Waehma / Wovusan Semaanam

In Hiaki, the words Waehma and Wovusan Semaanam refer to Lent. Waehma is a borrowing from the Spanish word cuaresma, and Wovusan Semaanam literally means “seven weeks”. This time of year is the most important for Hiakis, and there are regular ceremonies with pahkolam and musicians, though the matachinam are absent except on Holy Saturday. On the last Saturday before Palm Sunday, a deer dancer will make an appearance. The celebrations may be carried out a little bit differently or at different times depending on the village, but the meanings of the ceremonies are the same.

The beginning of Waehma marks a period of mourning among the Hiakis as it represents the impending execution of Christ. Because of this, there are certain behaviors expected of people. For example, brightly colored clothing and flowers are frowned upon and all flowers are removed from the churches. Furthermore, it’s inappropriate to go out and treat yourself to something fun, like a movie, though it would be appropriate to rent a movie and watch it at home. During Waehma, many ceremonies such as weddings, baptisms, and coming of age celebrations are forbidden and must be postponed until after it ends. A family is expected to plan such things around Waehma. However, if someone passes away, funerary ceremonies are allowed to proceed normally.

For the Hiakis, Waehma ends on Holy Cross Day, but the end of Waehma also marks the beginning of spring, when the trees are said to put on their fine clothing and the little yellow mesquite flowers known as chunahkam appear. A sentence that you might hear quite a bit during Waehma is Wovusan semaanam lauti simsune, which means “Seven weeks will pass quickly”, that is, “Lent will be over soon”.

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