Reservation of Religious Beliefs

In most cultures, the distinction between traditional and religious values is still blurry.

In both culture and faith, death is a popular theme. However, when it comes to death, both religious and traditional views take different approaches. At any given time, balancing competing religious and cultural values becomes difficult. In The Man to Send Rain Clouds, Leslie Marmon Silko changes several convections to include the adaptation and assertion of cultural processes.

Silko's unique storytelling style

Silko's writing style is characterized by simplicity in the most unique way of telling a story. The Man to Send Rain Clouds is part of an actual event in a New Mexico Indian reservation (Silko). This paper will examine story by Silko to gain a deeper understanding of the reservation of religious beliefs. The story brings to limelight some of the rituals of the Laguna Pueblo Native Americans.

Individual versus General Conflict of Beliefs

The mourning period plus the ceremony have been conducted contrary to the religious views of the Indians. At first, the burial ceremony is conducted in accordance with the traditional Native American way. Later on, the wife of Leon suggests the involvement of the priest in the ceremony, where he is supposed to sprinkle holy water on the grave. The priest refuses to take part in the burial ceremony since there were neither last rites nor a funeral mass. However, he defies the odds and decides to be a part of the ceremony. It becomes difficult to ascertain the role of the priest in the ceremony. The priest was a bit cautious about the role of the red blanket. He saw this as a perverse Indian trick since he associated the ritual with some traditions relating to a good harvest (Silko).

Strengths and Weaknesses

The story brings about the rich customs and traditions associated with the Native Americans. Death is an outstanding factor among the Native Americans. Death is not considered as an end of a life cycle or the end of existence. The Native Americans believe that a departed spirit returns in time with the rainstorms. Leon and Ken ritually paint the face of their grandfather. Dead faces are painted to be recognized in the next world. Nevertheless, water and corn are sprinkled to provide food and water for the spirit on its journey to the other world. Native Americans have a strong belief in the dead persons in regards to them bringing rains which are often associated with good harvest. This is evidenced by Pueblo prayer requesting the dead man for rains (Levy and Razin).

The story lacks a clear description of the characters either physically or psychologically. The characters in the story have not developed much sense of their individual personality. Little is said of the characters or other persons in the scene. Despite the fact that there is a momentousness of the event concerning the death of their grandfather, Ken and Leon say little to each other. It appears that Ken and Leon are not saddened by the death of their grandfather (Levy and Razin).

Cultural Composition and Religious Conflict

The Pueblo people prefer a traditional Pueblo religion burial ceremony, hence the old man face is painted and his body wrapped in a red blanket. The community attends the burial preparation and the ceremony in a secretive manner to avoid awakening the suspicion of the Catholic priest who would prefer giving the old man a Catholic burial that would exclude the red blankets and the face paint. It is evident that the people want to avoid a religious conflict by arranging the burial ceremony without the interference from the Catholic world (Karem).

Initially, the priest did not want to be part of what he viewed as a pagan ceremony associated with false gods. He reconsiders being part of the ceremony although he is still confused and suspicious of a prank. The priest leaves the burial deep in thought and muddled, but the villagers rejoice on having a pragmatic use of the priest's blessings. In one sense one may argue that that the old man will bring thunderclouds. On the other hand, the priest may be the one who will bring rainclouds since it is his holy water that appears to add value to the old man future success as a bringer of rainclouds (Karem).

In addition, there is a clash of cultures between the priest culture and Leon's culture. There is a moment of confrontation when the priests ask Leon why he was not informed about the death of the old man since he would have offered the last rites where Leon responds it was not necessary. The cultural conflict is only resolved when the priest takes part in the ceremonial rituals. The old man receives blessings both from the Christian and traditional view cultures (Karem).

Consequences of Disobedience to Rituals

The neglect of the rituals in the Pueblo community is believed to result in either sickness or death. The spirits return in the form of ghosts with no blessings as a result of not being able to enter the other world. This situation can only be avoided by attaching a feather to the hair of a dead person. The deceased face must be painted to serve as recognition in the next world. Lastly, the offering of corn to the wind and the sprinkling of water must be done to serves as nourishment to the journey of the spirit (Silko).

Time and Death

In the Pueblo culture, time is often associated with death. In this culture, time is an endlessly repeating cycle. The man appears as a minute part of the cycle. The acceptance of death by Teafilo's grandchildren can be associated with the notion of time. In death, one meets with the supernatural being. The holy water is a symbol of the blessings when the departed soul meets with the creator (Silko).

The Exchange of Gifts

From the story, it is evident that there are instances of offering gifts to various individuals. Both the priest and the community exchange gifts. The holy water serves as a gift to the deceased following induction from Leon. The Pueblo people offer a gift of acceptance to the pries (Silko)t.

Reality versus Perception

The issue of reality versus perception is evident in the story. Ken and Leon perceive the priest as not important in the death of their grandfather. This argument is the reason behind them not informing the priest about the death of their grandfather. However, in reality, they knew that they were going to need the priests to sprinkle holy water on the grave since it was the role of religious leaders to sprinkle holy water on graveyards in the society (Levy and Razin).

The priest perceives the traditional beliefs in the Pueblo community as absurd. First, he had pretended not to listen to the story of Leon by reading a magazine while in fact he appeared hurt for failing to be included in the ceremonies for the old man. The priest had insisted that he would not sprinkle the holy water as he failed to accord the old man last rites but he lastly agreed (Levy and Razin).

The priest seems to have abandoned the traditional beliefs, but in reality, he had not. When he was sprinkling the grave and the water disappearing in the sand it reminded him of something to do with the traditional rituals. Leon perceived the holy water as a way for his grandfather to send lots of rainclouds while in reality, the priest was blessing the dead body in accordance with the doctrines of the church (Karem).

Unification of Cultural Beliefs and Religion

The unification of the cultural beliefs and the religion is evident when the priest enters the community. This creates an encounter with the indigenous community (Pueblo) with Christianity. There is retention of the pagan rituals and various customs despite the priest being a Catholic. There is shared responsibility between the church and the community. Death appears as a common factor that unifies the cultural and religious beliefs (Levy and Razin).

Works Cited

Karem, Jeff. "Keeping the native on the reservation: The struggle for Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony." American Indian culture and research journal (2001): 21-34.

Levy, Gilat and Ronny Razin. "Religious beliefs, religious participation, and cooperation." American economic journal: microeconomics (2012): 121-151.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. "The Man to Send Rain Clouds." An Anthology of Native American Literature (2001).

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