The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather

(258) Lincoln's grandfather was the leader of the medicine dance and every time any relation of his died he would tell the daughters of his relative to stop their crying and that he would avenge the death of their father and kill four people. Shortly after he said this the four whom he had picked out died.

If there was a man with great wealth in the tribe he would make a wooden snake and send it toward the man. Immediately after this it always happened that the rich man would be bitten by a snake. The latter would then send for the medicine man and give him all that he possessed. Then the former would ask him, "When do you want to get well?" If the sick man said "In three to four days,'' the medicine man would say, ''You must like to suffer."

For this reason the children of Lincoln's grandfather always had plenty of wealth.

(259) The Crow (i. e., Menominee) Indians knew what a wonderful man he was and whenever he went to visit them they gave him many presents. He would be invited to a feast as soon as he arrived.

On one occasion when they had a feast in a lodge (in his honor) one of the Menominee marked the ground in front of him and dared Lincoln's grandfather to come over, saying that if he did he would injure him. When the Winnebago crossed the mark he was pushed in all directions and finally shoved into a pit, bruising himself a great deal. When he came out, the old man said, "You have probably never heard of me. To-morrow noon, soldiers will hit you." Then the Menominee asked, "If soldiers hit me, what will be the result?" "You will die." Then the Menominee said, "You have nothing to do with my life," and made a jump at him.

The Menominee who had been told that he was going to die said the next morning to his nephew, "Nephew, let us go to the lake and look around. I can't forget what the old man told me yesterday." So they took their spears for fishing and went out. While they were on the lake they saw a deer drinking at the edge of the water. The man took a shot at the deer, and the deer ran back into the timber. The man and his nephew pursued it. After a while the man gave a yell and then all was quiet. The nephew went over to the place and there the man was found dead. At his side a very large snake, with hair on its back, was standing.

The next morning one could hear the mourning songs all over the woods. Then they went to look for the Winnebago, for they believed that it was his fault. They told him not to worry about it and gave him a horse to appease him. The day after they all had left the camp, the Winnebago pointed to some hawks that were circling around and told the Menominee to watch the foremost one. Then he pointed his finger at that one and made a sound with his mouth and the bird fell down dead. This Winnebago had the power to do this to all birds. He always told the Winnebago not to eat these birds because they were not good.1

Commentary. "the medicine dance" — a mystery rite in which the initiates are able to achieve long life and the ability to return to earthly life after death. See in this collection, Paul Radin, “The Ritual and Significance of the Winnebago Medicine Dance”.

"snake" — he said that the Menominee would be struck by soldiers, but here we have a supernatural snake. Therefore, we must conclude that the snake is the soldier in question. It is hard to decide what the significance of "standing" is. Did the snake have legs, or is this just a way of referring to the upright posture that the anterior of a snake assumes just before its strikes? The presence of hair on its back shows that the snake is not an ordinary specimen, but a spirit being of some kind. The deer that led him into the ambush was probably itself under supernatural control.

"he pointed his finger" — there is a medicine that enables its possessor to kill a soaring hawk merely by pointing at it. This medicine, called Hinųk Waróni ("Woman's Hawk" ?), was derived from a quasi-mythical tribe, the Hit’énųk’e, who were giant people living in caves in Minnesota. See the Commentary to "Paint Medicine Origin Myth."

Links: Witches, Snakes.

Stories: mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Thunder Charm, The Wild Rose, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Migistéga's Death, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (v. 2), Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; mentioning Medicine Men: Visit of the Medicine Man, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, Holy One and His Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, The Phantom Woman, Black Otter's Warpath; mentioning hawks: Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Holy One and His Brother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, Creation Council, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; mentioning snakes: The First Snakes, The Woman who Married a Snake, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Snake Clan Origins, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Serpents of Trempealeau, The Story of the Medicine Rite, Rattlesnake Ledge, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Two Boys, Wears White Feather on His Head, Creation of the World (vv. 2, 3, 4), Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Waruǧábᵉra, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Turtle and the Merchant, The Lost Blanket, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth; mentioning the Menominee: Origin of the Name "Winnebago" (Menominee), The Hocąk Arrival Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 2b) (Origins of the Menominee), The Fox-Hocąk War, First Contact, The Annihilation of the Hocągara I (v. 2), Annihilation of the Hocągara II, Two Roads to Spiritland, A Menominee Visit, The Two Children, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Gatschet's Hocank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction.

Themes: a person of supernatural power is able to kill a soaring hawk merely by pointing at it: Paint Medicine Origin Myth.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1923) 258-259.