The Meteor Spirit (Wojijéga, "He Who Becomes a Luminary")

by Richard L. Dieterle


The Meteor Spirit, Wojijéga, seems to be at once a comet and a meteor(ite), since apart from his having a hairy, raccoon-like tail, he is famous for diving into the ground from a great height. His nature and form, especially his long tail, is an expression of the Raccoon Spirit. In human form Wojijéga wore the skin of a raccoon complete with nose, ears, and tail which fit him perfectly from head to toe.1 The Hočągara believe that Wojijéga governs animals, and that far from being baleful as in Europe, he causes hunters to prosper by generating an abundance of game. This may derive from the fact that when a wojijé crashes into the earth, it scatters untold numbers of animals over the countryside.2 Part of the benevolent and fecund nature of Wojijéga comes from his being homologized to Sun. The stem, jije, is the verb "to become," nominalized by the prefix ho- to yield, "that which becomes," the other half of the compound being wi, "luminary."3 As a spirit who comes to earth in human guise to help mankind, Wojijéga opposed the infertile forces allied with the moon and menstruation,4 fighting such lunar animals as coyotes and giant dogs. Taking on the form of a small child, he rescued people from starvation, as befits a spirit of plenty.5

Pieces of meteorites were considered very powerful medicine. A Hočąk woman once obtained one from Iowa which she kept in a skin bag, and which she said was very powerful.6


Links: Spirits, Celestial Spirits, Sun, Raccoons, Loons, Rock Spirits, Iron Spirits, Coyote, Otter, Moon, Aurora Borealis, Grasshoppers, Bluehorn, Pretty Woman, Frogs, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map.


Stories: featuring Wojijéga (the Meteor Spirit) as a character: The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Roaster, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, The Green Man; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Seven Maidens, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Turtle and the Witches, Sky Man, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Star Husband, Grandfather's Two Families, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Fall of the Stars; mentioning Rock Spirits: The Big Stone, The Green Man, The Creation of the World, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Seer, The Roaster, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Hare Kills Flint, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, A Woman Turns into a Rock, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle; mentioning raccoons: The Raccoon Coat, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Were-fish, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Bladder and His Brothers, Raccoon and the Blind Men.


Notes

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

2 Paul Radin, "The Roaster," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #2.

3 Mary Carolyn Marino, A Dictionary of Winnebago: An Analysis and Reference Grammar of the Radin Lexical File (Ph.D. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, December 14, 1968 [69-14,947]) 421, sv wi, "sun"; 211, sv djidje, "to stand, to become"; 211, sv wodjidjé, "meteor."

4 Radin, "The Roaster."

5 Paul Radin, "Wodjidjé," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #62: 1-50; Radin, "Coon Skin Fur Coat."

6 Walter Bubbert, "Some Indian Myths About Iron," Wisconsin Archeologist, 22, #2 (1941): 9-11 (10).