Symbolismin TheMan to Send Rain Clouds
Inthe short story, TheMan to Send Rain Cloudsby Leslie Marmon Silko, the customary Laguna American funeralceremony is questioned by the Catholic Church, upon the death ofTeofilo, an old man in the village (Jaskoski 54). Symbolism reigns inthe entire story as the dead have a feather knotted in their hair,their faces are smeared with four colors, they are covered in redblankets, buried with a meal of corn, and water is freckled aroundtheir graves. The traditional rituals are symbols of their beliefs.
Itis symbolic to use feathers as they signify the spirit world in mostAmerican cultures, as indicated by Ava. Venefica says that thefeathers signify strength and ascension, and they are mainly worn bychiefs, to express their capability to converse with the celestialknowledge of the spirits(Kelly 33).A feather is knotted in Teofilo’s hair to enable him fly in theworld of spirits, and arrive at his destination. The hair was chosenbecause it is the body part, which can easily flow, making his flighteasy.
Symbolismis evident in the painting of Teofilo’s face with four colors. Thepaintings make it easier for him to be recognized upon reaching thespirit world. The first color to be painted is white, which among theLaguna, denotes the snow found on the mountaintops. It symbolizesclouds, which are significant to the Laguna people. It is a symbol ofthe rebirth of the dead into the spirit world(Jaskoski 43).The white color would also show the gods that someone is good andpure when they enter the spirit world. Moreover, the white color onthe forehead of Teofilo indicates clouds in the sky, and snow onmountaintops, since the forehead is the head’s highest point.
Thesymbolic use of color blue indicates the Blue Mountains in thenatural world of Laguna. Blue represents the color of the sky inwinter(Kelly 50).Since winter represents the season of death, therefore, Teofilo’sdeath is represented by blue. Blue represents wisdom, loyalty, andconfidence. The old in American cultures are associated with thetraits, and since Teofilo is old, the blue color will show the godsthat he is a person of high status. The blue color on the cheeksrepresents the mountains because the cheeks are high. The blue coloron the cheeks also represents death, while the white color on theforehead represents rebirth. Hence, just as in many religions,rebirth is significant than death, making the white color to be onthe forehead, while blue on the cheeks.
Yellowwas also used symbolically to represent corn, or the sun, which aresignificant in Laguna culture. The sun supports growth and life. Cornis the essential crop in Laguna. The yellow color representing summeris also an indicator of maturity(McCloud 23).The yellow color signifies peace, intellect, and happiness. Thetraits will also be appealing to the gods. The person’s body willtherefore, be at peace on earth, and in the spirit world. The yellowcolor under the nose indicates afterlife happiness. Its proximity tothe upper lip indicates a smile hence, the person will be happy intheir souls, and on earth.
Teofilo’sface was also symbolically painted green, indicating health and life.It represents the spring, and a symbol of life renewal. It alsorepresents freshness and harmony hence, could be referring to thelife of Teofilo, which is lively(Jaskoski 67).It indicates how the people of Laguna are close to nature and death.More so, it was painted on the chin (the lowest point on the face),referring to harmony and closeness to the earth.
Thearrangement of the four colors on the face together with the featheris a symbolic representative of the complete journey of a person. Thebottom has the green color, indicating birth. Summer, where there isgrowth, is represented by the yellow color under the nose. The cheekshave a blue color, which indicates death, and lastly the forehead hasthe white color that represents rebirth in the world of spirits. Thefeather on the hair shows the last process in the process of beingreborn, because the American traditions show flight in the world ofspirits(McCloud 40).The number four used for the colors is also symbolic because theculture of the Navajo has four, among its sacred numbers(Towner 70).The four sacred plants, elements, mountains, and rivers are alsosymbolic.
Symbolismis also used when there was a scattering of cornmeal with pollens ofcorn. It is sprinkled at the place of death, at the deceased’shome, and the grave. The mixture protects and helps in forgiveness,and understanding. It is also considered sacred in Native America.The people of the Pueblo culture use the mixture to make lines on theground, to take people to their gods, or to protect them fromundesired things(McPherson 34).It is used as a supplement to sanctify ritual items like the prayersticks. The Navajo culture uses corn to place in a child’s mouth astheir first teeth sprouts, they pour it in their hands as they gettheir first colt, and scattered on their head when they attendkindergarten. This then indicates that corn is a significant item inAmerican culture(Towner 45).The three times of sprinkling tries to integrate Christianity intothe ritual, that is, to represent the Holy Trinity. It is sprinkledat three major places connected with the death of the person. Ithelps uphold the theme of Christianity into the burial rituals of theLaguna.
Thered blanket in which Teofilo is enfolded is also symbolic, since redindicates the true road, the track from the East to the West, in thedirection of the sunset. It is a blessing for the deceased as it willlead them to the world of spirits, that is, the west. Additionally,it symbolizes a journey of good luck to the spirit world(Towner 78).Moreover, it symbolizes power, strength, and determination. Thus, itwas a spring of inspiration for the spirits on their way.
Inconclusion, the short story Theman to send rain cloudshas symbolism mostly in the aspects of the Laguna burial rites, whichare symbolic with each of them having some particular meaning.Feathers are symbolically tied on the deceased’s head to enablethem to fly while in the spirit world. The face is painted with fourcolors to ease recognition by the gods, when one goes to the spiritworld. The number four is also symbolic because it is among theLaguna people’s sacred numbers. The use of corn meal and pollens isa symbol of protection hence it indicates that the deceased willhave forgiveness in the land of spirits. The sprinkling on the threemajor areas of operation brings in the aspect of Christianity of theHoly Trinity. Finally, the red blanket is used to direct the deceasedon their journey to the spirit world.
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Kelly,Isabel T. NotesOn The Culture Of The Laguna Zone.[México]: [Institute of Inter-American Affairs], 2012. Print.
McCloud,Jennifer Sink. FacePaint & Feathers.[Blacksburg, Va.]: [ The University Libraries, of VirginiaPolytechnic Institute, and the State University], 2010. Print.
McPherson,Robert S. NavajoLand, Navajo Culture.Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. Print.
Towner,Ronald H. TheArchaeology Of Navajo Origins.Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2011. Print.