Encyclopedia Article


In Puebloan culture, fraternities are associated with "medicine," curative powers, and the ability to conjure or control natural phenomena to benefit the health of individuals or the community. In this sense, members of fraternities can be considered traditional, ceremonial, spiritual, and biological healers, who acquired their specific knowledges, traditions, and ceremonies from kachina (spirits) over time. These different knowledges and ceremonials are carefully guarded and maintained by the different fraternities, but their effects are shared broadly throughout the pueblo to benefit the community.

In the Pueblo tradition, one is born into a clan, and that clan may historically associate itself with a specific kiva society, but fraternities transcend the more static social associations of clans and kivas. It is typical for one who has benefited from a fraternal healing to petition to join that fraternity; in part, the specialized knowledge of that healing has been imparted to its benefactor through his or her experience. Many fraternities, therefore, are open to men and women. In addition, one can move between fraternities, or belong to several at once. With their discrete specializations, fraternal participation in the life of the pueblo occurs on almost daily occurrences, as needed. Kiva society ceremonials, on the other hand, tend to have annual cycles, and rather than focusing on treating the symptoms of an individual, they work to maintain natural equilibrium and universal balance.

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