Joseph Lamère's Warbundles

by Eduard Seler

Eduard Seler

(414) Mr. Lenders currently has three war bundles of Winnebago in his possession, which are reproduced here in Figs. 1-3. According to the legend he has given above, according to Joseph Lamère's account, it is clear that, according to the Indians, it is the spirits of lightning and thunder who exercise mighty powers over war. Therefore, the angularly bent club, which is seen to be tied up in all three bundles, which is soon provided with an iron point inserted into the point of curvature (Fig. 1), is now lacking, and in the bundle of Fig. 2 has zigzag lines of lightning (see Fig. 4), the most important part of the bundle. This is therefore also referred to as the war club bundle in the legend reproduced above. The angled form shown by this club in all three bundles is strikingly reminiscent of the xonecuilli of the Mexicans, that were also regarded as an effigy of lightning, and were the weapon of the wind Quetzalcouatl, (the ancient god of the moon, who later settled out as the Morning Star), and fashioned the god of hunting Mixcouatl, who was actually the representative of the warrior, or the warriors of the sacrificial stone, who continued to live on as stars in the northern sky. The bundle Fig. 2 contains, in addition to the wooden club, on which the zigzag lines of the lightning bolt are engraved, a second club of similar shape, but made of steel (see Fig. 4). On top of these two clubs are attached to the war bundle, Fig. 2, three war arrows and a wooden "standard" are attached, showing a hexagonal and a circular widening, and on the top of which one sees the figure of a bear (Fig. 4).

If one removes the deer skin, which forms the outer envelope of the bundle, then inside there is a second envelope, which consists of a braided mat (Fig. 4).

Within this envelope, in the bundle, Fig. 2, the following items were found:

1. A fire drill consisting of a broad basal piece, a whirling stick (Fig. 5 in the middle), and tinder.
2. Tied together, two knives inserted into the curve of the war club, and two iron lance tips (Fig. 5, middle).
3. A drum stick (Fig. 5, in the middle of the right side).
4. Five reed flutes (Fig. 5), one of which is decorated with an engraved lightning line and tufts of red horsehair. (Fig. 5, to the right of the bundle consisting of war club spikes and lance tips.)


Fig. 1. Warbundle of the Winnebago.
Lenders Collection, #2674—2701.

Fig. 2. Warbundle of the Winnebago.
Lenders Collection, #2702—2753, 2902, 2903.

Fig. 3. Warbundle of the Winnebago.
Lenders Collection, #2754 - 2792. 


5. A medicine whistle, whose head is made of red Catlinite, the tube is made of wood, carved flat, ruler-like and decorated with brass nails (Fig. 6).
6. A small plate and a small cylinder of bone, which serves as a holder for the headdress (Fig. 6, in the middle of the top row, next to the birch bark container).

Fig. 4. Braided mat forming the inner wrap for the items contained in the bundle. 

Fig. 5. Fire drills, two, with two lance tips, tied together with two warclub spikes, drum sticks and flutes. 


7. A small bag decorated with pearl embroidery, containing a lock of buffalo hair, (Fig. 7 bottom left).
8. Eagle feathers, single and tufted, with porcupine quill embroidery and decorated with horsehair, downy feathers and rabbit fur, and birch bark sheaths that serve as containers for them. (Fig. 6 in the middle).

Fig. 6. Tobacco pipe, bone headdress holder, birch bark holder for eagle feathers and falcon feathers. 

Fig. 7. Skunk tail, buffalo tail, snake skin and deer tail; mole and otter, each with a buffalo bag, weasel with bound medicine bag and an embroidered bag with red horse hair. 


9. Falcon feathers on a piece of buckskin (Fig. 6, on the right and on the left side). 
10. Two skunk tails (Fig. 7, left).
11. Two Buffalo Tails (Fig. 7, right next to it).
12. A stag's tail (Fig. 7, in the middle of the right side).
13. Two serpents (Fig. 7, right of the previous one). 
14. A mole containing medicine, and a small bag of buffalo bladder as a container for it (Fig. 7, in the middle below).
15. An otter with attached red feathers, holding two scalps in its mouth, and a buffalo bladder bag that serves as a container for them (Fig. 7, right of the center).

Fig. 8. Swallow-tailed kite and falcon, each with a sheath made of a deer's pelt; hazel grouse; chest, head and claws of a golden eagle; pigeon hawk, sparrow hawk and other bird. 

16. Three weasels, wrapped in medicine bags and fastened with blue or red ribbons, one of which is woven from buffalo hair and decorated with "Hudson Bay" pearls (Fig. 7, right side).
17. The pelt of a swallow-tailed kite (Nauclerus forficatus) is hung on red flannel and decorated with porcupine quills on the wings, with a container made from the skin of a deer fetus (Fig. 8, in the middle).
18. A falcon pelt, with a container of the same species (Fig. 8, left of the previous one, the corresponding deer fetus container on the right side of the picture).
19. A sparrow hawk pelt (Fig. 8, below the previous ones).
20. Two pigeon hawks pelts (Fig. 8, on the right side of the picture).


21. Two pelts of a small purple species ("purple merlin"). Fig. 8, bottom center.
22. The head, chest and claws of the golden eagle with a medicine bag tied to it (Fig. 8, to the right of the swallow-tailed kite's pelt).
23. Pelt of a hazel grouse ("ruffed grouse" = Bonasa umbellus) (Fig. 8, top left).
24. Pelt of a small water bird ("pied grebe bill"?) (Fig. 8, bottom left).

This is the content of the bundle Fig. 2, which I have reproduced here, together with the photographs, according to the catalog of Mr. Lenders. Mr. Lenders observes, quite rightly, that all powers in this bundle are very old, and that both their ceremonial meaning and the care to be observed with respect to them are to be regarded as being of the first order for the museums.

As can be seen, this bundle contains, in addition to weapons (clubs, war club knives, lance tips and war clubs) and ceremonial devices (fire drill, medicine whistle, drum whistle and reed flutes), whole pelts or parts of the coat or plumage of the animals whose "spiritual" (magically empowered) chiefs also give humans "power and might" (magic power). They are, of course, chiefly birds of prey, which are seen everywhere on earth as the embodiment of murderous, all-powerful warriors, and which the Indians of the United States and Canada also associate with the thunder, i. e., the lightning, which is indeed a deadly weapon, as a tool of the warrior. Above all, here is the name of the black hawk ("swallow-tailed kite" = Nauclerus forficatus), which, in the legend told by Mr. Lenders, is called the chief of the Thunders. One sees it, in the middle of our Figure 8, with an elegant, long, swallow-like tail, which makes the whole animal appear in certain measure as an arrowhead, as an image of the far-reaching weapon, including the lightning or thunderbolt. What here, besides the birds of prey, is the meaning of the hazel grouse ("ruffed grouse"), I know nothing about, nor about the "pied-grebe bill." The otter among the tribes of Northwest Coast is the main magical animal, the animal of the shaman. But perhaps their nature, as that of a predator of the water, comes into consideration. Weasels form the dance jewelery of the Tsimshian chiefs. However, one might also think of the bloodthirsty nature of this small predator here. What the mole means, I know not. The snakes are probably also here as animals of the earth.

The other two bundles that Mr. Lenders still possesses have a similar, if not so rich, content as those described above.

In the picture, Fig. 1 instead of the steel war club, which in the bundle (Fig. 2) accompanies the wooden war club, a tomahawk of old form is attached to the outside.


A buffalo calf skin forms the outer wrapping here, the inner is again a mat. Fire drill and tinder, lance tips, drums and reed flutes are presented here in the same way, likewise with the skunk tail, buffalo tail and snake's skin. But next to it is a big "grizzly-bear" claw, perhaps representing the "standard" with the wooden carved bear figurine of Fig. 2. Otters and weasels are also present; here the latter are filled with roots, provided with a medicine bag and tied to a rod. In addition to falcon feathers, we also meet here, decorated with porcupine quill embroidered pelts of a falcon, the hide of a deer fetus forming its container. Striking is the absence of the swallow-tailed kite, the "Thunderbird" of the legend, which is apparently represented here by the falcon. Special features of this bundle are remnants of an old kettle of buffalo leather and a warrior doll with complete leather clothes.

In the third Lenders' bundle Fig. 3, the angularly bent wooden war club (the Thunder club) is accompanied by a ballheaded club. Lance tips are as in the other two bundles. The black swallow-tailed kite seems to be represented here by the white, spotted falcon. The container from the skins of a deer fetus is also present here, likewise skunk and buffalo tail and snake skin, the otter's pelts and the weasel. A nicely worked oval wooden bowl serves as a container for feathers.

The correspondence that exists in all the essential things, in form and content, between these three bundles is proof that they are not an arbitrary assemblage of fetishes born of the imagination of an individual, but that they are the adequate expression of ancient cosmic and religious ideas.

Ed. Seler

Commentary. "Eduard Seler" (December 5, 1849 – November 23, 1922) — one of the great German scholars of modern times. The prominent Americanist, H. B. Nicholson gives a brief overview of Seler's work and standing:

In the history of Mesoamerican studies the prodigious scholarly output of Eduard Seler (1849-1922) constitutes one of the most enduring and impressive monuments. Perhaps no single student in the field has made a greater individual contribution to sheer knowledge. Seler was the epitome of the thorough German scholar of his period, a period of particular distinction in the intellectual tradition of that nation. He made his share of mistakes, occasionally intruded into his analyses some dubious pet theories, and displayed certain obvious intellectual limitations. So fundamental was his contribution, however, above all to a more disciplined analytic methodology, that Mesoamerican studies, particularly that branch primarily devoted to the study of the complex religion and ritual of the area, can almost be divided into a pre- and a post-Seler epoch. ...

Seler was not a “dirt” archaeologist in the modern sense of the term. He never conducted systematic excavations of any importance himself, although, as the first Director of the short-lived International School of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Book Reviews 1101 he helped initiate excavational work which was soon to reveal the great time depth of aboriginal central Mexico. He was essentially an analyzer, describer, and illustrator of artifacts and ruins already known and accessible, rather than an explorer, under the earth, of new materials. In addition, of course, he was what today would be called an “ethnohistorian,” i.e., a student concerned with extracting information on Mesoamerican native cultures from documentary and native pictorial sources. ... At the same time, the landmark quality of his great output is manifest; all who enter this field today must necessarily, in a sense, begin where he left off ...1

Western History Collections, OU Library   E. W. Lenders
Emil Lenders in Oklahoma   "Buffalo on the Plains" by E. W. Lenders

"Mr. Lenders" — Emil William Lenders (1865-1934) was a German American painter who may have been born in London to German and English parents. He was educated in Munich. While in Germany, he is said to have studied under the prominent painter Karl von Piloty. Later he attended the Berlin Art School. Lenders realized his lifelong dream of emigrating to America, residing in Philadelphia, where in 1906 he became an American citizen. His fascination with the west led him to join Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. He became friends with Cody who gave him a saddle with the inscription, "To E.W. Lenders, the best painter of buffaloes in the world." Cody persuaded Lenders to sign on at Joe Miller's 101 Ranch, where he painted buffalo and Indians from the numerous nearby reservations.2

Three of Mixcoatl's Xonecuilli Hojįnąžįga's Emblem Ballheaded Warclubs Flat Warclub

"xonecuilli" — an emblem whose design has the form of either S or Ƨ. Frequently the base terminates without any curvature, as shown in the examples above.3 A well-known chief, Spotted Arm (also known as Hojįnąžįga), received as a gift of the U.S. Government what is doubtless an emblem of the same form as the xonecuilli cast in silver on the occasion of his visit to Washington in 1827. Spotted Arm, as a member of the Thunderbird Clan, can be expected to hold an emblem appropriate to a phratry bearing a special relationship to the heavenly Thunderbirds who exclusively wield lightning as their weapon. A paradox arises when we realize that the xonecuilli does not in fact, as Seler has it, resemble the flat warclub, but in fact could itself pass as an exemplar of the ballheaded (or baldheaded) warclub. Unexpectedly, given the portrayal of lightning on the flat warclub, as well as its appearance in the Warbundle of the Thunderbird Clan, it is the ballheaded warclub that is the exclusive property of the Upper Moiety to which the Thunderbird Clan belongs. The flat warclub belongs to the Lower, or Earth, Moiety. So far, all Warbundles of the Upper Moiety have contained only the flat warclubs, and furthermore, the exemplars presented here also have lightning incised on their surfaces. This generates a paradox for which there is no obvious solution: the Upper Moiety has Lower Moiety warclubs in its Warbundles despite the fact that their own ballheaded warclub most resembles the xonecuilli lightning emblem. Since the Hočągara believed (like the ancient Indo-Europeans) in the thunderstone, the lithic head to the thunderbolt, the ball on the end of their club may well represent the thunderstone. That it also resembles the Sun does not in any way contravene its lightning affinities.

Notes to the Commentary

1 H. B. Nicholson, Review of Gesammelte Abhandlungen zür Amerikanischen Sprach- und Altertumkunde, American Anthropologist, 64 (1962): 1097-1100.
2 > 59 Emil Lenders. Viewed: 18 December 2018.
3 the Mixcoatl examples are based on Eduard Seler, Collected Works in Mesoamerican Linguistics and Archaeology (English Translations of German Papers from Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur Amerikanischen Sprach- und Alterthumskunde), translated by Charles P. Bowditch & Frank E. Comparato; J. Eric S. Thompson and Francis B. Richardson, edd., 2d ed. (Lancaster, California: Labyrinthos, 1996) 4:218 fig. 12, 4:219 fig. 16a. 43, 5:54 fig. 63.


Eduard Seler, „Zusatzliche Bemerkungen des Herausgeber“ ["Additional Comments from the Editor"], 414-420, in Emil W. Lenders (1864-1934), "Mythe des „Wah-ru-hap-ah-rah“ oder des heiligen Kriegskeulenbündels" ["The Myth of the 'Wah-ru-hap-ah-rah,' or the Sacred Warclub Bundle"], Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 46 (1914): 404-420.