The texts of the Girl's Puberty Rite which are here included can give little hint of the many facets of the feast and ceremony, for they are the property of the shaman who is hired for the specific purpose of erecting the ceremonial structure for the girl and singing of the songs which shall bring her the desired benefits. As such, they refer to points of the ceremony in which the singer is primarily concerned and fail to call attention to equally important elements to which his duties do not extend. As it happens, the shaman who sings the particular songs recorded in these texts is not the only person hired by the girl's relatives to participate in the ritual on her behalf. In addition, an old woman is hired whose functions shall be described presently.
Therefore, in order that the ceremony may be understood as a unity and that the songs which follow may fall into proper context, a short outline of the most general and important features of the rite may be in order.
The Girl's Puberty Rite performs, among other things, a social function. At one time these Apache depended almost entirely upon hunting and the gathering of wild plants. Since the semi-desert territory through which they ranged was not too productive, no large section of a tribe could be together for a long period of time. The Girl's Puberty Rite acted as the social occasion for these Apache; it became the focal point around which the natural desire for tribesmen of a locality to meet, exchange views and property, greet old friends and make new ones, became crystallized. And so the custom arose of expressing thanks and delight that a daughter or close relative had grown to womanhood by playing host and providing food and entertainment for all who cared to come. The parents of the girl, assisted by other relatives, store up quantities of provisions, often starting months in advance, and take care of all practical arrangements.
An Apache social occasion is not complete without its dance, and the most spectacular and vigorous dances of the Apache are those performed by their masked dancers. The masked dancers of the Apache are young men clothed and designed to impersonate a body of supernaturals who are reputed to dwell in the interiors of mountains. The right to paint and design these youths and to sing the songs to which they dance belongs to Apache who have had a deeply religious experience with the mountain-dwelling supernaturals or who have been taught a ceremony which began as a result of such an encounter. At other times the dancing of these masked men acts as a curative rite and is used particularly during epidemics or wide-spread illness. But when the masked dancers of the Apache participate in the puberty rite, it is a secular performance and designed for entertainment alone. The father or a relative of the girl asks individuals who have the right to "make" masked dancers to assist in the celebration by sending men designed by them into the dance arena. Almost invariably they agree to do so.
Up to this point we have been concerned with the secular elements of the ceremony, but now we have to consider its sacred aspects, and in these the adolescent girl is more directly concerned. There are really two ceremonies for the girl during this four-day period, and they are performed by a man and by a woman who have somewhat different functions. While the duties of these two are complementary, and one begins his ritual at a point where the other leaves off, they do not at any time assist one another, nor is either more familiar than any ordinary member of the tribe would be with the rights, power, and ceremony of the other.
Of this pair the man is engaged to direct the construction of the ceremonial structure and to sing the songs which constitute a prominent feature of the rites. In order to confuse him with no one else we shall refer to him as the singer.
The woman is one who attends the girl throughout the four days, who dresses and feeds her the first morning, and gives her advice and directions necessary to carry her successfully through the ceremony and through life. We shall hereafter call her the attendant.
One other matter must be clarified before we may proceed with this description. It is said that this ceremony and the directions for conducting it were given to the Apache by White Painted Woman, the mother of the culture hero. When her people, the Apache, were hard pressed by evil monsters, White Painted Woman reared a son to destroy those creatures and to make the earth inhabitable for mankind. She is therefore the model of heroic and virtuous womanhood. For the ceremony the young girl dresses and acts as White Painted Woman is supposed to have done, the ceremonial structure in which the rite takes place is likened in the songs to "the home of White Painted Woman," and the girl herself for the duration of the rite, is never referred to by her own name, but is known as White Painted Woman. In short, every attempt is made to identify the girl with White Painted Woman, that she may display that same talent and fortitude on behalf of her people which marked the first bearer of this name.
Early in the morning of the first day the girl is dressed at the camp of her attendant in the richly designed buckskin costume which she will wear for the following eight days. She sits facing the east, and the garments are put on her from foot to head, beginning with the right moccasin. Then, that she may have a good appetite throughout life, she is ceremonially fed a piece of wild fruit marked with a cross of pollen. Her attendant supplies her with a length of reed through which she must drink for eight days, and a wooden scratcher which must be used for the same length of time. For the girl to allow water to touch her lips at this time would invite rain and do serious damage to the social aspect of the occasion. It is also forbidden her to scratch herself with her finger-nails. If the girl looks up at the sky, or if she is disobedient, rain clouds may gather. It is believed that excessive laughter will cause her to have a prematurely wrinkled face. The character traits exhibited during this ceremony will be those which will henceforth distinguish her, she is told. Thus to lose her temper, to make fun of the unfortunate, or to use harsh language are especially dangerous things for a girl to do at this time. She is urged to talk little, to heed what is said to her, and to maintain a grave and dignified manner.
While the attendant is preparing and advising the girl, the singer and his helpers are busy erecting the tipi-shaped ceremonial structure. Four large poles of the Douglas tree are raised, lowered toward each other, and lashed together to the accompaniment of songs. Eight other poles of the same kind and size are placed around the others; a central fire pit is dug; boughs of oak are lashed horizontally to the sides; and the floor of the enclosure is covered with lengths of cat-tail stalk.
Shortly after the ceremonial structure is completed, the girl and her attendant come forward. The attendant arranges a buckskin before the tipi with the head part facing the east. The girl kneels on this and the attendant passes before her, marks her face with pol1en, and is marked with pollen by the girl in turn. The singer and all who wish to do so now pass before the girl to mark her and be marked by her in like fashion.
When no more come forward the girl lies face downward upon the buckskin and is massaged and rubbed from foot to head, from right side to left, by her attendant.
Next the attendant traces with pollen four footprints upon the buckskin, and through these the girl walks, leading with her right foot. The attendant has brought her a shallow tray basket filled with the articles to be used in the rite, including red paint, white clay, pollen, galena, a brush of grama grass, and an eagle feather. This basket is now set some distance to the east before the buckskin, and at a signal the girl runs to it, circles it clockwise, and returns to her place. As she runs the attendant utters a shrill keening-like call which expresses reverent applause. With this cry she will punctuate crucial moments of the rite and the mention of the names of sacred objects or supernaturals in the songs. Four times the girl circles the basket and returns, and at the end of each run the basket is moved westward, towards the ceremonial structure. After she returns from the last run, the girl picks up the buckskin and shakes it four times. Now fruits and nuts, from food containers which have been placed before the ceremonial structure, are scattered upon the buckskin, and the young people scramble for these favors. Other presents of food and tobacco are tossed into the air for the others, and the important ritual of the first morning is over.
The rest of the day is given over to visiting and recreation. In former times Apache games and races engaged the interest of those who cared to indulge in them. The girl is expected to stay quietly in the home of her parents or attendant. During the day a high pile of firewood is brought to the east of the ceremonial tipi. Here a great fire is to be kindled that evening, and in its light the masked dancers will perform their difficult and colorful steps.
By late afternoon the masked dancers are already being dressed and painted in brush enclosures high in the hills away from the camps. At sundown the fire is ignited, the singers sit before pieces of rawhide, sticks in hand. The spectators crowd to points near the fire. All wait the coming of the masked dancers.
Shadowy figures can be seen faintly against the hills, the tinkle of their pendants announce their coming, and suddenly the first group of masked dancers emerges from the surrounding blackness, bursts into the glare of the fire, and approaches it in single file from the east. Perhaps the masked dancers will be accompanied by that favorite of the audience, Gray One or clown, who will be dressed in sackcloth, will wear an elongated nose, and will amuse with grotesque imitations of the others. As the dance proceeds, the careful observer will note that the impersonators pause at the beginning of each new song to identify it and that there are three different dance steps performed according to the type of song. Of these there is one dance step. that may be called "posturing", marked by short, terse steps, picturesque stances, and bodily rigidity. Another is the "high step" in the course of which the dancers, forming a circle, shift gracefully from foot to foot, bringing the free leg high in the air. The third is the "free style" and for this the individual dancer is left to his own devices. It is the dance of virtuosos; the less gifted fall back into the shadows; the experts contest for the cheers of the onlookers.
After nightfall, and while the camp people are wholly engrossed in the masked dancer exhibitions, the singer leads the adolescent girl to the tipi by means of an eagle feather. The girl kneels in the rear of the tipi on a buckskin placed there by her attendant. A small fire in the central pit dimly lights the interior. The singer begins his songs in a low voice and the only accompaniment is the deer hoof rattle which he holds in his hand. The girl rises and dances to his songs. She may do one of two steps, depending on the song. The first and most difficult step is one in which the girl holds her arms rigidly to her sides with hands upright, places her feet closely together, and propels her body to the side by moving first her toes and then her heels. The second dance is for the purpose of resting from the exertions of the first. It is a simple swaying in place with hands on hips. Every fourth or sixth song is supposed to be a smoking song and to this the girl does not dance. The relatives and close friends of the girl, a number of men and women who are interested in sacred things, one or two who wish to learn to be a singer of the girl's rite, and a few who come to listen for a short time before going back to the more colorful show outside, sit inside the tipi. The chanting of the singer and the dancing of the girl continue until midnight of this first night with little change except for an occasional rest period.
Outside the dancing varies considerably as the evening goes on, however. After an hour or two of spirited dancing the masked dancers depart for the night and a round dance is begun in which both men and women take part. This is followed by a partner dance in which the men and women face each other and go back and forth in the same direction at the same time. Last in order comes a partner dance marked by a step in which the man and woman face each other but move backward a few paces and then move forward and toward each other again. This relative order of the dance is maintained for the entire four nights of the ceremony.
There are no morning ceremonies for the second, third, and fourth days. The events of the evenings follow closely the pattern already described for the first night, except that on the fourth night both the social dancing and the dancing of the girl should continue until sunrise. It will be understood that for the sake of brevity this account is much simplified. Actually minor changes in ceremonial procedure take place each night. For instance, certain ceremonial objects a removed to a different position within the tipi each night, and for each song chanted on the last night, a stick is erected near the fire place, something that does not occur at any other time during the ceremony.
The ceremony of the fifth morning resembles in general that of the first morning. The singer paints the outline of a sun on his left palm just as the sun enters the tipi door and he obliterates this by rubbing it over the head and face of the girl. Then, using a brush of grama grass in the midst of which the eagle feather has been inserted, he paints her face, arms, and legs with white clay. Boys and girls, men and women, now file before the singer to be daubed with the materials left over from the rite. With this finished, the singer turns to the girl once more and leads her out of the tipi to a point in front of it where her attendant has placed the buckskin. As the girl leaves the tipi others enter with baskets of food which they arrange in a single line eastward from the fire pit. The people gather around and the food is distributed. At the conclusion of the meal a number of men begin to dismantle the ceremonial structure. Soon only the twelve main poles are left standing.
On the buckskin to which the girl has been led are traced four moccasin prints of galena and pollen, alternating in this order. Through these the girl is led to the east. Then she runs three times around the paraphernalia-laden basket. At the end of the third run all but the four main poles of the ceremonial structure are thrown aside. The feather in the basket is raised upright as the girl runs for the fourth time. She circles the basket clockwise as before, but instead of returning immediately, she stoops to pick up the eagle feather and with it runs far to the east. Then she turns and runs to the home of her parents. When she nears the ceremonial tipi for the last time, the four remaining poles are pushed to the east, and, as they crash to earth, fruit and sweets are thrown into the air and an exciting scramble ensues.
For four days after the completion of the ceremony the girl must wear her ceremonial garb, must not wash or come in contact with water, and must use her drinking tube and scratcher. At the end of this period either the girl or her attendant washes her hair and body with suds of yucca root, and she dons ordinary clothes again. Her last act while still in ceremonial dress is to lead a male horse, the traditional payment for such services, to the man who has sung for her.
A word should be said about the character of the songs which mark this rite. The songs which appear in text in this publication have to do principally with distinctive phases of the rite, such as the construction of the tipi the first morning or the painting of the sun circle on the hand of the singer the last morning. The majority of the songs are sung, however, at night while the girl is dancing. Not many of those songs are represented in this collection. But those songs are especially interesting because they embody the ideological core of the ceremony; they are designed to conduct the girl symbolically through life. One informant, a man who has the right to sing these songs, told me, "The Apache thinks of a woman's life as blocked out in parts. One is girlhood, one is young womanhood, one is middle age, and one is old age. The songs are supposed to carry her through them." Before rendering one of these songs for me, another informant said, "This song is about flowers. We are taking this girl through a beautiful life. This is the conception of a beautiful life for the Apache. We take the girl through beautiful lands, past flowers, through seasons with their fruits."
And so by the end of the fourth night, every element of nature, every growing thing, every possible experience, even sleep, even the old age stick, have been mentioned in song and have heard the supplication for the Long life and good fortune of the young girl.
This song is sung by the shaman when the structure in which the girl's adolescent rite is to take place is being made. The song refers to the bringing together of the poles of the ceremonial tipi. As is the usual procedure in Apache ceremonies the objects used in the rite are referred to in terms of substances sacred to the natives. Therefore, the poles are likened to galena, red paint, white clay, and the sun's rays. Thus it is believed that both the ceremonial tipi and the girl's body are blessed.
"They" refers to the culture hero, Child of the Water, and his mother, White Painted Woman.
This song describes a part of the ceremony performed at sunrise of the fourth day of the rite. At that time, the shaman paints the figure of the sun on the palm of his right hand and then holds it up to the east. Afterward he rubs this painted figure over the body of the girl.
"He" and "his" refer to the shaman in charge of the ceremony.
The phrases "sun pollen" and "rays of the sun" are synonymous.
This line refers to the ceremonial running of the girl around a shallow basket which contains the paraphernalia used in the rite. The girl does this twice, once on the morning of the first day of the ceremony and again to terminate the rite on the fifth morning. This reference is to the running on the last morning. The lines preceding refer to actions on the part of the shaman.
"It" refers to the ceremonial body painting that she has received.
These lines indicate the interest that the White Painted Woman is expected to take in the girl following the ceremony.
In the line, "She is looking at her, "she" refers to White Painted Woman and "her" to the adolescent. In the last two lines, "she" refers to the adolescent and "it" to the ceremony.