Otters

by Richard L. Dieterle


Otter (Tošónogèga) is a notable spirit in waikąs, but not in ritual sacrifices. He once lived exclusively in the underworld with his friends, the Waterspirits. However, when the Bad Waterspirits captured the stellar spirit, Įčorúšika, Otter and Loon attempted to gain clemency for him. For this good deed Otter was granted the right to live on the surface of the earth.1 On the surface of the earth it was said "that nothing was too far for him." For this reason Turtle had him travel the whole earth to invite people to a feast. These people were to help Turtle vanquish the Bad Giants in a series of life and death contests. Otter's choice of guests proved successful.2 On another occasion, with his friends Storms as He Walks, Wolf, and Turtle, Otter helped Redhorn fight the evil spirits and Giants who were abusing humans.3 In war Otter's achievements were respectable, but not as great as his friends.4 On the other hand, some say that Otter led a victorious warparty of the same spirits after he had been blessed with the guidance of Great Black Hawk, Chief of the Thunders.5 Once Otter lived in a village that Turtle raided. When Turtle escaped capture by fleeing to an island, Otter's father-in-law, the chief, sent him to attack Turtle. However, Turtle learned of it and ambushed Otter in the water, biting him in the "odd place." When Otter was let go, he had to have his wound sewed up, leaving a strange line that all males have had ever since.6

 
Ken Thomas  

Otter Spirits are generally good. Two friends revealed that they were Otter Spirits when they transformed themselves into holy white otters and recovered from the river the bodies of two missing children. They then brought them back to life, and later killed the evil Waterspirit that had murdered them.7 It was also an Otter Spirit who helped a boy to escape from the perverted attentions of his half-sister.8

On the other hand, there are cases of Otter Spirits who served evil ends: Wojijé's brothers were lost when each in turn followed the trail of a giant otter who led them into ambush.9 A black otter who resided in the eastern corner of the earth was the "dog" of evil spirits opposing Heroka. He was slain and eaten as a sick offering.10


Links: Wolf & Dog Spirits, Turtle, Storms as He Walks, Redhorn, Waterspirits, Loons, The Meteor Spirit (Wojijé), Rock Spirits, Heroka, Giants, Black Hawks, Great Black Hawk, Minks, Thunderbirds.


Stories: featuring Otter as a character: Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Turtle's Warparty, The Origins of the Milky Way, Redhorn's Sons, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), Kunu's Warpath, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Morning Star and His Friend; mentioning otters: Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Fleetfooted Man, The Dipper, The Two Children, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Turtle's Warparty, The Origins of the Milky Way, Redhorn's Sons, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Kunu's Warpath, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Woman who Loved Her Half Brother, The Chief of the Heroka, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), Wojijé, Holy Song II, Morning Star and His Friend, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, "Įčohorúšika," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #14: 1-67.

2 Paul Radin, "Spear Shaft and Lacrosse," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #36: 1-81.

3 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 123-129.

4 Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles, 118-121.

5 Paul Radin, "Redhorn's Sons," Notebooks, Winnebago IV, #7, Freeman #3860 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1908-1930) Story 7a., p. 6.

6 Paul Radin, "Turtle's Warparty," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #29: 75-143.

7 Paul Radin, "The Two Children," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #66, Story #3.

8 Paul Radin, "The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #1: 1-11.

9 Paul Radin, "Wodjidjé," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #62: 1-50.

10 Paul Radin, "The Chief of the Heroka," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #33: 24-26.