December 27th, 2008
The Shock Painting, plate XXI. Click for larger version.
“Occassionally when a very complete [Fire Dance] ceremony has been agreed upon, the rite of the Shock-caused-by-bear is given. Since Holy Man [who represents man’s contacts between the earth and sky powers] was learning everything, it was performed for him on the fifth day [of a nine-day ceremony]. The painting was made in sand and the patient sat on it. Then one person dressed as a bear and one impersonating Holy Man rushed in [to the hogan] and frightened the patient into a fainting fit. The chanter and all concerned then proceeded to restore the afflicted, after which he would no longer fear anything natural or supernatural.
“The four white tracks leading to the painting signify the tracks of white cornmeal made by Changing Woman [god-mother of man] when Holy Man returned from the Sun’s House [god-father of man]. The base of the painting is a rainbow [a protective measure of Water Sprinkler]. The tracks on the black background are bear tracks. The Big Black Snake… has the markings described for Big Snakes: rectangular figure for snake’s house, chevron for deerhoof or game, curved lines for moon phases… The blue on the neck of the snake represents earthy things and people; the red bands, the breath or life. The spruce twigs around the snake stand for the Dark-circle-of-branches of the Fire Dance” (p66).