The Gift of Shooting

by Sam Blowsnake


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


This important story, as brief as it is, about the origin of the central practice of the Medicine Rite, is not found in Jasper Blowsnake's description of the rite published by Paul Radin as The Road of Life and Death. The shell is shot at the initiate (and others on occasion) to induce ritual death, from which the subject soon recovers, demonstrating the power of resurrection acquired by all who become members of the Rite. The shell can be shot out of the mouth of the master, or by use of an animal pouch constructed like a bladder which propels the shell by means of compressed air.


(100) Hare and his grandmother with him, the various spirits with them, they together made the first creation (of the Medicine Rite). (101) And the various spirits filled the lodge. Then the Creator did something. (102) He took a piece of blue sky and rolled it by hand with white clouds. That was a shell. It was a pretty sight. As it was white clouds marked with the blue sky, (103) it looked pretty. He sent that down to earth, and the leader of the eagles went towards the east to shake. (104) And in the center of the lodge he started to cough. He made that shell come out of his orifice. He picked it up and took it around the lodge and at the center of the lodge, (105) after he threw it into his mouth, he lay upon the ground quivering.

Then one of Hare's little human uncles, he to whom they were teaching the rite, went around the lodge crying and they shot him. (106) Then he laid very stiff on the ground shaking. Then one from the east got up quickly and took him by the arm and held him on his heart side and (107) while the Medicine Lodge people chanted, he caused him to arise. So the ones who are shooting each other, they themselves do it for that reason.1


Commentary. "his grandmother" — this is Earth, often referred to simply as "Grandmother," Hikorokera, or in direct address, Kunika.

"the leader of the eagles" — this was Hą́pamąnį́ra, "He who Walks upon the Light." The spirit eagles are Thunderbirds, and therefore shoot small black stones from their eyes that manifest themselves as lightning. His lightning is blue like the shell is in part. See under Eagle I.

"to shake" — Susman has at the bottom of this page just below this word what might otherwise be a cryptic note: "(E[ast]. shot him)." In the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, the Island Weights of the four cardinal points were present as the chief actors. One of these is typically called "East" after his direction. When an initiate is "shot" with a shell in the Medicine Rite, he typically collapses and quivers before falling still in ritual death. Apparently, Eagle went to the Creation Lodge where he underwent the ritual death, having been shot by the East.

"he threw it into his mouth" — It is appropriate that a bird be first to "swallow" a shell, since birds have gizzards where the avian counterpart to chewing takes place. Therefore, birds occasionally swallow stones, but the swallowing, like that done in the Medicine Rite, is not into the stomach, but somewhere short of that position in the alimentary canal.

"quivering" — the Hočąk word so translated is ruk'irik'íri, which in contexts where it describes light, means, "shimmering, glittering." Susman translates this word in the present context as "he shook," but the common element between rapidly shifting patterns of luminance and the shaking of a solid body is probably best described in English — here imperfect as a model — by the word "quiver."

"little ... uncles" — the Hočąk here is hitek-nįk, where hitek means "mother's brother." However, the sons of the maternal uncle are called hitekenįk, "little uncles," and the attested forms of this word all have an /e/ between hitek and nįk. Consequently, I have translated the word literally as "little uncles." Hare was the product of a virgin birth, which meant that all humans were his maternal uncles and aunts. The hitek/hičųšge relationship was one of total devotion in which the nephew (hičųšge) was prepared to give his life for his hitek. They were close enough to maintain a joking relation with one another. Therefore, Hare's devotion to the human race is absolute.

"they were teaching the rite" — that is, to the first human initiate. That's why the word wąkšík, "human," was inserted into this sentence for emphasis.

"held him on his heart side" — a deliberate allusion to the heart (nąčge) is made here because mystically the shell first shot by the master into the initiate is said to lodge beneath the heart. Since the heart is the center of mind and emotion, the physical association of the shell with the heart is designed to reify the commitment undertaken in mind and spirit by the initiate to the principles and practices of the Medicine Rite.


Links: Earthmaker, Hare, Earth, Eagle I.


Stories: 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, 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, 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; featuring Hare as a character: The Hare Cycle, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Necessity for Death, The Mission of the Five Sons of Earthmaker, Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Kills Wildcat, The Messengers of Hare, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Kills Flint, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Kills a Man with a Cane, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Grandmother's Gifts, Hare and the Grasshoppers, The Spirit of Gambling, The Red Man, Maize Origin Myth, Hare Steals the Fish, The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Petition to Earthmaker; featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Grandmother's Gifts, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); mentioning eagles: The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 2), Pigeon Clan Origins, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Trickster and the Eagle, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; 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, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (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 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; pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Messengers of Hare, The Gift of Shooting, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, Testing the Slave, Peace of Mind Regained, The Island Weight Songs, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Claw Shooter, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, The Sweetened Drink Song, A Wife for Knowledge, The Diving Contest, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle; mentioning shells: The Markings on the Moon, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Wild Rose, Young Man Gambles Often (wampum), Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2) (wampum), Wolves and Humans (oyster), Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Child, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2), Turtle's Warparty, The Lost Blanket (mussel), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads (crab).


Themes: spirits meet in a council: The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Black and White Moons, Holy One and His Brother, The Creation Council, The Children of the Sun, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), East Shakes the Messenger, The Descent of the Drum, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Boy who would be Immortal; Earthmaker forms the "arrow" (shell) of the Medicine Rite by taking a piece of blue sky and rolling it together with white clouds: The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men; shooting shells in connection with the Medicine Rite: Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men.


Notes

1 Amelia Susman, Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, January, 1939) Book 9:100-107.