2012 44¢ New Mexico Statehood
Issue Date: January 6, 2012
City: Sante Fe, NM
Printed By: Avery Dennison
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: Die Cut 11
At dusk on a cool December night, six towering Shalako – messengers of the gods – dance to give thanks for the year’s bountiful harvest.
The Zuni are one of many tribes that call New Mexico home. According to legend, the Zuni’s ancestors came from the underworld in search of their “center” – where they could find water and security. Led by the water spider, they found the center of the earth at an anthill and built their home there.
Traditionally, the sun priest traveled to the sacred Thunder Mountain to fast and pray to the sun father. When he returned, preparations began for the Shalako ceremony. Today, mudheads, clown-like figures with mud masks, announce the festival.
The festival begins early in the morning with the arrival of the fire god who visits each house that will welcome a Shalako. Next comes the council of the gods, who dance and shake deer bones. By sunset, the Shalako arrive with headdresses of eagle feathers and masks with bulging eyes and wood beaks. The celebration lasts until noon the next day. As the Shalako exit, they perform their final prayer to fill the rivers, wells, and springs with water before the next summer.
Even 100 years after New Mexico became America’s 47th state, the Shalako festival is popular with Zuni and outsiders alike.