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Warburg Serpent

Warburg Serpent

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A Lecture on Serpent Ritual Author(s): A. Warburg and W. F. Mainland Source: Journal of the Warburg Institute, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Apr.

, 1939), pp. 277-292 Published by: The Warburg Institute Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/750040 Accessed: 28/03/2010 12:28
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A LECTUREON SERPENTRITUAL By A. Warburg
Es ist ein altes Buch zu blattern alles Vettern. Athen-Oraibi,

in is on observations whichthislecture basedwerecollected the course he years ago.l 1 of a journeyto the Pueblo Indiansmade twenty-seven I mustwarnyou that I have not been able to reviveand correctmy old to in memories such a way as to give you an adequateintroduction the I the Indians. Moreover, impressions gained of psychology the American even at that time becauseI had no command wereboundto be superficial of of the language the tribes. Nor coulda journeylimitedto a few months and impressions, if these have becomeeven produceany really profound more vague in the interim I cannot promiseyou more than a seriesof on reflections those distantmemories. I do so in the hope that the direct may carry you beyond my words,and give you evidenceof the pictures which is dying out, and of a questionwhich someidea of a civilization in in importance our studyof civilization general:is of suchparamount of characteristics primitive to are Whatelements we entitled calltheessential
* ^

paganlsm

K

In the firstplace I shall deal with the rational(that is, architectonic) of elementin the cultureof the Pueblos: the structure theirhouseswith of of someexamples theirappliedart. In the ornamentation earthenware problemof religioussymbolism. A we shall come upon the fundamental that 44b)proves whatappears froman Indian(P1. whichI acquired drawing symbolically. mustin fact be interpreted ornament to be purelydecorative conceived imagery the universe of One of the basicelements cosmological animal with an irrational in the formof a house is unitedin this drawing conception,a serpent,which appearsas an enigmaticand awe-inspiring demon. In the secondplace I shall speakof the maskeddanceof the Indians, whichwe shallstudyfirstas a pureanimaldance,thenas a danceassociated with the cult of the tree, and finallyas a dancewith live serpents. bringus will in phenomena paganEurope eventually A glanceat similar still of : to the question to whatextentcan theseremnants pagancosmology the obtainingamongthe PuebloIndianshelp us to understand evolution pagan cultureof from primitivepaganism,throughthe highly-developed man? civilized downto modern antiquity, classical
* * *

the to in caution ourattempt interpret religious extreme Wemustexercise
1 The lecturewas deliveredin Germanto as the lecture was meant to convey the audience on 2sth April, author's personal experience, no attempt a non-professional Ig23, and was not intended for public- has been made by the editors to bring ation. Its originaltitle was: "Reminiscences the argument into line with more recent from a Journey to the Pueblo Indians." research. As the journey took place in I896, and 277

in Colorado. dwellings i. the Mexicansettlement lies of SantaFe. now abandoned. Yet.is nevertheless very good exampleof a pueblo a 1 E. And in then therecame the last layer-the educational systemof NorthAmerica. the result ravines canons by with that or occur. Vorgeschichte J%ordamerikas im Gebiet Vereinigten der Staaten.revivedat a later date. On the otherhandthe of ground deeply is seared water-courses.''l In the north-western of the plateau. therein of and fore the ones whichshow the older features their purestform. WARBURG psychology the PuebloIndian. life we shall recognise least one purelyobjectiveand relativelypermanent at geographical factor whichhada formative influence religion the scarcity on of water in the country.278 A. I894. fartherto the south-west.of which I shall have something more to say.sometimes thousand deepwithwallsalmostverticalat the top. whenwe come to studymorecloselythe religious of the Pueblos. whichcameunderthe ruleof the United States only after a grim strugglethat continuedeven down to the last century. of Several layersof culture havebeensuperimposed.levelplateaus withsteepescarpments (compared in the language the districtwith tables mesas). can be lie and reached fromFortWingate a day. thoughit does not is lie so high as the others. the so-called part are cliff-villages.forming high. . of waterand the need for it gave rise to magicpractices lack such as are adoptedin primitivepagancivilizations over the worldin all orderto coercethe hostile forces nature. the capitalof New Mexico. are the in villages the Mokis six all told whichare erected threeparallel of on ridges of rock.in the plain-country. Apartfromthe narrowvalley in the north-east through whichthe Rio Grande Norteflowson its way to the Gulfof Mexicothe del country mainlytable-land extensive. which suffered a violentset-back the end of the seventeenth at century. For until the railway-tracks penetrated the to settlements. Right in the midst. whichare built in the cleftsof the rocks... For the greater partof the year thereis no rainor moisture the plateau-country the majority the in and of canonsare completely driedup. a feet as if they had been cut out with a saw.whichare fairlyeasilyaccessible fromSantaFe and Albuquerque.The Zunivillages. Scarcity watertaughtpeople of of the artsof prayerand necromancy. The basicculture the of native Americans subjected Catholic-Spanish was to education. "Theinhabitants theseregions pre-historic historictimeshave of in and madetheirhomeon a tractof land to whichNaturehas not on the whole been bountiful. Near Albuquerque the villageof Lagunawhich. The mostdifficult access. The rockvillagefurthestwest is Oraibi. The eastern groupconsists abouteighteen of villages. e. Schmidt. From Santa Fe and from the neighbouring town of Albuquerque majority the easternPueblovillages can be reached the of withoutmuchdifficulty. only in the periodwhen the snow melts or duringthe briefrainyseasona considerable body of waterrushesdown the bareravines. The evidencehas been contaminated. but was neverofficially re-instated the villagesof the Mokis. whichareof especialimportance. is horizontal deposits limestone of or tertiary rock.

4sf) dolls are suspended not ordinary children'sdolls. the Europeansettlement in the plain abuts on the railway-station. published . Therecan be no doubt that the modernpotteryof the Pueblosbearstraces of the influence of mediaeval Spanish workmanship.not meant simplyas a pictureto look at but rather as something to be read an intermediarystage between image and sign.it is typical of their civilizationand probablygoes back to pre-historic times in America. The houses are built in tiers. Seventeenth AnnualReportof the Bureauof in I898. which. They are called kachinadolls. II. faithfulimages of the maskeddancerswho act as demonicmediatorsbetweenman and the natural forcesin the ceremonies which accompanythe yearly round of activitiesand are among the most typical and remarkablefeatures of this religion of hunters and peasants. the Pueblo Indians have thus produced a cross between a dwelling-placeand a fortress. Apartfromthe fact that it is reveredlike any animal as an imaginaryancestor. But essentiallya productof craftsmanship.44f). in the Moki religion as in all heathen cults. 1 "Expedition to Arizona in I895" in AmericanEthnology. involving the heraldic bird-motivestogether with the serpent. The native village consistsof twostoreyedhousesenteredfromabove by meansof a ladder. The Indiansuse. In the mythologyof the Indians the bird plays an importantpart which will be familiarto all who know the Leather-stocking Tales. In the interiorof such houses (P1. which was introduced in the sixteenthcentury. a second or even a third dwellingof rectangularshape restingupon the first. It becomesa hieroglyph. On the otherhand the excavations Fewkeslhave of shown conclusivelythat quite independentlyof Spanish influence an older technique existed. I895-96. The village proper lies on the other side of the railway-track which connectsAtchisonwith Topica and Santa Fe. they hang there rather like the figuresof saints in Roman Catholicfarm-houses.therebeing no door below. A bird is dissectedinto its essentialcomponent parts so that it appearsas a heraldic abstraction. up of The bird owesits place in idolatrous worshipto its feathers. which have feathersattachedto them and are placed beforefetishaltarsand planted on graves. It is typical of the drawingon such vesselsthat a kind of heraldic skeleton of natural forms is represented. as a special vehicle for transmittingtheir prayers. is the clay vesselused for carryingthe necessary scanty but supply of water (P1. It would even appearthat in prehistoric times a rapacioussoul-birdwas one of the essentialmythicalfiguresconjured by the imagination the Sikyatki.the broom. between realistic representation and script. Indianswho were asked about this practice offeredthe plausibleexplanationthat the feathersacted as wings to bear requestsand wishes to the demonic forcesof nature.small sticks called bahos. On the wall appears a symbol of the intruding American civilization. is specially reveredas a potent symbol.as a totem. the bird is a special object of worship in connection with the burial-cult. servingat once a practicaland a religiousend. Pt.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL 279 settlement. This type of housewas probablyintendedin the firstplace as a means of defence against attack.

the serpent. As we know from the rim we see small figures of for example the frog and the round ridges animals.with featheredhead on the bottom The serpentstill appearscoiled and it on prehistoricspecimens. andIn therepresented wall middle. The whiteclouds count four. House ofthe I I. proachingthe serpent you can 3. fetish. temple.Cleo. of symbollightning. oryerrik. "The WaterSerpent" fetish that anybody apI. into before research Indian mysteriesthese compass. their conceptionof representing me.of whichthe most astounding the practiceof his of blessing rainby as we can see of a venomousspecies. Cleo Jurino.without showed tonguein the shapeof like the figureon the vase. The rain clouds. the snake's formal affinity. was one Jurino. The father.and the vesselswere placedas the the represent pointsof the spider. a fortunatecircumstance had met at New Year I895 while Juillard. modern of animals. Lightning givenby CleoJurino: IO.l is the (Gewitterweltenhaus). We were firstof all hadbeen given to the priestby the the Governador-they use Spanish still by receivedwith the utmost respect villages.streams rain. of 1 Explanation figuresin the drawing. Here fetish in the kiva or underground the of worship. He put the priest'shand to his namesfor the ruling chiefsof the noise as though he were drawingin the mouthand made a kind of hissing greeting. 7. 280 WARBURG A. Above the exactly has a terraced arrow. . 5.but otherwisedrawn the snake as a weather-god.which The the down path to take our baggage. the Indians stole a cask of wine which for provedto be very unfortunate. priest'sinvitationI promisedto assist door of the church (P1.the Catholicpriestwhom I going on a round of inspection.44b) priestsand paintersof the kiva in the of feathers. from of magic between both the relation underthe directinfluenceof official establishes I had been anxiousto see the Indians gave me the opportunity needed. Beforewe reached redskins swiftly of brightly-clad in honourof the priest.on four just as Fewkesfound vessels. Rain. the lightning the is juggling with live serpents to resemblance Jurino's drawing. nuns of Bernalillo. Cochiti. It is The Indiansare standingoutside the as 6. The four bolts mean who does not tell the The rainbow 2. as masterof the cosmichouse the from massedcloudsbelow.is the centreIndian. and his son Anacleto In my hotel in Santa Fe an to do some colouredcrayondrawingsfor consentedafter some demur the cosmos. For. with a sharp-pointed gable. A crowd carriages totoll had to wait below. In companywith the of exhalation his guestin tokenof reverential chief's dwelling.yayathe stormwith its the of thunderstorm Indian evokes pious Beforesuch paintingsas this themagicarts. stretchesthe rainbow. Father was a watching Mexican Matachines-dance. It rose from the foot of the rocksthe bells had begun ran ofa sandywaste. as the romanticvillage of Acoma. The roof of the world-house an by short strokes. and at the room of the driverswe were taken to the main at Mass on the followingmorning. him as far andI was able to accompany hours through a wildernessof gorse till we We travelledfor about six a sea of rockslike a Heligolandin the midst the sighted village. I and Catholicism. The fetish truth will fall down dead before 4. The drawing (P1.4sb).

Archaeol. 292) e-Moki Sand Painting.Cosmological Drawing(p. j TZ t tt t e X . 0 0 X. 0003 .. 280) ::t .afterffournal Americ.E t.X00 00 0::t$X::iRff <X700 AV b Cleo Jurino. 00 d : tV Ct: d Drawing by Indian Schoolboy. 287) . and I894. I8 (p. p.:03\: XE tEERV E .f : f'-0'+ i. of Ethnol.with Lightningin the Shape of Serpents(p. .0...X L\g:0e 6 \. 0 XX 0 XA$W 0 0- a0 ss: ::S FFfsS f.

0 . ::'t'. Vlllage Street (p.B '::iSE . Interior of Ghurchwith BaroqueAltar (p. 284) e Acoma.. a Walpi. 284) Door (tt. 28I) f O Bre .0 2t \ijy .t.280) b Acoma)IndiansStandingbeforeChurch c S d Walpi... View ol the Village (p.

The church of Laguna is likewisecovered with such paintings.symbolising the universewith the stair-shaped roof. just as the circle. But we must not think of this world-houseas the simple reflectionof a tranquil cosmology. (P1.which are woven in the open air by the women-folkof nomadic Indian tribes. When the hunter or the tiller of the soil puts on his mask -that is.4se). changesinto the shape of his booty. whetheran animal or the .executed in the same style as the drawingsof Cleo Jurino. the coiled serpent. At last all the Indians are assembled. I later found one in the plain leaning on to a little granary (P1. though the Pueblos themselvesalso make them. cut out of a tree a form still to be found in use among the Pueblos. His masked dances. The Pueblo uses meat as well as maize for food. the upward and downwardmotion of nature. red and blue and produce a most picturesqueeffect. During the serviceI noticed that the wall was coveredwith pagan cosmological symbols. The priest. are in reality meant as a means of providingfood for the communityby the art of magic. In the interiorof the church there is a regularlittle baroquealtar with figuresof the Saints(P1. For the mistressof the house is the most fearsomeof all beasts -the serpent.44c) For our attempt to photographthe interiorof the church was resistedby the Governador. which seem at first sight like a festive show accompanying the daily round of his life. In the photograph(P1. They are the symbol of achievementin the rise and descent through space.is the symbol for the rhythm of time. not understanding word of the a Indians'language. which represents staircase not a rectangular a stone stairway. These costumesare ornamentedin white. * * * 28I The Pueblo Indian is not only a tiller of the soil: he is a hunter too. The masked dance is essentially a serious. although not to the same extent as the savage tribes which used to live in those same regions. refusedto hand the keys even to who the priest a resistance which duringthe afternoon been strengthened had by the wine from the priest'scarriageof which the Indianshad in the meantime had their full measure.44c) an Indianis standingin the doorway to his left there appears a bit of the painting. At least a denticulateornamentation is visible.and indeed a warlike. They are clad in colourfulwoollen garments. They have to be summonedby shouting loudly down the three parallel streetsof the village a duty performedby the chief himself. I can show you only a small part of such a stair.had to have an interpreter translate to sentenceby sentence during Mass-and the interpretercould have said just what he liked. which he enters by means of a ladder. but a much more primitiveform. Steps and ladders are an ancient and universaldevice for representing the growth.measurein the strugglefor existence.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL no easy matter to induce them to go in. So the Indianestablishes rationalelementin his cosmology depicting the by the world like his own house. 44a). We must not forgetthat althoughby the exclusionof cruel and bloody practices these dances diffier fundamentallyfrom the war-dancesof the nomads-the Pueblos' worst enemies they still remain predatoryand sacrificialboth in origin and tendency.

to Whenthe Indian in his miming costumeimitatesfor examplean animal by movement sounds. is the man who interposes symbolsbetween himself and the world. In San Ildefonso. there is no moment more dangerousthan when popularand apparentlycomical practicesmove him to laughter. and the enlightenedman who plans and awaits the result of his actions.264. p.a pueblo in the neighbourhood Santa Fe with a long of traditionof Americaninfluence. Jane E. to Relagion.who sets out to study biologicallythe roots of cultural expression. WARBURG produceof the field-he believesthat in a mysterious mimic transformation he can securein advancewhat he trieseveryday to win by soberand vigilant work as hunterand peasant. He is no longer a mere savage who is unacquaintedwith actionscontrolling the future and who graspsonly the object directly before him. Firstof for all the musicians ready. For the studentof folklore. When I firstsaw the antelope-dance San Ildefonsoit struckme as very in harmlessand almostcomical. The communalaction of providingfor foodis. with which they moved about on one spot. Harrison. Then they formedtwo rows got sideby side and assumedthe characterof the antelopein masksand gestures (P1. The Indian standsmidwaybetweenlogic and magic. They either imitatedthe animals'walk or else supportedthemselves their on frontlegs. At the head of each row was a female figureand a hunter. and his instrumentof orientationis the symbol. And this measure is not to be thought of as mere play.282 A.however. The two rows of dancersbegan to dance in two differentways.Prolegomena the Studyof Greek cf. In establishing contact with somethingentirelynon-personal maskeddance the means primitiveman the mostprofound to submission someexternalbeing. .e. with a huge drum. The masked dance to 1 7roTvla 071puV. The existenceside by side of rationalcultivationand imaginativemagic revealsthe heterogeneous state of transitionin which the PuebloIndian lives. his By slipping into the animal mask in the hunting-dancethe animal is captured anticipationby a miming of the attack to be made during the in actualhunt.l The animal mimeaddresses invocationsto her. Imitation in the miming animal-danceis therefore a highly religious ritualact of self-surrender some external being.4sc). i. This stage of symbolic thought and behaviourcan be illustratedby a few examplesfrom the dancesof the Pueblo Indians.of schizoid nature: magic and labour coexist. With regard to the female figure I was only able to discoverthat she was called the mother of all the animals. Between the primitive man who snatches the nearest booty. on two little stickswith featherswoundroundthem.he is trying to transform own self and so to wrest and his from natureby magic meanssomethingto which he feels he cannot attain so longas his personality remainsunchangedand unextended. I922. therefore. A man who laughs at comic featuresin folkloreis wrong.the Indiansassembled the dance. but on the other hand he has not yet acquired the sense of technical security of the European who awaitsthe futureevent as somethingbound to occuraccording to an organicor mechanicallaw. for he at once obstructsthe insight into the tragic element.

with its magic ritual extending its appeal to inanimate nature itself. these psychological facts about the urge for animal-metamorphosis came to me as an overwhelming surprise fromthe lips of FrankHamiltonCushing. of what an Indian had once said to him: "Why shoulda man stand higher than an animal? Look at the antelope.for as we impute a physicallaw to the processof evolution in nature. like all the pagans throughoutthe world. with four light wheels. no In Oraibi. I was privilegedby a lucky chance to witness what is called a humiskachina-dance the market-place in of a cliff-village.which forms part of the regularly recurringannual festivitiesof the peasant-people. Men can only do a little. BeforeI startedon my journey.these pagan Indians. The Indian's attitude towards the animal is totally differentfrom that of the European." And however odd it may seem. The decisivefactorin the lives of theseso-calledprimitive peoples may be called a kind of mythical Darwinismof elective ainities. it is just Strength. But as the antelope died out upwardsof three generationsago. his age a complete enigma.an entirelydifferentcharacter pertains to the kachina-dance. whose main functionis the working of weather-magic. in what is called totemism. this fairy-tale-likeway of thinking is the preliminaryto our scientificgenetics.even the veneerof oicial Catholicism longerpersists. and where. It is a Run. the chief purpose of which is to pray for a good harvest. For in Oraibi there still existsan antelope-clan. he told me. as he puffed at his cigarette. It runsso much betterthan a man. Their explanation of nature by imaginativelyinterrelatingman with animals is not so very far removed from Darwinism. as in the villagesof the Moki. becausethe integrityof the animal-nature makesit seema moregiftedcreaturein contrast to man. With his pock-marked face and his sparse sandy hair. The carriagewas what is called a buggy. the pagans try to establishan imaginaryassociationof man with the animal-world. admirablyadapted for getting over the desert.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL 283 among the so-called primitive peoples is fundamentally an example of collective piety. where gorse is . unite with the animal kingdom by believing in animals of all kinds as mythical ancestors of their tribes. it may well be that the antelope-dancemarks a transitionto the purely demonic kachinadances. * * * It is obviouslya hunting-dancethat has survivedin San Ildefonso. can only be witnessedin its more or less primitiveform in parts untouchedby the railway. an animal can do wholly what it has in it to do. For the Indian the animal is a higher being. Or the bear. The masked dance. In a state of reverentialawe. To get to Oraibi I had to travel two days in a small carriagefrom the station of Hollbrook. The natureof the kachina-dance revealed is in its entirety of course only in regions far removed from the centres of Europeancivilization. the most remote westerlypoint. who is weak.who was a pioneerand a veteranin the explorationof the Indian mind. Whilst the imitative animal-dancemust be regarded as magic miming that belongsto a civilizationof hunters. Here I saw the living originals of the masked dancers I had alreadyseen as puppetsin a room of this same village of Oraibi.

A narrow pathhigh up leadspastthe groupof houses(P1. The driver. was assembled on the wall. on with the sourceof rain alwaysindicatedby semi-circular clouds and strokes emanating from them. The youngermen were busy painting their masksin preparation the for next day. These latter. The childrenare reared gently but with disciplineand they are very friendlyonce you have succeededin winning their confidence. and the whole symbolism the helmet again showsthe worldas a seriesof steps. They all come to regard them as fearsome.includingtwo groupsof children. in The dance was performed about twenty or thirty male and about ten by female dancers.where the secret ceremonies are performed.46b). 46a).super-naturalbeings. very similar. there is an architecturalterminal: a little stone structure.with five men forminga sort of apex. They are brought up with tremendousreligious respect for the kachinas. There was no fetish-altar. for the big leather helmets are used again and again. d). There are two rowsof dancers. Althoughthe dance takes place in the market. Up in the is market-place. only meansof findingone's way about that otherwise the trackless waste. The next morningthe whole audience. where I was to see the humiskachina-dance. WARBURG the only plant to be seen. From this point I was able to make excursions the cliff-villages. an Irishman. The evening before the dance I was in the kiva.was a Mormon. The Indians simply sat there ceremoniously smoking.forminga little temple where the prayers are offered up in the form of the dance itself and of the hymns which accompanythe dance. The humiskachina-dance the dance of is the growing corn.284 A. The positionof Oraibi. So the childrenwere assembledthere in the market-place. are meant to be rain-drops. and here we were cordially receivedby Mr.FrankAllen. The first place I saw was the remarkablesettlementof Walpi.4sa. The male dancers carry a . who tookme through this country. Every now and then a pair of brown legs would come down the ladder and presentlythe whole man would appear. full of tense excitement. I was told. they had prepared a place for the dance (P1. since new ones would be too costly. This temple makes a sort of visual focus for the whole ceremony. We had a very bad sand-storm which obliterated the cart-tracks. The painting was done by blowing a spray of waterfromthe mouthon to the leathermaskand then rubbingthe colourson. The Indians' relationshipto their children has somethingvery attractiveabout it. and the moment when the child receivesinstructions to the truenatureof the kachinasand is itselfadmitted as to the companyof the dancersis the great turning-point its life. But we were lucky enough to reach Keam's Canon after two days'journey. The dancers'masksare green and red with a diagonal white strip with three spotson it. frontof which a dwarfpine-treehas been plantedand bedecked in with feathers. I896. where the old blind man sits with his cow. Keam. but all very solemn. I witnessedit from April 28th to May ISt. These symbols are repeatedon the woven scarves which the dancerswear round their bodies red and green ornamentation very gracefullyexecuted on a white ground. that is men representing women (P1. to which lie on three mountainplateausextending in parallelsfrom North to South. perchedhighup on the cliffslike a massof rock. It has a romanticsituation.

"Turning" (p.284) e HumiskachinaDance. 285) .Oraibi. "Squatting" (p.b. 284) c. HumiskachinaDance. 284) a ()ld Man on L)anclng (iround (p.fi d L)ancers resting (>9.

dyed red. The feathersare carried down on the followingday to a certain spring in the valley and planted there or else hung up as offerings. at the top. Now we have taken a little one. The chorusperforms differentacts.to create a symbol. or else the women rise and accompanythe men in their gyration. Whoever catches sight of a dancer without his mask will die. that is. our ready and shallow acceptanceof a purely spiritual interpretation ceremonyis of doomed to defeat. Butjust as the sun was about to set. 46b. Then came three men dressedas women. e). Horse-hair. the dancersat the head of the dance remainingalways close to the little temple. And all the time two priestskeep sprinklingthe dancerswith consecratedflour (P1." So in this region we meet the perfect animistic cult of the tree which as we know persiststo this day in the heathen practicesat harvest-timein Europe and belongsto the basic religiousconceptionsof all mankind. which is nearer is to earth than man becauseit is rooted in the earth. hangs down from the mask to symboliserain. Six figures appeared: three men almost naked. is called Nakwakwochi.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL 285 rattle in their hands made out of a hollow gourd containingstones. for the soul of a child is pure. a curiouskind of columbine-ornament P1. And not one person laughed. concealingthe fact that they are men. (cf. 48d). 46f). Round their knees they wear a tortoise-shellwith pebbles hanging from it. The costume of the 'female' dancers consistsof a cloth covering the whole figure. At intervalsthe Indians leave the village and go to a projectingpiece of rock to rest for a moment (P1. their bodies smeared with yellow clay and their hair made up to resemble horns. c. The little tree hung with featherswhich.grave and ceremonious. Late in the afternoonthe dancers were there again.46d). is the real focusof the dance.and how in the face of this. a spectaclewas enactedbeforeour eyes which revealed with devastatingclarity how calm and sober ritual draws its magic forms fromthe very depthsof humanpassion. that the maize shall grow big and profuse. Eitherthe girlssit in front of the two men and make a noise with their rattlesand a piece of wood. and decorationsrepresenting rain are seen on the scarvesand other wrappings. these six executedan obsceneparodyof the choralmovements. as I said. And while the chorusand the priestscontinuedtheir reverentialdance calm and unperturbed. They are meant to give effect to the prayerfor fertilisation. I was struckby the fact that this tree was very small. they wear the special hair-dress of the Pueblo-girls. This rude parody was not felt to be a piece . unwearied. and in this case the intercessor a tree. so I went up to the old chief who was sitting at the end of the market-place and asked him why. The function is to establisha connectionbetween man and the natural forces. They were wearingsimple loin-cloths. He said: "We used to have a big tree. so that their knees too make a rattling sound (P1. in which case the men one after the other merely spin round. to link them magicallytogetherby means of some intercessor. This tree is the fitting mediatorleading to the powersbelow. At the sides of their masks. The dance lasts from morningtill evening. continuingtheir monotonousmovements.

Anyone with ancienttragedywill recognisein this the dual natureof the acquainted chorusand the satyr play "both graftedon to one stem.which takes place alternatelyin Oraibi and in Walpi. That totemismcan even nowadays traditionwith these be seriouslyput into practiceis shownby this dance. At one festivala womanrepresenting goddess inits superhuman and then sacrificed. when the criticalmomentof the year has arrivedin the work of the fields and the whole successof the harvestdepends on a heavy fall of rain.286 A. For here the dancersand the live beast form a magic unity. even to-day. I have not myself witnessedthese dances. or at leastwithoutshowingits usualpropensities end in disaster if attempted by Europeans. to like the baho. The supremeexample of magical assimilationto nature by way of the animal-worldis found among the Moki Indians in their dances with live serpentsat Oraibi and Walpi. the storm with its blessed relief from drought is invoked in a dance with live serpents.and yet there can be no assurancethat the spiteof the fundamental it is.the rattle-snake. For the snakeswhich take . ratherit was a kind of auxiliaryceremonyof the more wildly exuberant dancers in an effort to ensure a rich harvest. The same soil upon which the Puebloslive has witnessedthe war-dancesof the savage Indian nomads with all their cruelties culminatingin the martyrdomof the enemy. It is an animal dance and a ritual dance of the seasonsat one and the same time. unlessit is speciallyprovoked. WARBURG ofcomic mockery. It combinesin the most perfect form traits of the animal dance as seen in San Ildefonsoand of of the magic fertilitydance. all that we see kinship. the most pagan of all the Walpi ceremonies. Such a feat would inevitably In the Moki villages two groupsof kinsmenare the actorsin the snakeand festival-the Antelope-men the Snake-men who are linkedby legendary their totem animals. the humiskachina Oraibi." tragic * * * Religious practicein Mexico provideda gruesomedramatic illustration of the way in which the human being entersinto the deity in order to share the strength. in which human beings do not merely appear in animal shapes but performritual actions with a most venomouslive beast. they themselvesplay their part as actors in the ritual.but. The amazing thing is that the Indians have a way of handling the most so of dangerous reptiles.and into the skin of maize is worshippedfor forty days of this wretchedcreaturethe priest enters. join in the petition for rain. not to be sacrificed. For the ceremony is no mere imitation of animals. and with thismostelementary frenziedattemptto approach In comparison among the Pueblosseems infinitely less brutal in the deity.we find in Walpi the magic dance in a much older and purer form. So we see that the snake-danceof Walpi is half-way between the empathy of mimic action and the bloodsacrifice itself. Whereasin the dance of San Ildefonsothe magical effect was produced by the simulationof an antelope and in the corn-danceof Oraibi by the wearing of masks. For in the month of August. that it can be tamedwithoutviolence and will join in the ceremonies for days on end with complete docility. the serpent. not secretlydrawn from the roots of sap which nourishes bloodysacrificialcult.

We are told of a certain hero called Ti-yo.and the parts of the ritualwhich followprovethat snakesthus initiatedbecomein the mostpatent way petitionersand provokers rain.who stands ready in case the snake should slip out of the second man's mouth.wherethere is a picture drawn in sand representing four lightning-snakes with a quadrupedin the middle. distractsthe attention of the snake by waving a featheredstick. There is no doubt in my mind that this magic throw is intended to make the snake provokethe lightning or bring rain.where they are guarded bv the chiefs of the snake. He passesthe various kivas of the princes of the lower regions.which invokes the weather. .and finally the sendingaway of the snakesto the plain as intercessors. to which all kinds of medicamentshave been added. of where he is presented with the magic baho.the most importantand startlingof which is the washingof the snakes.after passingthe two housesof the sun in the west and in the east. Then it is cast on to the floor of the kiva. In anotherkivathere is a sand drawingof a bank of clouds with four differently colouredstreaksof lightning.numberingabout one hundred-with their poisonfangs. accompaniedall the time by a female spider who sits unseen on his right ear and guides him -a kind of Indian Vergil to this Indian Dante. The ceremonyculminates in these acts : the approachto the bush. When all the snakes have thus been carried about to the accompanimentof the dancers'noise they have rattlesand tortoise-shells pebbleshung round and their knees they are swiftly borne down to the plain. They are living weather-saints the shape of animals. Americananthropologists describethe seizing and carryingof the snake as an amazingly exciting act. The snakes are flung down violently on to the first sand picture so that the drawing is obliteratedand the snakeitself is covered in sand. in The snakes.44e). and notwithstandingits struggles it is dipped in consecratedwater. A companion.taking him by the shoulders.and antelope-clansand undergocurious ceremonies. are The high priestof the snake-clanpullsa snakeout of the bush.anotherIndian with his face painted and tattooedand wearinga fox-skinon his back. who set out on a journey underground to discoverthe sourceof the longed-forwater. in the shape of serpents. The snakeis treated like a novice. The third is the watcher and the snake-catcher. In the course of a ceremony extending in Walpi over sixteendays they are caught alive in the desert in the month of August and then kept undergroundin the kiva. The dance is completed in little over half an hour in a small space in the village of Walpi. This is clearly the meaning of the whole ceremony.(P1. in conjunctionwith the Indians themof selves. he comes to the great kEva the snakes. and eventually. Fromwhat we know of the Walpi Indian mythologywe may be sure that this form of serpent worshiphas a backgroundin tribal legends.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL 287 part in the dance in Walpi are themselves forcedto intercedein the offering up of the prayer. as we know. still left in them are kept in the kivaand on the last day of the festivalheld captive in a bush with a band roundit. where they escape and disappear. the seizingand carryingabout of the live snakes. seizes the snakeand puts it in his mouth. It is done in the following way: A group of three approaches the bush where the rattle-snakes lying.

dance and the real meaning of state frenziedexaltation(P1.out as a messenger. his roots in the god has however. with his two sons becomes a of the father and without hope of death as revenge wrought by demons withoutjustice 47b). power it is transmutedby The snake in this dance is thereforenot sacrificed. with serpents. of antiquity (P1.falls a prey to the vengeanceofsymbol of the antique Passion. serpent as executioner. is the culmination dances of the Moki of this religious dance. In the Old Testament In Greeceit is Babylon.who to According the story Ti-yo bringsback withvery dangerous who creatures him bear children. and and consecration by the mimicryof the dance maysent downthe thunderbring to the soulsof the deadit that so when it comes in the shape of lightning. That is the tragic pessimism findsits counterpart pessimism of This snakeas a demonexpressive ancientlast recognisethe benevolence we can at in an antique snake-godin which beauty of the classicalage.seeking to aid his people by warning gods. salvation. and transfigured His featuresmark has a snaketwinedroundhis staff as a symbol (P1. in contrastto the present-day Indians. two thousandyearsago.so the in end compelthe tribesto changetheirdeities and totem animals with both weather myth the serpents are this over the migrationsof the clan. the snakeTiamat in the Erinysis encircled monsterof the nether-world. Asclepius.* him two female snakes.ritual practiceswere culture from which we derive our European country even the things we see invogue which surpassin their blatant monstrosity the among Indians. And yet. .47c).47a). It is significant. carriedout in a .that even this most exalted and detached 288 WARBURG A.also in the formof snakes we see that in dwelling-place.and the gods in their wrath send a from the nether-world This conceptionof the snake as a destroyingpower and in the sculptured in the myth has found its most moving tragic symbolgods. of temptation. him as the paganworldsaviourin the plasticart of antiquity. pieces in the ecstaticsacrificial theother the animal which was to be torn to blood-sacrifice. devouring the merciless. like of spirit evil.the god of healing.snake in one hand and in a livesnakesentwining their hair like diadems. the Maenadsdanced with In the orgiasticcult of Dionysusfor example.wroughtupon theirpriestand The vengeanceof the groupof Laocoon.The in performed honourof the god. hasleft a profoundmark on the developmentof religion man's relation to In The snake too undergoesthis processof sublimation. purificationwhich is The emancipationfrom blood-sacrifice an ideal of from east to west. from the heavens storm formof emotional elementary It is naturalfor the layman to think of thisprimitivesavage-stateentirely a throughreligiousmagic as typical of release in Greece the very to unknown Europe. it moves from fetish changing of his faith as the snake we can measurethe the serpentis the to the pure religionof redemption. So the death partial the of the Greeks. makes this famous comhis two sons by means of the destroyingserpents human suffering. The dire position of antiquity a vivid embodimentof them againstthe wiles prophetpriest.

3I303 (p. Biblia Pauperum.288) _*i0s_ d-Serpentarius. . f. Louvre t . 290) Snake B . Voss. I ob (p. 200) .aocoon.Brazen Serpent and Crucifixion.a-Maenad dancing. Mus. Add. Rome. rarl. Brit. Leyden. t_ . Vatican (>5. God. StarConstellation. * T b-I. f Giuli London. Q7g. 289) e. from a Neo5 Attlc Ke11el.

as Cushing's Indians would say. herausschnellt.A LECTUTRE ON SERPENT RITUAL netherworldof the departedsouls. for without some outline it evades our sense. For in the astrology of antiquity mathematicsand magic came together. die sie fur das. makes the snake the most natural symbol of immortality. by sloughingits skin. He is the cosmicfatherof all who are bornin the month of the year (October)when his visibilityis at its height. The points of light are linked togetherby means of an earthly image. By this elevationto the starsthe snake-god becomea are has transfigured totem. sichtbar unsichtbar. in order to make what is boundlesscomprehensible. in the northof Germanyby the Elbe I discovered a thing which showedme in a curiouslyvivid way how lasting the ceremony of the snakecult must be in spite of everyattemptat religiousenlightenment. Phallus. Sie wechseltdie Hulle und bleibt dieselbe.Warburg explained the symbolic power of the snake image as follows: "WelcheEigenschaften bringtdie Schlange mit. The returnfromthe earthwherethe dead are lying.is used as a mathematicaloutline. Sie ist nicht imstande. begins again and goes on. He is encircledby serpentsand is henceforthregardedas a constellationunder whose influenceprophetsand physicians born. cared for and attended as only the Mokiscare for their snakes. Fur das Auge bietet sie dabei ein MinimumderSichtbarkeit.where the livingsnakehas its abode. The snake can glide into the earthand reappear. The snake-figurein the sky. which is found also in the constellationof the Serpent. together with this faculty of renewingits skin. 2. 4. The snaketwinedround his staff and he himselfare one and the same a departedsoul that goes on living and reappearsin the form of a serpent. dig." 289 . But in this sanctuarythe more true and potent nature of the God was not to be seen in the lifeless mask of stone: it was there as a live serpent in the innermostpart of the temple. was in der Natur "ambivalent" tot und lebenist.47d). Das sind Qualitaten. in dem sie verborgenliegt.besonders siesich wenn in der Farbenach den Gesetzendes Mimikri der Wuste anpasst. Asclepiusis both these thingsa mathematicalfigure and the bearer of a fetish.l In the templeof Asclepiusat Kos in Asia Minorthe deity was represented in transfigured human form. Sie durchlauft mit dem Jahr den Lebenskreislauf vom tiefstenTodesschlafbis zum starkstenLeben. About twentyyearsago. The earliesttributeof worshipis paid to him as a serpent. Human culture evolves towardsreasonin the same measureas the tangiblefullnessof life fades into a mathematicalsymbol. and in the observanceof the cult it was fed. um sich als verdrangender Vergleicher in Religion und Kunst einzustellen? I. For the snakeis not only. In astrologicalmanuscripts the Middle Ages. of revival from sicknessand the agonies of death. 1 In the firstdraftof this passage. oder aus dem Erdloch. the snake shows also. (ohne vorheriges Warnzeichenund rettungslosbeim Anblick verderblich)als verdrangendes Symbol unvergesslich machen. Asclepiusappearsin the of sky as a fixed star over Scorpio (P1. auf Fussen zu laufen und besitzt trotzdem ein Maximum von sichvorwarts bewegender Schnellkraft in Verbindungmit der absoluttodlichenWaffie des Giftzahns. the fatal bite threatening or inflicted and destroyingwithout mercy. holding in his hand the staff with the serpent twined round it. 5. how the body slips out of its husk. 3.

as we read.encircledby snakes. therefore. I5). destroyedthe Tables of the Law becauseof the worshipof the Golden Calf.but re-enforced the New Testamentby a passage was typologically in St.plainly hostile towardsthe cult of the serpent.the settingup of the animal-figure the worshipof the kneeling multitude before the staff of Asclepiusis retained as a stage in man's progress towards salvation. But thereis anotherreasonwhy everystudentof the Bible must see in the serpentthe most vehement challenge from the powers of evil. And this struggle is the dominant theme in oriental and in Christianreformation right down to the most recent times.made in an attempt to explain the subsequently presenceof such an idol in Jerusalem. On the basisof the isolated passage in Deuteronomy.290 A. Early Christianity in its struggleagainst idolatry was. It is clear that the setting up of the that it runs counter serpentis directlyopposedto the Ten Commandments. We know that this passagecan only be an insertion. * * * What we have seen in this all too brief summaryof the snake cult . Paul" and selling Maltese soil as an antidote to snake-bites(P1. as the causeof evil and of sin. In which had the rood of a Protestantchurcha numberof biblical illustrations obviouslybeen copied from an Italian Bible of the I8th century.calling themselves"men of the house of St. Moses himself who. For the main fact by remainsthat the brazen idol of a serpentwas destroyed King Hezekiahat the bidding of the prophetIsaiah. Paul was looked upon by the heathensof Malta as a sacredand immune messengerwhen he cast the viper that had bitten him into the flamesand did not die of the bite. Here the belief in the immunityof those who are strongin faith returnsto the practiceof superstit* i lOUS maglC. the serpent in the garden of Eden dominatesthe Biblical account of the world order.47e).47f). So stronglydid the of impression Paul's immunityagainstvipers survivein Malta that down to the sixteenthcentury Italianjugglers. For we read in Deuteronomy that Moses in the wildernesshad commandedthe Childrenof Israel to set up a brazen serpent as a remedy against snake-bites.appearedat fairs and festivals. to the iconoclasticzeal of the prophetswho aim at reform. In mediaevaltheologywe find the miracleof the brazen serpentcuriously retainedas a legitimatepart of the religiouscult. In the Old and the New Testamentsthe snake is joined to the wood of paradiseas the satanic power causing the tragedy of man who in the midst of sin still cherisheshope of redemption. directly opposed as it was to Old Testament in tendencyand doctrine. Here I saw anotherLaocoonwith his two sons at the mercy of the serpents. Even though it is treated as a and thing to be overcome.but in the act of being saved by anotherAsclepius. John (III. the image of snake-worship comparedto the Cruxifixionitself (P1. WARBURG the for in this case the ChristianBible itself was the vehicle for perpetuating I found on the course of a trip through the Vierlande pagan tradition. of is forcedto serve as shield-bearer the brazenserpent. I4. In this passagewe are confrontedby a remnantof idolatry in the Old Testament. Againstthe cult of human sacrificeand the worship of beasts the prophets engaged in a grim struggle.

man realisescausalityin thought alone. In the movementwhich we call culturalprogressthe being which claims our submission and was so prodigiouslynear. 28). The Indian who confrontsthe incomprehensof ible happeningsin nature with a will to comprehend.and the lightningsnake is led down into the ground by the lightning-conductor. as an explanatoryimage of the cause. But I doubt whetherit really satisfies the soul of the Indian. Scientific argumentputs an end to mythological explanation. We mightperhapssay that wherever and suffiering helplesshumanityis foundin blind questforsalvation. who thinksin imagesand for whom poetic mythology is the true haven. This is at any rate true in the case of most. And its intellectualoptimismhas had this apparentresult. and moves onwardsto a system of mythologyexpressed words. The lightning no longer frightensthe dwellersin our cities. for I wanted to see whetherthey would draw the lightningrealistically in the formof snakes. I chose a story in which a storm happens to occur.a vinculo pietatis." Lactantius. then the sign of developmentout of the primitive state will be that this linkingtogetherof man with what lies beyondbecomes more and more spiritualised:no longer cleaving to the symbolof the mask. The will to surrender devotionis a nobler in in form of assuminga mask. that the Indian children now go to school in pretty suits and little aprons (P1. How is mankindfreeingitself from this coercivebond with a venomous reptilein which it sees the cause of things? Our technicalage doesnot need the serpent to explain and control the lightning. Where the technicalexplanationof cause and eXectreplacesthe mythicalimagination.identifieshimself by transmutation with the causes of things.for the unexplained effiect. The Americangovernment. If religionmeans 'bindingtogether'("religioa religando. We have our water supply. But we should be loth to decide whetherthis emancipationfrom the mythologicalview really helps mankind to find a fitting answerto the problemsof existence.like the Roman Catholic church in earlier times. substitutes cause in its mostreal and most tangibleshape. but the heathen'sanswerto torturingquestionson the why and wherefore things. nor do they long for a stormas the only hope of relief from drought. And it may denote progress.IV.A LECTURE ON SERPENT RITUAL is intended to show the change from real and substantial symbolism29I which appropriatesby actual gestures to that symbolism which exists in thought alone. Out of fourteendrawings.48c) and no longer believe in the pagan demons. I once tried to get the childrenof an Indian school to illustratea German fairy-tale. man loseshis primitivefears.withdrawsfrom our grasp and becomesin the end an unseenand spiritualpower. Instinctively. We know that the snake is a reptile which must succumb if we set our minds to it. I shall be content if the picturesof the daily life and festive activitiesof the Pueblo Indianshave provedto you that their maskeddances are not a mere game. or . has been admirablyactive in establishingschoolsamong the Indians.the snake and will be close by. Mtehave observedhow Christianthought uses the heathen picture language of the snake to express the idea of both suffiering salvation. The he the masked dance is the danced law of causality.which they did not previouslyknow.

itself emerging out of myth. obedient to the touch of a man's hand. The Americanof to-dayno longerworshipsthe rattle-snake.44e). had won with such vast effort the sanctuaryof devotion. But what does it put in its place? The forces of nature are no longer seen in anthropomorphic shapes. With these waves the civilizationof the mechanicalage is destroying what natural science. Franklin and the Wright Brotherswho invented the aeroplane. has produceda civilizationwhich has no use for heathen poetry. the remotenessneeded for contemplation. In San FranciscoI caught a fleeting glimpse of the type of man who overthrewthe cult of the serpentand overcamethe fear of lightning the descendantof the indigenousrace and of the gold-diggers who expelledthe Indians: Uncle Sam (P1. Electricityenslaved. The modern Prometheusand the modern Icarus. they are conceived as an endlesssuccessionof waves. Telegraphand telephonearedestroying cosmos. F.48b) in his tall hat walking proudly along the street past a pseudo-classical rotunda. Translated W. Mainland by . inventedby Edison. WARBURG all of which were very graphicbut were obviouslyinfluencedby American instruction. the in attemptingto establishspiritualbondsbetweenman and the outsideworld. the lightning held captive in the wire. 44d). create space for devotion and scope for reasonwhich are destroyedby the instantaneous electricalcontact unless a disciplinedhumanityre-introduce the impedimentof conscience.292 A. And away above his top hat runsthe electricwire.he has wrestedthe lightningfrom nature. sharp as an arrow (P1. Extermination (and whisky) is his answer to it. twelvewererealistically drawn. just as it occurs in the kiva (P1. In this copper-snake. are those fateful destroyers of our sense of distance who threaten to lead the world back into chaos.but two of themusedthe irrepressible symbol of the snake. But mythsand symbols.

48 a A. 285) . Warburgand a Pueblo Indian O ---uncle zam tp. 292J rn School (Shlldren (p. 29I) d Pueblo Woman and Girl with Columbine EIair Dress (p.

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