light gazing, ışığa bakmak

Monday, April 14, 2014

apontamentos (sempre fui fascinada pelo tempo circular, mas não estive só)

Sobre os Conceitos de Tempo Circular e de Tempo Mítico dos Índios Norte-Americanos
Apontamentos de Ana Paula Machado

Na mundivisão dos povos ditos primitivos – nomeadamente dos Índios norte-americanos – não existe grande diferença entre o acontecimento e a história (story) desse acontecimento, uma vez que o tempo é circular e que o acto de contar a história é um reviver e um renascer do acontecimento em si. (1)

Como afirma a antropóloga Claire Farrer, referindo-se aos Mescalero Apache, os mitos são constantemente referidos ou narrados para ligar e explicar o presente em função deles, constituindo aquilo que designa por ‘mythic present’, que descreve da seguinte maneira: Time was collapsed into the present from long ago and, simultaneously, the present was inexorably linked with the long ago: what was meaningful long ago is still meaningful now. [...] The mythic present joins narratives from long ago with situations from the contemporary world. (2)  (ênfase nossa)

As regards American Indian cultures, the very concept of time, being circular, allows for the constant crossing and merging of past, present, and future; chronos thus being overcome, becoming one eternal moment, constantly being created and recreated, through the experience of successive generations, simultaneously in time and out of time, that is, the duality of past and future merging in the present (as the present is the past’s future…), in an alchemical act of transmutation, making the “dead” past come alive again in the “flesh” of the listeners and the narrator of a story. A poem by Navajo author Lucy Tapahonso on the 1864 Trail of Tears  comes to my mind - storyteller and listeners lived through the ordeal again, crying over the suffering and the pain of their ancestors, as if they, themselves, had lived through it in their own lifetimes. (3)

Myths also belong to that twilight area where time boundaries merge, and acts of creation and recreation take place. Eliade referred to this mythic time as in illo tempore , a primordial time (4). Yet, it is not a time past and gone, but one that can be lived again and again, a time out of time, not necessarily in the past, in the long-ago, but a dimension parallel to chronos, and accessible any moment, through the ritual telling of myth.

But not only time, as we know it, seems to cease in myth, but also space becomes suffused in “otherworldliness”, becomes imbued with special (supernatural) power, like the alchemist’s base lead turned into gold.

Like the sacred space of Navajo sand paintings, when told in ritual situations, myths, especially cosmogonic ones, have the power to create again, or recreate reality, in order to heal, to make new – a new wholesome human being, like the Rebis, the old becomes new.

As Sean Kane, in his book Wisdom of the Mythtellers affirms: This verbal power makes mythtelling a sacred art, in which the listener is virtually transported by language into the invisible world. Exchange across a boundary is effected in myth because words can convey the thoughts of the spirits. (5)  (our emphasis) He defends that this journey into the realm of mystery is in every way similar to the journey of the shaman, therefore he calls it a ‘shamanic journey’. Kane also stresses that: Boundaries are the magic points where worlds impinge. […] Life is bounded; life is in continuous exchange with other life. (6) (our emphasis) And it is from this exchange, this crossing of boundaries, and this merging of different and separate elements that new creation takes place. (7)

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(1) Ana Paula Machado, Tese de Doutoramento “Espiritualidade e Androginia: Um Estudo da Figura do Berdache nas Culturas índias Norte-Americanas”, Lisboa, Universidade Aberta, 2006, p.196.
(2) Claire Farrer, Thunder Rides a Black Horse: Mescalero Apaches and the Mythic Present, 25, 82 in Ana Paula Machado, Tese de Doutoramento, p.396.
(3) Lucy Tapahonso, “In 1864”, Sáanii Dahataal- The Women Are Singing, (Tucson, University of Arizona Press, 1998).
(4) Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality, trans. Willard R. Trask, (Illinois, Waveland Press Inc., 1998, 11963).
(5) e (6) Sean Kane, Wisdom of the Mythtellers, (Peterborough, Broadview Press, 1998), 104.

(7) Ana Paula Machado, “Overcoming Duality- The Alchemy of Border-Crossing”, comunicação apresentada no 30th American Indian Workshop, na Universidade de Bremen, Alemanha em Março de 2009.

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In 1864

Luci Tapahonso

In 1864, 8,354 Navajos were forced to walk from Dinetah to
Bosque Redondo in southern New Mexico, a distance of three
hundred miles. They were held for four years until the U.S.
government declared the assimilation attempt a failure. More
than 2,500 died of smallpox and other illnesses, depression,
severe weather conditions, and starvation. The survivors
returned to Dinetah in June of 1868.
While the younger daughter slept, she dreamt of mountains,
the wide blue sky above, and friends laughing.

We talked as the day wore on. The stories and highway beneath
became a steady hum. The center lines were a blurred guide.
As we neared the turn to Fort Sumner, I remembered this story:

A few winters ago, he worked as an electrician on a crew
installing power lines on the western plains of New Mexico.
He stayed in his pickup camper, which was connected to a generator.
The crew parked their trucks together and built a fire in the center.
The nights were cold and there weren't any trees to break the wind.
It snowed off and on, a quiet, still blanket. The land was like
he had imagined it from the old stories - flat and dotted with shrubs.
The arroyos and washes cut through the soft dirt.
They were unsuspectingly deep.
During the day, the work was hard and the men were exhausted.
In the evenings, some went into the nearby town to eat and drink
a few beers. He fixed a small meal for himself and tried to relax.
Then at night, he heard cries and moans carried by the wind
and blowing snow. He heard the voices wavering and rising
in the darkness. He would turn over and pray, humming songs
he remembered from his childhood. The songs returned to him
as easily as if he had heard them that very afternoon.
He sang for himself, his family, and the people whose spirits
lingered on the plains, in the arroyos, and in the old windswept plants.
No one else heard the thin wailing.
After the third night, he unhooked his camper, signed his time card,
and started the drive north to home. He told the guys,
"Sure, the money's good. But I miss my kids and it sure gets lonely
out here for a family man." He couldn't stay there any longer.
The place contained the pain and cries of his relatives,
the confused and battered spirits of his own existence.

After we stopped for a Coke and chips, the storytelling resumed:

My aunt always started the story saying, "You are here
because of what happened to your great-grandmother long ago."

They began rounding up the people in the fall.
Some were lured into surrendering by offers of food, clothes,
and livestock. So many of us were starving and suffering
that year because the bilagaana kept attacking us.
Kit Carson and his army had burned all the fields,
and they killed our sheep right in front of us.
We couldn't believe it. I covered my face and cried.
All my life, we had sheep. They were like our family.
It was then I knew our lives were in great danger.
We were all so afraid of that man, Redshirt, and his army.
Some people hid in the foothills of the Chuska Mountains
and in Canyon de Chelly. Our family talked it over,
and we decided to go to this place. What would our lives
be like without sheep, crops, and land? At least, we thought
we would be safe from gunfire and our family would not starve.

The journey began, and the soldiers were all around us.
All of us walked, some carried babies. Little children and the elderly
stayed in the middle of the group. We walked steadily each day,
stopping only when the soldiers wanted to eat or rest.
We talked among ourselves and cried quietly.
We didn't know how far it was or even where we were going.
All that was certain was that we were leaving Dinetah, our home.
As the days went by, we grew more tired, and soon,
the journey was difficult for all of us, even the military.
And it was they who thought all of this up.

We had such a long distance to cover.
Some old people fell behind, and they wouldn't let us go back to help them.
It was the saddest thing to see - my heart hurts so to remember that.
Two women were near the time of the births of their babies,
and they had a hard time keeping up with the rest.
Some army men pulled them behind a huge rock, and we screamed out loud
when we heard the gunshots. The women didn't make a sound.
but we cried out loud for them and their babies.
I felt then that I would not live through everything.

When we crossed the Rio Grande, many people drowned.
We didn't know how to swin - there was hardly any water deep enough
to swim in at home. Some babies, children, and some of the older men
and women were swept away by the river current.
We must not ever forget their screams and the last we saw of them -
hands, a leg, or strands of hair floating.

There were many who died on the way to Hwééldi. All the way
we told each other, "We will be strong, as long as we are together."
I think that was what kept us alive. We believed in ourselves
and the old stories that the holy people had given us.
"This is why," she would say to us. "This is why we are here.
Because our grandparents prayed and grieved for us."

The car hums steadily, and my daughter is crying softly.
Tears stream down her face. She cannot speak. Then I tell her that
it was at Bosque Redondo the people learned to use flour and now
fry bread is considered to be the "traditional" Navajo bread.
It was there that we acquired a deep appreciation for strong coffee.
The women began to make long, tiered calico skirts
and fine velvet shirts for the men. They decorated their dark velvet
blouses with silver dimes, nickels, and quarters.
They had no use for money then.
It is always something to see - silver flashing in the sun
against dark velvet and black, black hair.

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From Sáanii Dahataal The Women Are Singing by Luci Tapahonso, University of Arizona Press.

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