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San Geronimo Day-September 30-Part I

When we left the house at 6:30 am last Friday to share in the renowned San Geronimo Day (St. Jerome Day) at the Taos Pueblo, the air was chilled and the soft light of morning barely enough to guide one’s steps. But we knew that by the time the end of this long day arrived, we would be very warm indeed. We drove the half hour to the Pueblo and settled ourselves with friends at the base of the five-story pueblo near the grandstand and starting line for the race.  Well, “race” doesn’t quite describe this ancient Indian ritual for the men, ages 7-70, ran in tandem, one at a time. No competition. It is said that this essential ritual keeps the seasons, as well as the sun, rotating around the earth. The sacred earth, Mother Earth, source of all life.  “And what if you didn’t perform these rituals,” Carl Jung asked of Chief Mountain Lake in 1925.  “The earth would become dark and everyone would die,” Mountain Lake replied simply.

As we stood waiting for the ritual, the sun sprayed across the multi-layered pueblo lined with women in colorful shawls.  One of Taos’ brilliant animated paintings.  The guests, mostly Anglos, lined up on the south side of the running area.  On upright beams eight feet above ground, sat the grandstand wrapped in tree limbs with golden autumn leaves.  A golden cross towered over the enclosure. Inside sat two priests, the leader of the Penitentes, and three Indians. Statues from the nearby St. Jerome Church had been paraded out after the 6:00 am mass and planted on the platform.  The Virgin Mary–dressed in her seasonal gold colored satin– was joined by St. Jerome, the Indian saint Kateri, and Jesus.

 About 50 Runners gathered at the base of the grandstand and readied themselves to run. Their bodies were adorned with white and clay-colored paint, brightly decorated loincloths (red velvet, blue satin, decorated with flowers, design, black, purple) feathers across their chests and in their hair. As each barefooted man stepped up to run, the men standing behind them rubbed his back with feathers to help him fly. The runners whopped and yelped—women trilled. They left the starting place as another runner returned and crossed the finish line of green and gold branches.  One little boy tripped and fell as he left, but got up and continued. Runners left in a fast sprint, returning slowly, some walking. We understood the path to be about l/4 mile. Feathers lined the outer rim of the race and visitors were told not to touch them.

Relationships among the runners were helpful and caring—rubbing dust on the legs of returning runners, kissing a hand, patting a shoulder, rubbing with feathers, brushing hands with open palms. After nearly an hour and a half, everyone ran as a group toward the east, then back again, standing for prayer.  As they paraded out, small candies were showered on them by the crowd. Those in the grandstand scrambled down the ladder and paraded the statues back to the church.

 Next: Lunch with Indian friends on the Pueblo




This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 12:00 pm and is filed under Fiction, Leadership, Travel, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “San Geronimo Day-September 30-Part I”

  1. Mary E Gardner says:

    I feel like I have taken the trip with you. Your descriptions are so vivid and lively. Your thoughts and questions engaging. Thank you for bringing me with you. Mary

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