January 6th. Coats swung open as observers walked into the sun-filled Taos Pueblo without hats or gloves. There was no wind and the sky was an off-the-palette deep blue. I heard the drums from a distance as I approached, saw dark, long-haired women wrapped in bright patterned blankets making their loud clipped yip yell-sounds of approval from roof tops.
Unlike the Turtle dance of the previous week with one huge drum and drummer, this day there were a dozen or so, singing and beating small drums in unison. They stood in a line at one end of the tightly grouped dancers, the 25-plus men of mythological proportions who wore real buffalo heads. Eagle feathers floated from the bison heads as the men stepped powerfully, turning, as if taunting the hunters who interspersed them. The buffalo dancers gripped an arrow, their bare chests washed in red ocher. The hunters were all sizes, with many little boys keeping step, carrying bows and quivers. Adults danced under camouflage of full deer-hides, heads and antlers; pine branches poked from bucks' mouths.
After several minutes of intense stepping and turning the drummers shifted their song and beat to a slow trance. All dancers followed, as the huge bison heads and many-pointed antlers swayed to sway to and fro, back and forth, in a powerful scene of the hunt. Then just as abruptly the beat quickened again, and intensity returned.
As with the Turtle Dance a week earlier, I watched up close for a few rounds and then backed away to take in the scene from a distance; the powerful juxtaposition of bobbing buffalo, drum beat and song, lines of yipping women on adobe roofs, their sacred mountain as backdrop. The colors were fantastical; the long shadows of ladders on adobe walls, haunting perfection.
The dance ended in front of the kivas, large, round rooms dug into the earth. Accessible by ladder, they entail a climb down into the dark space. The void. As told by various native medicine men and women, it is sacred space, where males once descended to access the powers that women held naturally within their wombs; the place of gestation and mystery.
I do not pretend to know the mythology and history of this dance. It is theirs. I am thank-full for the opportunity to witness, to enter timeless space and immerse myself in metaphor.
In the womb-like dark of January, I ask myself what sustenance do I need to procure? What ritual dance must I conjure to summon Spirit... to ensure my aim is true to the purpose of the soul, as the huntress and hunted sway in primordial unison.
--- Rafaell Diviant ART