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Guyegwani (July): Ripe Corn Moon

The moon of the ripe corn is a time for celebrating the bountiful treasures given to us by Asgaya Galvlati, the “Apportioner”. The “Green Corn Dance” was once celebrated at this time. And it is traditionally the start of the stick ball games known as the Anetsa, or “Little Brother of War.”

In the old days, the women spent many hours of the day weaving clothes and baskets, crafting pottery, and grinding corn in the plazas of their villages. They passed the time singing songs, gossiping, laughing and sharing skills and stories. They were happy, productive times. Feather Smith, a guide at the Diligwa Village, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, explained the Cherokee crafts in these videos from the Native American Antiquity article “Great Sites, Part 6: The Cherokee Crafts.“

To get a good feel for Cherokee culture and history, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is a great place to visit. It is located in the heart of “Green Country” and “Lake Country” in northeastern Oklahoma and is the capital of the Cherokee Nation and the Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee. There are a number of historical museums and the Cherokee Heritage Center where a visitor can learn about the historical and pre-historical Cherokee. [Great Sites Series, Native American Antiquity]

On July 4, 1054, in ancient China, a Chinese astronomer noticed an amazing thing! A Star bright enough to be seen in broad

Depiction of the supernova of 1054 in Chaco Canyon

daylight! He recorded the event calling the mysterious star a “Guest Star”. He noted that it was four times brighter than Venus. After about 23 days, the star moved to the night sky and was noted by astronomers in Arabia, Japan, and even here in America.

The native American astronomer, an Anasazi living in Chaco Canyon, noted his discovery by painting the star and its position related to the crescent moon on the underside of a cliff shelf. [Read about this event in the Native American Antiquity article “July 4th, 1054”]

Read about other sites credited with recording this event in America at Peter Faris’ Rock Art Blog, where he has found an article that discredits some of these sites: “Back in the 11th century, the supernova would have been hard to miss. Chinese records suggest it was brighter than all the stars and planets, surpassed in luminosity only by the sun and the moon, and took two years to fade from sight. Because it was so striking, experts have assumed many people would have created homages to the sight. Rock art in the American Southwest, for instance, has been linked for the past 50 years to the Crab Nebula Supernova.

. . . Over the past three decades [Griffith Observatory Director Ed] Krupp has sought out every Southwest spot claimed to hold Crab supernova art. But he could not find White Mesa and Navaho Canyon. “I found no one who had been to either site or even knew where they are,” he said. [read more]

My friend, Chief Utsidihi D. L. Hicks described the “Planting, Caring for the Corn and Green Corn Ceremony” in his wonderful book, “Tsalagi Beginnings, Religion and Customs.”

During the first of spring, all the early crops were planted. As planting season advanced, through spring, summer, and into fall, each crop was planted as its time came. Some of the favorite crops were beans, peas, squashes, pumpkins, gourds and corn. But no crop was as important as Selu (corn). It was so important that religious rituals were performed from the first planting until it was harvested.

In Anisguti (Planting Time), the Anidawehi and tribal leaders in each town called the people together for the annual purification ceremony. These purification ceremonies were held to expunge from the bodies all colds and diseases they may have contracted during the long winter. These ceremonies were performed to secuire blessings from Asgaya Galvlati and show Him that the people were pure of body and soul and worthy to plant Selu. The ceremonies were performed by fasting and drinking the black drink, going to sweat lodges, and performing “going to water.” The Anidawehi performed their rituals in their secret language. As with most religious ceremonies of the Tsalagi, these activities were performed on or shortly before the new moon.

. . . The fields were watched with extra care, not only to guard against encroachment of wildlife, but by humans as well. Not one ear of corn was to touched. If a person pulled an ear of corn before the Green Corn Dance, that person was put to death. The Tsalagi were taught that all the corn belongs to the Creative Being and none of the crops were theirs until proper ceremonies to receive His blessings were performed. All members of the tribe would starve to death before they would touch a single ear. On each night of a full moon during the growing season, at exactly midnight, all the village women and girls disrobed and walked completely around the fields. This was to aid in the fertility of the maturing seeds.

When the first ear in each family field threw out its silken plume, that ear was designated by a distinguishing mark as the one to be ceremoniously presented to Asgaya Galvlati.

. . . When the Anidawehi had collected all the marked ears of corn, meat and other fruits for offerings, they were thrown into the fire. Some of the food was thrown to the four directions as an offering to the messengers of God, the Four Winds. All of the food was passed through the flames of the fire for purification before it was cooked. This food was prepared for a ceremonial meal, and following the ceremonies, a feast lasted for seven days.

By the 1820s, the Cherokee nation was building a permanent, sovereign home within the United States. The Cherokee seemed to be willing to try everything to co-exist with the new colonists and proved to be a most adaptable people.

Sequoyah’s Cherokee syllabary enabled the tribe to achieve almost total literacy. Starting around 1788, the Cherokee organized a national government and many supported acculturation, formal education, and modern methods of farming. They even invited the teaching of Christianity and “the arts of civilized life.” Written laws led to the formation of a Cherokee Supreme Court. New Echota, near present day Calhoun, was established as the capital of the Cherokee nation, and the home of the Cherokee National Council. In 1827, the Cherokee nation adopted a Constitution modeled on that of the United States, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

The constitution proved controversial with both other Cherokee, who saw it as a threat to tradition, and the state of Georgia, which thought it threatened its sovereignty over the tribe. Despite all of its achievements, the Cherokee lands were coveted by the expanding U. S. settlers. [Video by “Georgia Today”]

[From “A Cherokee Feast of Days”, Joyce Sequichie Hifler, July 5] Remembering can be painful and sometimes without any real benefit. It keeps us feeling guilty and regretting so much that the good that happened, without covering the good with bad memories. No Doubt, everything has not been ideal–but haven’t we given enough thought to the unhappy times? It doesn’t do any good to ruin the present time recalling what went wrong in the past. But we can begin to change. Maybe only a little at first–but honest effort has always changed things for the better and given us sel-respect as well. Time grows more and more precious and what we do with it at this moment makes or breaks today and all our tomorrows.

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