Date of Degree
Master of Arts (MA)
Apocalyptic imagery spirals throughout Leslie Marmon Silko's works. The destruction of individuals, cultures, and eventually the Earth are purported by the grand plan of witchery. Evil has existed among Native American's in the form of witchery since time began. Its forces reside within all things. Yet with the tools provided by the spirits, namely the oral tradition and ceremonies, witchery can be controlled: the stories explain its origin and its power, showing how witchery has been overcome in the past, while the ceremonies provide a means of healing those who have been afflicted. By maintaining connections to the universe, past, and community, a powerful bond is created which blocks the effects of witchery. But even one individual, one action can destroy this link and allow witchery to infest the tribe. After centuries of existence under a foreign culture. Native Americans have grown away from their heritage. As the stories of the past fade with time, the ancestor and spirit worlds are forgotten. Silko's works detail the effects of this collapsed circle and, in effect, foretell the inevitable end to humanity's actions. Witchery's destruction evolves throughout Silko's works. It strikes first at the center of tribe, the individual, then gradually pervades through the community itself. It eventually infests all aspects of life, even the land itself by way of the atomic bomb. This time not only humanity is threatened, but the Earth risks annihilation. Yet humanity will not have a chance to destroy it. While they have doomed themselves by their actions, the Earth still maintains ultimate power over its creations. In order to save herself from the cataclysm which witchery has mapped out for the world, the Earth provides an apocalyptic ending to humanity and the fifth world. Though Silko's works involve specific Native American tradition, her message is relevant to all cultures. In their search for identity, her characters struggle to recall their ancient traditions, to reconnect themselves with nature, their ancestors, and their community. This is also the plight of the modern individual who has been alienated from nature through technology, separated from the past through a search for adventure or wealth, and isolated from a community by the confining walls of cities. Progress offers greed in the place of spiritual and social wholeness. Humanity destroys itself by integrating witchery's destructive end to their story.
Monahan, Kristin, "Whirling Darkness: Witchery's Ascent in the Writings of Leslie Marmon Silko" (1993). Theses & Dissertations. 297.