Earthmaker Blesses Wešgíšega


Version 1

told by a member of the Thunderbird Clan


Hočąk Syllabic Text with an English Translation


(75) Then they used to sing the Completion Songs. Earthmaker created these four songs, so he himself had made them. All of the various spirits blessed Wešgišega, as they called him, (76) but alone among them, the one they call "Earthmaker" did not bless him. Therefore, he tried to dream. He did a great deal. He tried fasting himself to death. He said that finally, at last, he was blessed. It was a very black being who did it. Also the cane that he had was frightening. He was very blue. The light stood surrounding the blue. "Wešgišega, I bless you," he said. "You have burdened yourself with thirst. I have blessed you with all things," he said. "There will be riches, wars, doctoring; (77) also there is going to be good hunting; also there will be the impressing of women; and with all things I am blessing you," he said, and as he turned to leave, when he looked, unexpectedly, he had turned into a blue jay. Four times they did this. Finally, there was one of his children whom he sacrificed. Then finally, around noon, he came across Earthmaker on earth. (78) He blessed him. "Wešgíšega, I bless you; because you have cried out, I have blessed you. Never before have I blessed one of the people. For the first time, I bless you," he said. Then he gave him a cane. Together with this, he gave him four songs with which to finish the rite.1

Version 2

narrated by Sam Blowsnake


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


They called him Wešgíšega. He was a Hočąk. When he approached adulthood, he father coaxed him to fast. When Earthmaker made the various spirits, as many good spirits as he made, he put in charge of something. He made them in control of life and war. Others were to be hunters, he made them to have this kind of blessing. Again, others of the various spirits were to become very powerful. These sorts of things they were in control of, for these sorts of things he would fast. Whatever kinds of things these people needed to live, he blessed the various and diverse spirits with all of them. Different things he gave them. This is what he should try to find out about these sorts of things. Thus he did. When he fasted, he tried to find out something from the spirits. So when he was fasting, he kept thinking, "When in the past Earthmaker himself created the various spirits, he put everyone of them in control of just one thing, it is said. Truly, Earthmaker must be in control of absolutely everything. He must be much more powerful. He created the various spirits. Thus, he will have given them control over things. Even as holy as they are, Earthmaker is something mightier and holier," he thought. As he tried to dream, he thought, "What can this one be?" He was doing, after he thought to himself, "Not one of the various spirits has known him as he really is; not one of the various spirits has he blessed. I wonder whether Earthmaker would bless me, thus I am thinking." Thus he thought, putting himself into a pitiable condition, he therefore cried [to the spirits]. He was not able to stop. From Earthmaker, therefore, I wish to obtain knowledge," he thought, "so that if he does not bless me, then during the fasting I shall die," he thought. (296) So from that point on mightily he performed his fasting. For Earthmaker only did he fast. At first he used to sleep four times; in time, he used to sleep six times; then he used to sleep eight times; in time he used to sleep ten times; eventually, he slept twelve times. Once he had gotten that far, he would eat. In truth, he had not gained knowledge of a thing, nor had he been blessed with anything. Then he gave up. Now when he became of sufficient age, he gave it up, and took a woman to wife.

And they moved, his wife with him, to an out of the way place. Then they lived, his wife alone with him. And again they began to fast, he with her. He wished to dream of Earthmaker, and now in truth there he would die in the fasting. "Never had a thing of that kind been told. I shall die during the fasting," he thought. In time they had a child. It was a male child. He spoke to his wife, asking her advice. He said that they should make a sacrifice of their child to Earthmaker. And so his wife consented. They will sacrifice him to Earthmaker. They constructed a platform and placed him upon it. And now both of them wept bitterly. During the night when they slept, Earthmaker took pity on them, he said. He came to them and they looked at him. He certainly had reason [to think so]. (297) He wore soldier's clothing, and carried high on his head a narrow cocked hat. He was very pleasing to the eye. He looked at him. "I also wonder whether it is Earthmaker," he thought. Then he took a step. "I think it's true, I am thinking," he thought. Again he took a step. From that place, every now and then, he took a step in a certain direction uttering a cry. And so this one is not Earthmaker. It was a blue jay. They had fooled him.

And so his heart ached more. He was wound up in it even more. And again he slept, and indeed, Earthmaker came to him: "Human, I bless you. Long have you cried. Earthmaker, I am he," he said. When he looked at him, he was pleasing to behold. His look was good, his clothing was pleasing to behold. "I also wonder whether this is Earthmaker," he thought. He had the appearance of growing smaller, he thought. When he looked the fourth time, it was a stastak’é bird.

His heart ached even more. Mightily he cried. Now again for the third time Earthmaker blessed him. You have tried to dream of Earthmaker and have caused yourself great suffering. I am Earthmaker, I bless you. Not a thing will you be in want of; whatever languages there are in a village, you will listen to them; of life you will not want; I bless you with everything." Now, from the first, however, his appearance did not inspire confidence. By that time again this one thought, "Somebody must be fooling me." (298) It was a robin. "Now to end (die), indeed, not to eat, and so I will die," he thought. As many bad birds as there are have toyed with me." It 's true, isn't it?

Earthmaker, he who dwells aloft, knew of it. He heard his words. "Wešgicega, you are crying; I am coming to earth," he said to him. "Even the father, Wešgíšega," he said to him. When he looked up above, there was a very clear ray of light extending to the earth. It extended all the way to the camp. "Wešgíšega, you will see me, you said. I cannot do that sort of thing. I am this [ray of light]. You have seen me," he said to him. Wešgíšega was not blessed with War; only with Life was he blessed. The light came from Earthmaker. It reached to the earth. He made a copy of it on a cane. When this tobacco offering came, they would ask for Life. Even at the present time, they are still doing it.2


Commentary. Version 1. "Wešgišega" — Radin's translation has Wegíceka [Wegišeka]. However, the syllabic text is (at two places) we diKi dAe K, which cannot be read as Wegiceka. In direct discourse, it is given as Wešgiše (we diKi dAe), which also shows that the proper name marker should be -ga (rather than -ka, which follows a consonant).

"a blue jay"— fasters, especially ambitious ones, are often visited by false dreams. That the blessings of the blue jay spirit were false, was shown by their character: Earthmaker gives blessings of life only, never blessings pertaining to war.

"four times they did this" — that is, four times the bad spirits attempted to fool him with false blessings.

"he sacrificed" — the sacrifice of a child to a spirit is a reversion to a practice that was superseded by dog sacrifice (see Disease Giver). Dogs were raised as family members specifically so that when they were sacrificed, the spirits would accept them as though they were human. The word here for sacrifice, ną́biruǧáč, when used as a noun, refers to an offering that is left for the spirits somewhere out in the wilderness.

"around noon" — the blessing Wagíšega does receive is given at noon which is highly unusual since spirits most usually prefer the medium of darkness. However, Earthmaker typically if not exclusively makes himself manifest in a sunburst of light.

"four songs" — these songs are Completion Songs, that is, they are sung at the end of a section of the rite or the rite as a whole. This particular set of songs is known as "Earthmaker Songs."

Commentary. Version 2. "he used to sleep" — Radin says, "Ritualistic expression for fasting. I believe that after the first or second day of complete abstinence, the fasters, probably from weakness, really slept the greater portion of the day."3

"soldier's clothing, and carried high on his head a narrow cocked hat" — this describes an American general's uniform of the first half of the XIXᵀᴴ century. We later learn that it is really a bluejay; but the bluejay does wear just such a "hat," and is otherwise dressed like a Big Knife soldier in blue.

"stastak’é" — an unknown species. However, it is mentioned in the story "How the Thunders Met the Nights (Mąznį’ąbᵋra)."


Links: Earthmaker, Blue Jay, Bird Spirits.


Stories: This story would be a version of "The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna" were it not for the fact that its ending is exactly opposite to the other story.

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, 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; about Earthmaker blessing or rescuing a person: The Wild Rose, Waruǧápara, The Seven Maidens, The Stone Heart, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins; about fasting blessings: 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, Aračgéga's Blessings, 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, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds; featuring blue jays: Blue Jay, Trickster Gets Pregnant; 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), Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief (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), 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).


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, 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 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, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; a human being receives a blessing directly from Earthmaker: Šųgepaga, The Wild Rose; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: 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, Aračgéga's Blessings, 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, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing; a spirit blesses a man with knowledge of sacred songs: Holy Song, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Island Weight Songs, A Snake Song Origin Myth, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Song to Earthmaker, The Completion Song Origin, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman; false promises of blessings from a spirit: The Greedy Woman, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The Diving Contest; someone is deceived by a spirit: The Greedy Woman, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Seven Maidens, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Lost Blanket; someone fasts a long time without receiving a blessing: The Seer, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka; persons seeking blessings are not satisfied with what the spirits have given them: Little Fox and the Ghost, The Greedy Woman, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 497. The Hočąk syllabic text is found in Paul Radin, "Thunder Clan Feast," Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n. d.) Winnebago 5, #20: 75-78. Informant: an unnamed member of the Thunderbird Clan. The story was told at the Thunderbird Warbundle Feast.

2 Paul Radin, "Personal Reminiscences of a Winnebago Indian," Journal of American Folk-Lore, 26, #102 (1913): 293-318 (Sam Blowsnake, "How One of My Ancestors was Blessed by Earthmaker," pp. 294-298). See also Paul Radin, "The Story of Wešgiciga," Winnebago Notebooks, (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago II, #3 (incomplete), and the reprint of the article in Winnebago I, #2 (Freeman #3884). See the later, Sam Blowsnake (ed. Paul Radin), Crashing Thunder. The Autobiography of an American Indian (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983 [1926]) 20-23. Informant: Sam Blowsnake of the Thunderbird Clan.

3 Radin, Personal Reminiscences of a Winnebago Indian, 296, nt. 1.