Thursday, December 23, 2010
Hopi Baby Naming Ceremony
The Hopi baby naming ceremony like many other ceremonies practiced by the Hopi seems to date back to The Old Testament time period/Law of Moses. Although there are many ceremonial practices that are part of the birthing process I will just briefly focus on the end portion of that ceremony and in particular the actual naming of the baby.
On the twentieth day after the birth of the baby the mothers hair is washed with yucca suds by her Godmother (her husband's mother's sister) and the baby's aunts, who also take turns washing the baby's hair. This shows that the newborn is accepted into the family. Up to this point the baby has been kept indoors and has not seen the light of the sun. The mother's sister holds the baby in her left arm, waves two corn ears over the baby's chest and says, "May you live always without sickness, travel along theSun Trail to old age, and pass away in sleep without pain," and then, by "strick custom," pronounces the baby's name. By this time the other aunts have already given the baby a name as well but the name pronounced by the mothers sister is the one that sticks or that the child will be know by until receiving another new name during the Wuwuchim ceremony. The name pronounced relates to her and to the baby's father. The baby belongs to its mother's clan but it is named for its father's clan.
The naming of babies is an Israelite custom as can be seen all thoughout the book of Genesis. Similarities can be seen between this Hopi tradition of family and friends involvement in the ceremony and with Ruth bearing her child and the involvment of Naomi and their neighbors in Ruth 4:16-17 in the Old Testament,
And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it.
And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, there is a son born to Naomi;(Ruth's Mother in Law) and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Thus we see that the name of Obed was actually given by her neighbors (probably including Naomi) not by Ruth directly. Once again this being an Israelite tradition.
After the naming ceremony, the baby is taken to the edge of the mesa and is presented to the sun. The baby is held in the right arm of the Godmother. As the sun rises, the Godmother uncovers the baby's face with her left hand. With the other hand she takes a pinch of cornmeal and breathes a silent prayer onto it. Then she rubs some between the baby's lips and throws the rest to the rising sun. She sucks the meal from the baby's mouth and blows it towards the east four times. She then takes the two special corn ears and describes a counter clockwise circle facing east and brings them to the baby's chest four times. Then she calls out the baby's name so that God may hear and recognize the baby. For a more detailed account read Helen Sekaquaptewa's book "Me and Mine" or the autobiography of Don C Talayesva entitled "Sun Chief". Here is a link to a more recent version of a Hopi Naming Ceremony with some great pictures.