July 31, 2010

Rainbow Gatherings based on Hopi prophecy?

Michael Cooke writes:I'd like your perspective on something.

Locally there are many "Rainbow" people, sort of nomadic hippies attempting to live outside of captialism.
Here's what he's talking about:

Rainbow GatheringRainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities, typically held in outdoor settings, and espousing and practicing ideals of peace, love, harmony, freedom and community, as a consciously expressed alternative to mainstream popular culture, consumerism, capitalism and mass media.

Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually abbreviated to "Rainbow Family") are an expression of a Utopian impulse, combined with bohemianism, freethought and hippie culture, with roots clearly traceable to the 1960s counterculture. Mainstream society is viewed as "Babylon," connoting the participants' widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy and out of harmony with the natural systems of planet Earth. The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 through 7 every year on National Forest land. Other regional and national gatherings are held throughout the year, in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.

Confusion over Hopi Legend

There has been a longstanding Rainbow rumor that the gathering was/is recognized by the elders of the Hopi people as the fulfillment of a Hopi prophecy. This was debunked by Michael I. Niman in his 1997 People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia. Niman traced the supposed Hopi prophecies to the 1962 book Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, which compares prophecy of major religious sects throughout the world and tales of visions from North American natives.
Legend of Rainbow WarriorsSince the early 1970s, a legend of Rainbow Warriors inspired some environmentalists in the United States with a belief that their movement is the fulfillment of a Native American prophecy.

The legend also inspired the name of two of Greenpeace's ships, named Rainbow Warrior and used in environmental-protection protests by Greenpeace.
Cooke adds:The Wikipedia article debunks and article of faith with the Rainbow folks, and I must say it is an extremely stubborn article of faith. The idea is that there's a Hopi Indian legend that the spirits of the Indians will reincarnate as the sons and daughters of white people and peaceful revolution will thereby be achieved.

Of course Wikipedia's nature invites speculation of its unreliability. The legend could be racist--but it's not like the Rainbow folks are believing themselves to be Indian or doing anything more Indian than using barter and conceptualizing that food should be free and shared.
Comment:  I think I read of a Hopi legend about a White Brother: a mythical savior who will restore the Hopi to greatness. It sounds vaguely similar to the reincarnation legend you mentioned. I don't know if it's the same as or related to the Rainbow Warrior legend.

Like any full-fledged religion, Hopi has hundreds of myths and legends. The Rainbow Warrior thing undoubtedly is a mere footnote. It certainly isn't a central tenet of Hopi belief. (Based on my reading of a dozen books on the Hopi and Pueblo cultures, anyway.)

The legend may have a kernel of validity, but it's been passed from person to person to person, none of whom seem to be Hopi. Like every other story disseminated this way, it's probably been exaggerated at each step. The minor legend has become a major prophecy justifying the existence of the Rainbow Gatherings.

I imagine it's like taking the story of a single Christian saint as gospel. For instance, God came to St. So-and-so after So-and-so saw a rainbow. Therefore, Christians should chase rainbows rather than pray to Jesus.

Sure, you can interpret a Christian or Hopi legend that way. But the vast majority of your fellow believers won't agree with your interpretation. That seems to be what's happened with the Rainbow Gatherings.

That a Hopi legend has inspired the Rainbow people to practice an alternative to mainstream culture is good. As long as they don't claim to be Indians or perform pseudo-Indian ceremonies, they seem harmless enough. Indeed, you could say they're doing it the right way: emulating a traditional Indian lifestyle without pretending to be Indians.

For more on the subject, see New Age Mystics, Healers, and Ceremonies.

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