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Chumash Autumn Equinox

[ A Book by Dr. John Anderson ]
Chapter 1

The Sun Ceremony

The well-known Chumash historian F.L. Kitsepawit described his people's traditional gatherings for the fall equinox ceremony in some detail. He explained that the equinox observance takes place in the Month of Hutash, which is September. Like the Harvest Festival, an event that occurs later in this month, the Sun Ceremony does not take place until after the harvest is picked, processed, and stored. A characteristic of equinox oratory was the repeated expression of cautionary language. And many of these foreboding speeches were presented by the Paha, or master of ceremony, who took on the role of the Sun Priest.

Twelve Antap officials served under the Sun Priest at the equinox gathering. Each represented a month of the solar year. Presumedly, the beginning of this Sun Ceremony ended the official work of six of the attending Antap officials and ushered in the period in which the remaining six Antap officials became more active. The ritual obligations of the spring and summer Antap officials had focused on secular issues. But the newly active fall and winter Antap would focus the people's attention on spiritual issues concerning communal unity in the face of winter confinement, death, and rebirth.


The Role of the Sun in Chumash Theology

To this date, no consensus has emerged among American academics writing about Chumash theology. In the early part of the twentieth century Christian bias, and a heavy reliance on Catholic mission archival materials, led to a pandemic denigration of Chumash traditionalism. When the field notes of John Harrington became available in the second half of the century, however, a vast amount of new data stimulated an academic reassessment of Chumash theology. But Harrington's field notes were not self-explanatory. Exegesis of his vast Chumash data continues, therefore, and a consensus remains an elusive goal because so many statements made by Chumash working with Harrington led to the publication of commentary presenting contradictory or at times erroneous explanations of Chumash metaphysics. Kitsepawit told Harrington on one occasion, for example, that the sun was the "chief" god of the Chumash who "adored" the Sun. Unfortunately this commentary led Hudson and Underhay to conclude that the Sun was the Chumash supreme supernatural being. But this is clearly incorrect, for the supreme Chumash supernatural was the creator deity who I have described in other texts as living at [behind?] the North Star. This creator was the "Invisible One" who is misidentified by Hudson and Underhay as the Sun. But it was Eagle who served as the celestial guardian of the invisible deity's pure realm which was located at the apex of the cosmos, while the Sun remained far below in a less pure level of the sky.

The Chumash called their solar deity "uncle. In a Samala narrative, he is depicted as an old widower with two unmarried daughters. These daughters presumedly are the Morning Star and the Evening Star. But in a Lulapin Chumash narrative told by R. Timi, they are depicted as the wives of the Sun.

Like the uncle in Chumash family life, the Sun was a stern disciplinarian, who did not allow his nephews to indulge in their greed or become lazy. He watched over all daily events, with his great solar eye which "sees everything." But this did not mean that the solar deity saw everything that transpired in the cosmos, only that he saw what transpired on the earth when he was traveling in the sky on his daily journey from east to west. When twilight came and night fell, the solar power diminished dramatically as the sun disappeared at sunset, moving into the western portal which leads into the underworld.

The celestial Eagle, Coyote, and Morning Star became active in the night sky, as they gambled with one another to determine the fate of humanity. Yet somehow the Sun participated as the fourth member of this gambling contest, allied with the celestial Eagle who was the sun's superior. How the sun managed to be active in the night sky. without driving away the night lights, is unknown.

Kakunupmawa is a ritual name for the Sun. According to traditional Chumash lore, all humans were known as children of the Sun, or "sons of Kakunupmawa" Yet , even though they identified themselves as sons of the Sun, educated Chumash did not claim to fully understanding.

Introduction to the Text
More from chapter 1
Other Books On Chumash Holidays
Chumash Religious Teachings About Reincarnation
Contemporary Chumash Councils

Email: janderson@nidlink.com