Pulling Down the Sun

In days past, the sun’s rays at noon on winter solstice were carefully marked, attended.  The sun in northern American latitudes would be at the lowest place in the sky for a year, thereafter rising higher daily to the summer solstice noon in June.  These two times, winter and summer solstice, were known as meridian passage.

Elsie Clews Parsons made note of the Isleta Pueblo marking light on winter solstice day.

In the roof of the ceremonial room there is a hole through which at noon the sun shines on a spot on the floor near where the chief stands….All sing the song of “pulling down the sun.”…This is noon time when for a little while the Sun stands still [1].

Humans, singing,  help pull the sun down.  And, by singing again, humans push the sun up.  Although scientifically un-plausible, the ceremony embeds connection with the sun in a metaphorical sense that, in turn, reflects the empirical, august, palpable unity that people need with one another to sing their lives into another yearly cycle with nature.


[1]  Elsie Clews Parsons, Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for the Years 1929-1930, pp. 193-466.  Washington, D. C.: 1932.  From Anna F. Sofaer and Rolf M. Sinclair, “Astronomical Markings on Fajada Butte,” in John B. Carlson and W. James Judge (eds.), Astronomy and Ceremony in the Prehistoric Southwest, Papers of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, No. 2, 1987, pp. 63-64.




Filed under Life in Balance

2 responses to “Pulling Down the Sun

  1. Of course my favorite celestial place is Chaco Canyon, where apparently many windows and petroglyphs are parts of annual calendars to mark the passing of the seasons. There is also a wonderful pictograph known as the Supernova Pictograph, which is believed to depict the supernova nebula recorded in 1054. Here’s a link: http://www.imagecounts.com/Jims%20Gallery/Supernova%20Pictograph.htm I had to search a number of sites to get a decent photo of it, which I find mind boggling since when we hiked it I got wonderful photos of it, better than any I found on the internet! In person this pictographs looks like it was painted there yesterday. The hand’s thumb is believed to be pointing to where the supernova was seen in the sky that night. There is a video, “The Mystery of Chaco Canyon” you can buy here: http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/mocc.html
    Every now and then it’s shown on PBS, and it’s absolutely fascinating. I guess you can tell that I think Chaco is the most spiritual place I’ve ever been, and learning that it was a center for cosmology explains why. And that’s what your post made me think about.

    • Caralee, thanks for the photograph link and video recommendation. And, Chaco Canyon! Wish you could post your photos of Chaco. I remember, I think correctly, of seeing them when you returned. They were fabulous. The trail back up behind the major structure to Pueblo Alto was arduous, but worth it when you reached Pueblo Alto.

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