Rituals are represented in our lives through weddings, funerals, ceremonies and repetitive actions that we use on a daily basis. The Apache Indians of North America have had many traditions and rituals that were practiced religiously. Amongst them is the Initiation service or commonly identified as the Sunrise Ceremony for women. The ceremony originates from the White Painted Woman who was the ‘Changing Woman’ and is held a season after a girl’s first menstrual cycle. Due to the oppression of their culture from early settling Americans following the discovery of the New World, this ritual is barely practiced today among Indian cultures and families. However, memory survives repression, and this generation is privileged to still have records and instructions to the ritual. This essay will analyse the elements of drama, movement, symbol and mood represented within this exceptional ritual. We will prove that the ritual performed by the Apache Indians was and still is a significant event which uses numerous symbols and recognised dramatic elements.
The Sunrise Ceremony utilises the element of movement in many forms, participants and the order of the ritual. One of the most effective elements, movement, incorporates the body’s physical demeanour to express emotion travelling through space. Movement found in the ritual, involves dances of different types and running – so much so that physical training is required by the participant before the ceremony. The protagonist is not the only one involved in the physical aspect of the ceremony but the ‘sponsor’ also. Once the girl has accepted the role of becoming one with the White Painted Woman, whom is known to reunite with her younger self every year ...
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... this ritual has effectively used numerous symbols and recognized dramatic elements to transform the child and celebrate the start of a new developed life.
Darcproduction, 2008 : Apache Womanhood, video accessed 5th August 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mtKnaK9PA8&feature=related
Harvard College, (1998). ‘The Apache Woman’s Puberty Ceremony’, Sunrise Dance, Retrieved 4th August 2011, http://22.214.171.124/maria/Sunrisedance.html
Ingpen, Robert, 1995, Peoples and Customs – Rites of passage, Dragons World – Children Books, UK.
National Geographic, 2007: Girls Rite of Passage, video accessed 5th August 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B3Abpv0ysM&NR=1&feature=fvwp
Tika Yupanqui, ( 1999). ‘Apache Female Puberty Quotes The Sunrise Ceremony’, Becoming Woman,
Retrieved 6th August 2011, http://www.webwinds.com/yupanqui/apachequotes.htm
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