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Ceremony

Leslie Marmon Silko

Section 9

Section 8

Section 10

Summary

Hummingbird and Fly visit Caterpillar, who gives them tobacco.

Tayo and the woman make love. He dreams of the cattle. They awake before dawn, and Tayo feels happy to be alive. After feeding his horse and singing to the sunrise, he eats the breakfast the woman serves him, watching her bundle together rocks and plants. Tayo thanks her and leaves. He rides up into the mountains, where the Laguna people have always hunted, thinking of the old stories. Now only a small portion of the area belongs to the reservation. White farmers graze their cattle on most of the mountains, and Tayo rides through them. He is searching for Josiah's cattle, the cattle of his dreams, following Betonie's directions. Betonie told him to follow the stars to the woman and up the mountain to the cattle. Tayo carries the bill of sale, so he can prove the cattle are his as he drives them home to follow through with Josiah's plans.

Finally, Tayo reaches the white man Floyd Lee's enormous metal and barbed wire fence and sees Josiah's cattle. After dark, Tayo cuts through the fence, thinking about how hard it is for him to believe that a white man would steal his cattle because he has come to believe the lie that white people are better than Indians and Mexicans. Tayo looks for the cattle for hours, until he sees daybreak near and begins to lose hope and to lose faith in Betonie and in the old ways. As he falls to the ground, a mountain lion approaches him. Tayo sings to the mountain lion, who the hunter's helper. The mountain lion stops and then goes on its way. Tayo pours pollen into the mountain lion's tracks, and follows the direction it came from. He stops to watch the sun rise, and when he turns to get back on his horse, he sees Josiah's cattle. He directs them easily toward the hole in the fence. Suddenly, Tayo notices two men who patrol the land riding towards him. He tries to outrun them, but his mare stumbles on the rocky terrain. Just before he hits the ground, Tayo sees the last of the cattle exiting through the hole in the fence; the patrol men have not noticed. They take Tayo and plan to bring him back to their boss, when they notice the mountain lion tracks. Preferring to bring home a mountain lion than an Indian, the patrol men leave Tayo. Badly hurt, he rests for a day, worrying about how the white men are destroying the animals and the earth. The snow begins to fall. Tayo heads back home, relieved that the snow will cover the mountain lion's tracks, as well as the cattle's, and the hole in the fence.

As he walks, Tayo meets a hunter, singing a Laguna hunting song, although he is not Laguna. They talk and walk together back to the woman's house where the hunter and the woman perform the rituals of respect for the deer he has shot. Soon, the snow stops, and Tayo finds that his horse made her way back to the house without him. The hunter also tells him that the woman has his cattle, which she caught in an old Indian corral. Tayo is uncomfortable because he thinks the hunter must be the woman's husband. He checks his cattle, which she explains have been used in Texas roping tournaments, and heads home, promising to come back for the cattle. When Tayo returns with Robert and a cattle truck to get the cattle, they find the house abandoned, but the cattle well cared for.

A few months later, Grandma comments that Tayo is cured, and he agrees. Auntie waits, mistrusting the cure. Every night, Tayo dreams of the woman. During the days, he helps Robert in the fields and on the ranch and checks on the cattle and the sheep. In the spring, he tells them he will go to the ranch to stay, so he can look after the cattle and the new calves. As Tayo leaves, Grandma tells him the old man Ku'oosh came by and told her Tayo would soon go talk to him because he would have something to say to him.

Alone at the ranch, Tayo realizes that his nightmares after his return from the war were due to his incredible sense of loss, but that in fact nothing had been lost because the mountains and the people you love can never be lost. He goes out looking for the cattle and meets the woman, who tells him she is camped by the spring. He follows her up there, and they talk about her family; she is a Monta-o and is called Ts'eh, although her real name, which she does not tell him, is much longer.

Analysis

Just as Fly and Hummingbird come to a point where they are able to shift from searching for what they need to bringing something back to its right place, Tayo recognizes that he has found the signs of which Betonie told him. He then begins the process of bringing the cattle and himself back to his people. Here, the woman is symbolically analogous () to Caterpillar. Like Caterpillar who knows how to find the tobacco Fly and Hummingbird need, the woman finds and prepares sacred herbs.

Now that he is on the path of the ceremony and is willing to accept help, people and animals show up to help him on a regular basis. After the woman has fed him, the mountain lion shows him the way to the cattle, the snow covers his tracks, and the hunter leads him back down the mountain. Like the woman who is symbolic of all women and all female power through her lack of name, the hunter is symbolic of all Native American men and Native American masculinity, as he is only referred to as "the hunter" and speaks so many languages and embodies so many physical types that Tayo cannot tell from what tribe he is. In addition, the two acquire an even more magical or symbolic quality as Tayo perceives that they are husband and wife, and yet the hunter seems to know about the night Tayo and the woman have spent together and not mind. Even when the woman tells Tayo her name, her specification that it is not her real name leaves her identity vaguely mystical.

The contrast between Tayo's reaction to the mountain lion and the patrolmen's reaction to it is striking. Tayo honors the mountain lion and takes only what it offer him, while the patrol men set out to hunt and kill it not because they desperately need it to survive, but for the approval it will gain them in the eyes of their boss and the townspeople. For the patrol men, Tayo and the mountain lion are almost the same: both are prey for them to hunt down and bring back to their boss. They only choose the mountain lion over Tayo because the mountain lion is more rare.

Finding the cattle and returning with them allows Tayo to finally completely return home. As he carries out Josiah's plans, he becomes a full member of his family for the first time in his life. With a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and an understanding of the ways in which everything in the world is interrelated and possesses both negative and positive elements, he is cured. He has also learned to trust his dreams as providing him with signs, instead of fearing them as intruding on his life. And in that way he is able to straighten out the confusion he feels between dreams and reality, not by separating them more, but by accepting their connections. The rain, however, has not yet returned to the land, and the mystery of the woman has not yet been solved, so the ceremony, and the story, must continue.

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Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko -- Summer Reading

by samjoerg, September 05, 2013

summer reading assignment

Thanks.

by itrey3, September 19, 2013

Thanks to whoever took the time to write this. Could be redone though. Seems a little sloppy.

Louise Erdrich!?

by mhillebrand, December 07, 2013

She should be included in that unfortunately short list of major Native American authors. Big oversight, in my little opinion. Apart from that, I am very grateful for these notes - helping me study for Praxis II English!

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