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Re: LeGuin: Songs and Poetry of the Kesh

From:Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, January 15, 2003, 17:00
At 2:02 PM -0500 1/14/03, Amanda Babcock wrote:
> >Culture > >There are little notes before each poem or song putting them in cultural >context. I have not reproduced them here, but I do want to explain one >or two things. > >The heyiya-if, the sacred symbol, is a two-branched spiral with an empty >center; it is an opened circle, as contrasted with a closed circle which >is a symbol of dangerous obsession. The right branch is associated with >the supernatural and metaphorically contains four "houses" or families of >spirits and animals. The left-hand branch is associated with human things >and contains five human houses, family lines that people belong to. Four >and five are important numbers; note how many of the poems use stanzas of >four and five lines, or five stanzas of four lines...
The numbers "4" and "5" are typical "important" numbers in many Native American cultures, especially those of Native California. The division into "houses" is also borrowed from Native culture, this time Puebloan (possible Californian as well). It is common for a pueblo to be divided up into clans and lodges; the former division is lineal and the latter is social/economic.
>Even towns are laid out in the pattern of this symbol, with private >residences in the left-hand branch and religious or public places in the >right-hand branch.
My impression from looking at the maps in the book was that the towns weren't necessarily planned according to the heyiya-if other than having all of the residences on one side and the lodges on the other. The houses themselves don't seem to lie along any well-defined curve. The whole book reads like ethnographic field notes from a future Native American culture, which, I suppose, was the intended effect. It actually made reading about traditional Native American cultures of the region much easier for me. Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "It is important not to let one's aesthetics interfere with the appreciation of fact." - Stephen Anderson