Presented by Shane Smith (Navajo)
Video: Isaac Valenzuela (Acoma/Navajo)
Model: Angela Cedeno (Navajo/Zia)
Hello, my elegant peeps! Guess who’s back? Everyday Elegance is back for the 2019 year, and let me just say thank you to everyone who watches. We are so blessed to have viewers like you and we love the support that you give us, whether it’s online or in person. I just want to say “Thank You” from the bottom on my heart!!
I know some of you have been wondering where we’ve been. and let me tell you . . . the holiday season was crazy busy! We had good customer traffic inside Shumakolowa and on our online store, as well — so good that it just wore us out at the end of the day! Haha! Isaac and I tried to film on certain days, and I was also trying to find my models, and once I had the pictures done it just didn’t happen.
So, that’s the past and this is a new year, and today this episode of Everyday Elegance is more of an informative kind of topic. What kind of topic you might be asking? The subject is coral — where it comes from, and I’ll give you a brief history about it and some of the mystical and traditional qualities behind this beautiful elemental piece!
This subject was also brought about because since working here at Shumakolowa for the past four years, there is one thing that I hear the most: “Where did you get your coral when there’s no ocean around here?!” Really people, come on! Sometimes I look at the customer and say “Walmart, they really do have everything.” Haha, you have to make your own fun around here!
So let’s get into it, shall we? Where does it come from?
Let’s make this short and simple, only because I don’t want to lose any of my Elegant peeps or put you to sleep! Haha. So, Mediterranean coral comes from the sea, and it can be classified as a species of marine life. There is debate about whether or not it is a living animal or a mineral. This is because once it is out of the water, it turns into a rock-like substance, and in the water it’s a — what’s the word — well let’s just say a marine creature that lives and breathes, for lack of better words or description! Hey, I grew up on the “Rez,” so what do you expect!? Haha!! But, yes, that’s where coral comes from, and only the Red Mediterranean Branch Coral comes from there. There are other varieties of coral (i.e. pink coral from Italy, apple coral from Indonesia, ox blood coral, etc.)
It was brought by the Spaniards along with other items such as horses, sheep, wheat, and metal work. From there, it was traded amongst the Native Americans more so the various pueblos and the Navajo “Diné” people of the Southwest!
The coral that was imported was more in the form of shaped beads that were used for rosaries.
And of course, the darker the red, the better!
In Native American beliefs, it is said that since coral comes from the ocean, it therefore is seen as a water spirit, or holds that essence. With that being said, wearing it during ceremonies or in everyday use widens the chance of your prayers being heard.
Coral was also seen as social status. Since coral was very pricey and still is, it worn by wealthy individuals, medicine men, and elders. And of course, the darker the red, the better!
Like turquoise, we believe that it also protects us against evil and darkness. Since it does come from our Mother Earth, she will always protect her children when they are wearing a piece of her. I also mentioned that in certain places across the sea, they also use coral to ward off evil— one example being Medusa in Greek mythology. The blood from her head covered the Mediterranean Sea, and was said to form the blood-red coral that we see today. She was priestess of the god, Athena. So after the death of Medusa, Athena used Medusa’s head on a shield, and it forever served as a symbol of protection from the bad forces! Good story, huh? There are so many stories about the uses of coral as a symbol of protection throughout the world. But just to reiterate, for the Pueblos, it is seen as a water spirit and used in the traditional beads/heishi that they are well-known for. When paired with turquoise, it is said to embody the earth, air, and water . . . the sacred elements needed to sustain life and give life!
Well, with that being said, I hope that I have given you an insight about coral and how it plays a key role in the Pueblos and the surrounding areas of the great Southwest. It was imported from the Spaniards and traded among the Pueblos and the Navajo (Diné). Its use was intended to ward off the evil and darkness, and used in the traditional ceremonies to help evoke the spirits and Creator to aid with help, more so, asking for rain.
So now when people respond with the question “Coral, but there are no seas or oceans here, are there?” You now know what to tell them!! Haha!
Thanks again, my Elegant peeps! I hope you all have a great day and a great year! Now get out there and wear your jewelry with pride!!!