The Yup'ik cosmology can be seen from their acts within rituals and the explanations they offer. It seems that through rituals the Yup'ik demonstrate a cyclical understanding of time and that consequentially they have the power and responsibility to maintain the ongoing of time. The sole performance of rituals is thus the particular action that shows two-fold properties of the Yup'ik:
- it shows their view of temporality (as being cyclical)
- it consequentially shows that there is no opposition between past and present (or future)
- it also recognizes the role of the Yup'ik in this order (as responsible for maintaining the flow of time)
I would suggest that the three rituals give us the most clear recognition of this (although in fact all rituals performed in the winter season can be seen as displaying this central idea of circular time). This idea, however is crucially related to the inversion of relationships. In order to renew time a chaos had to be created - passages had to be open, only to close them again and restore order. This is the circularity of Yup'ik time and cosmological events. During winter time, they must bestow chaos in order to renewe time.
- the bladder festival
- the feast for the dead
- the kelek
Here we can see the interplay between binary opposites and inversion of relationships for the rejuvenation of time (life):
"In each of these three ceremonies the normal relationship between humans and animals, the living and the dead, and the human and the spirit worlds were inverted. ... In each case although a normal everyday relationship was transformed, the contrast was maintained"
"Yup'ik cosmology is a perpetual cycling between birth and rebirth, humans and animals, the living and the dead." (355) "Instead of a static opposition between life and death, men and women, land and sea, ... metaphors of interaction and encompassment defined their relationships." .. "To follow a circular path had the power either to create and maintain the boundaries between persons or states of being, or to initiate movement and travel across the distance between them, depending on the context and direction in which people performed it." (358)
In these statements particularly we see the circular understanding of time:
"The spirits of both human and animal dead, which had disappeared during preceding seasons, were drawn back into view to be feasted and hosted and sent away again supplied for the coming year." (266)
Circulation opens the passage.
And in this we see the important role of man as mediator between oppositions and consequentially the one who renews time:
"Both private and public ceremonies revolved around the appearance and disappearance of animals and the power of humans to control their periodicity" ... "The Yup'ik effected this control through a series of dramatic reversals of the culturally constituted relations of the daily life. The ceremonies turned inside out the established oppositions and hierarchical relations. Ritual acts made fluid the boundaries between human and the spirit worlds and realized dramatic passages between them." (266)
In the three rituals "members of the spirit world were invited into the human community, formally hosted and finally returned to their own domains. This ritual movement effectively recreated the relationships between the human and spirit worlds and placed each in their proper position to begin the year again."