The Creeks and Their Dances (9)
By Ghost Dancer
Now many of you have never heard the sounds or seen a more exotic and exciting dance than the war dance. In the old, old days the sound would cause such a great excitement in any town, but there is lots to talk about before we actually get to the dancing.
The act of war was not something that would happen in the spur of the moment. First there would be meetings of the clan mothers, meetings of the beloved women and men with the micco and war leader. Now before there was an act of war it would be determined:
1. Could the problem be balanced without war?
2. Was war in the best interest of the tribe and a blood law violation?
3. Could the tribe really afford to do this at this time?
4. Would it require only a small group of warriors to correct the blood debt?
5. Would it require a majority of the warriors to go as a force?
6. Would the help of other towns’ warriors be needed to accomplish this?
7. How vulnerable would it leave the town at that time?
8. What do the signs and Spirit have to say about this?
All these things had to be discussed and decided before anything could happen. If it was decided that war must be called, then preparations must be conducted first. Warriors must make sure their weapons were all in good shape and blessed. This is done by smudging them in the sacred cedar smoke and praying with them. The warriors must all be cleansed by smudging and do their individual prayers. To seek the council of their spirit helpers, they go into a deep meditative trance state.
Now, a warrior was not required to go, this was the warrior’s choice. Why? Because we each have to listen to our hearts and the voice of Spirit. Spirit may say, not you, there is something that you must do now. This was not looked down upon. This was showing your courage to listen to your heart and Spirit. If the war leader was not going, say, if it wasn’t necessary he go, then it would be decided who was going to lead the warriors and who would be next in charge.
Preparation for war also required that warriors fast unless the matter was of utmost urgency and they must leave as fast as possible. This was done so that they were more aware, more open to feel everything, more sensitive to the environment around them. Warriors carried rations with them if they were going a long way. These rations would be parched corn and pemmican (jerked, smoked meat w/berries/nuts ground and rubbed into the meat and dried. Once everything was ready , a war dance would be performed.
Only red towns were war towns, so if a white town (peace towns where even enemies had sanctuary) needed war, warriors went to the nearest red town and asked and called for war.
Now in the center of the red town there is a red pole (many called this the blood pole). When the square was cleaned and runners had been sent out to all the bands or villages so warriors there would know what was going on, all would come to be present for the war dance. War was very serious business. Even those who lived in white towns who wanted to gain honor and a reputation came to go to war. Later they would return to the white town after clean-up ceremonies were performed to purify their bodies and spirit so as not to take any bad things back amongst their people.
A warrior has a name but warriors also have a war name and a war clan. Names are power too and every person has four names! When the dance begins every warrior entering into the dance must be smudged again and war clan mothers sprinkle corn pollen and tobacco on them. As the drum and rattles begin and all the women begin trilling, the warriors break out in a fast and furious dance. Each has a red stick in their hand and as they come by the red pole they strike the pole with their sticks and let out their war whoops and war cries. As they dance around and around they are mimicking striking and destroying their enemies. Leaping high in the air twisting their bodies and landing gracefully to continue on.
This dance will last well into the night until early morning. The warriors are gathered and cheered as they take off at a trot, with scouts sent ahead and out to each flank. When it is time to battle, they will stop before hand to paint their faces and bodies, put on masks and other protective medicine so that the spirit of the enemy cannot know the identity of the warrior to haunt and follow them. This is also why there is a war name and the masks are designed to frighten even the bravest of hearts.
Ghost Dancer July 2017 ©
One thought on “War Dance”
Excellent article – lots of details on Creek cultural traditions.
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