Four Worlds

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Above: a Kaye

 

They came from

Life giving Waters,

emerging from a Lake

at the Beginning of time.

Avanyu –

Serpent,

Spirit of the River

pecked into stone

or painted

on canyon walls

embodies their story.

 

The Tewa settled above

the Great River Banks.

Roaring water flowed

through tributaries

mountain gorges.

The People gave thanks.

Water meant Life.

Each village was the center

of the Tewa’s First world.

 

Bound together by

Women who tended

holy household shrines,

prayed for rain,

created fires,

gathered seed,

ground food,

grew babies,

dug clay to shape

earthen pots.

This was the Second world

of the Tewa.

 

In the hills the men

hunted animals

for food and skins.

Both women and men

ploughed fields,

cultivating maize

as the Corn Mother

blessed them and

instructed them to do.

 

Here too were Kayes

Basalt stones shaped by

mortar and cupules

that marked

cardinal directions,

and burial middens.

Tewa communed with the dead.

Ancestors traversed Four Worlds

before returning to still waters.

 

The men danced prayers

bore holes in stone faces.

The women pounded

rock to awaken

the spirits at sunrise –

prepared medicines

and prayers in

this Third world

of the Tewa.

 

Far beyond the hills,

the men prayed for rain…

Four sacred mountains

held each village

in Earth’s peaceful embrace.

Earth, wind, fire and water,

North, east, south and west –

Four elements and directions

guided the People

in this Fourth world

of the Tewa.

 

Postscript:

 

This poem was written as a result of visiting a few of the pueblo ruins in this area, reflecting upon the meaning behind what I experienced especially with respect to the stones I encountered, going to the Pueblo dances, and before doing some research on the stones about which I knew nothing.

 

Kayes, the Tewa word for certain basalt stones helped me to enter the world of the Tewa on a deeper level when I discovered that their primary purpose was to help the people communicate with the spirit world… According to the Tewa the Kayes were places where offerings were made and the rock itself was also pounded to attract the attention of the spirits. The resulting, usually round, depressions are called cupules by anthropologists and they can be found on both the top and sides of certain rocks around the ruins. Sometimes these stones also had mortars for grinding and some sources suggest that women gathered in these places to prepare medicines. It is said that at certain times of the year the Tewa continue to gather at these stones for ceremony.

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