Dawa-Tawa

A word linking ancient Tibetan and Hopi cultures

In Tibetan language dawa ཟླ་བ། means moon. Dawa is a commonly used first name in Tibetan society. Dawa also means month in Tibetan.

Saga Dawa is called the “month of merits” for Tibetan Buddhists. “Saga” or “Saka” is the name of a prominent star which shines in the sky in the fourth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar when Saga Dawa is observed. In Tibetan script the holiday it is written ས་ག་ཟླ་བ་

During this holy month for Buddhists the Buddha is venerated with prayers and offerings. Historically, during this sacred month Buddha was born, became enlightened, and underwent parinirvana (when a buddha passes away and leaves his or her earthly body).

I lived in the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous region for two years studying Tibetan Language and Buddhist painting. While I was living in Tibet I made a short trip to the United States, I have always had a deep interest in Native American culture and had dreamt of visiting the Hopi reservation in the southwest.

Traditionally, the Hopi creation story states that their people emerged from a hole in the center of the earth near the Grand Canyon. The Hopi consider the earth to be as a womb where people emerge gradually. Spider woman is fundamental to their creation story, a female force that spins the web of creation.

The Hopi sun god was called Tawa. In the beginning there were only two: Tawa, the Sun God, and Spider Woman, the Earth Goddess. All the mysteries and power in the heavens above belonged to Tawa, while Spider Woman controlled the magic of the below. In the Underworld, abode of the Gods, they dwelt. There was neither man nor woman, bird nor beast, no living thing until these two willed it to be.

I also learned while staying at the Hopi reservation that the term Tawa is used as the common word for sun, and was a given as common first name also.

The notion of two opposite and complimentary forces is very similar to the Asian notion of Yin and Yang. In ancient Chinese thought the sky is masculine and yang, and the earth is feminine and is assigned yin.

Tibetan Man

It is curious that two cultures from opposite sides of the world would have similar words for opposite concepts.

Dawa, moon in Tibetan and Tawa, sun in Hopi. Scientists have undergone studies to determine the genetic similarities between the two groups which is still debatable. However, the two distinct cultures share many similarities.

Turquoise is a very important stone for both the Tibetan and Hopi cultures.

raw turquoise

Himalayan people value Tibetan Turquoise for its powers, it is the most prized stone among the Tibetan people. To the Tibetans, Turquoise is viewed as the sky stone, brought to earth from the heavens above. Turquoise has been has been a important religious stone used by the Tibetans since 1000 B.C. or earlier. Almost every person in the Himalayas wears a piece of turquoise usually around the neck, sometimes in the ears or included in their prayer beads.

The Hopi believed that turquoise was the waste of the lizard that travels between “the above” and “the below.” Many dreamcatchers feature a piece of turquoise in the center. The dream catcher resembles a spiderweb like the web of Asibikaashi, or Spider Woman. The dreamcatcher is used to protect children from nightmares.

Hopi man

I am always fascinated when I can find details similar cross-culturally. Whether we all emerged from the womb of Mother Earth or we all migrated from Pangaea, I believe all civilizations stemmed from one common origin.

I believe traditional cultures and indigenous societies hold the secrets and the wisdom that unlocks the boundaries of imposed segregation.

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