North-South-East-West: American Indians and the Natural World

Weddings: The Circle of Giving

Wedding Baskets

Groom's Coiled Basket Baskets are special gifts in the wedding ceremony. The bride carries a flat basket tray, or plaque, heaped high with white cornmeal shaped like a tall cloud, to her mother-in-law's house. The plaque is made for the groom, who will keep it throughout his life. At his death, his spirit will sail on it to the Underworld.

Female relatives, neighbors, and friends of the bride gather to make dozens of basket plaques to help the bride's family meet its wedding obligations. In anticipation of this event, the bride's mother usually has been making many plaques for others over the years to ensure that they will help at her daughter's marriage.

After the wedding the bride's family hosts a "payback" in which dozens of plaques, mounded with cornmeal, are given to the groom's family. These special gifts serve as repayment for the bridal clothing woven by the men of the groom's family.

Baskets continue to beautify Hopi homes today, reminding the family of special occasions. Some types are still used regularly in Hopi households.


Image: Groom's Coiled Basket
Second Mesa, Hopi, late 1800s
This coiled plaque was probably made as a replica of the gift for the groom, because the last coil was unfinished. This practice is followed so that the groom will not meet an untimely death. The plaque is filled with piki or cornmeal and carried by the bride to her mother-in-law's house in return for the garments and gifts that she will receive from the groom's family. At his death, the groom's spirit will sail on the plaque to the underworld.
Yucca (Yucca angustissima), gelleta grass (Hilaria jamesii), vegetable dye; D 36.0 cm; 715-21, gift of United States National Museum

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