Leslie collected by Renato Rosaldo. His fieldwork on

Leslie
Marmon Silko’s Ceremony is a
fictional novel with the intent of healing the protagonist, Tayo, through a
series of stories, where he would find answers in the characters from the
stories as part of his journey. Its ritual is represented in old traditional
events that always repeat themselves, which means the result for every main
character is almost always the same. In Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage, the ritual is being reported first
hand and the conclusion is based on what evidence has been collected by Renato
Rosaldo. His fieldwork on the Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage provided an insight on a ritual
practice that serves as a healing method to individuals that were dealing with
rage and grief.

Ethnography methods of collecting data vary with each anthropologist.
Most fieldwork is done by communicating with certain cultures for a specified
period like Renato Rosaldo. In his article he tries to refrain from speculating
as to why the Ilongots headhunt. Going into the field is his article, and
unlike fiction he can’t use his imagination because it is based on proof. The
most difficult information to capture were the emotions of the victims of grief
and rage because in nature people do not open to the unknown. Therefore, the
Ilongot people did not give Rosaldo any visible emotions the way fiction
writers would. For example, after a man had lost his seventh child, the man
converted to Christianity for more guidance (Rosaldo, 169). Rosaldo’s article
did not include if he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or
provide us with any hard evidence to suggest otherwise.

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Personal
experience helps explain certain events that are beyond understanding. Today
people respond to an individual’s troubles by acting like they know what they
are going through. Renato Rosaldo experienced the tragedy of losing his wife
and his brother during his time with the Ilongot people. The void that his wife
left couldn’t be filled. When he said, “how could she abandon me? How could she
have been so stupid as to fall? I tried to cry. I sobbed, but rage blocked the
tears” (Rosaldo, 171). It shows the power of first hand emotion and the
importance of a female character brought into the article. This also gave him
some insight as to how the Ilongot felt, but did not give him the same desire
to headhunt because he failed to conceive the force of anger. He described
himself as being in denial of rage because he didn’t feel the same way they
did. (Rosaldo, 171). He said, “Although grief therapists routinely encourage
awareness of anger among the bereaved, upper-middle-class Anglo-American
culture tends to ignore the rage devastating losses can bring” (Rosaldo, 171),
which he assumes has forced him not to understand other cultures or engage with
them to suggest otherwise.

In
Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage,
Rosaldo was more concerned with as to why they performed such a gruesome
ritual. For us to follow what Rosaldo wanted the audience to understand, we
must find a procedure relatable to headhunting. A funeral is one act that is
inevitable. Funerals are defined by most cultures as celebrations that are
symbolic and memorable after losing a loved one (Zimon, 46). Memorable in the
sense that we show pictures and talk about the good they did before they left
and symbolic in the sense that we show some respect by dancing, crying, or
singing. The same concept with funerals is what Rosaldo is trying to put across
with what the Ilongots did to deal with the same loss. He mentioned that, “Once
the raiders kill their victim, they toss away the head rather than keep it as a
trophy. In tossing away the head, they claim by analogy to cast away their life
burdens, including the rage in their grief” (Rosaldo, 174). This quote
represents the symbolic elements used by the Ilongots. Instead of drinking or
dancing, they prefer headhunting. Rosaldo’s article tries to defend how cultural
difference works. One person might feel headhunting is unthinkable, but
consider the act of committing suicide an acceptable way of dealing with grief.
Another example would be how the Ilongots responded to Rosaldo being drafted to
fight in the war. They were as scared of war the same way we fear headhunting.
This shows the Ilongots own ignorance about the cultures that participate in
killing for their nation. 

With
every writing or fieldwork, there will be some critics among the readers to
question the author’s work and main points. According to Paula Gunn Allen,
“telling the old stories, revealing the old ways can only lead to disaster” (Allen, 384). This somewhat relates to Rosaldo’s work
on the Ilongots. Cultural values are supposed to be kept sacred, but once
reported, they could be altered to satisfy the writers views. The audience that
reads Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage
today could have the same response that Rosaldo had in the beginning because of
Anglo-American culture shielding us from understanding other cultural views.
Another example, would be from Paul Rabinow’s Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco. One of his informants was
restricted from providing him with information simply because he was an
outsider. You must earn the trust of the community to be at least part of a
conversation. Paula Gunn Allen mentioned, “an anthropologist, Elsie Clews
Parsons, who went to Laguna to collect material for her study of Pueblo
religion and social culture. They had given her information readily enough and
everything seemed fine. But when Parsons published the material, Lagunas saw
how she treated their practices and beliefs, and they were horrified” (Allen,
383). This example identifies the effects of an outsider reporting about a
culture she knew nothing about.

Unlike
Rosaldo, Leslie Marmon Silko structures her novel as a ceremony, by beginning
with the sun and ending with the sun. The way she writes fiction gives readers
the capability to use their imagination to grow their sense of empathy for her
characters. We notice this by the way she ends Tayo’s journey. She sets it out
for the audience to believe that the world is different, and it might not
always be what it seems. This explains why she created this alternate reality
through Ceremony. Her goal is to
provide readers with a new way of looking at certain customs, beliefs and
cultures by giving them hope through imaginary characters. She creates a
journey for Tayo with the desire to draw her audience into engaging with every
character, but most importantly change the beliefs of her readers. Fiction
allows readers to avoid challenging certain cultures, customs or beliefs that
non-fiction or ethnography does. Silko might have an opinion about the Native
American Culture, but voicing it out like Renato Rosaldo will be critiqued
because not everyone will agree with what she has to say. By writing Ceremony, her voice can be heard because
she is not only using her imagination, but also includes part of her thoughts
about the Native American tradition.

Ceremony helps
us understand the history of Native Americans by portraying certain characters
like Tayo, the main character, as part of the traditional Laguna stories. These
characters that Silko created show her main concerns with the continuation of
the Native American culture by suggesting a few changes. For example, she
presents her audience with Betonie, a medicine man that advises Tayo on what he
needs to do by referring to personal stories and ideas of change (Silko, 95).
Betonie provided some insight as to why ceremonial change was necessary. He
suggested that tradition is subject to change and for Tayo to be cured,
adjustments needed to be made (Silko, 101). Silko also creates female
characters to be close to Tayo as part of his procedure. She uses them to expose
his strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly show the importance of
female roles in Laguna stories. Silko refers to Tayo as a mixed breed, which
allows Silko’s imagination to go either way. Her fiction writing provides a
sense of self-awareness for Tayo’s character because she is trying to let the
audience know that Tayo is different from his Laguna community and white
community. Her main point is that since Tayo is a mixed breed, new procedures
could not be avoided, hence the introduction of Betonie.

In
most cultures, communities do not change their customs for centuries because
they are sacred to their people. Silko managed to combine these qualities as
she wrote Ceremony by incorporating
events from personal experience to direct her novel. Native Americans believed
in using storytelling as their source of transferring culture (Silko, 85). Since
Silko was a Native American, her writing of Ceremony
provides insight to those living in the 21st century as a rough
draft of what their customs involved. The idea she puts across from this novel
is that events in this world always repeat themselves in one way or the other.
Rituals are also seen the same way because the rituals that were performed before
can be used during a different occasion to cure a different scenario.

Leslie
Marmon Silko tries to help us understand what Tayo was going through both
emotionally and physically rather than just explaining the journey. After Tayo
returned from the war, Silko draws empathy from her audience sharing the
feelings that Tayo went through during that time. With Native Americans, this
type of ceremony is how they cope with PTSD. Since ritual is subjective, it has
been proven by both Silko and Rosaldo that only those within the culture will
fully understand. For example, with Ceremony,
before Tayo met with Betonie, he was sent to Old man Ku’oosh, a medicine man (Silko,
92). He wasn’t familiar with the changes in the ritual, but he was involved
with the ritual. The main point Silko is making is that Old man Ku’oosh understood
the ritual and knew Tayo needed some help. She creates an understanding between
two medicine men and Tayo to make a point about changes in customs. Therefore,
each person created by Silko serves a significant purpose in the completion of
the ceremony to symbolize the effectiveness of fiction writing.

First
hand stories and information can provide better knowledge of certain cultures.
The success of a fiction novel depends on the lie created, is it related and
understandable. If people can’t relate to your pain, no one will understand what
you are going through. Leslie’s fictional writing challenges the reader’s thinking
by changing ideas they had about certain cultures. The audience moves in the
same direction as Ceremony. For
example, if Silko’s wants the audience to be nonjudgmental towards ritual
practices, the audience will lean towards that end after reading her novel. With
anthropology, the audience becomes the jury based on the evidence provided. If
the audience despises killing acts, whatever Rosaldo presents on his article is
less likely to change their verdict. As a writer, he tried to give his personal
experience and urged to audience to think of it the way he did. Although he
never engaged in the same practices, he managed to stray away from heavily
implying that the Ilongots were indeed savages. He was more cautious about his
report.

In
conclusion, both writers brought meaning to their works by relating ritual to
their personal experience. This also helped the audience understand more about
these two cultures because it was relatable to the writers. They managed to
produce successful writings despite their different beliefs. This was what
separated Silko from Rosaldo because one was aware of what she was creating
while considering the emotions of what she was writing about, and the other was
reporting facts without understanding the reasons behind them.