Aračgéga's Blessings

Author Unknown


Someone blessed by Aračgéga is telling this story to his brother-in-law who lies on his death bed.


Aračgéga, Left Handed One, went out to fast. "A spirit I wish to bless me. I am fasting because I was told to do so. A shaman I would like to be. I would like to be able to treat people that way he does, and I have for that reason blackened my face and fasted for eight days. Then I was blessed and they came after me. Up above to a shaman spirit-lodge they took me. There I saw the chief, and he said to me, "What you desire, what you are thirsting yourself to death for, that you are to be blessed with. For that reason these people have brought you here. Here you are to give an exhibition of our powers. I am the one who has caused you to be brought here, I am the ruler of this village and I sent for you to give you the following powers: If ever someone is sick, even if he is so sick that he is practically dead, I give you the power of restoring him to life. Now you are to show your powers. Here is a log so rotten and decayed that it is practically falling apart. Upon this you are to exert your power and show that you have been blessed. This is what the spirits meant when they blessed you." Then he walked around the log, breathed upon it, and spat water upon it, and it became human. Then he walked around it again and again, spat water upon it, and it began to move. Then for the third time he spat water upon it and walked around it and it began to groan. Then he walked around it for the fourth time, and again spat water upon the log, and it got up and walked away. He had restored the log to life. Then the spirit said to him, "Human, with this power you are blessed. That for which you longed, that for which you fasted, you are blessed with. 'Giving Humans Life,' thus the people will call you." Then all the spirits who are above said ... Brother-in-law, that you may live, I am telling you this story.

In the wilderness I went, and there near an oval hill I sat down and wept. Below the hill lay a round lake and there I saw the rising dew coming in a fog. This first spread itself out over us, and then in turn, shrank and became small. All this time I sat there weeping. There was something moving in the lake, but although I was looking in that direction, I did not see anything. They were sneaking up on me. Two fires suddenly burst forth extending from above to the lake. Then a report like that of a gun sounded. The two were causing it. Suddenly a great noise was heard. I kept right on crying, for I was trying to be blessed. I sat there with staring eyes looking at the spirits. "I must be receiving a blessing," I thought. I continued crying and after a short time it began to rain very much. "How is this," I thought to myself, "only a little time before it was so nice and now it is raining." Yet in spite of the rain no water seemed to fall upon me. "How is it," I thought, "that here it is raining and yet no rain is falling upon me." Then I looked above and I saw that it was very cloudy, yet straight above me in a direct line the sky was blue. This blue spot was like a round object covering me as though it were an umbrella. The Thunderbirds were blessing me. With the blue sky, they were blessing me. Soon the noise stopped, and when I looked above, I saw four standing with packs upon their backs. These they killed. Then they blessed me with the power of killing. They spoke to me and said, "Stop your crying. What you have longed for and fasted for, with that we have blessed you. Just as these four men have been killed, so you will be able to kill people. But you will also be able to restore then to life again. Upon your body now we will make a mark and those whom you wish to bless will be given an opportunity of selecting life for themselves, so that, even when a person be practically dead, he will be restored to health. What is above you, the blue sky, that we place on one of your fingers, and with that we bless you. If the patient picks the finger with the mark upon it, he will live." The Thunderbirds were the spirits speaking to me. They had spears and little warclubs in their hands and [wreathes] made of flat cedar leaves upon their heads. Thus did four Thunderbirds bless me."

"Well, brother-in-law, I want you to live and I want you to pick life for yourself — i. e., pick the finger with the blue mark upon it. Do it carefully and do not attempt it when you are tired. Here are my four fingers and one of them has the blue sky upon it. If you choose that, you will certainly live. You are the second person. Now do not miss it, for if you miss it, you will surely die. Be careful, then, in picking it." Then the brother-in-law picked the little finger and Aračgéga said, "Brother-in-law, it is good. You will live." Then he turned his little finger around and there a circular blue mark was visible.1


Commentary. "Then all the spirits who are above said ..." — What follows is not what the spirits said, but an interjection by Aračgéga to remind his brother-in-law of why he is telling him this. Radin remarks in a note at this point, "The personal religious experiences were very sacred and rarely told even to near relatives. As far as I know, they were only told before death or when a person was very ill, as in the present case. The purpose seems to have been to transfer the benefits of the blessing to the sick person and cure him in much the same way as is done when an accredited shaman goes through his entire performance. Of course, Aračgéga's blessing related directly to the curing of disease. But evidently it was believed that blessings connected with other powers were equally efficacious."2

"Two fires suddenly burst forth extending from above to the lake" — the Thunderbirds are probably firing thunderbolts into the lake at their mortal enemies, the Waterspirits.


Links: Thunderbirds.


Stories: about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Difficult Blessing, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Seer, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Holy Song, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing; mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, The Thunder Charm, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; about journeys to and from Spiritland: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, Sunset Point, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; mentioning red cedar (juniper, waxšúč): The Journey to Spiritland (vv. 4, 5) (used to ascend to Spiritland), The Seer (sacrificial knife), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (sacrificial knife), Redhorn's Sons (coronet of Thunders, lodge), The Twins Disobey Their Father (trees found on cliffs of Thunders), Partridge's Older Brother (smoke fatal to evil spirit), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (purifying smoke), The Creation Council (purifying smoke), The Dipper (incense), Sun and the Big Eater (arrow), The Brown Squirrel (arrow), Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (log used as weapon).


Themes: a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Redhorn's Sons, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Seer, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Thunderbird, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Great Walker's Medicine, Šųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and Star Girl, A Man's Revenge, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, White Thunder's Warpath, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Diving Contest, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Holy Song, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; a messenger leads a man to Spiritland: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Foolish Hunter, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman; a human being physically travels to Spiritland without having died: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Sunset Point, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Star Husband, White Wolf, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Shaggy Man, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Boy who would be Immortal, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Rainbow and the Stone Arch (v. 2), Trickster Concludes His Mission; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing; blowing upon a person: The Red Man, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Two Children, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Chief of the Heroka; a person's body turns into a plant: Fourth Universe (white flower), White Flower (white flower), The Boy who would be Immortal (tree), The Woman who Became a Walnut Tree, cf. The Wild Rose, Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 2).


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 248-250.
2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, p. 249, nt. 14.