Yuchi Symbolism of the Town Square

We shall now return again to the subject of the town square because the religious ceremonies to be described in the following pages are inseparably connected with it.

The public square-ground, where all civil and religious events of the town take place, has a symbolical significance which is quite important, and comparable in some respects to the altars and shrines of the southwestern and plains tribes.

In its ceremonial aspect the town square is symbolically a rainbow. For, according to the myth of the origin of the Yuchi and their cult, as already given, the mother of the Sun took him to the ceremony of the upper world where he was scratched. This took place on the Rainbow, yuεa’, so the present square-ground is called yuεa’, ‘rainbow.’

The officials at the ceremonies are hence called yuεa’hobálen, ‘rainbow or square-ground Chief ‘ and yuεa’hosan‘ba, ‘ rainbow or square-ground Warrior.’ The square might well be termed a rainbow shrine. Another name for the square is nn, ‘ thoroughly beautiful ‘ or ‘good all over.’

While investigations were being made in regard to the square-ground, the assistant of the town chief brought in a colored representation of it showing how the square looked when it was formally arranged for the ceremonies. This sketch is reproduced in Plate XI. The explanation of the colors is as follows: The whole figure represents the rainbow. The brown square represents the earth. The fire in the center typifies the sun and is painted red. The ashes are represented by yellow. The three yellow lines are paths to the north, west and south lodges respectively, are likewise composed of ashes scattered by the four yätcigi’ after the new fire has been started on the first day of the rites. This feature is now obsolete. The logs of the new fire are green, symbolizing vegetation. The brush roofs of the lodges are also green.

It will be noticed that the Warrior lodges, north and south side, have their uprights and beams colored red. This color symbolizes the Warrior class and war which they represent. The custom of coloring the posts is also now obsolete. The Chief lodge lacks this coloring. As will be seen in the photo-graphs of the ceremonies (Plate XII, et seq.), a white face is given to these upright posts in modern times, by peeling off part of the outer bark and exposing the white inner surface. White is symbolical of peace.

The serpent figure lying before the north Warrior lodge is the dätoεa’, a supernatural horned serpent , and the object of veneration in the Dätoεa’ ctī, now called Big Turtle Dance. This stuffed deerskin effigy was colored blue, with two yellow horns on its head. It rested in former times before the north Warrior lodge where the two Warrior officials, gocotié and yueahosdn’ba, sat with their feet upon it, but its use has been abandoned.

Something should be said here of the other meaning of the word yuεa’. Besides meaning rainbow, it stands for ‘ big house.’ This we find to be the name given by the neighboring Creek Indians to their town square (djógo łákko, big house).

If any credence is to be given to the statements of the Yuchi in this matter, the Creeks borrowed nearly the whole of the annual ceremonies of the Yuchi when they overran the Southeast, subduing and incorporating the latter. The modern Creeks, however, although recognizing the general similarity between their ceremonies and those of the Yuchi, do not subscribe to this opinion but claim an independent supernatural source for them.


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