Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief


This is an excerpt from an account of the Snake Feast. The narrator is unknown.


"My grandfather fasted and thirsted himself to death and he was blessed and his spirit taken to a spirit lodge. That is what happened to my grandfather, for he told me this himself. The place where he was blessed was a Red Banks at a place where a creek flows into the sea [Green Bay]. At the fork of this creek there was a hill lying east and west. It is there that the Yellow Snake-Chief lives. To the home of this snake-chief my grandfather was taken. This snake was at this place gathering tobacco for all the spirits. There my grandfather was even blessed with their bodies. For this reason I always pour tobacco for them. And I have been given to understand that the spirits do not overlook the least fault [in the performance of the Snake Feast]. They are always in our midst just as even the grass and the dust represent snakes. They know everything, they say. It is not safe to cross their path. As, however, the host is now making an offering to them, should we cross their path now it would even strengthen us. It is good. These clubs are heavy and they will not fail to strike everything within their reach. The host has asked for that power so that he might have victory."1


Commentary. "Red Banks" — this is where the Creation Council was held in which the spirits originally formed the Hočąk nation.

"Yellow Snake-Chief" — He is one of the four Snake Spirits originally created by the hand of Earthmaker and set in the east to prevent the primordial earth from tearing apart (see 1).

"at this place gathering tobacco" — there are certain places, called tanį-ostǫhira ("tobacco gathering places"), where the spirits typically receive tobacco offerings (see 1).

"blessed with their bodies" — some spirits give parts of their bodies as blessings. Waterspirits are particularly noted for this practice. These body parts are invariably used as medicines, not to exclude potions valuable in witchcraft. Snake skins were often used in connection with religious rites.

"These clubs are heavy and they will not fail to strike everything within their reach." — an obscure reference to the clubs that were said to have been made for the first four original snakes created by Earthmaker (see 1).


Links: Snakes, Tobacco.


Stories: mentioning snakes: The First Snakes, The Woman who Married a Snake, Snake Clan Origins, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Serpents of Trempealeau, Rattlesnake Ledge, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Two Boys, Wears White Feather on His Head, Creation of the World (vv. 2, 3, 4), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Waruǧápara, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Turtle and the Merchant, The Lost Blanket, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth; mentioning the Yellow Snake-Chief: The First Snakes; mentioning feasts: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (Chief Feast), The Creation Council (Eagle Feast), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (Eagle Feast), Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth (Waterspirit Feast), A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga (Mąką́wohą, Waną́čĕrehí), Bear Clan Origin Myth (Bear Feast), The Woman Who Fought the Bear (Bear Feast), Grandfather's Two Families (Bear Feast), Wolf Clan Origin Myth (Wolf Feast), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Feast), Buffalo Dance Origin Myth (Buffalo Feast), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (Buffalo Feast), The Blessing of Šokeboka (Feast to the Buffalo Tail), Snake Clan Origins (Snake Feast), Rattlesnake Ledge (Snake Feast), The Thunderbird (for the granting of a war weapon), Turtle's Warparty (War Weapons Feast, Warpath Feast), Porcupine and His Brothers (War Weapons Feast), Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega) (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), White Thunder's Warpath (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Fox-Hočąk War (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), Šųgepaga (Winter Feast = Warbundle Feast), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (Warbundle Feast, Warpath Feast), Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (Warpath Feast), Kunu's Warpath (Warpath Feast), Trickster's Warpath (Warpath Feast), The Masaxe War (Warpath Feast), Redhorn's Sons (Warpath Feast, Fast-Breaking Feast), The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits (Fast-Breaking Feast), The Chief of the Heroka (Sick Offering Feast), The Dipper (Sick Offering Feast, Warclub Feast), The Four Slumbers Origin Myth (Four Slumbers Feast), The Journey to Spiritland (Four Slumbers Feast), The First Snakes (Snake Feast), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (unspecified), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (unnamed); set at Red Banks (Mógašúč): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hočąk Origins"), The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath; set at Green Bay, "Within Lake" (Te Rok): Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3), Story of the Thunder Names, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 4), The Seven Maidens, Ioway & Missouria Origins, Great Walker's Warpath, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), The Fox-Hočąk War (v. 2), The Creation Council, First Contact, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e.


Themes: a messenger leads a man to Spiritland: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Foolish Hunter, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 279.