The Commandments of Earthmaker
by Jasper Blowsnake
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
It was Earthmaker who bestowed the Life of the Medicine Rite. In order to secure this Life, Earthmaker created a great black stone, the stone that is the chief of all stones. He made this stone of very great weight, and to go with its gravity it had the weighty moral qualities of quiet, calm, and constancy. Then Earthmaker said to the people,
"I give these commandment to the initiates of this sacred Rite:
1. You are to have the Chief of Stones as your heart: let yourselves be ever heavy of purpose and never superficial, and keep your faith solid and constant.
2. Love everyone whosoever he is.
3. Never steal.
4. Never fight.
5. Take care of your nąį.
6. Take care of your own people and yourself so that you may live long.
7. Take care of your wife. Be good to her and never treat her badly. Remember that Our Grandmother is a woman and she shall hear of it.
8. You shall not drink unto the fourth year.
9. You shall not chew [tobacco].
10. You must bite into the Chief of Trees now, but you must not leave the marks of your teeth."
Thus did Earthmaker speak. When the world was young, in the center of his creation, Earthmaker had planted a tree, the Chief of Trees. This tree could not be split with teeth.
All those who try ernestly to observe these commandments will attain for themselves the Life that Earthmaker has provided for us.1
Commentary. "nąį" — this is the mind as faculty of consciousness, and source of will and desire. As such it is responsible for conscience and purpose.
"Our Grandmother" — this is the earth.
"Chief of Trees" — elsewhere in the Rite, this is said to be an oak that grows in the abode of Earthmaker. It is said that twigs from this oak were transmitted by light to earth to be used to carry the tobacco that is smoked in the Rite.2 The esoteric symbolism of biting and tooth marks is beyond my knowledge. However, it might refer to the stem of a pipe.
"these commandments" — compare these commandments to those of the Shawnee Prophet (qv). It is probably true that the Hočąk list of commandments owes a great deal to the Hebrew Bible, but there is also a great deal of originality.
Links: Earthmaker, Tree Spirits, Rock Spirits, Earth.
Stories: mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, 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 Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; mentioning Rock Spirits: The Big Stone, The Green Man, The Creation of the World, The Seer, The Roaster, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Hare Kills Flint, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, A Woman Turns into a Rock, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; 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 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, Waruǧábᵉra, The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Blessing of the Bow, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Spirit of Gambling, Peace of Mind Regained, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Story of the Medicine Rite; mentioning the Chief of Trees: Grandmother's Gifts, Peace of Mind Regained; pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath;mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Children of the Sun, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, The Brown Squirrel, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, White Wolf, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth.
Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Creation of Man (v. 8), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), Testing the Slave, South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 1), The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Messengers of Hare (v. 2), North Shakes His Gourd, Grandmother's Gifts, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Messengers of Hare (v. 1), The Island Weight Songs, The Petition to Earthmaker, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Diving Contest, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 3), The Tap the Head Medicine, The Claw Shooter, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 4), Peace of Mind Regained, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 5), A Wife for Knowledge, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.
1 Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 ) 278-279.
2 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 189.