The Shell Anklets Origin Myth
by Jasper Blowsnake
(from the cycle of foundation myths belonging to the Medicine Rite)
Hočąk Text with Interlinear English Translation
(10) And then two boys dreamt this: that their mother had been made sick at heart. And there having been four great medicine men, Plate Holders, he had told one of the women when her husband had died. (11) The woman had hardly stopped crying because her husband had died. Once it had become dark, they came after the woman in the middle of the night, so the woman went with them. After she left, they took her outside. And there they told her to sit down, and there she sat down. And they said – after making a ruhį́č to her — then they said, "Your husband, after he died, made your heart sore," they said to her. Then she said, "Hąhą́’ą," she said. "Indeed, you were sore at heart. You will come to know your own husband's Way. So lay your body down," they said to her. Then what the first seated one said, and indeed, what the second had said to her, that they commenced. (12) Then the third also as he had said, that way it was commenced. Then also the first two talked; what they said, that very thing he said to her also. The women then got up immediately perhaps to speak, and then she said that she would not know about it as that sort of thing was too troublesome. Now she started to cry, and having passed around presenting the ruhį́č, she went home. Then her crying barely improved. Her sons were glad that her crying had ceased again. That's the way she had begun at first. Her sons asked her, "You had not been like this, one of the men must have done something." Then she told them how they had been thinking. (13) This one said it because her husband was dead, and "His friends said this to me outside when they came after me in the middle of the night, and then they said to me that I would come to know the Rite. They told me, 'Lay down your body," they told me. I did not do it; I would not know it (the Rite). That was the way it was then: 'I would not know it.' And after presenting the ruhį́č around, I came back and up to now I have been crying as I did in the beginning." And her sons said, "Hąhą́, mother, you will know it. They are not the only ones to know."
And with their mother leading the way, they accompanied her, and by the shore in the "jack oak brush" as they call it, there lay a growth of reeds, and in there lay a big rock. (14) There they placed their mother, and then they began to run around the hill. Finally, they did it: the hill rumbled. Then they came around this growth of reeds and began running. The growth of reeds was turned upside down, and became a lake. In their running around, as far as the shells bunched on their ankles, that far they jingled. "Hąhą́, mother, no matter what happens, don't run away; do your utmost — you cried!" And they say that that woman sat there singing of her children. All of a sudden, different things began floating to the surface of the lake. (15) "The next one, that will be the one," she thought, "not this one." All kinds of animals suddenly floated up. There was also a great serpent. And the lake was quiet, the waters having become very calm; and there was a very white Chief, and he appeared with Light and Life. His armpits were red and very round. Then the boys did it. They killed him, and then they took tools from him there. From that time forth, they began to use these songs and ceremonial greetings.
In the form of an extended comment, further details are given of the Waterspirit episode.
(14) Once they got material enough, they also took that "arrow" that they might use there. They used the arrows up on their ankles to rattle with their feet. Those they took there. There the Medicine Rite men, the jinglers that they might shuffle with their feet, there again these they took. They are still called "iron shoes." Again, and yet again, they took them there. In the past there had not been any kind of poisonings. They killed so as to make someone sore at heart, and they would poison someone with something if they were selfish and ill-natured, and he would die. From that time one, this is the sort of thing that happened.
This is all.1
Songs (nąwą́ra). Sung by leaders of band giving the dance. They are supposed to be the songs sung by [the] woman mentioned in text relating to her children. The song refers to the story. The woman sings in a (16) different language (in Sauk and Fox) or in Iowa and Winnebago. The songs can be given in any order. Three sets of songs were sung when Blowsnake was initiated.
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna||(Sauk)|
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna|
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna|
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna|
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna|
|hiawē he he he nō ho hō hō hïau?ñ|
|gū́sē he he he gūse dāwīna||(four times)|
|nĭⁿ gûisē he he he|
This song, which refers back to the story, is in Hočąk.
|Égi hąké néšana hįš’únįkjanéną;||And you will not use me alone;|
|Jánąga š’ágiwahiwira,||How many there are of our ancestors,|
|janągágere ženąga žežénąga š’ágwarakjanéną.||As many as there are, all of them, that many will be our leaders.|
|nąga égi tegi wahánągere égi hąké||And then I myself am saying as for myself, not this one then,|
|teeži š’ágiwahíwira hįwírakikúruxekjanehíre, žée éžiéži.||But we are to follow our ancestors.|
This is a different version of the first 24 sentences of Version 1a.
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(11) When they were at Red Banks, when the Indians first lived there, there were the Four Positions of the Medicine Rite men. The four had made very good friend with one another. And then one of them died. It was after the two children of the one who died had grown up that he died. The woman was sought out. They let her know that one of the great ones of the Medicine Rite had died. The woman's heart ached, and she began to weep. In the course of time, when she had hardly stopped her crying, then they came after the woman in the dead of night. "Why did they say this?" she thought. (12) She followed the one who came after her. There the village appeared to which he led her. Then he took her away from people. Then three of the great ones of the Medicine Rite sat down there. He that had called upon her was the third, and they spoke to her. The foremost among them began to speak and said to her, "Your husband's Rite is yours to learn." At the end of his speech he said, "Lay your body down." This he said to her. Again the other one said it to her, yet again he said that sort of thing. All three talked to her, and at the end of the talk, they told her, she should lay her body down. She got back up without being angry. She said to them, "I will not learn of such a thing," he said, and very gently greeting them, she passed by them, and turning her back, left.
The crying started back up. (13) From the time she reached home on, she began crying again just as she had before. They said to her, "Mother, someone must have said something to you. You were not like this, you have begun crying again." She spoke to her sons and told them what they had said. "Mother, you will come to know something. They are not the only ones who know this. Most assuredly, you will come to know these things."2
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(XV) The young members of the Medicine Rite, and the older members of the Rite, tied on anklets to jingle, and when they tramped hard, on they jingled; and when they went, they used to like it, when they shook those sorts of things.
He said, "My ancestors were the first to see the Waterspirit. They got the jinglers from him. The Waterspirit will have appeared. This lake began to roar. The wind now began to make itself felt. There began to appear a great animal, a giant snake, also embers and smoke. The waters were in a mighty turmoil. When it stopped, the waters became calm. It was like a small plate that grew until it filled this lake. And then they saw it. The man saw certain things running around the lake, running with jinglers on. As they looked at him, the shells on their ankles were jingling. For that reason they do this. They do it taking it from here. (XVI) All their parents jingle small bells at their ankles.
If sometime someone buys a jingler from you, you may speak to him of this.3
Commentary. "Plate Holders" — a ritual name for the high ranking members of the Medicine Rite who occupy the seats of the cardinal directions.4
"ruhį́č" — a ceremonial greeting performed by slowly raising the right hand towards the face of the person to whom it is directed.
"jack oak brush" — the oak is the tree most often struck by lightning. Waterspirits themselves are a favorite target of lightning, as the Thunderbirds who are responsible for striking with this weapon are the enemies of the Waterspirits. Therefore, the oak is a kind of counterpart of the Waterspirit. Waterspirit creation is inverted, so it is appropriate that the jack oaks be turned upside down. This is also reflected in the fact that certain Waterspirits fight back against the Thunders by shooting jets of fire upwards.
"around" — the circle is a particularly holy form, since it has neither beginning nor end. When Earthmaker created the world, it spun in a circle (see The Creation of the World [versions 1, 5, 6, 7, 11a, 11b]). In the Medicine Rite tradition, when Hare attempted to achieve immortality for humanity, he did so by walking in a circle around the edge of the world (see The Necessity for Death).
"the one" — many different kinds of valuable objects are floating to the surface, and she keeps thinking, "Shall I keep this one for myself, or wait for the next one, which might be better?"
"Chief" — a circumlocution for "Waterspirit." These are supernatural beings who represent the spiritual essence of water. A Hočąk drawing of the Waterspirit can be seen in the inset. The Waterspirit Clan is usually thought of a the chief of the Lower Moiety.
"Light and Life" — Hą́bᵋra, which means literally "light" or "day." Just as in Christianity, in the Medicine Rite, light stands as a symbol for life. Radin remarks in a MS note, "The Indians believe that if a spirit appears as the water spirit did it will bring long life. So they kill it and take the bones etc. and make these magic medicines from it (wasĕ́)."5
"armpits" — here is located a sack which was deemed to have very great powers as a medicine, a substance which could be used for good or ill.
"they took tools from him" — the Waterspirit volunteers to be killed so that those to whom he appeared can make medicine (magical items) from his body.
"arrow" — the shells used in the Medicine Rite are shot at the initiate who then falls to the ground as if dead. Hence, the shells function as if they were arrows. Whenever the word "arrow" (mą) occurs in this paragraph, it refers to the shells being employed as jinglers on the anklets.
"iron shoes" — at the bottom of a MS page, Radin comments: "maⁿswagudjê = a diamond shaped ornament made of metal put on moccasins, and was a sign that a man could poison but wouldn't be poisoned".6
"selfish and ill-natured" — an oblique reference to witches and warlocks. The anklets, bells, and iron ornaments, as well as the poisons, are all artefacts associated with witches (evil medicine men).7
"Red Banks" — Red Banks (Mógašúč) is located on Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was the traditional place of origin for the Hočąk nation. See The Creation Council.
"Four Positions" — the four divisions of the Medicine Rite by compass direction.
"they do this" — the pronouns refer to members of the present Medicine Rite when they use the jinglers in their activities.
Links: Waterspirits, Tree Spirits, Snakes, Witches.
Stories: 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; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning white Waterspirits: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, White Thunder's Warpath, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2); mentioning snakes: The First Snakes, The Woman who Married a Snake, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Snake Clan Origins, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Serpents of Trempealeau, Rattlesnake Ledge, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Two Boys, Wears White Feather on His Head, Creation of the World (vv. 2, 3, 4), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Waruǧápara, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Turtle and the Merchant, The Lost Blanket, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga; mentioning trees or Tree Spirits: The Creation of the World, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, Visit of the Wood Spirit, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Woman who Became a Walnut Tree, The Old Woman and the Maple Tree Spirit, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, The Pointing Man, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster, The Baldness of the Buzzard, Trickster Eats the Laxative Bulb, Trickster Loses His Meal, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 2), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, The Chief of the Heroka, The Red Man, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Blessing of the Bow, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Spirit of Gambling, Peace of Mind Regained, The Necessity for Death; mentioning oak: Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, Turtle's Warparty, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waruǧápara, The Creation Council, The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Young Man Gambles Often, Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2), Sun and the Big Eater, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Roaster, Little Human Head, The Shaggy Man, Wears White Feather on His Head, Peace of Mind Regained, The Dipper (leaves); in which dancing plays a role: Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Little Priest's Game, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Migistéga’s Magic, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Trickster and the Dancers, Wolves and Humans, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; mentioning poisons: Hare Visits the Blind Men, The Creation of Evil, The Island Weight Songs, The Seer, The Shaggy Man, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 3), Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Ocean Duck, The Diving Contest, A Wife for Knowledge, Great Walker's Medicine (antedote); mentioning shells: The Gift of Shooting, The Markings on the Moon, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men, Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Wild Rose, Young Man Gambles Often (wampum), Morning Star and His Friend (v. 2) (wampum), Wolves and Humans (oyster), Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Lost Child, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 2), Turtle's Warparty, The Lost Blanket (mussel), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads (crab); set at Red Banks (Mógašúč): The Creation Council, Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Great Lodge, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (vv. 1, 2, 3, 5), Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2a, 3, 8, 11, 12), The Winnebago Fort, Blue Bear, Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 10), Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins (fr. 1), Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Deer Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Šųgepaga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e ("St. Peet," "Hočąk Origins"), The Seven Maidens, First Contact, Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath.
Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: 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), North Shakes His Gourd, 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 Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.
Themes: someone is disconsolate over the death of a relative: White Flower, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, The Lost Child, The Shaggy Man, Holy One and His Brother, Sunset Point; a seer makes true predictions down to unusual details: The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Witches, The Fox-Hočąk War, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, A Prophecy, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store; many objects float to the surface of a lake just before a Waterspirit rises from the depths: The Seer, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga; 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 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, North Shakes His Gourd, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Peace of Mind Regained; red as a symbolic color: The Journey to Spiritland (hill, willows, reeds, smoke, stones, haze), The Gottschall Head (mouth), The Chief of the Heroka (clouds, side of Forked Man), The Red Man (face, sky, body, hill), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse (neck, nose, painted stone), Redhorn's Father (leggings, stone sphere, hair), The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father (hair, body paint, arrows), Wears White Feather on His Head (man), The Birth of the Twins (turkey bladder headdresses), The Two Boys (elk bladder headdresses), Trickster and the Mothers (sky), Rich Man, Boy, and Horse (sky), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo Spirit), Bluehorn Rescues His Sister (buffalo head), Wazųka (buffalo head headdress), The Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth (horn), The Brown Squirrel (protruding horn), Bear Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Hawk Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Deer Clan Origin Myth (funerary paint), Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (stick at grave), Pigeon Clan Origins (Thunderbird lightning), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks (eyes), Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (scalp, woman's hair), The Race for the Chief's Daughter (hair), The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy (hair), Redhorn Contests the Giants (hair), Redhorn's Sons (hair), The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle (hair), A Wife for Knowledge (hair), Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle (hair), The Hočągara Contest the Giants (hair of Giantess), A Man and His Three Dogs (wolf hair), The Red Feather (plumage), The Man who was Blessed by the Sun (body of Sun), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2) (body of the Warrior Clan Chief), Red Bear, Eagle Clan Origin Myth (eagle), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Waterspirits), The Roaster (body paint), The Man who Defied Disease Giver (red spot on forehead), The Wild Rose (rose), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (warclub), Įčorúšika and His Brothers (ax & packing strap), Hare Kills Flint (flint), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head (edges of flint knives), The Nannyberry Picker (leggings), The Seduction of Redhorn's Son (cloth), Yųgiwi (blanket).
1 For the original interlinear MS, see Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Library, n.d.) Winnebago II, #6: 10-15, and Winnebago III, #1: 11-14; Winnebago II, #1: 20-23 (a handwritten phonetic text). Winnebago III, #12: 13-16 (typewritten text, phonetic only); Winnebago II, #5: 21-29 (typewritten phonetic text with a typewritten interlinear translation). A loose English translation is to be 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 ) 89-91. A text with a parallel English translation is found in Paul Radin, The Culture of the Winnebago: As Defined by Themselves, International Journal of American Linguistics, Memoirs, 3 (1950): 68.1-69.36a, 73.1-74.41.
2 For the original handwritten phonetic text, see Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society Library, n.d.) Winnebago III, #1: 11-13. For a handwritten phonetic text, see Winnebago II, #1: 23. For a typewritten text (phonetic only), see Winnebago III, #12: 14. The typewritten interlinear text is found at Winnebago II, #5: 24-25, 29. A text with an English translation is found in Paul Radin, The Culture of the Winnebago: As Defined by Themselves, International Journal of American Linguistics, Memoirs, 3 (1950): 69.37-42, 74.37-42 (English). For English only, see Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 91.
3 "Hinašax Ruwiná," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #2, Section 7: XV-XVI.
4 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 336 nt 26.
5 Winnebago II, #6: 14 verso.
6 Winnebago III, #1: 14.
7 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 337 nt 29.