Multicultural in nature and spirit!

Nature and Spirituality

The stories being reviewed this week are The Florentine Codex: Book 12, The Conquest of Mexico, The Night Chant from the Navajo Ceremony, and Yellow Woman by Leslie Marmon Silko. The interesting thing about each of these stories is that they all contain the theme of nature and/or spirituality. In addition to that being the theme, they each utilize metaphors to describe the key theme. After I have thoroughly reviewed each of the three stories I will analyze how this key theme can be used in teaching to Secondary Education students.

First and foremost, The Conquest of Mexico, this was an interesting story. This story was written and compiled over three decades from 1547-1579. It’s primarily about the Spaniards conquest of Mexico leading up to when Cortés first arrived, eventually leading to the submission of the Tlatilulcans, secondly the Tenochtitlans, and finally their rulers to the Spaniards as well. This story didn’t really have a sense of spirituality portion of the aforementioned theme however, it definitely had the feeling of nature. It was at the beginning of the story when I first sensed this theme, it was just after a messenger told Moctezuma that they saw large boats. Following that was this passage: “Especially did it cause him to faint away when he heard how the gun, at [the Spaniards’] command, discharged [the shot]; how it resounded as if it thundered when it went off. It indeed bereft one of strength; it shut off one’s ears. And when it discharged, something like a round pebble came forth from within. Fire went showering forth; sparks went blazing forth. And its smoke smelled very foul; it had a fetid odor which verily wounded the head. And when [the shot] struck a mountain, it was as if it were destroyed, dissolved. And a tree was pulverized; it was as if it vanished; it was as if someone blew it away.” The numerous metaphors in this passage showed a strong connection between the people and nature. Much of the story is explained in a similar way. When a messenger had gone to Tlaxcalla they told Moctezuma that the Tlaxcallans had been slain by the Spaniards. The explanation made it appear the Spaniards had the power to move the earth and destroy all in their path.

The Navajo Ceremony in The Night Chant was definitely one that contained both key theme points of nature and spirituality. This chant was rife with an intense aura that seemed like it was meant for the purpose of manifesting healing, happiness, beauty, and strength. It’s almost as though the chanting created a strong bond between humankind and the environment in which the Navajo lived. I felt as though the chant cultivated some sense of power amongst the people and the world itself. The passage excerpt I chose to analyze was the following:

“Happily abundant dark clouds I desire.

Happily abundant dark mists I desire.

Happily abundant passing showers I desire.

Happily an abundance of vegetation I desire.

Happily an abundance of pollen I desire.

Happily abundant dew I desire.

Happily may fair white corn, to the ends of the
earth, come with you.

Happily may fair yellow corn, to the ends of the
earth, come with you.

Happily may fair blue corn, to the ends of the
earth, come with you.

Happily may fair corn of all kinds, to the ends
of the earth, come with you.

Happily may fair plants of all kinds, to the ends
of the earth, come with you.

Happily may fair goods of all kinds, to the ends
of the earth, come with you.

Happily may fair jewels of all kinds, to the ends
of the earth, come with you.”

The reason for choosing the above passage was because I see that the purpose of this excerpt from the ceremonial chant was a request to the clouded sky to produce rain for their crops and other plant life to grow. I got the impression their chanting was meant to cultivate those same feelings I mentioned earlier for whatever spirit they chanted to for thunderclouds and rain for vegetation growth. It was a super intriguing read!

In final, we come to Leslie Marmon Silko’s story Yellow Woman, another interesting piece of multicultural literature that contains the same feeling of both nature and spirituality. I chose this passage from the beginning of the story as an example: “I looked at him beside me, rolled in the red blanket on the white river sand. I cleaned the sand out of the cracks between my toes, squinting because the sun was above the willow trees. I looked at him for the last time, sleeping on the white river sand.” This passage struck my attention most. From the reading of the story as a whole you can deduce that she was sleeping on the beach after having an affair with another man (cheating on her husband for those modern thinkers). Just in this passage excerpt, and the entire story, it seems as though nature and spirituality and the female characters actions go hand in hand. I gather that it was nature and a spiritual connection to this man who caused her to have the affair. Throughout the story she was so attuned to nature. Silva is a Navajo character that the main female character, the Yellow Woman, slept with. The tale told by the woman’s grandfather goes that a ka’tsina spirit (who is Navajo) will kidnap the Yellow Woman and take her away. That’s really the gist. She really starts falling for Silva and you can understand this because she starts to forget who her family is, their memories fading away, perhaps due to her powerful spiritual connection with Silva… Anyways, she in the end returns home to her family being guided by nature and is (from my understanding) hopeful that one day Silva will return again and take her away.

Ok, now the true final thing. After reading this story I felt there are several methods or activities that any Secondary classroom teacher could use for teaching this theme of nature and spirituality to students. Just know this activity suggestion is assuming that all students have already succeeded in reading passages that contain the key themes mentioned throughout this blog. First off, the teacher should have their students get into small groups of at least 4 people. After students gather together they should brainstorm ideas, this is best done in small groups of course. COOL! Now that they have gotten into a small group, brainstormed ideas, they should (as a group) select some sort of activity to show what they all learned from the readings and how the readings applied to the themes. One suggestion from website Thompson (2018) suggests walking students through a passage, chapter or other read text, but I feel that these activities can be used by the students for assessing their understanding of the passage, chapter, etc. Students can create a cause-and-effect chart, have them come up with at least five questions that the class can answer together (student lead) and even (as always) I suggest that they work as a group to draw the way they depict the theme to be used and understood in the story. It is never a bad thing to get your students active, let’s do this!

Multicultural Literature Review

Donovan Ward from CWP View All →

I am attending college online with Grand Canyon University (GCU) for an English Teaching degree for Secondary Education. The first question I was asked when I made the decision to embark on this journey to be a teacher was, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" My response: "It is not for the money." Regardless, I am looking forward to being a teacher and am on this blog as part of a college course. I have written (never published) books and poetry of all kinds and have a love for writing in general. I have never done a blog before so we will see how this goes. Let's do this!

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