Different cultures and religions have many different customs and rituals. In Islam it is common practice for women to be covered from head to toe. In Tibetan Buddhism it is common for devotees to practice asceticism. In Hopi culture and religious tradition food and sex play large and important roles, although in different situations the roles may be completely opposite.
In Sun Chief particularly the chapter called “the Making of a Man” we can see that food is very important spiritually to the Hopi people. In the Wowochim ceremony each boy is given their manhood name over a “mother-corn ear” (159).
In each of a dozen or more ceremonies we see that certain practices such as the sprinkling of corn (159, 160, 162, etc. ), or the eating of unsalted foods as a form of fasting (158, 161, 165, etc. ), is a major theme. This notion of giving foods back to the Gods, likely stems from the location of the Hopi nation in the desert region of the American southwest.
Because food is scarce here, the Hopi people look upon it as the chief gift of the Gods, and therefore the offering of food back to the Gods makes sense. It also makes sense that in certain times of exceptional spiritual devotion, the giving up of food would be necessary to show an intense piety and strength. On the other hand, food is also seen by the Hopi as an important part of celebration. In order to prepare for the Wowochim ceremony the boys hunt and kill as many rabbits as they can get. These are then taken by their mothers who “skinned and cooked them to keep for the ceremony” (157).
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Such feast times proceed or follow several other ceremonies mentioned in Sun Chief.
This feast celebration suggests that in the case of food, while there are certain sacred times which require food to be abstained from, for the large part the Hopi consider food to be something given to them to enjoy and indulge in freely. Sex is mentioned in Sun Chief along much the same lines as is food. During the Medicine Ceremony, for example, on the seventh day which is spent making pathos, or special offerings to the Gods for rain and good harvest, our narrator states that “If a sexual thought had come into my mind, I would have tried to free myself of it and would not have mentioned the subject to a fellow member even to relieve him of hiccoughs- an excellent remedy on other occasions” (170).
From this statement we can draw two conclusions about Hopi thoughts on sex. First, while sex does not seem to be abstained from during all ceremonies, during certain especially important spiritual events, sex is considered improper. Second, by referring to discussion of sex as something as mundane as a cure for hiccoughs, we can see that sex is in most circumstances something indulged in often and without any feelings of shame or sin.
Looking at the Hopi attitudes toward food and sex as seen in Sun Chief, it is safe to say that the Hopi, under everyday circumstances, are a people who follow their natural wants and needs. The concept of self-restraint from such natural desires, while not entirely foreign, is not something the Hopi people feel should be engaged in during everyday life, and not even the most high-ranking of spiritual figures engage in it. We can then say that the Hopi are a moderately indulgent society.