From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Geronimo: Interfaith wisdom

(Portrait of Geronimo in 1905 by Curtis)
Geronimo was not the actual name of the famous Chiricahua Apache warrior.  His original Chiricahua name was Goyaale, transliterated as Goyathlay or Goyahkla (meaning “one who yawns” or “intelligent, shrewd, clever” when given a slightly different accent).  Allegedly, he was first called “Geronimo” by Mexican soldiers who were calling out to St. Jerome to save them from this mighty warrior.

Goyahkla was raised in the ways of the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua sub-tribe.  According to Apache tradition, he was rolled towards each of the four directions (east, north, west, and south) at birth.  He continued to perform this ritual later in life - each time that he returned to his birth place, and even when in danger.  On the fourth day of life, he was placed in a cradle (tosch) prepared by a medicine man and the elders with “prayers and rituals.”  When he first walked, another celebration was held.  There was “singing, praying, dancing and feasting.”  Not long afterwards came another ritual - the ceremonial cutting of Goyahkla’s hair.

Tribal worship was directed toward Usen, the “super-god Life Giver.”  Usen disliked interceding in human disputes; therefore, prayers from one person against another were not acceptable.  Humans were expected to settle their own quarrels – even with vengeance, if necessary.  The eating of snakes, frogs and fish was forbidden because Usen did not intend for this to occur.  Eating bears was also forbidden since bears were considered to be Apache ancestors.  All of this was taught to Goyathlay by his mother before his sixth birthday.

Years later, Geronimo was asked about the Bedonkohe views concerning life after death.  According to Wikipedia, he replied:  As to the future state, the teachings of our tribe were not specific, that is, we had no definite idea of our relations and surroundings in after life.  He had stated this two years after converting to Christianity in 1903.  Wikipedia reports that he had also advised his people to study Christianity because it was good at “enabling people to live right.”  At the end of his life, he seemed
to honor both Apache and Christian traditions.  


Copyright May 7, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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