On our walk yesterday, Frank and I were very lucky to have stumbled upon a ceremony
taking place down by the river in Astoria Park. A group gathered in a circle lined with
small light blue flags for music, dancing, and words spoken. The language was of
spanish dialect, so I'm not sure what was going on exactly, but what we
observed went like this...
Men, women and children, all with leather bands worn on their ankles covered with sewn
shells to make a music as they danced. The bands themselves were embroidered, some
with tribal pattern, some with skulls, flowers, and contrast blanket-stitched edgings.
Some wore fabric wrapped at the knee along with these shin-to-ankle covered bands of leather.
It was almost like the Native American ceremonial and healing music I learned of
and listened to in American music class at FIT. They blew into conch shells and played
drums, stringed instruments and moved together as one. The air was fragrant with the beautiful oils burning in the center of the circle. There were also colorful patterned blankets and flowers gathered in the center.
The women and girls wore white cotton tunics and skirts or long dresses, some with brightly
colored embroidery, and patterned fabric wrapped around the waist and hair.
The wrapped scarves had long fringe, sometimes with shells and stone sewn at the ends.
The men and boys wore leather wrapped bottoms and rounded pieces that covered the chest,
also decorated with stone and shell beads and were hand embroidered in bright threads.
Most wore wrapped scarves at the waist in saturated red colored fabric, allowing their
incredibly intricate tribal back and arm tattoos in black, red and brown ink to be visible.
Lastly, these incredible feathered head pieces, that swayed with the motion of dance,
and when still, slightly with the breeze. One of the men had a head piece that held an
actual skull (or representation, I didn't get that close, but it was supposed to look real in
any case) that rested in front of his forehead, right above his eyes, as if to make him appear
two-headed... very cool.
They carried flags with images of a saint-like figure, edged with brightly colored flowers.
As well as animal line drawings in a light blue ink, which waved brilliantly in the cool
air that carried with it a light rain. At one moment, they all gathered around one boy, and
poured white flowers from woven baskets lightly atop his head as he kneeled upon one knee.
The surrounding green of the park appeared more vivid than I've seen this season.
It was without doubt one of the most inspirational ceremonies I've witnessed so far in my life.
(photos snapped from afar with my phone)