An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
The two visiting dignitaries ignored each other as they performed their morning rituals to welcome and encourage the coming of the sun. They offered cornmeal and corn pollen to the sunrise, they chanted ancient words, and they acknowledged the four directions that became six when they called to the underworld and the above-ground world.
They also listened carefully to each other and noticed the differences.
“You give much emphasis to the underworld,” said the delegate from the North as they walked together back to the great house of the High Priest.
“You give much emphasis to the above-world,” said the delegate from the South.
“All things come from the sky: the warmth of sun, the water for life, the wisdom of moon and stars.”
“Yet The People crawled up from below into this world. The underworld is our womb, our mother.”
“The People were born of the earth and the underworld, it is true. But once born, no one returns to the womb.”
“You are wise and speak truth — but neither does one, once born, fail to honor one’s mother.”
“You are wise and speak truth as well. But while to honor one’s mother is a requirement for balance, men also must raise their heads and recognize the higher spirits of the sky.”
“To recognize the sky is without question necessary for balance. But the superior spirit force resides in the underworld, there must be no question.”
“There must always be question,” said the man from the North, feeling anger within him. “The proof of superiority lies solely with the health and happiness of The People. The spirits of the underworld give their bounty only grudgingly, with the constant urging of Father Sun and gentle rain.”
The man from the South also felt the heat of anger rise into his head. “The spirit of the underworld does nothing begrudgingly. All that we have, our buildings and our tools and our food, have their roots, their beginnings, in the underworld. It is right and proper to worship Másaw as the supreme spirit.”
The man from the North stopped and the man from the South took two paces, then turned to face him. The Northerner narrowed his eyes and said, “The Plumed Serpent of above-ground, of the air and the sky, is, and has always been, the supreme spirit.”
Without speaking further, they stood, each trying to be more stoic than the other, until a page said they were wanted in the great kiva with the High Priest and the other delegates.
“Events will prove who is right,” said the Southerner.
The Northerner nodded. “It is out of our hands.”
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We can only speculate, of course, about the religious tendencies of the Anasazi, and extrapolate, perhaps, from their living descendants. But something significant happened in and around Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a thousand years ago that made these people build the largest buildings in North America (until the 1800s in New York) and then abandon them. Religion could have been a primary driving force.