ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Stompdance

Updated on January 18, 2011

While doing some linguistic research among the Cherokee people I was privileged to attend several cultural events. One of these events was a traditional stompdance. (Another event was the Church in the Woods)  I regret that I do not have pictures to share but the event takes place after dark, and while pictures aren't strictly forbidden, they would prefer there be no pictures.

The stompdance to those who participate is more than just a tip of the hat to the old ways. Those who participate truly believe in its spiritual significance and cosmic powers. It's more than an event, its a way of life

Purpose

I was not among the Cherokee for very long, so any conclusions I have on the purpose of the stompdance would have to be seen as preliminary. While talking to people who participated some themes began emerging: healing, unity, and harmony. It seemed that performing this ritual somehow was restoring balance not only to an individual's soul, but also to the community and ultimately restoring harmony between man and nature.

This issue of harmony is a very common theme with folk religions around the world. Paul Hiebert brakes rituals down into three different categories: Rites of Transformation (ex. when a boy becomes a man), Rites of Re-Creation (ex. ritual after a natural disaster) and Rites of Renewal. About rites of renewal Hiebert says "they publicly affirm the existing social and cultural order, which becomes blurred and forgotten in ordinary life. In a sense, they are like housecleaning. As people live in their homes, the homes become dirty. Dust settles on the shelves, food is spilled on the floor, clothes are left lying on the chairs, and rugs are soiled. Periodically, the family stops and cleans things up. Rites of restoration act as SOCIAL and RELIGIOUS housecleaning rituals, restoring meaning and order to a world that is falling into chaos and meaninglessness." -Transforming Worldviews pg 98 (emphasis mine)

Basically by performing the stompdance they are remembering what things are important to them socially and religious things to keep things in the world from disintegrating.

The Ritual

The ritual begins with the fire being built in the center of the community.  This is for more reason than just so everyone can see.  The idea of centrality and harmony is more than just a symbol.  By symbolically placing the fire in the center they are making harmony be.  Approximately 15 from the fire the male leaders are seated under an arbor.  Different men lead different chants, but whoever is leading this chant will stand before the other men.  He then begins to chant something, which the other men reply by saying "whoa".  From what I was told the song leader is basically saying the song will start and is calling them to action, and the other men are agreeing.  They then get up and walk towards the fire.

They are met at the fire by the young ladies.  They are all standing in a straight lines with the men facing the women.  The song leader has a type of rattle in his hand.  Traditionally this rattle is made with a stick, rocks, and a turtle shell...but they have modernized this some.  The ladies all have rattles tied around their feet.  Again these are traditionally made with turtle shells, but most of the girls have abandoned turtle shells for soup cans since they are louder and easier to come by.  When it is time to start the song, the song leader lets out a cry and starts shaking his rattle.  Everyone begins stomping at the beat of the rattle.  They then proceed to march around the fire counterclockwise single file continuing to rattle and stomp in unison.  This creates a very synchronized beat.  The song leader will then yell out a chant which is repeated by all.  The continue to go around and around the fire until the song is over, about 5-7 minutes.  They then all go back to their seats.

After a break of about 2 minutes the whole process is repeated with a different song leader typically.  They will continue to sing songs until sunrise.  Yes, sunrise.

What Are They Talking About?

I was very curious to get my hands on the meaning of the songs. I sat and strained to hear what they were saying. After all, I was collecting language data. The problem I encountered while listening was that I couldn't pick out a single Cherokee word. No problem I thought, I'll just ask tomorrow what was being said.

When I asked later what the songs were about I was told that they didn't know. I found this fascinating. I asked again. They explained that the form of the language the song was in was too old for anyone to make heads or tails of it. When I asked why they didn't just write some new songs that went off like a turd in a punchbowl. "You don't do that" they said.

This is another typical thing in societies that have a strong emphasis on orality. It's hard for us to grasp sometimes, but in many societies around the world words are believed to have innate powers. To change the words is to render the ritual powerless. They will never change their songs, for to do so would make the ritual of no use or purpose.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)