Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Midwinter Ceremony

It's not nearly midwinter here in the Northern Hemisphere and, frankly, it seems ridiculous for me to be talking about midwinter here in L.A., but in any event, today's topic in our continuing religion series is the Midwinter Ceremony of the Iroquois.

Iroquois Dream Mask

I can't remember when I first learned about the Iroquois' Midwinter Ceremony, but I remember being struck by the descriptions of the public acting out of dreams during the ceremony:
The ceremony begins in late January or early February, depending upon the occurrence of the midwinter new moon, and it lasts at least a week. At the beginning, special medicine mask messengers, "Big Heads" or "Our Uncles," go through the houses, stirring the ashes of cold fires and announcing the beginning of the ceremony, fulfilling or renewing dreams, dancing, and playing games . . . .

Dream-guessing has long been an essential part of the protracted ceremony. People guess the content of each other's dreams on the basis of subtle hints, and offer suggestions as to how the dreams might be fulfilled. Dreams are regarded as supernatural message, and fulfillment of the dreamer's desires is necessary for their continued health.
Dean R. Snow, The Iroquois p. 7; see also The Iroquois Midwinter Dream Festival.

This seems like a very productive and entertaining form of communal psychotherapy. I'm sure many of us would be healthier if we participated in a festival like this every midwinter. Wait, isn't that "Burning Man"?


J.J. said...

¡Feliz Navidad!

Octopus Grigori said...

¡Gracias! A tú