The Seneca Nation’s Midwinter Ceremonies
This is the most important, and longest, of the Seneca Nation’s thirteen annual ceremonies and is itself a series of connected ceremonies. The ceremony dates are determined by when the star cluster Pleiades (see photo) is directly overhead in the winter sky. The minimum length of the Midwinter ceremony is ten days, but it can go longer depending on the duration of the final ceremony – which can take several days.
The Midwinter Ceremony is a time when the Nation ceremonially reviews the past year, gives thanks for all that happened in the previous year and reminds the people of their spiritual responsibilities in the coming year. Each day over the course of the Midwinter Ceremony holds a different significance. Everyone present gets to renew their spirit and give thanks. It is a celebration of the new year.
The ceremony must be done in the same order, in the same way, every time it is performed. This information is passed down from generation to generation. The entire ceremony of 10+ days is conducted solely in the Seneca Language. It is one of the few times that one can experience total immersion in the Seneca Language and is an important way in which the language is preserved and maintained.
The Pleiades star cluster.