North Shakes His Gourd

by Jasper Blowsnake


Jasper Blowsnake

Hočąk-English Interlinear Text with an English Translation


(460) A gourd rattle of the North, one created for him by Earthmaker, he used to sweep away evil; for this gourd he boiled the remainder of the white clay over the Light who Stands in the Center of the Lodge. He seized it and rattled it. After it was made to begin that way, a great young woman, very green, came out, her horns were starting to spread out. After he stopped, the evils such as there were, all of them, must have been cast into the fire. (461) He had spoken of casting them away. He who Stands in the Center of the Lodge began to blaze straight up. After the second time that he began to shake it, after he had done thus, there was a woman who had reached mid-life. Each one of the hairs on the back of her neck just then began to be visibly white. When it was over, then the light at the edge of the fireplace began to shimmer. The flames of He who Stands in the Center of the Lodge began to stand ever more straight. For a third time, he began to shake the Messenger. Then there appeared one of the women of long horned hair, who had gone past middle age. Her remaining black hairs began to look this way. When he stopped, he made the light even more visible and warmer for her. (462) The straight flames of He who Stands in the Center of the Lodge could not be bent, that's the way they became. That way he made it, and for the fourth time he began to shake the gourd. After he shook it four times, there appeared an old woman, ancient, her little head a bit bald, her hair sparse, with a small, hard larynx, and coarse teeth, this is the way she was. With this, they will not fail to obtain life.1


Commentary. "the Light who Stands in the Center of the Lodge" — a reference to the fireplace. The gourd has been painted white, apparently by being immersed in boiling white clay.

"green" — this is the word čo, which denotes that part of the spectrum running from green through blue. The woman, who represents the gourd, is going through the four stages of life. This is the first stage, which is associated with the new green shoots of springtime.

"horns" — the usual tonsure of Siouan tribes is braided hair, usually in two long queues. These are often called "horns" (he). The arrangement of hair in queues is seen in the very names of Bluehorn, who has blue hair, and Redhorn, famous for his braided red hair.

"blaze straight up" — this is the fire which is in best communion with the spirits when its flames are perfectly vertical.

"there was a woman" — the rattle is now imagined as a woman who is going through the progression of the stages of aging, her hair becoming ever more white.

"an old woman" — the description of this last stage of life is an allegorical image of the rattle itself. He has now made a complete circle around the fire, representing all the stages of life.


Links: Island Weights, Earthmaker, Fire, Gourd Rattles.


Stories: mentioning Island Weights: The Creation of the World, The Island Weight Songs, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, East Shakes the Messenger, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, Wolves and Humans, Šųgepaga, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Lost Blanket, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, South Seizes the Messenger, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Messengers of Hare, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Petition to Earthmaker; in which fire plays a role: The Creation Council, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Four Steps of the Cougar, East Shakes the Messenger, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), see Young Man Gambles Often (Commentary); mentioning snow: Waruǧápara, The Glory of the Morning, Holy One and His Brother, Wolves and Humans, Grandfather's Two Families, The Four Steps of the Cougar, Brave Man, Redhorn's Father, Bladder and His Brothers, The Old Man and the Giants, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Great Walker's Warpath, White Wolf, The Fleetfooted Man, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, Witches, Shakes the Earth, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, The Raccoon Coat, Silver Mound Cave, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married; mentioning sacred gourd rattles: East Shakes the Messenger, The Brown Squirrel, South Seizes the Messenger, Holy One and His Brother, A Peyote Story; pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath, see also Other Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite.

Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Creation of Man (v. 8), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), Testing the Slave, South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 1), The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Messengers of Hare (v. 2), Grandmother's Gifts, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Messengers of Hare (v. 1), The Island Weight Songs, The Petition to Earthmaker, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Anishinaabe Witches, The Diving Contest, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 3), The Tap the Head Medicine, The Claw Shooter, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 4), Peace of Mind Regained, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 5), A Wife for Knowledge, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.


Themes: someone possesses a gourd rattle of great magical powers: East Shakes the Messenger, The Brown Squirrel, South Seizes the Messenger; something is of a (symbolic) pure white color: White Bear, Deer Spirits, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), White Flower, Big Eagle Cave Mystery, The Fleetfooted Man, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, Worúxega, The Two Boys, The Lost Blanket (white spirits), Skunk Origin Myth, He Who Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Messengers of Hare, The Brown Squirrel, The Man Who Fell from the Sky, Bladder and His Brothers, White Thunder's Warpath, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Dipper, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Creation of the World (v. 12), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Descent of the Drum, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 5), The Diving Contest, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Grandmother's Gifts, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Completion Song Origin, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained; a powerful spirit sweeps away evils to the bad place (the arctic north): The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), The Buffalo's Walk, East Shakes the Messenger, South Seizes the Messenger, The Four Steps of the Cougar; evil clouds are swept away (to the north): The Four Steps of the Cougar, East Shakes the Messenger, The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), The Buffalo's Walk, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), South Seizes the Messenger; flames that stand upright and unwaving are propitious: East Shakes the Messenger, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Descent of the Drum (v. 2).


Notes

1 Jasper Blowsnake, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3888 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago II, #2: 460-462 . A loose English translation is found in Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 312.