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SACRED MOUNTAINS, RELIGIOUS PARADIGMS, AND IDENTITY AMONG THE MESCALERO APACHE

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This article carefully examines the roles that sacred mountains play in Mescalero Apache religious tradition and ''religious paradigms'' of sacred space and ceremonial practice. For the Mescalero, sacred mountains are intimately associated with conceptions of spiritual ecology, ceremonial traditions, prayer, and cultural identity. To understand these aspects of Mescalero tradition as they relate to cultural practices, this article focuses on the Mescalero Apache Mountain Spirit tradition. In this tradition men are masked, painted as ''Mountain Spirits'' and are understood to embody the power of the sacred mountains, the four cardinal directions, and the power of the Creator. Through analyzing this ceremonial tradition, Mescalero conceptions of how spiritual power is linked to sacred geographies and spiritual ecology is brought to light. The Mountain Spirits are also analyzed for how, through oral tradition and spiritual revelation, mountains become significant for the Mescalero within their religious system. The Mountain Spirits and their connections to sacred mountains are furthermore contrasted with the female initiation ceremony of the ''Big Tipi.'' It is proposed in this paper that these two ceremonial traditions, through their different relationships to the land and sacred geographies, feature differently in Mescalero self-conceptions of their cultural and religious identity.

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853500507852
2000-11-01
2015-04-19

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies University of California, Santa Barbara

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