Lifting Up the Bear Heads

by Jasper Blowsnake


Jasper Blowsnake

Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


(94) And when they had finished with our Grandfather the Sacred Woman, the body of our Grandfather was seen to be that of an old man. And the four small boys stood bent over. They were very old people with bent over backs. Their heads were as if they had swans on them. And in place of the very green hair of the stone-sprinkler that he used to tie, they saw very white hair. It made itself appear as an old person. And he put around himself a strong dark haired one. Even that one, the east-facing one, was on the point of reaching that state of very old people. (95) The red lips of the one facing east quivered showing his teeth, frightening and fierce he looked.

And that one, the End of the Road, stepped out when the time was right. From his right side, he brought forth the black hair of a very young one. He placed this bear in front of himself. He carried himself as one whose body was frail from holiness. He clothed himself with what Earthmaker had blessed him, and that one it was. Then he did it. He lifted up the head of the first one. Light and Life appeared to come from above the top of its head. Then he lifted up the head of the second one. Even more Light and Life appeared to come from above the top of its head. And again he lifted up the head. (96) Having lifted it up, more and more Light and Life appeared above the top of its head. And with these he made them feel encouraged. "There's going to be something," they thought. They saw the Light and Life appear. Then he lifted up the fourth one. He drew forth the light of day. Everyone breathed out a yell. They were thankful, they said. "Eho-eho-ho," they said.1


Commentary. "our Grandfather the Sacred Woman" — this is the stone of the steam bath, which is placed red-hot into a vessel of water in order to create the steam, or are as indicted here, left out and sprinkled with water. See the Commentary to Hare Secures the Creation Lodge.

"small boys" — these are the four poles that hold up the sweat lodge.2 Even they have become bent over like old men.

"very green hair" — this is a bundle of grass used to cast water onto the hot stone to make steam. Radin says that it was tied to the handle of a ladle used to pour water over the stone,3 but in Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Grandmother uses her green/blue "hair" to cast the water. This comports with the horse's hair tail that was used by the Romans to cast aspersions.

"even that one" — anything facing east faces the rising sun, the initiator of time, and therefore the embodiment of youth and vigor. The reference here is to the Medicine Lodge itself, which faces east and in which life is renewed like the renewal of daylight in the east.

"this bear" — Radin's commentary is illuminating here: "Each seat was originally covered with an animal skin, this one with a bear skin. Frequently it was referred to as the bear or the bear's lair. 'To be wrapped in a dark haired skin' is a metaphorical way of referring to the seat."4

"frail from holiness" — Radin observes: "'Frail from holiness' means that he had deprived himself of sleep and food for a long time in his attempt to obtain blessings from the spirits. It is used particularly in connection with the vision-quest at puberty."5

"he lifted up the head" — he is now lifting up the sweat bath lodge coverings.


Links: Bear Spirits, 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, see also Other Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite; mentioning Our Grandfather the Sacred Woman: Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, cf. The Creation of the World (v. 12); mentioning (spirit) bears (other than were-bears): White Bear, Blue Bear, Black Bear, Red Bear, Bear Clan Origin Myth, The Shaggy Man, Bear Offers Himself as Food, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, The Spotted Grizzly Man, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Messengers of Hare, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Red Man, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Two Boys, Creation of the World (v. 5), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Brown Squirrel, Snowshoe Strings, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, The Spider's Eyes, Little Priest's Game, Little Priest, How He went out as a Soldier, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Trickster's Tail, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Warbundle Maker, cf. Fourth Universe; mentioning teeth: The Animal who would Eat Men, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Two Boys, The Birth of the Twins, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Wears White Feather on His Head, The Dipper, Wolves and Humans, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Children of the Sun, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, Partridge's Older Brother, The Brown Squirrel, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, East Shakes the Messenger, White Wolf, Buffalo Clan Origin Myth; mentioning sweat lodges or sweat baths: The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Lost Blanket, The Green Man, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 1), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Thunderbird, Snowshoe Strings, Waruǧápara, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, The Birth of the Twins (v. 2), The King Bird, Little Human Head, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, The Shaggy Man, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, The Dipper, The Two Boys, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2).

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, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, 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 Anishinaabe 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: something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, North Shakes His Gourd, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 207; the original text comes from Jasper Blowsnake, Untitled, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3876 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Library, n.d.) Winnebago II, #6: 94-96.

2 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 339 nt 19.

3 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 340 ntt 27-28.

4 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 340 nt 31.

5 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 340 nt 33.