The First Snakes

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


This waiką can be pieced together from references made to it from an account of the Snake Feast.


In the beginning when Earthmaker created the earth it was not stable. It rocked and shook, and in the east it began to split apart. With his own hands, Earthmaker created four of the greatest spirits that have ever been. The first was a yellow snake (waką́zi), the second was a rattlesnake (kšéke), the third was a blowsnake (waką́ wóraxičke), and the last was a bull snake. Earthmaker used them to pierce through the earth towards the east. Thus the earth was made to hold together. Earthmaker made these four snakes chiefs over all the serpents now on earth. They were very holy and were placed in charge of abundant life. Earthmaker made for them heavy warclubs that would not fail to hit anything that they could reach.

When the Creator first fashioned men, they were the weakest of all creatures, and the animals and evil spirits would prey upon them. In those days the humans met the four snakes face to face, and the serpents protected them. With their warclubs, no one could overcome them. That is why today offerings are made so that we too may share in the invulnerability that the Snake Spirits possess in their holy warclubs.1


Commentary. "yellow snake" — this would be the same who is elsewhere referred to as the "Yellow Snake-Chief." This kind of snake is listed by Gatschet as being a rattlesnake, but clearly the Hočągara do not see them as identical. The rattlesnake is conventionally viewed as white (due to its underbelly?).

"heavy warclubs" — these warclubs are referred to elsewhere in connection with a blessing received from the Yellow Snake-Chief. Some warclubs were equipped with a dagger-like spike near the tip. It may be that a snake with its fangs exposed looks like such a warclub.


Links: Snakes, Earthmaker.


Stories: mentioning snakes: The Woman who Married a Snake, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, 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: Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief; mentioning bull snakes: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head; 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 Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, 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 Origin of the Cliff Swallow; recounting the origins of warclubs: Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, How the Thunders Met the Nights; 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), 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), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (unspecified), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (unnamed).


Themes: unerring warclubs: How the Thunders Met the Nights.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 277-279.