Iron Spirits

by Richard L. Dieterle

A number of beings have a body made of some kind of iron as their natural form, and may therefore be called "Iron Spirits." Each variety of iron has its own spirit chief. The spirit chief of live iron, as magnetic forms of the metal are known, lives in the center of the earth under a hill. He is the grandfather of the human Thunderbird who causes rain. When he was on earth, he gave the human two black stones - doubtless magnetic - which he used to help the Thunders succeed in acquiring wives from the Nightspirits.1 Another Live Iron Spirit was the brother of Wojijéga (the Meteor Spirit) who married the woman who helped rescue the captive Meteor Spirits. Wojijéga transformed her brother, who also helped, into a spirit of blue iron. The Live Iron Spirit's son became the spirit of copper.2

Two Iron Spirits were chiefs whose followers went on the warpath against people who were under the protection of Redhorn. Redhorn's sons went on an expedition against these Iron Spirits, who were defeated even though they had foreknowledge of the raid.3 Perhaps the greatest Iron Spirit was the Island Weight of the east. In one of his avatars he killed humans in war and ate their bodies. The great spirits gave him to Šųgepaga in a dream, who, with some difficulty, captured and later killed him.4 Another evil Iron Spirit was killed in a raid led by Heroka.5

Iron Spirits are often associated with Fat Rock Spirits.6

Links: Spirits, The Meteor Spirit, Rock Spirits, Heroka, Flint, Thunderbirds, Nightspirits, Island Weights, Redhorn, Sons of Redhorn.

Stories. featuring Iron Spirits as characters: The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Šųgepaga, The Raccoon Coat, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, cf. Iron Staff and His Companions.


1 Paul Radin, "Ma ceniabera," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #21: 1-134.

2 Paul Radin, "Coon Skin Fur Coat," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #59: 1-122.

3 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 132-134.

4 Paul Radin, "Shugepaga," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #66, Story 1. Informant: Caxcep Woruxji (Eagle Looking) of the Eagle Clan.

5 Paul Radin, "A Wakjonkaga Myth," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #37: 1-70. Informant: John Rave.

6 Radin, "Coon Skin Fur Coat," Notebook #59: 1-122; Radin, "A Wakjonkaga Myth," Notebook #37: 1-70.