The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka

narrated by Sam Blowsnake


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


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


(428/429) Those who are in the east, the Ones who Walk in Darkness (Nightspirits), they added spirit to grandfather Jobenągiwįxka's mind-object (warbundle). When he tried to know, he made himself pitiable by starving and thirsting himself to death. The first time he fasted four [days], then the Ones who Walk in Darkness came to him. They came to him with much noise from their throats. "Human, you made yourself thirst to death, so we bless you. We who speak are the kind that they call 'Nights'." With life and war they blessed him. Then he looked all around at what was before him — "Could these be the Nights?" So he looked at them and they were the little birds called hešépge. They had fooled him. Again his heart became a little more pained. "Well! then I'll increase my effort!" he thought.

So he fasted and again carefully rubbed it on and so he did not eat. He slept six times. And from the east the Nights came. They came with much noise from their throats, and there they came — "Human, we bless you. (430/431) You have thirsted yourself to death and your heart is sore. You have made our hearts sore. We bless you with war and life," they said. When he looked at them he thought, "How could the ones speaking be Nights?" Those who were speaking were not Nights. K'awíšge, blackbirds (?), and robins were the kinds who were speaking, and those who spoke were the ones who fooled him. "Well! so I will redouble my efforts," thus he thought instead of letting his heart feel sore.

He began fasting. Again he carefully rubbed it in. He slept eight times. And again from the east the Nights came singing. They came to him with great wind from their throats, they came there and said, "Grandson, we bless you. Indeed, long did you continue to cry to us. Human, never have we blessed one as we have you. War and life, and whatever you like, you can swallow," thus they said. Those who were speaking were not Nights. They were bluebirds, gįsge, and ducks, as many as they were of dark breasts. The kind that were speaking, these were evil little birds, as many as there were. "How they have abused me," Jobenągiwįxka thought. "Well! I will begin a fast and increase my efforts," he thought.

He fasted again and carefully rubbed it in and then cried loudly. He placed tobacco in both hands, pointing himself in the direction from which the Nights come, he stood and the tobacco which he held in his hands he pointed that way, with both hands open he stood and cried most piteously. And then his heart became profoundly sore. Ten times he fasted. And they came to him. "Human, I have come to you." He went with them as they took him towards the east; they took him back there where the village of the Nights was. The chief of the Nights had sent that one to go after him. There in the village was a long lodge that faced towards the east. There they took him. As many nights as there were in control of great blessings, just that many filled the lodge. When he entered, he walked with his feet upon white feathers up to his knee. He saw on the fires as many kettles as there were, kettles stretching off into the distance. A buffalo hide stretched across the entire lodge. And they said to him, "Human, indeed you have persevered long; indeed your heart has persevered through its pain. (432/433) This lodge full of Nights, all that there are, talked about what is to happen to you. And I am the one who is in control of the Nights. The Creation Lodge, just as you see it, this I give to you. You will never fail to have what is contained in the kettles. You are to offer as many buckskins as you see here, and tobacco offerings for all time. Thus it will always be. The Creation Lodge of the village of the Nights I give you. You may go on as many warpaths as you can swallow, and with life as far as it has been. The tobacco offerings, as many as there have been thus far, as many as there are of tobacco, kettles, buckskin offerings, red feathers, they will be present in the Creation Lodge. And we will always accept them if your descendants would be mindful of us."

Thus they spoke to grandfather Jobenągiwįxka. He himself said so.1


Commentary. rubbed it on — This refers to the charcoal that was rubbed on the face to indicate humility or bereavement.

from the east — the village of the Nightspirits is located on the eastern horizon, which is the opposite cardinal point from the Thunderbirds, with whom they always intermarry.

"blackbirds (?)" (čoxjį) — compare Gatschek's čóxča, "a blackbird, bird on horses, cows."2

you can swallow — swallowing is the paradigmatic image of consumption. Enemies are said to be swallowed or eaten when they are killed or captured. In the Fast Eating Contest, a ritual engaged in before going on the warpath, eating is directly tied to success in killing or capturing the enemies that they are going after. This image may derive from a hunting model of warfare.

The Creation Lodge — Radin says, "The lodges of the spirits are always called 'creation lodges' in reference to the fact that it was by the assembled spirits in these lodges that at the beginning of the world everything was set in order. The principal 'creation lodge' was that of Earthmaker, to which the soul of a dead individual wandered after death and from which he was sent to the world again if he chose to take human form once more."3 Perhaps the most important Wogųzočíra is that of the ancestors of the Hočąk nation, who in spirit form, met to create the clans and tribe in a specially constructed lodge.


Links: Nightspirits.


Stories: mentioning Nightspirits: The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, 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, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Sun and the Big Eater; mentioning Jobenągiwįxka: Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka; mentioning Creation Lodges (Wogųzočíra): The Creation Council, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, The Descent of the Drum, The Four Steps of the Cougar, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, East Shakes the Messenger, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 1), Peace of Mind Regained, South Enters the Medicine Lodge; about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Difficult Blessing, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Seer, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Holy Song, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing; mentioning red feathers (as an offering to the spirits): The Red Feather, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 4), Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Elk's Skull, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Great Walker's Medicine, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Twins Visit Their Father's Village, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Were-fish (v. 1), Disease Giver.


Themes: someone fasts a long time without receiving a blessing: The Seer, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The Boy Who Became a Robin; false promises of blessings from a spirit: The Greedy Woman, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Diving Contest; a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, 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 Hočągara, 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, 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, Aračgéga'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, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, White Thunder'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, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing.


Notes

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 [428-433].

2 Albert Samuel Gatschet, "Hočank hit’e," in Linguistic and Ethnological Material on the Winnebago, Manuscript 1989-a (Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives, 1889, 1890-1891). Informants: Michael and Reuben David St. Cyr.

3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 433, nt. 37.