Ceremony :Novel Summary: Pages 153-213
Summary of pages 153-213
This part of the novel tells of Tayo's setting out on his quest to recover Josiah's stolen cattle from the cattle rustlers in the foothills of Mt. Taylor. The quest is both practical and symbolic. The Indians let their cattle run free, and this is how the rustlers took them, though the cattle were branded. The rustlers are white, and so, the Indians did not feel they could do anything about it. Tayo learns to move in the world like an Indian medicine man, gathering power and allies to achieve his goal. He learns to read the signs of nature that tell of a larger magical story going on in the world than the story of appearances.
Tayo is walking on the road outside Gallup when a truck pulls up, and Leroy and Harley insist he get in. They are drunk and have an Indian girl, Helen Jean, with them. Tayo suddenly sees clearly the truth of everything in the world, including the whites, and the drunken behavior of Indians. He is sickened by it but remembers Betonie's teaching. Tayo gets drunk with them. He watches how Helen Jean leaves the Indians in a bar for Mexican men who ogle her.
The narrative switches to Helen Jean's life. She had left the reservation to find a job but had fallen into prostitution.
Leroy and Harley get beat up by white guys in a bar. Tayo drives. He finally leaves them in the desert passed out in the truck. Betonie had told him he would have to go through transitions to be whole again. This is one as he leaves behind the drunken Indian behavior.
The myth of Gambler is inserted here. It is a Laguna story about a magician who stole the rain clouds and the hero Sun Man who released the clouds. The narrative jumps around now in a dreamlike sequence of scenes that represent Tayo's experience in the mythic world of his quest for the stolen cattle. He meets a woman who gives him water for his horse. He feels shifted into the medicine world as he had with Betonie. Betonie had drawn a pattern of stars in the sky for him to remember, and every night he looks at the sky to see if he can find it. The woman shows him the night sky and tells him to look at the stars. It is the same pattern Betonie had shown him. He sleeps with the woman and dreams of the cattle. In the morning, he remembers the song the people sing to the sunrise and sings it. The woman is working with stones and string in the house in a way that is magic. She is doing some kind of ceremony for Tayo.
Tayo heads for the mountain where he had hunted with his people. He knows the cattle are on Floyd Lee's ranch, a white man's ranch. He cuts a hole in the fence at night. He sees a mountain lion and falls on his knees, saying an old prayer to it. The mountain lion leaves. Tayo goes where the lion came from. At dawn he finds the cattle grazing and begins to drive them home. He begins to feel strong.
The cattle run far ahead. They head south towards home. Meanwhile, Tayo is caught by white cowboys who force him to go with them. They do not know about the cattle, but Tayo is trespassing. At night, the cowboys suddenly leave Tayo where he is because they spot the mountain lion and decide to hunt it down. The storm clouds gather and there is snow. Tayo covers himself in leaves to stay warm. He knows the snow will cover the tracks of the lion and the cattle. The white men will never find them.
Tayo runs into an Indian hunter singing a song to a dead deer, who guides him to the house of the woman who had helped him. The hunter seems to live there with her and tells her she had better fold up the storm blanket now. She folds up the blanket with the pattern of storm on it, and the snow stops. Tayo's horse is in the woman's corral. She also has his cattle.
Tayo brings Robert with a truck to load the cattle. The woman has cared for them.
Commentary on pages 153-213
Recovering stolen cattle is a mythic story in world literature found in the ancient Vedas of India to the American western. Speckled cattle are also important in Native American mythology. They are a gift to the people from the gods. They are stolen by whites, representing everything the whites have stolen from Indians—their land, their religion, their livelihood, and self-respect. Tayo wins them back using the ancient lore and Betonie's visions.
With Betonie, Tayo had performed the Scalp Ceremony to lay the Japanese dead soldiers to rest. This is what Indian warriors did even with enemies, for the dead had to be taken care of. One by one, Tayo returns to set the past at rest, with ceremonial actions. The next scene is his setting out to Mt. Taylor to find the missing cattle. He meets a strange woman who wears a blanket with the design and colors associated with storm clouds. She is a medicine woman, called T'seh, who brings healing and rain. Tayo sees the pattern of stars Betonie had shown him, so he knows he is supposed to be there with her. He begins to feel alive again. He begins to feel he is inside the story that Betonie had shown him which included the stars, the woman, and the mountain.
The meeting with the mountain lion is pivotal, for the mountain lion is a deity on Mt. Taylor, associated with the winter hunt, the one who brings the deer to the Indian people. Tayo recognizes him and falls on his knees in prayer. The mountain lion shows him where the cattle are and saves him from the white ranchers.
The medicine woman has brought the storm with her storm blanket and has brought Tayo's horse and cattle to her corral. He is embarrassed, thinking he has trespassed with the hunter's wife, but the hunter seems to understand the situation. Tayo has completed the quest and has been made whole again. He is a hero bringing the good fortune of the cattle and rain and plenty to his people.