There They Sing And Dance Awhile, Waiting For
The Snake Priests.
These come from their kiva to the south of the dance
plaza, and, as they arrive, all sounds are hushed and all attention
concentrated upon them.
They circle before the kisi, and then line up
facing the antelope priests.
Appearance of Priests. Some people say they are hideous; others have said,
with me, that the sight is sublime. If one looks merely at the half-nude
bodies, made repulsive by a coating of reddish black paint, with dabs of
whitewash in several places, at their faces painted with the reddish black
stuff, at the strings of white beads around their necks, and the snake
whips in their hands, then indeed it is easy to say that they are hideous.
But if one looks at their faces, he will see intense earnestness, deep
solemnity, profound dignity, and unflinching belief in the necessity for
and power of the prayer about to be offered. Then, too, with what simple,
trustful bravery they handle the snakes, when that part of the ceremony
comes! They know the danger; no one more so. Indeed, if a priest is afraid,
he is not allowed to participate. Not only would his fear prevent his own
proper worship, but it would interfere with that of his comrades.
Variety of Snakes. There were few snakes at Oraibi, the year I last saw the
dance there, but those they had were active and vicious. There were several
rattlers, some red racers, and a few bull snakes.
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