The Four Slumbers Origin Myth

by John Rave

John Rave

retold by Richard L. Dieterle


Short Version

WO friends went out to cut wood for arrows when they were set upon by an enemy warparty. They fought hard, but were greatly out numbered. First one was killed, and the other became so hard pressed that he tried to run, but he too was killed. Yet when they were struck with their fatal blows, it seemed to them that they merely stumbled. Their bodies were far apart, so their ghosts took awhile to find each other again. They had no idea that they had been killed, so they picked up the trail of the warparty and tried to renew the attack. First one of them struck an enemy on the back of his head, and immediately, that man became paralyzed. The other friend pushed a man, and he too could no longer walk. They had a good laugh at all this, and decided to return home.

The first friend walked into his lodge and told his wife that he was hungry, but she ignored him as if he were not there. When his friend spoke to his wife at home, she too did not answer him. So each set out for the other's lodge and met one another midway. The first told his friend, "I asked my wife for some food, but she would not feed me." The second said, "I did the same thing, but my wife ignored me like I was not there. I thought I would visit you to see if I could get something to eat at your place." They decided that they would lie down and take it easy for awhile. Just then they heard wailing, and the bodies of two men were brought in. One of them looked and said, "My friend, we have both been killed!" Then his friend wept openly.

The people gathered together that night and prepared a feast in honor of the two slain warriors. "My friend," said one of the ghosts, "let us now get something to eat." "Yes," replied the other, "for this meal was cooked for us." These two men came to be reborn among their own people, and when the time was right, they spoke of what they remembered of the feast at the end of their past lives. Thus began the rite of the Four Slumbers. The ghosts of Spiritland, they say, have a feast of four nights before they depart on their journey.1


Full Version


Hočąk Text with an Interlinear Translation


HERE was a village of those whom they call Hočągara. It was a large village. It was their chief who was there. One of them, a son, would always fast. Since his father requested this sort of thing, therefore he fasted. "In the village, someday, they may have to go through something of a hardship, so try to learn some things from the various ones whom they call 'spirits' (waxopini). If one of them should take pity on you, in the course of time, if a troublesome thing comes upon them, you will be able to help them." (2) He did one thing: he fasted. In time there was one whom he befriended. They say that making a friend is difficult, and this he knew, but thus he did. He loved his friend. After awhile he was told that they were forming a warparty, that is, the child of the chief was told. He meditated upon it, "I must not tell my friend, so I thought, but this cannot be. It was difficult to get a friend, but thus together with my friend I shall be. I shall inform him." (3) He saw him. He saw his friend. "I think I will tell you a story that I heard. Real men (wąkráregi) are going some place, they said. It was meant that I should tell no one, but how could I do that, I thought, so I'm telling you. Some of them have already gone. So I came in haste. By the time I get back, it will be time (to leave). They said that they would wait for each other there at that place. When you are ready, start out for there." (4) He gave him a description so that he would know where it was.

They were all assembled, it is said. Concerning the warpath they were doing, the Warleader said, "Attendants, my spirits have told me about this, so I am doing it. And I will not cause you to suffer. I am not going out very far." Then they started out. After awhile, he called upon his scouts who showed him to be a very truthful Warleader. What he had said is just what it was. They were unconcerned. "Make ready, and place things here. (5) Make everything ready." They brought a Warbundle. They opened the Warbundle. They started out. They attacked. After the attack, the chief's son had done well. The friends were alike. "They did well," they said. They won the First War Honor. They had counted coup. "It was good," they said. They returned home. He had proven victorious, the Warleader was good. They [the spirits] had told the truth. What he had been saying, thus it was. Truly, he had been taught a good road. (6) When they returned, one went ahead to tell the news. The name was called upon of him who would be told to erect the post. They went towards it. Once they returned, they made the men whose heads they lifted sing the songs for themselves. They told the War Controllers. They gave their own war whoop that the War Controllers might learn of their own [victory], inasmuch as they had done that which had been promised to them. The reason why they reported it was so that they might be informed. Inasmuch as this is the procedure that they themselves had taught them, this is why, therefore, they did this. In the village, they were overjoyed. They had returned with a great victory. (7) In this they had spurred the chief's son on, and of this they had done. They said that his friend had equaled his own feats. "Good," the chief said, "Good my son. Thus you did. Act mightily, as these in the village are in your own charge, so try to learn something." He did, he accomplished. Before he married a person, in what is called "war," in this affair he excelled. This he did, he accomplished, they say. (8) It was known that he made war.

"My friend, I should marry a person." "All right, and I also could do that." "All right, then that's what will be done. Long ago even then we were ready, but since I did the same, seemingly in imitation, therefore, I have not married a person." "My friend, I also am that way. Long ago we could have married someone, as we said, then we were ready; but I was waiting for you, so I am doing this, and that's the way it is." It is said that they married people. They acquired wives. "My friend, it is not good that we should live together with them, so let us live alone by ourselves." (9) "Okay." There they lived alone. "Father, I'm going to have a lodge here." His father the chief said this, "All right, it is good; when one marries a person, the one who is married generally does this." The two friends were very much attached to one another. Still whatever they did they did well. So they lovingly said to them, "Our own brave men," they would say. Whenever there was a gathering in the village, they would always make a place for them to sit. (10) They took very good care of them. They had benefited from them. They had done well in war, so they respected them. Then he said, "My friend, these people have treated us well. What are we to do, and can we do something good for them? Some day we should do something for them again, that is the significance of doing this business. If we act mightily, it would be good," he said. It was said to the one who had made himself a friend, "My friend, what you have said is true — that we shall do. If something comes up in the future, we'll do that." (11) "All right, and it would be best if from now on we prepared ourselves." "Then we'll do that. Now let's prepare." "Okay, then we'll do it." "In the morning, we shall go out and cut dogwood. We shall go by boat. It would be best if we were to leave soon."

He came early in the morning. "I was waiting for you." They went off in a boat. They lived by the waters of a small creek. There they landed, and afterwards here at this place they cut dogwood. (12) Then they started home. As they were coming back, a partridge flew here. From where there was a protruding tree branch, there he went straight for them. "Kora, the one who is doing this certainly deserves to be scolded — I'll shoot him." He went there. When he arrived, just as he was about to shoot, they rushed upon him. "Hohó my friend, they are rushing upon you!" "Ho, ho," he said. He jumped back. Then he took up his arrows, and they fought. "My friend, try your utmost! Hąhą́’ą, my friend, try your utmost!" (13) He also said, "My friend, try your utmost! It will be great. They must be one that's out for revenge." Just past noon, he whooped and when he jumped back, he stumbled. When he looked over, his friend was sent rolling over. They had killed him. There he whooped and jumped at them. "My friend, I shall extract more than enough for your limbs!" He killed one of them. They shot at him. They rushed him. Again he rushed out to meet them. (14) Then they halted, and he killed another one. "Do it to him with might, the man has become vicious." His bowstring broke. As he started to run, he thought that he might have stumbled. He supposed that he had gotten up. Then right here his friend was standing. He was smiling. They had been killed, but they didn't know it. "Hohó my friend, we have been fighting. My friend, they must have killed us. Let's look where we had been." They came upon a place where the slaughter of men had been great. "My friend, here you were killed." (15) When they got there, they found that all his limbs had been cut off. His head was also gone. "My friend, they must have done this to me as well. I think it was somewhere around here that I thought I must have stumbled. They must have killed me as well, that's why I did it. Let's look that way." When they got there, bodies were scattered and strewn about. "My friend, we used to do this sort of thing ourselves. I too have done what they have done to us. Just for fun, let's follow what path they take us on. They are taking us home." (16) There they were going home. They caught up to them. One of them had fallen behind. After he caught up to him, he placed his hand on his shoulder, and knocked him over. They laughed. The victim grasped for something. He foamed at the mouth and was unable to walk. He fell. They laughed. Then once more they caught up to them and did it again. Thus it was yet again. He grasped for something. They liked it. "Let's chase them farther on." Then they did much. (17) They had paralyzed them. After awhile he said, "My friend, let's head home."

They went to their lodges. After they had returned to the lodges, "Kóra friend, I am really hungry." "That is the way it is with me too." Then he returned. He sat down there. There his wife did not even take notice of him. He said, "Hagagasgéžą, I have returned very sick from hunger, yet you do not try to get me anything," he said, but she did not respond to anything he said. "Why is she doing this? (18) If I did something that was not good, it would be good to say something." She did not even speak. "What is she doing? She does not speak," he said, but she did not care whether he had said anything. "Why is she doing this? Perhaps it is because she is angry that she does this, I'm thinking. At my folks, I might have been done by now, I'm thinking. Therefore, I'll go to them." He went to his father's and mother's dwelling. There he went in. They did not even think a person had arrived. (19) Whenever he had returned, they had spoken to him right away with good hearts, but they weren't even looking at him. "Why are they doing this? Mother, I in any case, am hungry, that's why I am returning. I went to my own lodge and begged for it, but it was not given to me. Now you too are that way. Not even thus do you think of me." (20) She was not even aware that he had said something. "Perhaps it's because they're deaf that they are always do this. Mother, I am saying this because I am hungry." She was not even aware that he had said something. "What is this that I'm saying? Perhaps they are doing this because they don't like me. Am I saying this? I will go outside and look around," he thought, so he went out. There where he was going, there his friend came. They came together. The chief's child was laughing, but his friend was not laughing at all. (21) "My friend, as I was hungry, I returned to my lodge, and although I asked, I was not given anything." "My friend, they acted the same way towards me as well; as a result, I gave up and therefore left." "Koté my friend, let's lay here to the side." There to the side they lay. They laid on their stomachs reclining. "My friend, they love you very much, yet they did not give even you anything. There must be some reason why they are doing this." That way they talked, that way the friends, thus it was.

(22) "Woirakirakúni!" It was the sound of many voices crying. "Hąhó friend! Why are they crying out again?" "Woirakirakúni!" One of them was a Death Announcer. "Hohó friend, something must have happened." They both listened. "Woirakirakúni! Our chief and the one whom he befriended have been killed. They must have done this to them sometime in the morning," he was saying. "Hohó my friend, they must have killed us. Friend, we must exist only as spirits (nąǧíragera), that must be why they could not hear us." (23) There was the sound of many voices crying. "Friend, let's return to my lodge." When they got there, the chief's wife was letting her hair down and then cutting it off. Crying, she threw herself to the ground. "Hohó my friend, they have made us die. Now then, they must have found us, that is why they are crying out." "Friend, let's go to my lodge to look around." There they arrived. When they had gotten there, it was also that way. "Hohó my friend, what are we to do?" (24) "All right, I think it will be possible to do something here." "Let's go immediately to the place where the people have gathered."

They returned. She was preparing food. They longed for it very much. Then someone said, "Our chief to whom we were much attached, and his friend likewise, have been slain, but it is good to die in war. They always say that one would not lose consciousness. (25) Since this sort of thing should be true, he should be listening. It should be so. And one of our warriors will tell him his story, and for that one I will offer the tobacco. And he will give them the food." And he said, "And here for our own chief this is the end of his days. And as much life as he left behind, by that let us also live. For this reason, thus we do, and in this way it is said. If one dies in war, it is said that he does not lose consciousness. (25a) And we say this thinking that it will be this way, and the food that we offer will be this way. Here it is, my chief, and the food that was left unconsumed. Here it is, and what you failed to partake of that was left behind, in this way will we use it. And the water that was not consumed, here it is! And the tobacco, here it is! This is it, the pipe, with the Messenger when shortly you go forth! That which you have with you as you walk, the Messenger, here it is! And there is a happy village. (26) And your pipe she will not shove away, but gently she will accept it. And that is the way it will be taken from you. And what you've left undone, here it is! You will intend to have it behind you. Those behind you will use it. Your relatives will use it. They way they wish to be remembered, here it is! This way your clansmen who are behind you may live well. Do not bother your heart. It is ended. Let the feast begin!" And as they lay there, they became very anxious to eat, (27) as during the day their begging had failed. However, they were there, as they knew they were going to eat. There they were fed. There they ate.

The chief's child's friend cried, as they lay there, as they lay stretched out on their stomachs, he cried. My friend, end your tears, I know a possibility, but it will be difficult. We could live back here again, but you will not be able to accomplish it." "I did not say anything so to you, my friend. My heart is sore. (28) I say, assuredly, would that I could live here again! How I loved the deeds we did! I wish it were that way again. Whatever difficult and whatever you do, I can do that too." "Friend, you could do that since you say so, but it is difficult. If you would try it, we will do it. If you do what you have said, we will live back here again. But we will go about as we are now, remaining forever thus, or again we could leave to reach a place somewhere, (29) but yet again, we could go someplace else. They are very desirous. There are three, the three villages. Although this is the first time I am telling you of this, yet you will not do it. Now in four days we will go," he said. "This one is the first [day]. For the whole time they will talk to us this way." "Friend, my heart is sore. Let's return back here." "And when we are ready to go, they will say something to us:

(30) This will be the last night [of the Four Slumbers Rite]. Hąhą́ beloved chief! You will have four campfires. This is the last thing. Hąhó-o, here it is! You are listening. Here it is, the Messenger with which you will walk. They will gladly receive it from you. Up above, the Maker of Things gave us this. Here it is! They long for it very much. They will gladly receive it. They will accept it from you. As much life as was yours, and (31) the things that you left behind; life, wars in the very midst of the lodge, human activities that you would have had, be conscious of this, of all those behind you, for this way they wish to be remembered. And [tell] Spirit Woman (Hinųk-xop'ini) that it not be so for a second time that there is such a feast any time soon. This they ask. This way she will smoke the pipe. So here it is!

This will be the last time we eat together. When daylight comes, it will be time for us to start." (32) "The warriors will tell something to you. They will tell you what you will do on your walk. When they are done, it will be time for you to begin. And do not let your heart be heavy for those left behind." And they were about to paint the sticks. They started for the ghost bed. The first one walked around one of the ghosts. The first one [said], "Our own chief led me on the Walk where I took for myself an excellent man. He will walk supported by this one. (33) On another occasion, as he was going there again, I visited the Road. There again I fought, and there again, between the firing lines, there I took the head of one of them. He told me that I had done well. Then another time I captured one of them. Again this live one will carry fire for him on the road. And the chief's friend, with much weeping, said, "My friend, enough said, we shall return!"

Once they were done, they departed. They started to go back in a westward direction. (34) "My friend, four times we will stop." This one said, "When they said 'four stops,' this is it." When they stopped, he cried again. "My friend, enough of these sounds. And having come to a village, even there you will still not want to go on." When they arrived at the village they went to, they gave them a whoop. The people were numerous. "Hąhą́ my friend, this is a lot of people." "My friend, there will be a lot of people, there will be women too." (35) They came out to meet them. The two of them were coming to enter. "The chief's lodge is over there." They were led there. There at the chief's lodge, "Hąhó my dear young men, it is good." "My chief, here is the pipe!" "It is good, my dear young man. What did they tell you where you came from?" "Well, that the life we left behind from where we came, they said that they might live that life there. They said that all the things that we left behind, they would use there." (36) "They spoke the truth, so shall it be," he said to them. "All is ready. The dance lodge, this is it here." They went outside to the dance hall of which they had spoken, and entered in. "We will sing the 'Four Nights' for them. "My friend, do not in any case arise with them," he said. If you arise, and do it, then you will not accomplish your objective. We are doing this because you said we would return." "Hąhą́ my friend, I am listening, how could I not be? (37) Indeed, I had said much. What you said, I did indeed say that I would do it that way." They fixed the drum, tightening it. "Hąhó, the two friends are going to sing. Let us get ready, all who can dance well. Get ready there will be much fun." There they were, they had reached the ghost village. They began by starting up the dance. Even outside there was a great commotion. The women would continually shout in chorus, but then daylight came upon them. (38) "This my friend is good so far, but I told you of three nights."

It was the second night, and it was even greater. Before it was time, there was a lot of shouting. When it was time, they voiced it still more. "Nįká, because it is a pleasant thing to sit down, they are sitting down! It is such a fun thing to dance with men as they go by," and they said, "Perhaps they are going to take us as dancing partners. They are doing an awful thing, since they are sitting down." (39) After great difficulty, the daylight came upon them. "My friend, it is such a pleasant thing." "My friend, the reason that I said it was that this is the way that you would have been." ", what you said was true, I said that I would listen to you." "'My friend, listen to me,' that is what I had said." Now would be the last night. "My friend, you must do your utmost, as this is the last one. Here they will not let you pass the town. They will do that to the best of their ability. You must act with resolution." When the last one came, it was very noisy. (40) The talking was very audible. "My friend, you must act with strength." When the dance started, it was grand. "This one, nįká, come on now! What do you propose to do here? Come on now!" He began to stir. He wanted to stand up. "My friend, sit down and be calm!" However, after great difficulties, the daylight came upon them. "Hohó my friend, it is good. Now it will be a good deal worse. We will go to a village here. This will be the village of the Thunders. It is more, so you must exert your strength. It is a pleasurable dance, so you must do your utmost. (41) Finally, if you join in, you will not go anywhere. You said that we would return, so exert your strength. You came through that, we passed through even that with difficulty coming to our destination. This village will be all the more so. "My friend, I may have said that I would listen to you, but you must help me. I may have said that I ache in my heart. Let us go back to where we came from. Help me, my friend!" "Hąhą́ my friend, if you listen to me, that is the way it will be." When they reached the village, it proved to be a very desirable thing, even in its looks, it was good. (42) They came out to meet them. "This is the chief's village," they said to them. "It is good that you have come here. The Maker of Things thus thought of you, inasmuch as you have come here. You must do your utmost. You have arrived, and if you do it, then you will have done something good for yourselves, so act with might. As well as you have passed through a village, act with strength. I encourage you. If you are able to get there, you will be your own master." (43) "My friend, are you hearing what is being said to us? Do your utmost. Thus it is." The dance lodge was outside. Thus it was. They came out. He said, "My friend, you must do your utmost. The dance is to be an enjoyable one." They entered there. He said, "It is going to happen. We shall have to stop here for four nights. Again, you should never get up," he said, "should you arise and do it, then thus you will fail. (44) You will not return to where you came from." And the dancing began, and when that started, they gave a loud shout. This is called the "Thunderbird Dance." They were holy (wákąčąk). Do your utmost, my friend, and sit quietly." With difficulty, daylight came upon them. "Even this much is good, my friend, so do your utmost. And the last night will be difficult." It was again the second night. The friend moved about, desiring to stand up, and wishing that he might join them. (45) "My friend, sit still," he pleaded. He never stood up. After difficulties, daylight came upon them. Now on the fourth night he tried to stand, but he held him down. "Hohó my friend, now don't do it! Did you not say that we would return?" They passed through it with difficulty. Thus this is. "Here is the road," they said to them.

"With effort, you finished even this. This village that we're going to here is a very pleasurable village, and the people are good to look at. Surely, you will wish to be there. (46) It is good enough, but let us try to pass through, for if we pass through, there we'll come to the lodge of the Maker of Things. When we reach the village there, my friend, do your utmost. When we were first killed, did you not say that your heart was sore, and you cried, and cried a lot? Again, did you not say that you wished to live back there? Think of this, my friend, how you said we would return, think of it, it is such a pleasant thing, so do your utmost!" "My friend, I am listening, and as you speak the truth, I will do that." (47) The village that they reached lay in an eastward direction. There was the village that they reached, and it was a very pleasant thing. "Hąhą́, come on! It is good that you've come. Here is the chief's lodge." "You have arrived, it is good. Rarely does anyone come here, yet it is good that you have come. You must do your utmost! This is it, if you go through it. There is the house of Our Father. If you reach it, you will have done a good thing for yourselves. You may choose life for yourselves, and whatever you like, he will let you choose that. (48) You must do your utmost! This last one will be here. And the Maker of Things has created it this way: if one accomplishes it by this means, that's the way it will be. Whatever life it is that you would lead, he will let you do that. Thus it is. I say this because I am encouraging you. Outside the lodge is a gathering place, you will enter there." "Hąhai my friend, you must do your utmost! These are Earthmaker's people. They are good looking, but we will try to pass through it. (49) If we reach it, you can choose to live here, if we do live here in this one. Again, it will be done here, if we would return from where we came from. This is the last one, so do your utmost! Here the people truly look good. Surely it seems that we would not go further. But even so, still let us not tarry." "My friend, you have spoken truly, what you say is right. I will try very hard." They began to enter as they always did. They were really good looking. The men as well as the women were in truth excellent. He immediately thought, "I could live here with these people, for in truth, they are good. (50) I wonder if I could live among them." These were his first thoughts. "My friend, you must do your utmost. If we finish this, we will go towards Our Father, the Maker of Things. This one is greater, so you absolutely must do your utmost. Let's get to where we're going." "Hohó my friend, you speak the truth." Then right away he thought, "I ought to do that." With difficulty, daylight came upon them. "Hohó my friend, it is good. You've finished this one. (51) We will rest. Again this second one will be even more. Even with difficulty, you passed through the first of these, so do your utmost! They will be even better to look upon, and the singing will be greater. But, now, sit and listen. My friend, now it is going to happen." The first ones, as good as they were, these were better still. They were good. Hagagasgéžą, these were greater, but it was really much more pleasurable. (52) "Hohó my friend, even this is good." "Hagagasgéžą my friend, where we are going it is even more pleasurable!" "That may be, but this is good enough." "My friend, let it be enough. Let's try to get where we are going!" "Hohó my friend, I am listening to what you are saying!" They got through it. "Hohó my friend, it is good. Hagagasgéžą, two days remain. Do your utmost!" He encouraged him. It was the third night. "My friend, it would be good if we joined in, it's such great fun!" (53) "Hohó my friend, we must still do as we have." "My friend, so I will also do it alone." "My friend, don't do that! My friend, listen to me, you said you wanted to." "Well, my friend, you spoke the truth." Daylight came upon them. "Hohó my friend, the last one remains. This is the last one. It will be truly difficult. Still, I will also look out for myself. Hohó my friend, hagagasgéžą, you must do your utmost! I tell you, think of how you cried. Think of how you said that you ached in your heart, my friend." "Hohó my friend, you have spoken the truth, (54) still I am refusing to move; you spoke the truth, so I will try. I do desire to return!" "My friend, when you see them yet again, you'll be even more inclined, so try your utmost. Listen to me. They are almost ready to do the last thing. My friend, you must do your utmost. It's about to begin." "Hohó my friend, this is something pleasant, so my friend, let's join in anyway!" "Thus it will be. So we will not do it. This is the last one. Still, so it will be, it will indeed be very much." (55) "Just the same, my friend, let's join them anyhow!" "So my friend, sit down and don't do it!" "Hagagasgéžą my friend, it is all but over, so don't do it! Hohó, hŭā́! So my friend, it is good! Hąhó, we did well. Here lies before us the road to where Our Father dwells."

They started out. After they set out, ahead of them they whooped. They encountered them. One without a head shouted, a ghost who had been killed was the one who had shouted. (56) Thus even he had passed through, but even this one had failed. Yet again they met another one. "My friend, you must do your utmost! Even these, who are doing this, have failed. They are returning." As they continued on, they reached them. They came out. "Tell them to come in." They entered. It was into the lodge of the Maker of Things that they entered. "It is good, young men. Only once in a great while does someone reach here. You yourselves will choose what you want to do. Behold, there they are! (57) Behold, this is the first village that you came to." He opened up for them the view of the first village they had come to and caused them to see it. "There it is. If you wish to live over here, you may. Choose for yourselves. Behold, there it is again, the second village that you came to." After they looked at it, "Truly it is a good village. You should do it and choose for yourselves. This is again the third village that you reached. Again, this is the village that you had reached." "It's over here, friend, where you refused to stay. There it is." (58) "Again, there it is. The first one you started from, there that one is." He let them look at this earth: tribes speaking different languages, villages scattered about, where here and there they were fighting. "My friend, over here you said we would return. There it is, my friend, where we came from." "My children, that is the village that you came from; that is precisely the one." They looked at it, and he said, "If you choose to live in your own village, it will be done. Still, if you want to live somewhere else, that can be done. (59) I give you command over your lives. Choose carefully. There it is." "My friend, there it is, thus we have come for what we came for." "My friend, did we not say that? So let's go back there." "This we choose: we will go back here." "Ho, do so then, you are going back, and here is where you wish to live. Choose carefully, and do so!"

They returned. "My friend, these are my parents, and likewise, these are your parents. (60) As we would both come to life in this place, we would be brothers." "If we were to do as we have done, we should come to life separately. Therefore, by living this again as we had, by coming to life, we would make ourselves known." "Let it be just so again my friend." "Yes, that way it will be. And I am going back with those with whom I lived, and you also, there where you came from, you too are coming back to life. There it is. Among your group you may live, and if they are my group, I too will live among them." "Háo, thus it is." Finally, they came to life again. Again someone gave birth to him. He was a boy. (61) Again he came to life in the Thunderbird Clan, and once more he came to live with the chief. And the friend also came to life. He was a male. Finally, although small, they met one another, and they recognized each other; and although they were carried about, they met one another, and they recognized each other. They liked it very much. Finally, when they were bigger, they made friends with one another again. In time, they grew up. Again they were the same. They lived to make war. How they had lived [before], again they were the same.

(62) This is the story they told of those who reached the Maker of Things up there in the heavens. Therefore, if one does that, he would live life under his own control, that they told. Even today, that is still going on. They tell one another this: die there making war. Therefore, they think of nothing but war. It is a hope, they say. That is why they do it.

Thus it ends.2


Commentary

Short Version. "they had no idea that they had been killed" — this seems to be contradicted by the full version (see below).

Full Version. "a partridge flew" — the bird who struck against the chief's son as they were out cutting dogwood is conventionally understood to be a transformation of an enemy warrior, a metamorphic power that Hočąk warriors were also thought to possess.3 The sentences,

As they were coming back, a partridge flew here. From where there was a protruding tree branch, there he went straight for them.

are from the Hočąk,

Guiregáją, sikaksígižą egi t’ánąkše. Nąǧágira ejagiži, éja(-ho)wajikereže.

The word t’a is a homonym meaning both, "to die," and "to fly." By a play on words, the first sentence can be rendered, "As they were coming back, (there was) a partridge, and he (the chief) was dead." The attack by an enemy warrior in the supernatural form of a bird presages the chief's own death. So the very next word, nąǧágira, forms a pun with nąǧiragera, "the soul." It is the enemy warrior's nąǧirak that takes the form of a bird. Under this hidden meaning, the sentence could be understood to say, "There from the soul, there he went straight at him." See also, the Fleetfooted Man.

"all his limbs had been cut off. His head was also gone" — the Hočągara have an important place in their conceptual system for bodily wholeness and therefore for the value of the perfection of the body. Because of his lameness, Earthmaker threw away the first man that he had created, and this man was the chief of devils. Evil comes from defect. Those killed in action enter the other world just as they are, which usually meant that they were at least without their head, as the old style of warfare dictated the taking of heads for spiritual reasons, particularly associated with accentuation of personal and tribal powers. Therefore, those killed in action will not quite fit into a ghost village of perfect people, the people of Earthmaker, the opposite of the physically defective Herešgúnina, chief of the devils. Therefore, to become whole, those killed in action had a strong incentive to make it to Earthmaker and realize their rebirth. Thus, because they always do this, they become cyclical heroes, devoted to war more than ordinary people. Therefore, they can resist the temptations of Earthmaker, the temptations of Life, because ironically and paradoxically, the very thing that renders them defective — war — is the only thing that can render them whole again. But this is just the paradox of sacrifice: only by destruction can creation be effected.

"why are they doing this" — the odd contradiction between the realization by the two friends that they have been killed in action and their ignorance of this fact when they return home is found in the original of both versions. It strikes us as implausible that they would see their own mangled bodies, then be uncertain of their own deaths once they reached home.

"his story" — that is, the warrior (literally, "brave man") will tell the ghosts of his war exploits. Any of the enemy whose lives he took will be obliged to be present on the road to Spiritland to guide the departed on his way.

"let us also live" — the theory is that a person is allotted a certain span of life and all that he might acquire in that span of time. So if a person dies prematurely, then there is a quantity of entitlements which remain to him unused. As a ghost, he may petition the spirits to grant his unused entitlements to his kindred. The speaker at his wake is reminding him of this bequest.

"the Messenger" — this refers to tobacco. In offerings, when objects of value are committed to the fire, the smoke is believed to carry their spiritual counterparts up to the Above World where the articles are received by the spirits. The pipe is a miniature fireplace, and since the spirits greatly crave tobacco, it is the paragon of offerings. It was given to humans by Earthmaker that they might induce the spirits to give people blessings. So the tobacco is a vehicle of solicitation, and therefore a sacred messenger.

"they" — these are the servants who will help show the departed the way to Spiritland. They are enemy warriors who had been killed in action and donated by warriors who have related their exploits at the wake.

"paint the sticks" — these are posts placed at the grave. Radin says, "After the body had been buried or placed on a scaffold, as the case might be, a post was placed at the head of the grave, and the warriors among the mourners counted their coups and drew representation of their victories on the posts."4 Certain stylized figures were used to indicate what had been accomplished, and by whom. A warrior who had taken the head of an enemy was, for instance, entitled to paint the top of the post red.5

"ghost bed" — in Hočąk, wanąǧómįgera, from wanąǧi, "ghost," and homįk, "bed." This is the standard word for a grave.

"the Walk (Maníra)" — the warpath.

"this live one will carry fire for him" — this statement implies that someone now living will soon join the chief on the road to Spiritland, which means that he will soon be put to death. It also means that the captive had not been naturalized into the tribe, since he is subject to being put to death. Therefore, he must have subsisted as a slave or was held in the prison lodge managed by the Bear Clan, the latter of which would suggest that he was only recently captured. The usual means of death for such prisoners is to be "made to play with fire," so the expression "carry fire for him" has a double meaning that embraces an element of revenge as the captive is made to "carry" fire on his body. Not implied, but certainly possible, is the Mesoamerican-like idea that captives might be taken for the express end of being later sacrificed for the sake of otherworldly purposes.

"Four Nights" — this is music to the Four Slumbers, also known as the "Four Nights' Wake." It is hard to decide whether it is appropriate or ironic that they should sing the two young men's own funeral music to them.

"as they go by" — the Bollingen translation has, "How enjoyable it is to dance with men and be whisked about." However, this kind of dancing is not a waltz. The men engage in a freestyle kind of dance moving in an inner circle, while the women leap straight up and down at the periphery. So the men go by them, just as it is literally stated.

"the village of the Thunders" — the ghost village of the Thunderbird Clan, where deceased members of that clan go to live their afterlife.


Links: Ghosts, Earthmaker, Tobacco, The Spirit Woman, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.


Stories: about two male friends: Wazųka, The Lame Friend, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Morning Star and His Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Worúxega, The Fleetfooted Man, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Tobacco Man and Married Man, Mighty Thunder; mentioning ghosts: The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Holy One and His Brother, Worúxega, Little Human Head, Little Fox and the Ghost, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Lame Friend, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, Sunset Point; mentioning the War Controllers: The Masaxe War, A Man's Revenge; mentioning Spirit Woman: Brave Man Gambles, Journey to Spiritland (v. 8) (old woman); about journeys to and from Spiritland: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, Sunset Point, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; in which dancing plays a role: Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Little Priest's Game, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Migistéga’s Magic, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Trickster and the Dancers, Wolves and Humans, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning tobacco: Tobacco Origin Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth (v 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Grandmother's Gifts, The Thunderbird, First Contact, Peace of Mind Regained, The Dipper, The Masaxe War, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store; mentioning drums: The Descent of the Drum, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Buffalo's Walk, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), Young Man Gambles Often, Trickster and the Dancers, Redhorn's Father, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Elk's Skull, Ghosts, Great Walker's Medicine, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 1b), Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, Trickster and the Geese, Turtle's Warparty, Snowshoe Strings, Ocean Duck, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Hog's Adventures, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; 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), The First Snakes (Snake Feast), Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts (unnamed).


Themes: two boys (or young men) out cutting wood are attacked: The Lame Friend, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds; descriptions of human warfare: Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Warbundle Maker, The First Fox and Sauk War, Great Walker's Medicine, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Wazųka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Shawnee Prophet and His Ascension, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Fox-Hočąk War, Great Walker's Warpath, White Fisher, The Lame Friend, White Thunder's Warpath, The Osage Massacre, A Man's Revenge, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, They Owe a Bullet, The Spanish Fight, Origin of the Name "Milwaukee," The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Tobacco Man and Married Man; when a Hočąk warrior's friend is killed in action, he rushes recklessly upon the enemy, killing a number of their warriors: Wazųka, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I; two friends are both killed in action: The Lame Friend, Wazųka; men who are killed by an enemy warparty do not realize that they are dead: The Lame Friend, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty; a man who has been killed sees his own dead body: The Lame Friend, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; a woman expresses grief for her slain husband by altering her hair: Redhorn's Sons, Redhorn and His Brothers Marry; head hunting: White Fisher, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, A Man's Revenge, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Little Priest's Game, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), The Dipper, Porcupine and His Brothers, Turtle's Warparty, Ocean Duck, The Markings on the Moon, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man with Two Heads, Brave Man, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Redhorn's Sons, Fighting Retreat, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Were-Grizzly, Winneconnee Origin Myth; ghosts chase after someone: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Little Human Head, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Little Fox and the Ghost; two friends who are killed in action are reborn in their own village: The Lame Friend; a ghost is instructed to say that it will not be soon that others of his clan shall follow: The Journey to Spiritland (v. 3); people are tempted by the dead to give into their purposes, but (could) succeed by following the advice of a friendly spirit and resisting with their utmost power: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Little Human Head, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Sunset Point, Snowshoe Strings; in order to return a soul to life from Spiritland, a hero must avoid joining in the festivities of the ghosts: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Sunset Point, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; people make a lot of noise in order to divert someone from his goal: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Trickster and the Geese, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Redhorn Contests the Giants; a person who has died longs to come back to life: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter; death viewed in positive terms: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Death Enters the World; visiting Earthmaker: The Journey to Spiritland, The Lame Friend, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Petition to Earthmaker, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins; a warrior shows devotion to his fallen friend by attacking the enemy until he himself is killed: Wazųka.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 106-107.

2 Paul Radin, "The Two Friends Who Became Reincarnated: The Origin of the Four Nights Wake," The Culture of the Winnebago as Described by Themselves (Baltimore: Special Publications of the Bollingen Foundation, #1, 1949) 12-46. Informant: John Rave (Bear Clan). This story is discussed in Claude Lévi-Strauss, "Four Winnebago Myths," Structural Anthropology, vol. 2, trs. Monique Layton (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976) 198-210. The original text is in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook 43, 1-62.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 38-39, nt 16.

4 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 96.

5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 107.