Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite

by Jasper Blowsnake

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(28) A man received knowledge of something and he liked it. He thought that this was good. He thought that it was good to make one know of it. Then he told a man what he knew. (29) He began his recitation. He got through telling everything. Then what that (first) man liked, he (the second man) also got that sort of thing. That man he was telling it to, he knew something one day ahead. Then a second time he knew something up to two days ahead. Then another time he knew things up to four days ahead, and then at another time ten days ahead, that far he knew things. They believed something true, really true. And again, because one knew what they believed to be good, it became a companionship of two. They said that it would be good to have one as the third. They chose one of the men. (30) A very good Indian man, a man with a very good mind, a man with a sustained consciousness of moral responsibility, one thus far along, they thought they knew that one. Just as one had become wise, in the same way they made the others. And as the first man to whom he had taught this was, indeed that way he was himself: he knew things one day in advance. Then he knew things up to the second day in advance. He knew things four days ahead. He liked it. Then he knew things up to ten days in advance. And when the third man received knowledge, he liked it. The three of them liked it, and said that it was something true. Then they said, "If we taught this to another one, it would be good." Thus the three of them thought. (31) They made another know it, a good man, a righteous man, one with a sustained consciousness of moral responsibility. They would not even take a young person. They knew of one who was a little beyond middle age. He liked it. He thought that it was going to be a good thing. Then, just as it had been for them, that way it was for him, and he liked being that way. He knew something one day ahead; then he knew something two days ahead; then he knew something four days ahead; then he knew something ten days ahead. He liked it. He thought that this was good; he thought that this sort of thing was going to be true. Now four people knew it. He liked it. Because they possessed true knowledge, as four men knew, they made known to each other a man who was all good, a man who was entirely righteous, a man who had a completely sustained consciousness of moral responsibility. (32) Choosing him by seeing (these virtues in him), they imparted the knowledge to him. Thus far, from that time on, this Medicine Rite began to grow; from that time forth. In the beginning there were only nine, to just that extent was it a life. Therefore, from then on, they came to tell each other this good thing. It will never end. This rite is Earthmaker's very own rite. Therefore, it will never end. Thus they have said. In this way the ancestors sort of blessed them. They began to tell it from one to another. I also was one who was told that sort of thing; I too believe it to be a truthful thing. Indeed, I believe that it is good. I myself worship the ancestors. The end.1

Commentary. "a sustained consciousness of moral responsibility" — the Hocąk word thus translated is wanaíksap, which is usually translated as "wise." The narrower definition was supplied by Felix White, sr.1

Links: Earthmaker.

Stories: 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.

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, 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 Diving Contest, 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: ...


1 Jasper Blowsnake, Untitled, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3876 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library, n.d.) Winnebago II, #6: 28-32. This was published as a Hocąk text with numbered sentences followed by an English translation in Paul Radin, The Culture of the Winnebago: As Defined by Themselves International Journal of American Linguistics, Memoirs, 3 (1950): pp 67-68, sentences 1-39. A free translation into English is given in Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 85-86.

2 Kathleen Danker and Felix White, Sr., The Hollow of Echoes (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978) ix-x.