The Blessing of the Bow


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


(39) Here at the beginning of the earth they stood, having no clothes to wear, it is said. They were naked. They sat there with bows and arrows in hand. (41) They knew that they were going to use the bow for something. They were going to eat. Someone took his bow and arrow and didn't go very far before he killed a deer there. They used the bow and arrow, and so the Hočą́gara made the bow and arrow holy.

(43) Then sometime in the future, as we have to fight a lot with enemies, there again the bow and arrow stand by us giving us life. If they are going to make a bow and arrow, if they are making it from a tree, they must pray to the tree to which they have arrived. (45) They had to ask Earthmaker for the power of the timber they were going to use. Only then would they take it. It had to be done during the winter. From Deer Breeding Month through the Raccoon Breeding Month, that period of time is needed to make the bow's wood right. Then put it aside for two months, or even three or four. Dry the wood, and when its done, it will be a really good one. Then you will have made a bow for yourself. (47) If you are someone married to a woman, and you are someone who has children, if you make yourself a bow, proceed very deliberately, and do well for your own people. Try it out, and do your own just as you like it. That is what you'll use to hunt game for your children. (49) So thus it is that you are going to make this something really good for your own people.1


Commentary. "with bows and arrows in hand" — it is clear from the context in which they do not even know how to make clothing, that the bow and arrow was something given them by the spirits.

"giving us life" — weapons are considered life-giving by double negation: they prevent the peoples' death from the onslaught of enemies.

"pray to the tree" — it is usual to pay homage to the tree from which wood is taken, as is seen in a number of stories.

"ask Earthmaker" — this is apparently an additional prayer that Earthmaker invest the wood with the strength needed to make a good bow.

"Deer Breeding Month" — this is November.

"Raccoon Breeding Month" — the month of March.


Comparative Material.   ...


Links: Earthmaker, Tree Spirits, Spirits, Moon.


Stories: mentioning trees or Tree Spirits: The Creation of the World, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, Visit of the Wood Spirit, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Woman who Became a Walnut Tree, The Old Woman and the Maple Tree Spirit, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, The Pointing Man, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Loses His Meal, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 2), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Spirit of Gambling, Peace of Mind Regained, The Necessity for Death; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow.


Themes: spirits bless a man with an artifact: Waruǧápara (warbundle, warclub), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (warbundle, flute), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (warbundle), The Thunderbird (warclub), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds (warclub), Origin of the Decorah Family (drum), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (magical paint), Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka (flute); humans pray to a tree in order to obtain needed wood: Children of the Sun, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head.


Notes

1 "Life of Winnebago," in Amelia Susman, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, May 30, 1938) Book I, 39-49 (on alternating pages).