The Diving Contest

by Jasper Blowsnake
retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Jasper Blowsnake

Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


(109) There was this man who was in possession of great power, who did it [fasted], one of the Medince Rite men. And once he sat down, and this one who was in possession of great power, a man of prophecy, when he had a vision of an Elk Waterspirit, he contemplated it a great deal. "Not one of them is my equal." He had one brother who was also a seer. This one, in any case, had a vision of a real Watersprit. When his younger brother had a vision of the Elk Waterspirit, the other brother became jealous. So when he saw the real Waterspirit, Kunu was told. (110) He was the oldest one. He always teased the younger one, and if he could poison him, he would do so. He always viewed him in that light. Finally, the elder brother stood before him and said, "Héną, you are not my equal, yet you act like this. We will do it [a Diving Contest]. I'll also give it a try," he said.

Inasmuch as they lived by a body of water, he was first into the water. Héną went into the water. Then an Elk Waterspirit appeared in the middle, sitting. "Héną, you are not my equal," he said, and Kunu also did it, he dove into the water. Then a Waterspirit appeared in the middle, sitting. "Héną, thus I forbade you, but you did not believe me," he said, and he came out.

Then in the fall when they moved, this Héną had not accompanied them. When Kunu got back from the fall move, when his grave came in sight, it was white. They made a song. It was for this younger brother that he killed that they made a song. (111) This is it. [Mourning Song omitted.] I extend to you life-engendering greetings, they have said that they are life-engendering greetings.1


Commentary. "Elk Waterspirit" — Waterspirits have humanoid heads, but bodies that may be like that of another animal. Furthermore, all Waterspirits have horns, so this one would have sported the horns of an elk. More typically, Waterspirits have horns like those of buffalo. Trickster once pretended to be an Elk Waterspirit when he accidentally got his head caught in an elk's skull. It appears that the elder brother did not see a genuine Elk Waterspirit. When a person on a vision quest dreams, he may have spirits come before him in a false guise and give him false blessings. Fasters are cautioned against such spirits, and the content of the dream is always carefully analysed to determine the veracity of the vision. Waterspirits, known in Hočąk as Wakjexi, are particularly known for this practice. Indeed, the word čexi means "difficult," a reference to the problematic nature of interactions with Waterspirits. Whether the Elk Waterspirit was a mirage, it is clear that when he saw it, he had distain for its powers.

"teased" — the original manuscript has only waražíčše, where ražíč means, "to tease verbally." Both revised texts add immediately after, waružíčše, where ružíč means, "to tease by actions." Teasing is normal between brothers, and even required, since they have a joking relationship. The fact that the older brother took offense would suggest that he is abnormally sensitive.

"poison" — members of the Medicine Rite are often known for their power to poison people. Quite often, poisons may be obtained from the bodies Waterspirits who give themselves as a blessing.

"Diving Contest" — this is a contest encountered in other stories. The object is to jump off an embankment into a body of water and see how far out one can go before surfacing.

"appeared" — Radin's version omits mentioning that Héną had transformed into an Elk Waterspirit, the kind for which Kunu had some distain. It becomes clear at this point that the Waterspirits had blessed each brother with the power to transform himself into their variety of Waterspirit, but the Waterspirit into which Kunu had metamorphosed was stronger than the Elk Waterspirit into which Héną morphed.

"the fall moving" — this is a period when the tribe leaves to go on a hunt for big game. This lasts through October, Čámaįnàxora (When the Deer Paw the Earth), and November, Čaik'irúxira (Deer Breeding), with the return to winter quarters in December, Čahéyakèna (Deer Shed Their Horns). See Moon.

"white" — white is a symbol of power and holiness.


Links: Waterspirits, Spirits, Moon.


Stories: in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; about (false) Elk Waterspirits: The Elk's Skull, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga; about seers: The Seer, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, Witches, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, A Prophecy, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, The Tap the Head Medicine; mentioning the Diving Contest: The Shaggy Man; mentioning poisons: Hare Visits the Blind Men, The Creation of Evil, The Island Weight Songs, The Seer, The Shaggy Man, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 3), Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Ocean Duck, A Wife for Knowledge, Great Walker's Medicine (antedote); 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, see also Other Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite.

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 Commandments of Earthmaker, 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 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.


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, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, Great Walker's MedicineŠųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, A Man's Revenge, Aračgéga's Blessings, 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 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, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; false promises of blessings from a spirit: The Greedy Woman, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna; jealousy: The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Hog's Adventures, Wazųka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Fleetfooted Man, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Sons, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Lost Blanket; a man is transformed when he dives into the water from a particular place: Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Woman who Married a Snake, The Nannyberry Picker; a human turns into a (spirit) animal: How the Thunders Met the Nights (Thunderbird), Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Dipper (hummingbird), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Elk Clan Origin Myth (elk), Young Man Gambles Often (elk), Sun and the Big Eater (horse), The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Were-Grizzly, Partridge's Older Brother (bear), The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother (bear), Porcupine and His Brothers (bear), The Shaggy Man (bear), The Roaster (bear), Wazųka (bear), White Wolf (dog, wolf), Worúxega (wolf, bird, snake), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (buffalo), The Brown Squirrel (squirrel), The Skunk Origin Myth (skunk), The Fleetfooted Man (otter, bird), The Woman who Married a Snake (snake, Waterspirit), The Omahas who turned into Snakes (four-legged snakes), The Twins Get into Hot Water (v. 3) (alligators), Snowshoe Strings (a frog), How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 3) (earthworms), The Woman Who Became an Ant, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane (ant); someone kills his own kinsman: The Chief of the Heroka (wife), The Red Man (wife), Worúxega (wife), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (wife), Bluehorn's Nephews (mother), The Green Man (mother), Waruǧápara (mother), Partridge's Older Brother (sister), The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother (sister), The Were-Grizzly (sister), Crane and His Brothers (brothers), White Wolf (brother), The Twins Get into Hot Water (grandfather), The Chief Who Shot His Own Daughter (daughter), The Birth of the Twins (daughter-in-law), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (daughter-in-law), Snowshoe Strings (father-in-law); something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained.


Notes:

1 Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 140. For the original handwritten interlinear text, see Winnebago III, #1: 109-111. A hand written phonetic text is found at Winnebago II, #1: 133-134, and its revised typed version is found at Winnebago II, #5: 141-143.