Thursday, April 14, 2011

This Performance

This ceremony is the Elumi’s way of honoring a person from the society who has died or is close to death while simultaneously drawing attention to the coming of the spring and growing season. The heart of the ceremony though is based on the concept that the deceased is not actually dead, she is simply transforming into an alternate form of energy. Her spirit is going from being contained within her human form, to growing with the plants, and eventually it becomes a light source. The community does not view the death of one of their members as a loss, or even really as a death. They view it as a total rebirthing; the spirit of the woman transforming from its humanly form, into a more earthly form, before finally becoming its most natural state (light).

In the ceremony, women of all ages process out to an open area accompanied by the person who is being honored. All of the women are wearing similar costumes: flowing cream pants and tops (each tied by the individual in any of several different styles) with golden accents. The women also each wear a headdress made up of a sparking headband with white ribbon, golden beads, and mirrors hanging down. The length of the strand of ribbons, beads, and mirrors corresponds to each woman’s age with the youngest women wearing the shortest and the eldest wearing the longest. The only woman not dressed in this fashion is the woman being honored. This woman also wears loose pants and a light top however she also has a white fabric covering on her head and wears no headdress.

Each age group has a specific role to play in the performance of the ritual. The youngest take charge of handing **seed bombs** to the observers while the middle aged women lay out strips of fabric, which will later be used to wrap the honoree, onto the ground in a star-like pattern. The elders then enter the area holding a long strip of golden fabric over the eldest woman. The woman who is being honored stops in the center of the large star and the older aged women begin to form a sort of cocoon around her with the fabric strips. As the wrapping is in occurring, the middle aged women take turns sprinkling glitter and seeds into the air and around the honoree. Through all of this, the youngest girls are handing **seed bombs** out, ringing their bells, and inviting people in to join the celebration of life. When the honoree is fully cocooned, she is laid down onto the ground and the women begin circling around and taking turns pouring a little dirt onto her using their bells. After each woman has a turn, the youngest pour the remaining dirt over the cocooned woman and the middle-aged women plant seedlings into the dirt pile. All of the women then take a step back and process out of the area, leaving the honoree to transform into the plant life around her.


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