The importance of re-inventing ceremony, ritual and stories, from a work of great fiction.
Ceremony, originally published in 1977, still holds truth within its words, and I strongly urge everyone to read it.
From the text:
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.
Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.
p12 [Tayo on the Bataan Death march]
He made a story for all of them, a story to give them strength. The words of the story peered oout of his mouth as if they had substance, pebbles and stone extending to hold the corporal up, to keep his knees from buckling, to keep his hands from letting go of the blanket.
“But you know, grandson, this world is fragile.”
The word he used to express “fragile” was filled with the intracacies of a continuing process, and with a strength inherent in spider webs woven across paths through sand hills where early in the morning the sun becomes entangled in each filiment of web. It took a long time to explain the fragility and intricacy because no word exists alone, adn the reason for choosing each word had to be explained with a stroy about why it must be said this certain way. That was the responsibility that went with being human, old Ku’oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so there could be no mistake in the meaning o fwhat had been said; and this demanded great patience and love.
p89 [Grandma outgossips the gossips]
The story was all that coutned. If she had a better one about them, then it didn’t matter what they said.
[Tayo] knew what white people thought about the stories. In school the science teacher had explained what superstition was, and then held the science textbook up for the class to see the true source of explanations. He had studied those books, and he had no reasons to believe the stories anymore. The science books explained the causes and effects.
p126 [Betonie the medicine man]
At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then. But after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies. I have made changes in the rituals. The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps ceremonies strong.
She taught me this above all else: things which don’t shift and grow are dead things. They are things the witchery people want. Withcery works to scare people, to make them fear growth. But it has always been necessary, adn more than ever now, it is. otherwise we won’t make it. We won’t survive. That’s what the witchery is counting on: that we will cling to the ceremonies the way they were, and then their power will triumph, and the people will be no more.