The Circle and the Wheel and the Sundoor


[aras-image:3Fc.004,,10,,,Figure 6 Dancing maidens.]
[aras-image:5Ka.113,b,10,,,Figure 7 Dance and Music by Matisse.]

A Greek sculpture of a circle dance from the 8th Century BC represents a human activity which physically and rhythmically defines the dimensions of a contained space with an empty center as dancers move in and out of the center. The French painter Matisse repeats the same image centuries later, in a ring of graceful dancers absorbed in the creation of their world. The center of the circle is that point from which the radii emerge or the point at which they converge.
Among the American Indians of the Southwest the center of the circle is the sipapu, the Place of Emergence. After traveling through three worlds below this one, mankind came up through the opening in the crust of the earth into this world, as locusts emerge in the spring from their nests and as corn grows in its segmented stalks in the spring. In the round pueblo kivas, which are built below the surface level of the pueblo, this sacred center is covered except during special times in the ritual year. Thus three of the four levels of existence are physically represented in the kiva structure itself. In Navajo sandpaintings, the place of emergence may be a black circle surrounded by colored bands representing the four directions. In Red Antway Chant, the place of emergence contains four thunderbolts, with lightning arrows in the four cardinal directions and lightning flashes in the diagonals, protected by the Bear Guardians who remove the shroud of evil dreams and ghosts. In Mountainway Chant the place of emergence has the fire sign in the center surrounded by fir trees and the chant concerns itself with the fertilization of all life. Around the outside of the circle are all of the hunting animals, and the four sacred plants, tobacco, beans, corn and squash. On rainbow bars the Yei, the gods, can move in any direction as they like.