The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird

narrated by G.

I never fasted much. I only fasted three times and I don't believe that I ever fasted for more than two days at a time. However, I never was blessed with anything (i. e., any object). I knew, however, that I came from the home of the Thunderbirds (i. e., that I was a reincarnated Thunderbird). My spirit father and mother were Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds are beings whose glance can penetrate any object. For that reason I also can do it. For instance, I have seen a man through a tree. This I did once during a thunderstorm when a man had sought shelter behind a tree.

When I was ready to go down among the human beings, I was given the power to overcome my enemies in battle. And this I have actually done. All the Thunderbirds have small warclubs. I also had one when I came. Whenever I went on the warpath, I made myself a warclub and used that only in battle. I believe that I was invulnerable. Whenever I got tired of living among human beings I knew I could return to the Thunderbirds. ... I also had the power of causing or stopping rain. All that I had to do was to offer tobacco to the Thunderbirds and make my request.1

Commentary. "My spirit father and mother" — Radin says, "He says 'spirit father and mother' because when he lived with the Thunderbirds he was of course a spirit. It is quite impossible to determine whether he means that he was a human being who was living among the spirits as a spirit or a whether he was a spirit who had desired to become reincarnated as a human being. Originally, of course, there were no human beings, but only spirits, of whom a portion became permanently transformed into human beings. However, even very powerful shamans never claim more than three reincarnations, so that he can obviously not be referring to this primitive condition and is either referring to the fact that he is a Thunderbird residing temporarily on this earth, or — and this would be the more common form — a human being who lived for some time as a Thunderbird and then returned to earth. In the latter case one would expect him to obtain great blessings in his fast, and the fact that he did not and had nevertheless such great powers, suggest that he is really a reincarnated Thunderbird."2

Links: Thunderbirds.

Stories: mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧábᵉra, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Thunder Charm, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Black Otter's Warpath, Aracgéga's Blessings, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Ciwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way.

Themes: a human is a reincarnated Thunderbird: The Nightspirits Bless Ciwoit’éhiga, Black Otter's Warpath; a human is transformed into a Thunderbird (or vice-versa): Waruǧábᵉra (human > Thunder); a being is invulnerable: Worúxega, Tecumseh's Bulletproof Skin, The Canine Warrior, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 252-253.

2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 252, nt. 21.