As we continued to hike, I thought of the part of the Oneness exhibit proposal which lays out plans for a ‘Sanskrit Fire Temple and Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Space.’
I asked Lorenzo if they used fire in any of their rituals. He explained that after the passing of a beloved member of the tribe, they light a fire– not to burn the body, but to gather together as a group. The tribe would recall memories and celebrate the life that person. They also place items of gold with the body into the grave. To the tribe, gold was valuable– but not in a money sense, but in a holy sense. The precious metal gold was referred to as ‘the son of the sun’ and is powerful symbolically, like the sun.
He continued on about Wiwa Indian grief rituals: they bring the body to the ocean to wash and purify it from any past misgivings/sins before before the burial. At that point, I remembered the Hebrew word– Tashlich, (Hebrew: “you will cast”)– for the tradition of visiting an ocean, sea or lake full of water–on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and throwing pieces of bread in the water as a symbolic way of ridding ourselves from sin.
I had the interpreter’s help telling Lorenzo about this tradition. Lorenzo pronounced ‘Tashlich’ and then remarked that he thought it was an interesting and important tradition. I asked him if any of these ritual practices that he was teaching me about were influenced by the Spanish Invasion. He said that many Indians had been forced to adopt Catholicism as their own, but the concepts we were talking about were purely of the Indian tradition. I explained that it is believed that some of my own ancestors fled Spain in order to maintain our religion. He nodded– he understood.
We continued to hike– sometimes taking breaks, sometimes catching up with the guys, I had time to hike and think. A short time later, I shared with him about the teaching of the mezuzah. I explained that we place a small scroll with ancient text on our doorposts as a reminder to uphold the teaching inside– to love kindness, care for the earth, teach future generations these values etc…. He was really curious about the mezuzah– saying the word out loud, and asking to see pictures. I have lots of pictures of ‘mezuzahs in action’ from a past blog entry where people who have mezuzot I made sent me pictures of them on their doorposts. We stopped hiking so I could use my phone to bring up the pictures. I told Lorenzo that I made these objects by hand. I showed him some of the metalwork I was wearing that David and I had created in our studio in the United States. We were making eye contact, and smiling.
I asked him if the Wiwa Indians had any ritual objects near the entrances to their dwellings. He said they did– and he would point it out to me when we got closer to the Pueblito. More on this in the next BLOG post….