wiyot, ... spoken ... to the south.)"
"They were the "human beings," >o.lekwoh, "the ones who stay here" after the wo.gey, the Spirit People or First People, had invented culture and ... departed at the beginning of "Indian Time." Some early American visitors called these >o.lekwoh "the Allequa"; Yuroks came to call the whites wo.gey". {cf. the Aztec belief that the European were the departed folk of Quetzalcoatl; and the Quechua belief that the Europeans were the departed folk of Viracocha}
"seeking the aid of Lightning and of the ten Thunder Brothers, the spiritual allies ... . ... In the wintertime, when it thundered and the lightning just kept on and on ... – then they’d take a boat ... and drag it down to the gravel bar to see if the lightning ... would give them strength here on earth ... . Now, ... there’s different kinds of thunder and some of it sounds like trailing gravel, [at] the end. That’s when ... you ... Take the boat and drag it along the gravel bar to see if it will please the Thunder ... . Then he gives them part of his strength."
"some Hupas training ... customarily slept in a cleft in a rock near the village of Matildon ... through the night as they sought spiritual aid ... . Others seeking power ... ran in the hills at night and knew that they’d "got it" if lightning struck and split a tree near them. ...
When spirits appear unbidden, in a dream for instance, they come to announce that a person has a certain option, or potential. It is now up to that person to realize this potential through application of will power ... . A person might dream of powerful beings or a place where "power" is available, for instance, but it remains to obtain the spirit’s blessings and to bring them under control."
"He’d started training ... to spend the night on a downed tree that hung over a creek".
"Certain Yurok men once acquired guardian spirits through training and medicine-making that imbued they with bravery ... . They were called weskweloy, a word that made reference to the style in which they alone were privileged to wear their hair ... . These ... got their powers through ... vision questing in the winter, usually in the ocean near great rock formations – seastacks – or in riverine whirlpools, in lakes and other places that gave them access to the Thunders. In the waters they encountered the Thunders or one of the water monsters called ka.mes or a sa>al, a bad ghost-spirit that lives in a spring and brings disease. Some trained in the lower hills and mountains and in the hollow or cleft rocks there. ... Falling unconscious, men travel to the underworld to the house of the Thunders, overcoming ferocious guardians – panthers, rattlesnakes – and entering to be cut up into pieces, cooked, and reassembled as weskweloy."
"luck came to him through a stone talisman that he obtained from a spring in the mountains after hard training. Once men made luck medicine in other watery place as well, such as an ocean pothole near Big Lagoon. They might train specifically for hunting or fishing luck, diving down in the Klamath to touch a special rock or making medicine at a "wishing place" in the mountains, where a pure man could hear the barking of hunting dog spirits ... . ... these dog-spirits as being wo., "ancient" or "holy," ... "You hear them barking, a-way off. It’s deep.""
"going into the mountains to seek the pity and aid of supernatural forces" : "They know you’re worthy of it. Otherwise ... there’d be no tears. ... if you have this feeling that the forces blessed you, the you’re a worthy person
"you fast for ten days and then on the tenth day you go there and clap your hands and you tell this rock what you want and then if you hear the echo you’re going to get your wish."
"a qualified person can go to Doctor Rock, a place associated with the most powerful shamans, to pray ... for high powers, such as those for doctoring".
"the correct procedure is "to announce yourself. Say who you are, where you’re from, what you want." A man should go "where a rock runs out. ... You sit there, you have your fire in front of you; you stay there all night."
"as a man sits before his small fire he prays and ... when he has attained the proper spiritual state he claps his hands, listening for a clear, ricocheting echo : "The men go there and sit in the [prayer] seat there. Then after a while they clap their hands, and if the echo comes back clear they know they have what they’ve prayed for ... ." Other men shout, listening for an echo."
"A person who is well prepared ... can go into the "high country," the physically and spiritually highest mountains. He will encounter spiritual beings associated with specific places, and they will teach him – "talk to him." ... these beings are immemorial spirits ... . ... training really ultimately means just sitting down with spiritual beings and talking with them."
"A person might meet spirits in the mountains and "sit right down and talk with them," or he night meet them after returning home ... . "Maybe after you come back from the mountains, some night in your home, you wake up ... . There are spirits in the room and it’s full of light. They’ll teach you ... .""
"transformative experience" : "Going into a trance in a "prayer seat" in the high mountains, he saw, as though through a tunnel, a small hole of light opening into a meadow ... in the sky ... . {This is a common form of "near-death experience".} A spiritual being took him up into the world above. He saw people there, "all in the prime of life – about thirty-five years." ...
He knew this to be the "beauty world," where the spirits of trained people go at death, waiting, he told me, for the time when they would come back to earth in new forms. He was guided back to the seat by one of the spirit beings, and when returned to his body in the prayer seat he knew what "beauty" truly was, and "walked in beauty."" {"Beauty" is a common perception in spiritual enlightenment.}
" "High men" and women who are doctors are said to be able to return to the mountain precincts ... later, without leaving the lowland villages, through out-of-the-body travel." Legend "told ... about a hero who "left something like his picture at home while he traveled to the end of the world" ... . [One informant] said that he commonly traveled out of his body to the place where his medicine was, in the inland mountains, and ... yet another spoke of retrieving medicine from an inland lake while physically remaining in the sweathouse at Pecwan."
Thomas Buckley : Standing Ground : Yurok Indian Spirituality. U of CA Pr, Berkeley, 2002.

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