Ceremony :Novel Summary: Introductory Matter
Summary of Introductory Matter
The book is dedicated to Silko's grandmothers and to her two sons.
A poem tells about the Creator, Thought-Woman, who with her two sisters created the universe, this world and the four worlds below. She is a spider spinning her web, and as she names things they appear.
Another poem, “Ceremony” here is spoken by a “he” to an audience in the first person. The speaker is explaining that stories are not entertainment; they are life and protection against the enemy. The evil of the enemy is great but not as great as the native stories. The enemies try to destroy the stories, but the speaker keeps them in his belly where they are growing.
Another speaker identified as “She” says that the only cure is a good ceremony.
A single word on the next page is “Sunrise.”
Commentary on Introductory Matter
The introductory material signals a shift to another culture and way of seeing the world. In this world there is wisdom and continuity from one generation to another but no personal, egotistic point of view.
Silko dedicates the book to her grandmothers who told her native stories, and to her sons, the next generation to whom the stories must always be passed. Native Americans are very aware of passing knowledge from one generation to the next for the welfare of those who come after them.
The introductory poems give the whole Laguna culture as one continuing cycle. The Creator is female, and she creates a never-ending web of life. As she names things, they appear in the world. The speaker of the poem says Thought-Woman is even now thinking a story, and the author (“I”) will tell the story she is thinking. This implies an author/ storyteller who is a seer, who can see what the creative powers are doing. It also makes creation an ongoing present and unfolding moment, not something done and finished in the past. This story then is a true and alive story with the author not making it up but bringing it out to the world.
The “he” in the next poem is another storyteller or maybe a tribal shaman who tells the audience of listeners that the traditional native story he tells them is more powerful than the evil the whites bring to wipe them out. The whites know the stories are powerful because they try to make the Indians forget the stories that tell them who they are. The stories are their protection as a people. He keeps the stories in his belly where they continue to grow. This refers to the oral tradition in which wisdom is kept in the tribe by a storyteller who relates it verbally to those who should hear it. It is not in a book that can be destroyed, but in the people themselves. By saying the stories are in the belly, he says that it is a living tradition that keeps growing. It is not dying or stagnant. The stories are in their life blood that feeds them.
The “She” might be the Creator, Thought-Woman, or it might be Old Grandma who first recommends a ceremony for Tayo. Tribal women are powerful and this one speaks the wisdom of tradition. Ceremony is the cure for someone like Tayo, the main character, who comes home damaged from his war experience.
The single word, Sunrise, not only implies hope of a new day, but is an important part of Tayo's ceremony of healing that the book represents.
Text: Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony, Penguin, 1977.