Tewa Pueblos - Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Religion is the pervading aspect of Pueblo life; it encompasses mythology, cosmology, philosophy, and worldview for the Tewa. It is the life-way through which people aspire to live. It is also one of the most sensitive areas of Tewa life, with only the religious sodality leaders in each pueblo knowing details of their respective systems of belief. Some aspects of religious beliefs that have come to be known outside of the sodality environments involve attribution of the sacred to, and respect and reverence for, the earth (from which all people come and to which all people return), the mountains (where dwell the spirits of the Towa'e, or founding brothers of the Tewa), the hills, water, and certain animals, birds, and plants. Polytheism is present in the form of belief in a range of supernatural spiritual forces and entities; because of this, Catholicism over the past two hundred years or so has come to fit easily within the native religious framework.
Religious Practitioners. The principal religious practitioners are the Winter and Summer moiety heads and the sodality heads, as established by the Tewa origin story. The sodalities are referred to in English as the Hunt Society, the Medicine Society, the Clown Society, the Scalp Society, and the Women's Society.
Ceremonies. Ritual ceremonies are performed following a calendrical cycle. Some rituals are specifically associated with subsistence, and others are concerned with individual and community developmental cycles. Each ritual is the responsibility of a particular sodality head, and most are not public. Rituals that are public and may be viewed by outsiders are held in the pueblo plazas. A list of dates for such ceremonies is published each year by the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, located at San Juan Pueblo.
Arts. Tewa art includes highly prized black-on-black Pottery made by artists at Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Pueblos and red pottery made at San Juan and Santa Clara pueblos, silverwork, silver and turquoise jewelry, paintings, sculpture, and fabric art made by artists at all the pueblos. Ceremonial songs, dances, and clothing are attended to with great aesthetic care.
Medicine. Herbal teas, poultices, massage, and food taboos (observed during various phases of an individual's development cycle) are all part of routine health care and Maintenance. A person who becomes ill or suffers an injury may, as has been true since before contact, ask for assistance from one of the medicine men or from a woman healer, or they may go directly to a local Indian health clinic or physician's office for treatment. Often people use a combination of diagnostic and treatment sources.
Death and Afterlife. Death occurs as a result of old age, disease, accident, maltreatment of one's own body (such as misuse of alcohol or other drugs), and evil spirits. Funerals are held for the deceased as soon as possible, following a day or more of lying in state. During this time, family and friends visit the deceased and their close kin to pay their respects. The funeral ceremony usually combines native and Catholic religious elements, and burial usually takes place in the graveyard at the pueblo where the deceased lived. The spirit of a deceased person is thought to stay close to the pueblo for Several days following death. Various measures are used to protect the living from untoward response to such spirits. On the fourth day a releasing rite is held by family and community elders so that the spirit of the deceased is freed and encouraged to join other departed spirits.