Ceremony

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Hybrid Spotted Cattle Symbol Analysis

Hybrid Spotted Cattle Symbol Icon

Uncle Josiah buys spotted cattle that come from Mexican breeds crossed with the prestigious Hereford breed of northern America. These cattle are meant to be stronger, tougher, and smarter than any pure-bred cattle, making them more likely to survive drought years in the Southwest. With the athletic frame of the Mexican cattle and the stocky shoulders of the Hereford breed, these cows symbolize the advantages of cultural hybridity and are able to survive through extreme conditions, symbolizing how humans should also look to the many cultural influences in the Southwest to build a better future for the region. The cows’ coats, brown with white spots, pays homage to both the “brown” (that is, Mexican and Native American) and “white” (that is, Anglo-American or European) cultures of the Americas. The spotted cows, unlike the pure Herefords, also have the intelligence to look for water even if their farmer does not herd them in that direction. This shows how Native wisdom about how to live off the land is often more useful for human survival than the structure of Anglo-American farming techniques.

More than symbolizing the strength and survival advantage of cultural hybridity, the cows also symbolize Tayo’s connection to his family history and his homeland. Tayo was supposed to help his Uncle Josiah with the cattle before he left to enlist in the army, an act which forced Uncle Josiah to care for the cattle alone. While Tayo is overseas, Uncle Josiah dies and the cattle are stolen, symbolizing how Tayo has forsaken his duty to his family and the land where he was born. Tayo returns physically from the war, but is unable to return mentally and emotionally as long as the cattle are still gone from his late uncle’s ranch. Tayo’s search for the cattle mirrors his search for mental and emotional peace with his family after the traumas of the war and the drought. When Tayo finds the cattle and returns them back to the pastures of his family’s ranch, Tayo is able to restore his health and reconnect with the community of Pueblo Native Americans at New Laguna. By taking care of the cattle, Tayo both continues his uncle’s legacy and adds his own contribution of cultural hybridity to this heritage.

Hybrid Spotted Cattle Quotes in Ceremony

The Ceremony quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hybrid Spotted Cattle. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Ceremony published in 2006.
Section 5 Quotes

It was a cure for that, and maybe for other things too. The spotted cattle wouldn't be lost any more, scattered through his dreams, driven by his hesitation to admit they had been stolen, that the land - all of it - had been stolen from them. The anticipation of what he might find was strung tight in his belly…

Related Characters: Tayo, Josiah
Related Symbols: Hybrid Spotted Cattle, Bellies (Stomachs)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

After seeing the medicine man Betonie, Tayo leaves on a quest to find his Uncle Josiah’s spotted cattle. These cattle were Josiah’s greatest dream, as the cows were bred with both Mexican breeds and the northern Hereford breed to create a stronger animal that Josiah believed would be better able to survive drought years in New Mexico. While Tayo is at war, Josiah dies and these cattle are stolen by a white man. Wracked with guilt for his failure to help his uncle, Tayo cannot properly return home from the war in spirit as long as the cattle are missing. Tayo faced many different traumas during his time at war, mostly centered around the white man’s greed, selfishness and disrespect for life. Getting the cattle back from a white rancher is one way for Tayo to find closure on the emotional turmoil about serving as a tool of violence for white culture, and also a way to reconnect with his family legacy. Only then can Tayo fully return home, no longer lost.

The cattle are also a symbol of the triumph of Native wisdom over the dominating ideals of white culture. Josiah knew that his idea to breed hybrid cattle would work out, despite the white scientists who argued in favor of pure-bred animals. Tayo was not sure about the hybrids’ strength at the time, but he is now positive that the cattle are indeed everything Josiah hoped they would be. Tayo feels this in his stomach, the physical location of Native stories and wisdom according to Pueblo tradition. Even if Tayo’s quest for these cattle looks insane to members of white culture, Tayo’s stomach alerts him to the proper path of living according to Pueblo traditions and his gut approves of bringing the hybrid cattle home. Living in peace with his identity is now more important to Tayo than futilely searching for the approval of oppressive white culture.

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Section 7 Quotes

…occasionally a calf bolted away bucking and leaping in a wide arc, returning finally to its mother when it tired of playing. Tayo's heart beat fast; he could see Josiah's vision emerging, he could see the story taking form in bone and muscle.

Related Characters: Tayo, Josiah
Related Symbols: Hybrid Spotted Cattle
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

Tayo is finally able to find his uncle’s stolen cattle and returns them to his family’s ranch. Once there, Tayo cares for the cows and starts to breed them again. In the calves, Tayo can see the strength that Josiah expected from these cows. With both Mexican and Hereford blood, the calves are both strong and smart – therefore better able to handle the difficult terrain and harsh drought years of New Mexico.

Speaking of the cows as a “story” of bone and muscle suggests that Tayo believes that people can learn from these cows. Stories in the Pueblo culture carry important lessons about how to act in the world in order to be at peace with other people and nature. Throughout the novel, these cows have symbolized the value of cultural hybridity, just as people in the novel who are able to embrace the good points of many cultures are better able to adapt and thrive in a new world that includes Native Americans, whites, Mexican, Asians, and others in the Southwest.

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Hybrid Spotted Cattle Symbol Timeline in Ceremony

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hybrid Spotted Cattle appears in Ceremony. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 3
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...graduate high school, Josiah makes a $500 deal with Ulibarri, a Mexican rancher, to buy cattle. Tayo helps Josiah pick out 20 of the best cows and the two men start... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Auntie is also angry about the cattle deal, thinking that Josiah has somehow been tricked by Ulibarri and a Mexican woman who... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Josiah and Tayo unload the cows at their pasture and the herd nervously clumps as far from the truck as possible.... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
That June, Josiah decides to brand the cattle, adding a small mark to the large butterfly brand that the Mexican ranch used. Some... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...see the Mexican woman to thank her again for letting him know that Ulibarri had cattle to sell. Josiah had fallen in love with her the past spring, enchanted by her... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
The cattle take so much of Josiah’s time that he can no longer sneak away to see... (full context)
Section 4
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...that Uncle Josiah died because he had no one to help him care for his cattle with Rocky and Tayo gone at war. Betonie asks about Rocky but Tayo can only... (full context)
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Tayo falls asleep and dreams about speckled cattle that constantly outrun him, heading south. When he wakes up, Betonie and Shush are nowhere... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...Tayo to remember this certain formation of stars, a woman, a mountain, and the spotted cattle. A poem-story describes how the witchery and its effect gradually leaves the coyote-man’s body and... (full context)
Section 5
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...thinks it is Betonie telling him to get on with the journey to find the cattle, but it is really the bartender throwing Tayo, Leroy, and Harley out after Harley got... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...the traditional way. Tayo explains to her that he is looking for his uncle’s stolen cattle and the woman lets Tayo water his horse. The woman invites Tayo into her house... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...gives in to the pleasure of their bodies. That night, he dreams of the spotted cattle and the woman whispering in his ear to make the cattle scatter. Tayo wakes feeling... (full context)
Section 6
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...respect that white people show for this delicate environment. Tayo hopes to find his lost cattle as they graze along the southern fence line of the Texan loggers, knowing that these... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
As Tayo rounds another ridge, he sees his uncle’s cows in the distance. Tayo knows that the cows will always head south, so he rides... (full context)
Native Americans in the Modern World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...his hole in the fence. As Tayo cuts the wires, he wonders how his Uncle’s cattle ended up on Floyd Lee’s land. Tayo hesitates to call the cattle stolen, before realizing... (full context)
Storytelling Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
As Tayo searches for the cattle, he realizes that he is completely within the present moment, not obsessing over his past... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...back together the wires that he cut and ride into the hills, forgetting about the cattle and Betonie’s crazy Indian superstition about a ceremony. Tayo thinks of the army doctors telling... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
Tayo finally catches up to the cattle again and starts to follow them as they head relentlessly southeast. Tayo stays far back... (full context)
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...answer, hoping the patrolman will be so busy with him that they don’t notice the cattle slip through the hole in the fence over the next ridge. (full context)
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...a buck slung across his shoulders. Tayo tells the hunter that he is looking for cattle and the hunter tells Tayo to follow him to his house. In the hunter’s house,... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
...intimate with her. The woman laughs and teases Tayo about finding his horse and his cattle at her house. The cattle were herded into one of the woman’s paddocks after they... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
The woman goes into the paddock to pet the cows, though Tayo is afraid of the large, half-wild animals. Tayo explains that his uncle wanted... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...the house and Tayo readies his horse to leave. The woman assures Tayo that the cattle will be safe here until next spring. Tayo wants to tell the woman what he... (full context)
Section 7
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
The next spring, Robert and Tayo return to the woman’s house to collect the cattle, but the woman and the hunter are no where to be found. When Robert and... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Cultural Dominance, Purity, and Hybridity Theme Icon
...as all different colors of the sky. As Ts’eh gathers seedlings, Tayo considers breeding his cattle with a yellow bull owned by Romero, one of Tayo’s cousins. The bull is a... (full context)
The Interconnected World Theme Icon
Ceremony, Tradition and Adaptation Theme Icon
As Tayo and Ts’eh watch the cows in the pasture, Ts’eh announces that they are coming to the end. She returns to... (full context)