Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Apache Gaan spirits represented by masked dancers

One of the most important holy being for Apaches is White-Painted Woman, also known as Changing Woman or White Shell Woman. Her sons, Killer of Enemies and Child Born of Water, triumphed over the evils of the world personified as monsters, making the world safe for humans. The Mountain Spirits ensure the well-being of the people by protecting them from epidemic diseases and enemies. The Mountain Spirit Dancers or Crown Dancers "become" these sacred beings in the same way that the Hopi who dance specific katsinam become those katsina spirits. The Western Apache call them the gaan while the Eastern Apache know them as gaa'he. Embodying the Mountain Spirits, they dance at night, bringing the spiritual world into physical manifestation. Their heads crowned with wooden slat headdresses, four Mountain Spirit Dancers and a clown wield their wooden swords as they dance around the fire. The bull-roarer, which is whirled on a length of string to produce a distinctive, resonating sound, drums, and singing accompany their dancing among the Western Apache. The bull-roarer is not used among the Eastern Apache.