Found! the Spiritual Way!
Category : Articles
Thomas Jack Rudolph
Professor Dr. Jim Schrantz
June 11, 2012
Found! The Spiritual Way!
Interpretation and analysis of author Leslie Marmon Silko??™s short story, ???The Man To Send Rain Clouds???, could have been difficult. But a great grandmother within our family being of full blooded Cherokee decent, educated and passed on to us many ancient Native North American Indian stories of proud rituals and spiritual traditions. These acts of traditions have been practiced and passed down to many generations of my family. In this story, there are many instances of traditional spiritual and ritual acts that have symbolic significance in helping the audience interpret Teofilo??™s journey of life in this short story. Normally, interpreting these acts would be very difficult, but with the knowledge and experience obtained from this family member, the reader can simplify these meanings along this path, and give ourselves a better understanding of their symbolic importance to the story. From the feather attached to Teofilo??™s flowing hair, the paint with its specific colors, and the location and order that they are applied, the audience will interpret these simple traditional acts to help the reader understand these important symbolic meanings. These symbols will help the audience to understand Teofilo??™s journey from his current life through his death and onto his rebirth of life in the spiritual world.
Feathers have many meanings in the Indian culture and are especially significant in the spiritual realm. Feathers are from birds that fly and soar high into the sky, and clouds from that high altitude have a great expansive view of everything. So, when Leon tied a small gray feather in the old man??™s (Silko page 403), Teofilo??™s, long flowing white hair symbolizes his free flowing flight. To be able to fly through the wind and ascend upward into the skies and clouds, with gods, to join other wise and free celestial spirits, represents a full spirit flying freely into the other spiritual world. The gray feather is the final step to rebirth into the spiritual world.
Then, there are four colors that were painted onto Teofilo??™s face. The groupings of the number, and the actual colors themselves along with their order and placement, have multiple interwoven symbolic meanings. All four colors each represent an aspect of nature and show the closeness to nature, the natural world and the spiritual world. The number four, along with the number two, are sacred numbers to Native Indians, which represent the four sacred elements, four seasons, four points of a cross, and the four steps of the journey of life. The last, the four steps of the journey of life, has significant symbolic ties to the placement of all four of nature??™s sacred colors.
Starting with the color green at the bottom, painted on Teofilo??™s chin, this represents the green earth, beginnings, spring, rebirth, and birth of a life. Green is the color of nature and is a very common color of most of nature??™s growing healthy organisms that are full of life, vigor, freshness, and harmony. Green represents Teofilo??™s beginning or birth in the world that he is now leaving and is his first step in his journey of life.
Yellow is next, placed above the color green and painted under Teofilo??™s nose. Yellow represents a person??™s life, happiness, summer, and sun.. This color symbolizes life, and the spirit has a happy smile since yellow represents happiness. These two colors green and yellow, combined together, as the bottom two colors next to each other, represent the earth and sun. Yellow represents Teofilo??™s life which is the second step in his life cycle.
Next, is the color blue, just above yellow, that is painted high on Teofilo??™s cheeks representing winter, loyalty, confidence and wisdom. These traits are associated with the older, wiser, and respected elders of a tribe. The blue color painted high on Teofilo??™s cheekbones represents the high blue mountains and the cold blue winter sky. The color blue is the representation of winter. This color is also associated with death, since winter is the season of death. This also represents the third step of Teofilo??™s life, which is the physical death of Teofilo.
The last color white represents birth, pureness, light, and goodness. The fact that the white paint is placed on the forehead at the top of Teofilo??™s head represents the snow on the top of the mountains and the clouds high up in the sky next to the spirit world. The color white represents birth and rebirth into the spirit world. These two colors blue and white, combined together, as the top two colors next to each other represent the sky and rebirth. White being painted and placed above the color blue represents the fact that rebirth is stronger than death and that life is stronger than death, which is a common belief in all Indian religions. White represents the last and final step in Teofilo??™s life and that is rebirth.
The number two, as with four, is a sacred number to the Native Indian. They believe most of life is balanced in pairs. Such as the equal pairs of good and bad, night and day, male and female, and life and death. They believe that the world is balanced and cannot survive without both parts in co-existence. So, they honor both parts of the pair equally. The two sets of paired colors green and yellow, along with blue and white, fit into this grouping of sacred numbers of two which represent the places Teofilo has been during his journey of life.
In conclusion, there are only a select few Native American Indians left who still practice these cultural traditions and then pass their secrets onto their next generation of offspring. Most of the elements of the North American Native Indians symbolic burial rituals, and passing on to another world, have special unique meanings attached to them. From the feather attached to Teofilo??™s flowing white hair, the paint with its specific colors, the location and order that they are applied, and grouping in numbers of two and four, all of this symbolizes an equally rich spiritual ritual and tradition to the Native Indians culture. And each has its own significant symbolic place and meaning in helping the audience interpret and understand Teofilo??™s life, death and rebirth.