Holy Song I (Medicine Song)

by Rek’uhuhiga (Jacob Russel)


Jacob Russell, 1912

"Once long ago, before the Winnebagoes left their homes by the Great Water in Wisconsin, a young man went into the hills to fast. He fasted for twelve days, and then a spirit came to him in a vision and talked with him. Ma-o-na, the Earth-Maker, had sent the spirit to teach the young man; and the spirit gave him knowledge and taught him wonderful words that brought him health, welfare, and long life. Wise was the young man when he left the hills, for he brought with him the teachings of the spirit and the power of the holy words. When he came back to his people he sang this song, and this was the beginning of one kind of medicine ceremony. The words he had learned of the spirit were so holy that the man lived a long time without any sickness, nor did he die of any ill. At the last all the joints of his body fell apart from mere old age, and of old age alone he died.

So the song that he made containing the wonderful words has always been cherished by the Winnebagos because of its great power.

All this was long ago when the language of the Winnebagos was different from what it is to-day. Now the people no longer use such words in common speech. Indeed, no one knows the exact meaning of the wonderful words. The song is still used in some of the medicine ceremonies, but only the Medicine-Men, the Holy Men, understand its meaning.

The medicine ceremony of the Winnebagos lasts four days and nights. Holy songs are sung, and there is spoken ritual, when the Holy Man gives commandments and teaches the people the ways of goodness. Now and again, that the people may not become tired and drowsy, the ceremony is enlivened by dancing. So the slow part of the holy song is followed by the quick part which is the music of the dance. The medicine ceremony used to be very solemn and sacred in the olden times, and its mysteries were known only to the initiated. The white people called it the 'medicine religion' of the Winnebagos."

"The words of this song are ritualistic, and most of them are archaic. They are greatly changed in singing, being drawn out by the interpolation of vocables. The hidden meaning is understood only by the initiated."1

Mąką Nąwą (Medicine Song)

Ni hai na wi nu hu   Saith the spirit,
Ha ha ti hi   'Dream, oh, dream again,    
Hi na wi hi na   And tell of me, Dream thou!'
     
Ma na gle he   Into solitude went I
Na ha wha   And wisdom
Han gle he   was revealed to me.
Ha ha ti hi   [Saith the spirit,] 'Dream, oh, dream again,
Hi na wi hi na   And tell of me, Dream thou!'
     
Shi ke hai na wi na-a   Let the whole world hear me,
Ha ha ti hi   Wise am I!
Hi na wi hi na   [Now saith the spirit,] 'Tell of me, Dream thou!'
     
Shi ke hai na wi na-a   All was revealed to me; From the beginning
Ha ha ti hi   Know I all, hear me! All was revealed to me
Hi na wi hi na   Now saith the spirit,] 'Tell of me, Dream thou!'"

ni = ni, "you"; ha ha ti hi = hątehi, "I dream, causing to dream"; ma na gle he = mąnągre, "on the earth"; na ha wha = ? nąwą, "song"; shi ke = žigé, "again."

As can easily be seen, the lyrics are more the product of Natalie Curtis' stab at poetry than they are a translation of the text. With the Holy Song there is also an associated Dance song.

Hiwašira Nąwą (The Dance Song)

Ma-na-gle wu-hi-ni-gi-gi-na
Mąnągre wahi nįgiginą;
The world I have won, [I have done it to you;]
   
Ma-na-gle wu-hi-ni-gi-gi-na
Mąnągre wahi nįgiginą;
The world I have won, [I have done it to you;]
   
ha-chi-je-na  
hajijeną.  
I am come now.  

chi-na-gla wu-hi-ni-gi-gi-na
Činągera wahi nįgiginą;
The village I have won, [I have done it to you;]
   
chi-na-gla wu-hi-ni-gi-gi-na
Činągera wahi nįgiginą;
The village I have won, [I have done it to you;]
   
ha-chi-je-na  
hajijeną.  
I am come now.2  

Commentary. "Great Water" — this could refer to the Great Lakes, specifically Red Banks on the shores of Lake Michigan, but it is more likely that it refers to Lake Winnebago, which the Hočągara call Te Xetera, "The Great Lake."

"Ma-o-na" — for Mą’ųna — mą, "earth"; ’ų, "to make"; na, "the (one who)," "the Earthmaker."

"sent the spirit" — to be blessed by Earthmaker directly is all but unheard of.

"Medicine Men, the Holy Men" — this refers to the prominent members of the Medicine Rite, the Mąk’ąnį (< mąk’ą, "medicine"). By "medicine" is meant supernatural power.

"the medicine ceremony" — this is the same as the Medicine Rite.


Links: Earthmaker.


Stories: pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, Maize Origin Myth, Holy Song II, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath, see also Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite; about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), 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, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing; 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, 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, 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; set at Lake Winnebago (Te Xete): Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The First Fox and Sauk War, White Thunder's Warpath, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Great Fish, The Wild Rose, The Two Boys, Great Walker's Warpath, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Fox-Hočąk War, First Contact (v. 2), The Two Children (?).


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, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and Star Girl, 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, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; a spirit blesses a man with knowledge of sacred songs: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), 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.


Songs. Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 2), Bladder, Song about the Older Brother (v. 3), Buffalo Dance Songs, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Returning, Clan Songs, Bear Clan, Song for Starting Out, Clan Song, Bear Clan, Song of the Youngest, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, Clan Songs, Buffalo Clan, The Four Songs of Hojanoka, Clan Songs—Deer Clan, Clan Songs—Wolf Clan, Clan Songs—Wonáǧire Wąkšik Clan, The Crawfish's Song, Duck Song, Farewell Songs, The Four Services Songs, Grandfather Sparrow's Rain Songs, Grizzly Bear Songs, Hare's Song to Grasshopper, Hare's Song to the Wągepanįgera, Hare's Song to Wildcat, Hawk's Song, Heroka Songs, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Little Fox's Death Song, Little Fox's Death Song (for the Warpath), Little Fox's Tail Song, Love Song I (female), Love Song II (female), Love Song III (female), The Mouse Song, Nightspirit Songs, The Quail's Song, Redman's Song, Slow Song of the Heroka, Soldier Dance Songs, Song for Calling the Buffalo, Song from the Water, Song from the Water (King Bird), The Song of Bluehorn's Sister, Hočąk Text — The Song of Sun Caught in a Net, The Song of the Boy Transformed into a Robin, Song of the Frog to Hare, Song of the Thunder Nestlings, The Song of Trickster's Baby, Song to Earthmaker, The Song to the Elephant, The Sun's Song to Hare, Three Warrior Songs, Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 1), Turtle's Call for a Warparty (v. 2), Turtle's Four Death Dance Songs, Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 1), Twins, Ghost's Song (v. 2), Twins, Ghost's Song (The Two Brothers), Twins, the Songs of Ghost and Flesh, Twins, Song of the Father-in-Law, Victory Song, Wailing Song, Warrior Song about Mąčosepka, What a Turtle Sang in His Sleep, Wolf-Teasing Song of the Deer Spirits. Songs in the McKern collection: Waking Songs (27, 55, 56, 57, 58) War Song: The Black Grizzly (312), War Song: Dream Song (312), War Song: White Cloud (313), James’ Horse (313), Little Priest Songs (309), Little Priest's Song (316), Chipmunk Game Song (73), Patriotic Songs from World War I (105, 106, 175), Grave Site Song: "Coming Down the Path" (45), Songs of the Stick Ceremony (53).


Notes

1 Curtis, The Indians' Book, 548. On page 255, Curtis adds, "All this was long ago when the language of the Winnebagos was different from what it is to-day. Now the people no longer use such words in common speech. Indeed, no one knows the exact meaning of the wonderful words. The song is still used in some of the medicine ceremonies, but only the Medicine-Men, the Holy Men, understand its meaning. The medicine ceremony of the Winnebagos lasts four days and nights. Holy songs are sung, and there is spoken ritual, when the Holy Man gives commandments and teaches the people the ways of goodness. Now and again, that the people may not become tired and drowsy, the ceremony is enlivened by dancing. So the slow part of this holy song is followed by a quick part which is the music of the dance. The medicine ceremony used to be very solemn and sacred in the olden times, and its mysteries were known only to the initiated. The white people called it the 'medicine religion' of the Winnebagos."

2 Natalie Curtis Burlin, The Indians' Book: an Offering by the American Indians of Indian Lore, Musical and Narrative, to Form a Record of the Songs and Legends of Their Race (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1907) 254-256.