The Nightspirits Bless Ciwoit’éhiga

narrated by Sam Blowsnake

Sam Blowsnake

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

Sam Blowsnake told the following story about his forefather Ciwoit’éhiga as part of the ritual of the Thunderbird Warbundle Feast.

(456/457) Those who Walk in the Night, how they placed their breath within the reach of grandfather, when Ciwoit’éhiga (Kills within the Lodge) tried to learn how to sing the songs of Those who Walk in the Night. He fasted and thirsted himself to death for what our Grandfathers spread out for him beyond the earth once they had placed it within the grasp of his consciousness. Grandfather Ciwoit’éhiga said that where he came from, he thought, he sprung from those who are of the east, she herself was a princess of the Nights. The beloved son of the Chief of the Thunderbirds was his father. Thus his parents were from beyond the earth. However, when he fasted, they blessed him carefully. Thus, he said that if at any time he should die, he would be able to visit from beyond the earth, it is said. Thus he was taught their breath, the Nightspirit song, just how they said, that way is how we will try to sing it.1

Commentary. "their breath" — a ritualistic expression meaning, "their songs."

"our Grandfathers" — this is a reference to the spirits rather than to the ancestors.

"those who are of the east" — the Nightspirits are meant — they have a village in the east.

"Chief of the Thunderbirds" — the chief of these spirits is Great Black Hawk. (The symbol of the Thunders is found in the inset to the left.)

"Thus his parents were from beyond the earth" — Radin says, "What Ciwoit’éhiga means by saying that these spirits were his parents is that he is a reincarnated spirit that has chosen to be born of human parents. Such claims were by no means rare even in late Winnebago history and there is, as a matter of fact, a powerful shaman living in Wisconsin now [ca. 1923] who claims that he is the reincarnated Hare (Wašjįgéga)." (see The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird)2

"they blessed him carefully" — Radin remarks, "Before coming to the earth as a human being, he had of course been told that he would receive certain blessings, but nevertheless he had to fast for them just as a human being does. However, shamans who obtained their powers in this way were always supposed to obtain them more easily than other people."3

Links: Nightspirits, Thunderbirds, Great Black Hawk, Hawks, Yųgiwi.

Stories: mentioning Nightspirits:The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, The Big Stone, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Fourth Universe, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Ocean Duck, The Origins of the Nightspirit Starting Songs, Black Otter's Warpath, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Sun and the Big Eater; 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 Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, 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, Black Otter’s Sacrifice to a Thunder, The Glory of the Morning, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The War of Indian Tribes against White Soldiers, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; about the interrelationship between Thunderbirds and Nightspirits: How the Thunders Met the Nights, Ocean Duck, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Big Stone, Sun and the Big Eater, Black Otter's Warpath; mentioning Great Black Hawk: Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Chief of the Heroka, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Waruǧábᵉra, The Lost Blanket, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Redhorn's Sons, Black Otter's Warpath (head of the Thunders).

Themes: marriage to a yųgiwi (princess): The Nannyberry Picker, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Big Stone, Partridge's Older Brother, Redhorn's Sons, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, The Roaster, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, The Two Boys, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Shaggy Man, The Thunderbird, The Red Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Birth of the Twins (v. 3), Trickster Visits His Family, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, Redhorn's Father, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Morning Star and His Friend, Thunderbird and White Horse, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Shakes the Earth; a human is a reincarnated Thunderbird: The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, Black Otter's Warpath; a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Redhorn's Sons, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Seer, Maize Comes to the Hocągara, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Thunderbird, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, Great Walker's Medicine, Šųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and Star Girl, A Man's Revenge, Aracgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Man Who Lost His Children to a Wood Spirit, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, White Thunder's Warpath, Black Otter's Warpath, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Diving Contest, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Holy Song, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights.


1 Sam Blowsnake, The Warbundle Feast of the Thunderbird Clan, in Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 399-481 [456-457].

2 Ibid., 457, note 131.

3 Ibid., 457, note 132. For more on this belief, see Paul Radin, "Reminiscences of a Winnebago Indian," American Journal of Folklore, 26 (1913).