Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/767

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747
THE EVOLUTION OF DANCING.

the department of agriculture. As a rule, dances appropriate to seedtime and harvest are partly secret, partly public. At one time or another the whole people participate in the festivities. Among the Seminole Indians, the Rev. Clay MacCauley informs us, as the season for holding the "green-corn dance" approaches, the medicine-men assemble and, through their ceremonies, decide when it shall take place.[1] The Iroquois have also a green-corn dance—a September festival lasting three days. The "Great Feather-Dance" is performed at this time by a band of costumed dancers. It is one of the most imposing dances of the Iroquois. "The Great Feather-Dance," says Mrs. Converse, who witnessed the ceremonies in the fall of 1891, "is quite unlike the war-dance. In its performance the dancer remains erect, not assuming those warlike attitudes of rage and vengeance which plainly distinguish the two dances."[2]

The most elaborate dances in vogue among the Zũni Indians are those performed to obtain rain for the growing crops. The course of the sun at the summer solstice is watched by the priest, who counts the days for the dances. Then the herald announces from the house-tops that the time for the rain-dances has arrived, and all are summoned.[3] During the summer there are eight korkōk-shi, or "good dances" for rain." A strange feature of one or two of these rain-dances is the appearance of clowns, who introduce a comic element into the sacred ceremonials.

But stranger still is the use of serpents in the medicine-dances around seed time. The striking example is that of the Moqui "Snake-Dance," an account of which fills a book.[4] As to the origin and significance of this wonderful dance, in which venomous snakes are carried in the hands and mouths of the performers, we do not undertake to decide. Captain Bourke says that "one of the minor objects of the snake-dance has been the perpetuation, in dramatic form, of the legend of the Moqui family." He inclines to the belief that the dance is a form of serpent-worship. On the other hand, Mr. Walter Fewkes has recently put forth the suggestion that the Moqui snake-dance "is a simple form of water ceremonial."[5] According to his view, the snake was first introduced into the dance as a symbol of water, and the predominance given to the snake in the ceremonials is the result of later additions to the primitive ceremonial.[6]


  1. Fifth Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, p. 522.
  2. Journal of American Folk Lore, vol. iv, p. 75.
  3. This summons or invitation to the harvest or agricultural dances is a common practice.
  4. The Snake-dance of the Moquis. By Captain John G. Bourke.
  5. The Meaning of the Snake-dance, in Journal of American Folk Lore, vol. iv, p. 137.
  6. A See also Mr. Fewkes's paper, A Few Summer Ceremonials at Zuñi Pueblo. The curi-