“Sky, clouds, lightning, precipitation and
the wind - strong
evidence that the associated beliefs concerned fertility and
weather control. The icons thus provide evidence for the existence
of an earth/fertility cult ... beliefs involving the well-being of
the collective and the earth rather than the well-being of the
individual and ancestors. ... This uniformity in design styles on
a virtually pansouthwestern basis suggest that the design transcend
whatever regional economic systems existed in the 1300s.
It further indicates that designs masked rather than emphasized
any economic or political boundaries extant at this time.” Ceramics
and Ideology by Patricia L. Crown, Ph.D.
Zuni symbolism indicates that “every design is significant ... ,
the tendency at Zuni to invariably associate decorative designs
with ideas of a religious character. This is not a personal peculiarity
of one woman, but is a general pattern of Zuni thought. ... An
overwhelming number of designs suggest clouds of different
kinds, – rain, snow, wind, lightning, flowers ‘because they come
out after the rain.’” The Pueblo Potter by Ruth L. Bunzel, Ph.D.
Stepfret and spiral designs throughout the Anasazi world and
well beyond demonstrate similar religious belief systems. The
designs can be seen as similar to the yin/yang concept of Oriental
religions; the Tarahumara culture explains them as a male/female
relationship. The Tarahumara religious and cultural concept of
stepfret and spiral design patterns is in fact so simple as to be
almost painful. Their belief system is that the universe and the
earth are made up of two essential components-male and femalewhich
fit together in an exactly matching cosmic unity.
These designs demonstrate the weight of their significance
throughout the Oasis America culture by the fact they were
reproduced perhaps many millions of times on ceramics as well
as in massive architecture as seen at Paquimé and perhaps Zuni.
Along with Scarlet Macaws and many other common features,
these designs can be seen to indicate a shared religious belief
system throughout the region and throughout the 250-plus year
time frame from Mesa Verde in the north to Paquimé in the south.
Other theories proposed include: this design has no specific
meaning; it is a simple cloud pattern; it originates from the
basket weave designs of 400 years earlier.
“One yin, one yang, that is the Tao.” This quotation is the first
known reference to yin and yang, the pair of polar energies
whose cyclic fluctuations and interactions cause and govern
Creation. Yin is the moon, water, and earth. Yang is the sun, fire,
and heavens. Yin corresponds to the dark, the receptive, the
passive, the feminine. Yang corresponds to the bright, the
creative, the active, the masculine.
This is a dynamic symbol showing the continual interaction
and balance of the two energies, and as such it is a very
harmonizing symbol. As each of these energies reaches its
apogee, it begins to transform into its opposite, and this is
shown by the dots in the symbol. At its height, yang contains the
seed of yin, just as yin contains the seed of yang. “Everything
has yin and yang in it and from their rise and fall coupling
comes new life.” Tao-te Ching by Lao-tzu
The Mimbres polychrome representation (above) shows the
“vision quest” sky deity delivering the macaw in an enclosed
seed casing through the “staff(s) of authority” to the earth female
deity, as the macaw enters the natural sphere of existence. Notice
the strong stepfret design pattern associated with the separate
macaw on carrying basket and with the kokopelli macaw trader.
Paquimé archaeologist (Charles DiPeso) is shown (right) with
anthropomorphic male “plug” from the stone birth canal of the
ceremonial macaw birthing chambers. These enclosures have
been previously interpreted as macaw nesting boxes. It is noted,
however, that macaws are very unlikely to breed and nest under
the conditions illustrated in the lower right photographs. The
original interpretation given here is that the macaws exit mother
earth during major religious ceremonies, most likely at the
spring equinox. As they walk into the light they are lifted by the
priest to greet the father sky.
The “macaw stones” or doors to parrot pens show an isomorphic
patterning with ballcourt distribution (Whalen and Minnis
1996). Our interpretation is that many of the architectural
structures identified as “ballcourts” are actually fertilizer dehydration
basins. The macaw stones were used as water control
devices in this context and also have the religious connotation of
releasing the fertile water, thereby completing the rainwater/fertility
cycle for the corn crop. This is a completely new concept,
and as far as is known, the actual layout and design of the
fertilizer dehydration basin relating to the macaw stone cannot
be understood without further study.
Chacoan solid stepfret background with male/female corn dot box C.E. 1100