Pima-Papago - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Little is known of Pima-Papago beliefs prior to the nineteenth century, which saw, as noted above, a remarkable pan-Pima-Papago pagan religious synthesis. This synthesis was certainly achieved in the knowledge of Christianity and may have been at least partly a response to it. The myth synthesis featured a murdered man-god analogous to Jesus, and the corresponding public ceremony (the wi:gita) was analogous to, and echoed, neighboring Christian tribes' (such as Yaqui) Easter ceremonies. Meanwhile, and probably before this pagan synthesis, God, the devil, the saints, heaven, and hell were all acknowledged. Folk Christianity preceded mission-led Christianity in the northern Upper Pima/Pima-Papago area.

The nineteenth-century pagan prose mythology has as its principal characters two man-gods (a Creator and a Culture Hero), one of whom was murdered by public consent like Jesus; Coyote and Buzzard (moiety totems); a female monster; a race of exterminated humans; and the ancestral Pima-Papagos as the exterminators (this mythology is currently under tribal revision in the direction of pacifism among ancient Indians). The Christian pantheon has long been recognized. Shaman seers and gifted nonshamans dream songs from all the above, Christian and pagan, and from many other things and spirits as well. The songs constitute a Literature supplementary to, and actually greater than, the prose mythology. Finally, well into the twentieth century and continuing in parts today, there were native traditional (pagan) public ceremonies for rain, farming, hunting, war, and other activities; and there was an elaborate, generally private (performed at home) development of ritual cures for sicknesses caused by taboo violations.

Religious Practitioners. Shamans divined for both public ceremonies and private cures. Shamans do not divine for Christian rituals nor for traditional or constitutional governmental deliberations. There were and are non-shaman singers and chanters-orators for all pagan and church religious observances. Certain ceremonies required nonspeaking, sometimes dancing, sometimes costumed, functionaries as well.

Medicine. "Staying sickness," a class of illness considered to be unique to the Pima-Papago, is an important Contemporary religious expression. The sicknesses come from breaking taboos associated with many animals, some plants, unbaptized saints' images, Christian devils, and the wi:gita Ceremony. Over a lifetime an individual becomes the host of many such maladies. When a sickness builds to an intolerable level, a shaman is called to make a diagnosis. The shaman then performs a "seeing," with singing, sucking, and blowing, and announces the cause—the violated "way" of the "dangerous object" (from the above list of types). The shaman either sings (and blows) the required liturgy or advises another Ritual curer who can do so. This cure originates in and belongs to the offended "way." Upon hearing or feeling the cure, this "way" lifts its power from the sick person.

Death and Afterlife. The death of others is feared by the living. The spirit of the dead is to proceed to a land of the dead "below the east." The dead live in a community like that of the living yet free from hardships. Burial was formerly at a distance from the village in a rock-covered enclosure or a cave that faced east. A person's possessions were buried with the deceased, placed on top of the mound or destroyed at home. Funeral practices now have a Christian form, with consecrated cemeteries. A one-year death anniversary is observed for the deceased. In addition, on All Souls' Day a feast is prepared by families who vacate their homes to allow the spirits of the dead to visit the household in peace.

User Contributions:

James Tedder
I think the content is excelent as I am having to do research on the Pimas.
I wish more was known about the pre-christian beliefs of Pima-Pagago peoples.
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