Ceremony by leslie marmon silko

Ceremony comes from the Latin caerimonia, that which is sacred. In the context of Leslie Marmon Silkos Ceremony it embodies an inculcated medium of storytelling tradition. The stories told, act cohesively or disjointedly as a mechanism of expression for elemental and deeply felt beliefs of a people. Silkos novel is steeped in and enacts the notion of storytelling; he spotlights this theme through the Native American tradition of storytelling. Conventionally, Native American culture is oral and therefore stories play a significant role in keeping bodies of information alive. The elders of a community usually adopt the role of storytellers but it is generally an all-inclusive event. The intertwining of narrative and poems is Silkos mode of storytelling. Tayos tale reflects traditional stories merged with a hybrid story based upon his own experiences. His ability to manifest his own story and scrutinize it objectively empowers him with revelation and the ability to control his destiny and identity.

Every culture has a story; each one is customized by historical, environmental, and traditional practices. However, by injecting self-rule and personal experience into the ceremonialist psyche, people are better equipped for societal change. Native American and white culture are sharply schismatic, which insinuates that Tayo, the green eyed Indian, is a living contradiction. Yet Tayo, being avant-garde in his approach to this cultural dichotomy attempts to form a symbiotic relationship between the two. The net effect of him doing so would bear a new story.

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He tries to embrace the two parts of himself but the world around him is unwilling to let that happen. The two cannot coexist. As much as he wants to explore the white world he does not want to abandon his primary allegiance to the Native American traditions. Native Americans attend white schools. It is there that whites attempt to indelibly imprint their witchery in the malleable minds of young Native Americans. They are told their stories and understanding of the world is invalid. As their minds are imprisoned in science and white philosophy, their dreams and priorities are shifted less to the agricultural practices of their ancestors and more to the prospect of white-collar jobs and good pay. Hence, Indian lands are left unprotected and there for the taking, so the whites can invade their reservation with pollution by mines and military industry. Thus, the Indians leave the reservation with quixotic dreams of wealth and fame; all of which are supplanted by raw racism. Since their pay is meager, they find themselves going through an endless drinking cycle wasting their money on alcohol and bars. Yet, the whites are not fully to blame for their helplessness; in fact it is more the Indians fault than anyone elses according to Betonie. He explains:
White people are only tools that the witchery manipulates; and I tell you, we (Indians) can deal with white people, with their machines and their beliefs. We can because we invented white people; it was Indian witchery that made white people in the first place. (p.132)
Although whites seem to be a primarily destructive force to society at large, they remain part and parcel of Native American culture and traditions. In order for Tayo to coexist with himself, he must first understand that they are born of each other and are mutually responsible for the present dilemma.

Silko internalizes this cultural conflict within Tayo. Tayos belly is a reservoir for emotion, spirit, and Native American culture whereas his brain is a sponge for logic, cognition, science, and white witchery. These two stories reside in the same vessel; yet, they both function entirely separate of one another. The belly sustains the body and the brain gives the orders. Tayo, conscious of the two being ostensibly severed, attempts to heal himself without divesting the fundamentals of each story. Since he is firmly rooted to Native American tradition, he staunchly refuses the encroachment of witchery on the reservoir within and the Laguna reservation outside.

The magnetism of the center spread over him smoothly like rainwater down his neck and shouldersIt was pulling him back, close to the earth, where the core was cool and silent as mountain stone, and even with the noise and pain in his head he knew how it would be: a returning rather than a separationLying above the center that pulled him down closer felt more familiar to him than any embrace he could rememberHe was sinking into the elemental arms of mountain silence. Only his skull resisted; and the resistance increased the pain to a shrill whine. He visualized each piece of his own skull, fingering each curve, each hollow, testing its thickness for a final thin membrane worn thin by time and the witchery of dead ash and mushroomed bulletsHe knew if he left his skull unguarded, if he let himself sleep, it would happen: the resistance would leak out and take with it all the barriers, all boundaries; he would seep into the earth and rest with the center, where the voice of the silence was familiar and the density of the dark earth loved him. (p. 201-202)
In a nutshell, he is unwilling to stand by (like the other Indians on the reservation) and allow the imperialist upstairs (i.e. witchery) to reign unchecked. To cleanse himself of this crossbreed schizophrenia, he runs off to adjoin with nature. The ethereal Montano represents hominoid nature. She helps Tayo on his journey by inducing the cultivation of a hybrid story. This story explains his oneness with nature and himself. Succinctly, Tayo dives into the wilderness to escape pedestrian life and find his story, and surfaces in homeostasis with nature and a more unified self.

After nature enlightens Tayo with her pulchritude and simplicity, he asks for her blessing. Sunrise, accept this offering, Sunrise. Tayo is no longer entangled in the web (story) of Native American or white culture. Instead, he is the spider knitting an all-encompassing web, a story for all stories. No story takes primacy over another; they are all of equal importance and validity in Tayos story.