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once a year to be fed to ch'-ah-rah-ráh-deh; but this is, of course, a foolish fable. There are no traces that the Pueblos ever practiced human sacrifice in any shape, even in prehistoric times, and the very grandfather of all the rattlesnakes could no more swallow the smallest baby than he could fly.
“For sixteen days beforehand the professional 'snake men' have been in solemn preparation for the great event, sitting in their sacred rooms (estufas), which are carved in the solid rock. For many days before the dance (as before nearly all such ceremonies with the Pueblos) no food must pass their lips, and they can drink only a bitter tea, called màh-que-be, made from a secret herb, which gives them security against snake poison. They also rub their bodies with prepared herbs. Six days before the date of the dance the snake men go down the mesa into the plain and hunt eastward for rattlesnakes. Upon finding one the hunter tickles the angry reptile with the 'snake whip’ (bahoo), a sacred bunch of eagle feathers, until it tries to run. Then he snatches it up and puts it into a bag. On the next day the hunt is to the north; the third day to the west; the fourth day to the south, which is, you must know, the only possible order in which a Pueblo dares to box the compass. To start first south or north would be a dreadful impiety in his eyes. The captured snakes are then kept in the kibva (sacred room called estufa in the other pueblos), where they crawl about in dangerous freedom among the solemn deliberators. The night before the dance the snakes are all cleansed with
great solemnity at an altar which the snake captain has made of colored sands drawn in a strange design.
“The place where the dance is held is a small open court, with the three story houses crowding it on the west and the brink of the cliff bounding it on the east. Several sacred rooms hollowed from the rock, with tall ladders leading into them, are along this court. At the south end of the court stands the sacred dance rock, a natural pillar about fourteen feet high, left by water wearing upon the rock floor of the mesa's top. Midway from this to the north end of the court has been constructed the keé-si, or sacred booth of cottonwood branches, its opening closed by a curtain. Just in front of this a shallow cavity has been dug and then covered with a strong and ancient plank, with a hole in one side. This covered cavity represents Shipa-pú, the great Black Lake of Tears, a name so sacred that few Indians will speak it aloud, whence, according to the common belief of all southwestern Indians, the human race first
“On the day of the dance the captain of the snake men places all the snakes in a large buckskin bag and deposits this in the booth (snake kibya). All the other active participants are still in their room, going through their mysterious preparations. Just before sunset is the invariable time for the dance.
“Long before the hour the housetops and the edges of the court are lined with an expectant throng of spectators: the earnest Moquis, a goodly representation of the Navajos, whose
reservation lies just east, and a few white men. At about 5:30 in the afternoon the twenty men of the antelope order emerge from their own special room in single file, march thrice around the court, and go through certain sacred ceremonies in front of the booth. Here their captain sprinkles them with a consecrated fluid from the tip of an eagle feather. For a few moments they dance and shake their guajes (ceremonial rattles made of gourds) in front of the booth, and then they are ranged beside it, with their backs against the walls of the houses; among them are the youngsters that day admitted to the order, in which they will thenceforward receive life-long training, dimpled tots of from 4 to 7 years old, who look extremely cunning in their strange regimentals.
“Now all is ready, and in a moment a buzz in the crowd announces the coming of the seventeen priests of the snake order through the roofed alley just south of the dance rock. These seventeen enter the court in single file at a rapid gait, and make the circuit of the court four times, stamping hard with right foot upon the sacred plank that covers Shi-pa-pú as they pass in front of the booth. This is to let the Cachina (spirits or divinities) know that the dancers are now presenting their prayers.
“When the captain of the snake order reaches the booth on the fourth circuit the procession halts. The captain kneels in front of the booth, thrusts his right arm behind the curtain, unties the sack, and in a moment draws out a big, squirming rattlesnake. This he holds in his mouth with his teeth about six inches back of
the ugly triangular head, and then he rises erect. The captain of the antelope order steps forward and puts his left arm around the snake captain's neck, while with the snake whip in his right hand he 'smooths' the writhing reptile. The two start forward in the peculiar hippety-hop, hop, hippety-hop of all the Pueblo dances; the next snake priest draws forth a snake from the booth, and is joined by the next antelope man as partner, and so on, until each of the snake men is dancing with a deadly snake in his mouth and an antelope man accompanying him.
“The dancers hop in pairs thus from the booth to the dance rock, thence north, and circle toward the booth again. When they reach a certain point, which completes about threequarters of the circle, each snake man gives his head a sharp snap to the left and thereby throws his snake to the rock floor of the court, inside the ring of dancers, and dances on to the booth again to extract a fresh snake and make another round.
“There are three more antelope men than snake men, and these three have no partners in the dance, but are intrusted with the duty of gathering up the snakes thus set free and putting them back into the booth. The snakes sometimes run to the crowd, a ticklish affair for those jammed upon the very brink of the precipice. In case they run, the three official gatherers snatch them up without ado; but if they coil and show fight these antelope men tickle them with the snake whips until they uncoil and try to glide away, and then seize them with the rapidity of lightning. Frequently these gath
erers have five or six snakes in their hands at once. The reptiles are as deadly as ever; not one has had its fangs extracted.
“At last all rush together at the foot of the dance rock and throw all their snakes into a horrid heap of threatening heads and buzzing tails. I have seen that hillock of rattlesnakes a foot high and four feet across. For a moment the dancers leap about the writhing pile, while the sacred corn meal is sprinkled. Then they thrust each an arm into that squirming mass, grasp a number of snakes, and go running at top speed to the four points of the compass. Reaching the bottom of the great mesa, (Hualpi, where the chief snake dance is held, is 660 feet above the plain), they release the unharmed serpents.
“These astounding rites last from half an hour to an hour, and end only when the hot sun has fallen behind the bald western desert. Then the dancers go to their sacred purification with the secret herb, and the awed on-lookers scatter to their quaint homes, rejoicing at the successful conclusion of the most important of all the public ceremonials of Moqui. It is believed by the Húpi (Moquis) that the rattlesnake was one of their first ancestors, the son of the Moqui Adam and Eve, and they have a very long and complicated folk story about it. The snake dance is, therefore, among other superstitious aims, designed to please their divinities."
Special Agent Scott's report on the snake dance of August 21st, 1891, which is also con