Although the history of Taos is quite comprehensive, the Taos Indians’ rituals and legends are kept for themselves, because they do not want to be commercialized in any way. However, though rituals and belief are not familiar to the general public, they seem to dominate the entire place as much as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. What makes this place so magical?
The Origin of the Indians
The stories regarding the Taos Indians’ origin were transmitted orally from one generation to the next. But, when the intellectuals and writers came here, in the 19th century, the tribal elder members shared their knowledge with some of them.
The Taos Indians believed that they were made by the waters of the Blue Lake – which is still the primary source for drinking and irrigation. The Blue Lake is considered a sacred place even now and most of the ceremonies are kept around it.
The Origin of the Name of the Town
It is generally known that the word “Taos” means “the place of red willows”. However, there is evidence that indicates that this was an Indian word used by the other tribes when referring to the red men of the valley. What was initially called Tao became Taos because of the Spanish influence.
Religion and Ceremonies of Taos
There were three kinds of religions in the region: Christianity, the aboriginal religion and the Native American Church. Although the Indians had accepted other types of beliefs, they still have their kivas – a sort of ceremonial chamber used for religious rites – to pray to their Gods. They also tend to believe that an unusual God – who has the appearance of a plumed serpent – brought knowledge to the red men.
To some extent, it seems that religion and ceremonies are interdependent. In traditional ceremonies, the people are dressed in a particular way – wearing feathers – and they sing and dance. The dance is known as the dance of the Matatchines. Nowadays, the ceremonies are open to the public, but outsiders are not allowed to interfere.
Although the true origin of the Taos Indians may never be found, their traditional way of living, alongside the beautiful landscape of Taos, makes this an unforgettable place.