Sore Eye Dance

by Jasper Blowsnake

Jasper Blowsnake

Hočąk Syllabic Text with an English Interlinear Translation

The translation given here is meant to be more literal than that of Radin. The intention is to give the reader a better insight into the underlying original Hočąk text and its style of expression. For a more idiomatic translation, see that of Paul Radin.

(1) In order to give a feast, a man would go out hunting. And all of the men who were giving the feast with him, everyone of them would go with him. And when they had killed a deer, then they built a lodge, and when that was done, all of those who were giving the feast with him, (2) they would all come. They would bring something to the feast, they would bring it to give a feast. Still others would bring tobacco with them. Since they came to offer the tobacco, they brought other things with them. (3) Some would bring dogs too. They would bring them to give a feast. As they came to the feast, so then they killed the dogs. Then they caused them to be singed, and then they boiled them. (4) And furthermore, they would mix together deer and dried corn to boil, and the attendants would look after the boiling food. (5) The Feast Giver's attendants, they themselves would be his nephews. Yet every time they gave a feast, only they would do the boiling for him. Indeed, it is their duty to do so. And whenever he should go on the warpath, there again the attendants, there again, they would endure even more. Even if he were to die, he would do the same. (6) The reason is that he would love his maternal uncle. If his uncle were killed, he would die as well. That is why he does it. (7) When a maternal uncle gives a feast, the attendants do all the work. Once they get all the kettles ready, and once the feast was set up, they did it, (8) and then they made four invitation sticks, and after blackening them with charcoal, then they would attach to the end of the invitation stick fluffy white eagle feathers, then they would make a tobacco bundle of about a pipe full of tobacco. (9) Then one of these nephews would give them out to the Night Blessed Children, wherever they were. He would give them one stick each. (10) The Night Blessed Children would thank him. It would induce them to give thought to life. Then they also did this (the man who received the stick would be the one to do it): he would go and lead with some of his own people, (11) and wherever the feast was to be, he would go there. All of the ones that there were, as many as there were who received the sticks of invitation, someone would go with all of them, (12) and they would go forth.

BAE 37: Pl. 30   BAE 37: Pl. 44
A Hočąk Gourd Rattle and Drum

The Feast Giver prepared himself to be ready when they arrived. This is what the Feast Giver did to prepare. He placed there two of the drums that he would have to use, (13) and he offered tobacco to them. He poured tobacco on top of them. Then he placed there two gourds that he would have to use, and he offered them tobacco. (14) He put four in a row at the front, and poured tobacco on top of all four. Then he asked them for Life. The Feast Giver said that he would offer tobacco to the fire again. (15) The Feast Giver would then speak of the source that it came from, saying, "Grandfathers, when you blessed my grandfather, when you blessed him with Life, as often as he would boil for you, and would pour for you a pipe full of tobacco, (16) you promised that you would always smoke it, it is said. That body of hot water that you considered to be the same, and the same spirit food that he extended to you, (17) and pipe full of tobacco, we also send to you. What else could we ask of you? May war be directed to come to us. Grandfathers, you who are called "Happy Nights," (18) when you blessed my grandfather, it is said that you blessed him with endless wars. This is what we ask for. I ask for the same as you blessed my grandfather with. (19) And also Grandfather, when you who are called "Those of the Rounded Wood" blessed my grandfather, he said that you blessed him with Life. You asked him to make you offerings of tobacco pourings. (20) Here it is! This night we are going to ask for Life; may you give us all Life. Here we are to do it, as we all desire to live," he said.

(21) Then all the Feast Givers required to be there with him, all of them would have each a hand full of tobacco. Some they would also pour on top of the drum, (22) and then again some would pour some of it on the gourds. And the tobacco that he had in their other hand, they would pour for the fire. They poured tobacco into the fire, (23) and they poured to those Nights whom they call "The Ones with Rounded Wood." And concerning the drum tobacco offering, this they poured directly onto the drum. Then again they would pour tobacco for the gourds, (24) they poured tobacco on these very ones. And again, they tied it onto the invitation sticks, and they poured tobacco for the Four Directions. (25) And the ones who were given the invitation sticks, they were the ones who did the tobacco pouring. They did the tobacco as they were impersonating the Directions. Then again, two women came and sat back next to the wall where the feasters were sitting, so that they might lead the dance. (26) Thus they did, and then when those who have the invitation sticks arrive, they would wait outside, so that they might start up the songs immediately. (27) When he gets through with the Starting Songs, he comes in chanting, and making these sounds, in this way he goes around the lodge until he returns to where he started. (28) Then he said, "You Obtainers of Light-and-Life, you Forbidders, and your relatives who are seated, we greet you. It is good that you have taken pity on me. All your relatives whom I have with me, as many as there are, you have caused us to contemplate Life among ourselves. (29) You have caused a great Light-and-Life to come to us, as we are leading a poor life. It is good. When this happens, people who are sick and weakly, (30) even then it would head them off, overcoming their sickness, it is said. Those who are sick will get well, I think. I am thankful. Our children were sickly, (31) but henceforth we will have no cause to worry. I am thankful. And the Chief Tree of the Night Soldiers is in full bloom in their front yard, (32) and it is beautiful to behold. Not a leaf on it is dead, and not one of its limbs grew dry. It is beautiful to behold, and there they obtained it and caused it to come to us. (33) We feel grateful for our warpaths. It will strengthen our families. It is said that this lodge that we have entered is nice. That we have entered it will surely strengthen us. (34) If those who are called "Night Soldiers" are there, we have entered. It is said that fine white feathers have been strewn up to the ankles there. On the path that we are about to embark, we will surely be strengthened by them. (35) It was said that from the lodge the day was fair. We shall consider ourselves in connection to Light-and-Life. We are not the Blessed Children of the Night. (36) It will not give us honors, but we shall do it to obtain Life. You Night Blessed Children who are seated within the lodge, we greet you."

(37) Then there are the songs (the Entrance Songs). Then when he gets to the end of the lodge, and when he ceases singing, he comes back chanting. He has the Feast Givers sit in a circle in front, and then he would stop. (38) And they say to him, "I greet you. A great Light came to me. My relations, all of them, experienced it that we might be strengthened. And also for a pipeful of tobacco, I am made to return back a power from beyond the earth, it is said. (39) Therefore, I do it. I greet you," he said, and he went and sat down opposite him. Just before he sat down, he said, "Children of the Night Blessed who are seated, we greet you. (40) The Forbidders saw fit to give a seat. We relatives will sit in it that we might be strengthened. Now we will take our seats. We send forth my greetings," he said, and sat down. (41) The second one said the same, "I send forth my greetings," he said, and sat down. As many as were present, they all did the same. They greeted them and sat down. (42) Once they were all seated, a second one came to enter while chanting. He would go around the lodge, and when he came back to where he started, he said, "You Forbidders who have obtained Light-and-Life, whose relatives are seated, we greet your seats. (43) And first of all, you who are seated, we greet you. You Children of the Night Blessed who are seated in the lodge, we greet you. It is good. (44) As you wished me to live, thus I am. When I am beset with troubles, I don't think that it was a Child of the Night Blessed Ones who did this to me. As you know, you did it for me because my life is the way it is. (45) My own relatives say as well that in life we are even worse than weaklings. It is good. Henceforth, we, men, women, and children, shall be stronger in life. We will live in peace. (46) I believe that all those who have followed, that many of us shall live. I am thankful. It is said that of all the various Spirits, these only control the most Light-and-Life here. (47) Inasmuch as it is a great thing, they have given us great council. There are some, in any case, who are unable to do such things. Even I who am speaking don't see nearly as much as I want. (48) The reason I mention this is that now I will go over the Path that I may greet it. We will do what songs came down to us, but whatever we can do, that will be it. (49) We send forth greetings to you, Children of the Night Blessed Ones." He sang the Entrance Song. When he got to the end of the lodge, he sang it again. There in front, the Feast Giver chanted as he came back, completing a circuit. (50) Then he stopped. He made a greeting. "A great Light you have caused to come to me. All our relatives, that many, tasted of it that they might live by it. (51) We also bring back to you a pipe full of tobacco to strengthen one another, it is said. That is what is meant. I greet you." Then the second one sat down.

One by one the others sat down. They greeted them, (52) and after they were all seated, the third one came inside. He went around the lodge chanting. When he got back to where he started, there he stopped, and then he said, "You Forbidders, you Obtainers of Light-and-Life, you relatives that are seated, (53) I greet your seats. Here I have been blessed. I am not worthy to be blessed, but my grandfather himself said, as well as my father, 'Some day they will lack for people, and if they take pity on you, (54) submit to them,' he said to me. So he meant these activities, the feasts. 'They are all sacred, but this one is the most sacred of all,' he said to me. (55) 'You should not cross the path of even the lodges,' he said. 'Those who are called Night Soldiers are not to be trifled with,' he told me. (56) 'Those who are called Night Soldiers are created to be stern soldiers, such is the way they are,' my father said. 'If we were to slight one of them, we would be punished,' (57) this is how he himself put it. 'If we were punished by them, then one of us would die,' he said. 'And by attending to it, one obtained life,' he said. 'Inasmuch as it is good to do, it is a good thing,' he said. 'Life is a good thing,' my father said. (58) 'Therefore, I have always looked upon this rite with awe, it is a good rite,' my father said. Therefore, my father would encourage us to participate in this kind of feast. (59) 'Pay attention to it,' he used to say. Therefore, I always tried to do it, even though I am not a Child of the Night Blessed Ones. Therefore, I do not have much to say. I shall only start a song. I am going to speak about greeting this lodge," (60) he said. "I am going to speak about how I am greeting this lodge that I am going through. You Children of the Night Blessed Ones who are seated filling the lodge, we greet you." (61) He sang a Lodge Entrance Song. Then he went to the end of the lodge and sang again. He sang at both ends of the lodge. Then, when he was through, he came back chanting. He stopped there in front of the Feast Giver, and said, "I greet you. (62) A Light you have caused to come to me, and all of our relatives have imbibed it. We thought ourselves in connection with Light-and-Life. We are thankful. We have thought of ourselves in connection with Life. We greet you." (63) Then the third one went and sat down. He went to the West and sat down.

Then one by one they sat down. He greeted them, and when they were all seated, then the fourth one entered chanting, and when he got back to where he started, (64) there he said, "You Forbidders, you Obtainers of Light-and-Life, I greet your seats. And the first who is seated, I greet you. And there among the North impersonators, we greet your seats. (65) And those who are seated as the West impersonators, I greet your seats. Children of the Night Blessed One, who are seated within the lodge, I greet you all. (66) It is good. According to my understanding, they call this rite 'the Life Giver,' it is said. Those who are called 'the Happy Nights,' only they are in control of the most Life, I am told. They told me that it is therefore called 'the Life Giver'. (67) If I did this rite, I was told that I could call the guest 'Light-and-Life', but I didn't pay attention to it. They told me of the good, but then again, the ones called 'Those with Rounded Wood,' (68) the plants that they own are good. When I use one, I never get embarrassed. I caused them to give rise to Life. Inasmuch as this rite has nothing but good plants, they are good, (69) and it is easy to obtain Life. We will also do dancing in this rite to obtain Life, in the future we will dance in earnest to do it. They spoke of everything, (70) then they selected a seat for us, that I might greet this lodge, and that I might use a song to greet it. You Children of the Night Blessed Ones who are going to their seats to fill the lodge, we greet you." (71) Then he sang the Lodge Entrance Song, and when he finished, he chanted, then he sang again at the end of the lodge, and when he was finished, he went back chanting. He circled in front of the Feast Givers, (72) then stopped. "I greet you. You wished me to live, and a great Light has come upon me. All our relatives, as many as there are, made a connection to it. We think of ourselves in terms of Life. (73) We also strengthen one another with a pipe full of tobacco, it is said. This is what we thought, is the reason why we did this. I greet you," he said, then went and sat at the end. He said, (74) "A seat was reserved for me. We are about to sit with our relatives. By contemplating our lives, we shall attain to it. We greet you," he said, and sat down, and one by one all the others did as he had done. (75) When they were all seated, the lodge was full.

Then he said, "The Feast Giver stands and those who were seated first, I greet your seats, and those who are seated in the north, (76) I greet your seats, and those who are seated in the west, I greet your seats, and the one who is seated at the end of the Road, I greet your seat. (77) Children of the Night Blessed Ones who are all seated here within the lodge, we greet you all in turn. Both my grandfather and my father told me that this rite was good, they said. (78) The one who earned this rite was called 'Little Red Turtle'. When he was blessed, he was called Žawánųmitè, having been blessed by those who are called 'the Ones with Rounded Wood'. (79) He was taught things in the middle of the day. There they taught him everything he was to do. They caused night to fall at a certain place, and there they blessed him. They showed him how to make four circles, (80) and there they taught him songs. It was from that time on that this very rite was started. He was told that he was really blessed, so this rite, he said, should not disappear, it is said. (81) They say that since he liked this rite, he spoke on its behalf. He said that all of the plants and everything that goes with them, are good and useful things, it is said. (82) Whoever uses them they will never be ordinary. His children will receive Life from them. Therefore, I know that they are good. Am I Night-blessed, and am I a Night Blessed One to be saying this? (83) I make offerings of all the plants that I have charge of, and tobacco, and if I do well in boiling them, if someone uses one of the plants, it would be better for him, I am told. (84) Therefore, I am doing this. Now I am going to make the Dancing Songs audible, then all the songs will be used, and the Plant Songs will be sung. (85) We will use all the songs to which, I am told, all the plants are connected. We will cause you to fan your faces, but we will not do it to them. You Children of the Night Blessed who are seated here, we greet you."

(86) They would place a sister of theirs ahead of them. We would put our sisters with us to lead. The women in front would stand side by side, (87) and as they bring back the invitation sticks that were handed out, the women holding them in their hands, one in each hand, and then they would lead the dance, and the one with the gourds would start by standing backwards facing the drummers, (88) and standing face to face with them they would sing together. And each of them standing with partners by their sides, danced. (89) And it was certainly a very interesting one. Now they stand up and chant. Then they went around the lodge, they went going back there. There they sang. When they finished, they chanted, and again they went singing to the other end of the lodge. (90) They stood singing on each end of the lodge. Of all the songs that they intended to use, they used them all. Then, when he is about to stop, he again makes four circles, (91) then he first placed things for the ones seated there. Then they all sat down.

Then the first seated one arises. "You Councilors, you Obtainers of Light-and-Life, you relations who are seated, we send forth greetings to you. (92) And those seated on the north side, I greet your seats. And there to those who impersonate the West, I send forth greetings to the place of your seats. (93) To those seated at the end of the Road, I send greetings to your seats. The Councilor has passed the Mediator over to me; also you have passed over to me the instrument with which to ask for Light-and-Life. As it was always said by the old men, they made the instrument for asking for Light-and-Life the foremost thing. (94) First, let us be thankful for it. Concerning tobacco, inasmuch as Earthmaker did not put us in charge of anything, therefore, this thing is the greatest. The old people said that it was the foremost thing. (95) We were told that we would use it for Life. This must be what they meant. This, the instrument to ask for Light-and-Life, has done enough, and surely, if he is known, we shall try to follow him, (96) taking the places of the Spirits. However as many as there are seated within the lodge, we shall consider that all of our lives have been saved. Those who are called 'the Happy Nights,' have been offered tobacco as well as the Four Directions, (97) and the plants that Stand in the Light, all of them, as many as there are, are offered tobacco. They have always said that if we partake of it, in imitation of the Spirits, it will strengthen us. For that reason, we will do this thing we are doing. (98) You Children of the Night Blessed who are seated, we greet you. One of the songs, the Song to Light the Pipe, we will start now." Once he had finished the song, he lit the pipe, after having greeted them, (99) and he puffed on it, and it was towards the east that he smoked it. Then he puffed on it again, and he blew it towards the north. For a third time he did it again, and towards the west he blew it. (100) And for the fourth time he puffed on it, and blew it towards the south. Then all of them did the same. The Feast Giver did not do it. Then he said, "You Night Blessed Ones, who are seated, we greet you. (101) I will place here the instruments to ask for Light-and-Life. If you wish to fill any of your own pipes, you may do so." Then again the second one said, "You Councilors, Obtainers of Light-and-Life, I greet your seats. (102) And who sit where the day comes, I greet your seats. And on the other side, he who sits impersonating the West, I greet your seat. And also he who sit impersonating the End of the Road, (103) I greet your seat. We also are anxious for the instrument to ask for Light-and-Life, and since we are this way, we will fill a pipe for ourselves. We greet you. And again also the one who sits at the end of the Road," (104) he said, "Greetings. If he is through, we also are anxious for the instrument to ask for Light-and-Life, and since we are that way, therefore we will immediately go and fill a pipe, I mean to tell you this. We greet you." (105) The one in the north did not let the pipe that he filled go all the way around the lodge. He let only as many as made up his retinue do it. The rest did not do otherwise. Only the first one allowed all of the others to do it.

(106) And then when they were through, the first one who had been seated, arose and said, "Greetings." When he was through, he said, "Grandfathers, they told me that when we are ready for it, we used to carry on the ceremony. If at any time we were short of people, (107) and if they took pity on me, my father said that I should speak it. In the direction where the day comes, where the Nights are, beyond that, those whom they call the 'Night Soldiers' blessed my grandfather, and made him try himself. (108) Going where it is the deepest, they placed the rounded wood in the middle of the Ocean Sea, but the Night Soldiers did not obtain it. But when grandfather tried it, he would never miss. "You have done well, human, you have won," (109) they would say to him. He said that consequently, it was of good use in war, it is said. He said that if you did well in offering it tobacco, it is of good use in war, it is said. And also he said, "They were good, all the plants with which I was blessed, being things that are useful. (110) If you do well in taking care of them, they are good for Life. Your plants will be powerful." We are told that some of your plants could be used for recreation, (111) but not a one have we ever used. I have been told that if one uses the plants for recreation, they will lose their strength. If we used them too often for recreation, (112) then if we used them on a sick person, they would not have any power, my father told me. He told me that if I never used any of them for fun, my medicine would be powerful. Therefore, I have never used one. (113) Never have I poisoned anyone. I never thought to be great, and never did I used any Night Trick Medicines, and I was told that I could play with fire, but I've never done this. I like to use something of one of the plants to make it do its work, (114) therefore, not once have I ever used them for fun. And this I say: I am not one of the Children of the Night Blessed Ones that I speak thus.

Now we will cause our sisters to get hold of the Chief Sticks. (115) They will sit here and sing with us, and what I mean is to report that. The women will take two sticks apiece, (116) and they will sit there with them at the place where they are to sing. When they start the songs, the women are to sing. I was told that this is the way it is done. So this is what I do. (117) Children of the Night Blessed who are seated in the lodge, we send forth greetings to you." When he was through with the Starting Songs, then he stood again, saying, after he was through greeting them, "You of the Night Blessed Ones who are seated within the lodge, we greet you. (118) I was not wise in any way, so I think that's why I was not put in the seat over here. They did it in order to help me get Life. Now we will arise and go forth. We will brush your faces, (119) but you must take pity on us. Children of the Night Blessed, we greet you. We will not be seated, but we who have the Rounded Sticks will go forth, so that we may announce the rest to you. (120) We greet you."

Initially, when they got up, they still made a circuit there. And again when they got to the second seat, there again they made a circle. (121) And when they got to the third seat, there again they made a third circle. And when they got to the fourth seat, there again they made a fourth circle. (122) And when they got back, they came there. There they sang, using dancing. When they were through, there at the other end of the lodge they went again to sing, it is said. Again they came from there, and came to the other side at the end of the lodge, it is said. (123) Thus they were. When they were through, he again on the other side sang all that he should use, and when he was through, they again turned themselves around in the four circles. (124) Then he placed it with the second one, and once all the dancers were seated, then the one who impersonated the North arose. He greeted them. When he got through, then he said, "I was blessed. (125) They did not make me a Child of the Night Blessed Ones. My father said, 'If you do this ritual correctly, you will get answers,' he told me. This is what he meant. For this, I am to be pitied, and because of this they will make me live by it, my father said to me. (126) Sure enough, this caused me to think of life. This is what he meant. It is because I have not become great that they invited me, I think. He told me that I should be saying, 'It is good.' (127) He also told me that if I meant it, I would be living by it. He did this ceremony correctly, but I have not been able to do it. I was told that it was good, but I was not able to pour tobacco. (128) Those who are called 'the Ones with Rounded Wood', are in charge of Light-and-Life. They are managing a large portion of Life, and they are holy, but he said that it is not good to trifle with this ceremony. (129) And what songs they had and heretofore have not been able to initiate, they must nevertheless still rest satisfied with whatever they had. Children of the Night Blessed Ones, we greet you." He sang. He used the Starting Songs. He was through. (130) Then he arose, and greeted them. Then when the ones with Rounded Wood started to walk back, they placed their sisters in front, it is said. (131) "We will place our sisters in front. They may hold the Chief Sticks, the staffs, because they are considering Life for themselves. And we will use the toys for them, as we think that they might be strengthened by it. We greet you."

(132) Then they let the women lead them, and they went in front before them, side by side. Then the ones with gourds arose there. They stood facing backwards. Then the snare drummers arose. (133) Then the Feast Giver followed after them. After that, anyone who stood up could do it. Then they chanted and went forth. They made the four circles. (134) Then they came to the lodge in the east, and there the singing ceased. Again he started. He chanted, and at the end of the lodge on the other side, after awhile he stopped singing again. Again he came back chanting from the end of the lodge on the other side, and when he got there, he again sang. (135) Thus he did. Then, having used up all of the songs, and when he was through, he again made four circles, and he placed the things at the third one.

(136) And when they were all seated, then the one at the west end stood up, and said, "You Councilors, Obtainers of Light-and-Life, relatives, who are seated, we send forth greetings to you. And the ones seated at the first seat, I send greetings to them. (137) I send forth greetings to the impersonators of the North who are seated on this side. And to the impersonators who are seated at the other side at the end of the Road, I send forth greetings to you. (138) I mean anything that I say. I was taught this ceremony, but I don't really know it. Therefore, I have always honored this rite. And it was a good life, they told us, (139) as I myself knew, but I could not do it well. If I did this well, I would obtain Life, I was told, but it is done well for this reason. Some of it you are able to do. (140) It is such a great council, and they could not ignore how it is done. If it is known, we impersonators will do it in order to receive Life. That is what I mean. (141) When we hold the Mediators, we will be strengthened by them. Thinking this way, we will take hold of them, and Children of the Night Blessed Ones, we greet you." And he finished the Starting Songs. He stood up. "Councilors, I send forth greetings to your seats. (142) To the first seated, I send forth greetings to your seats. And again, you who sits in the north, I send forth greetings to your seat. (143) To the impersonator at the End of the Road, I send forth greetings to your seat. When those who are called "Night Soldiers" come, as much of the earth as there is, they tramp down when they come. Thus, they do likewise in war. (144) They say that grandfather said that they blessed him, it is said. And he said of himself that they blessed him with much Light-and-Life, it is said. We are going to speak of that supplication. Right away, we will place our sisters in front, (145) and we will follow them; what I mean is to announce it. You Night Blessed Children who are seated, we greet you." The first thing they did was to make a circle where they sat. (146) There they circled, and again for a second time, they made a circle there at the end of the Road. Then again at the east end, there they did it again. And when he did it at the north side the last time, (147) then he used all of the songs that he was going to use. Then again he made four circuits, and then returning, he placed the Mediators at the end of the Road.

(148) And when all of them were seated, then the one at the end of the Road stood up. He said, "You Councilors, you Obtainers of Light-and-Life, I greet your seats. And the seat of the first seated, I greet you. (149) Then the ones who are seated as impersonators of the North, I send greetings to your seats. And to those who are seated in the west, we send forth greetings to you seats. (150) Children of the Night Blessed who are seated within the lodge, I send forth greetings to you. Tonight you have imitated your grandfather, who are like unto the various Spirits, and what you have uttered is sufficient to obtain Life, and as for me, (151) I do not know what my forefathers had said when they came. That's the way it used to be. I will do the very words of one of them. If you are ever pitied, don't talk about it foolishly, my father told me not to do it. (152) If you are bad, you will behave foolishly with it, he said. He said that my grandfather was blessed by those who are called the 'Night Soldiers', and he was blessed with chants, it is said. (153) All the birds who are black on each side around their breasts, as that many the Nights appeared. We will sing the songs that he designated. We are going to guess at the songs. (154) When we hold the Mediators, we will be strengthened. The Night Blessed who are seated, we greet you." Once he had finished the Starting Songs, he again rose. (155) He greeted them, saying, "You Councilors, Obtainers of Light-and-Life, I send forth greeting to your seats. To the east, who is seated, I send forth greetings to your seat. I send forth greetings to the seats of those who sit in the north. (156) To the impersonator who sits in the west, I send greetings to your seat. You Children of the Night Blessed, we greet your seat. (157) When their sisters acted, those who are called 'Night Soldiers' treated them with holiness. They placed them in front, and we imitate them with our sister that they also might be strengthened. (158) That is why I say in answer that we will place them at the head. We have all come together so that that many may be strengthened. That is the plea of we who speak. We greet you."

(159) When they were to use the dancing songs, they arose and put their sisters in the lead. Then the ones playing the gourds arose there. They stood facing backwards, then walked backwards. (160) Then the drums arose and followed there. All of them stood side by side in pairs. And he used all of the songs that he was going to use. Then they brought it back to the middle of the lodge. (161) They caused the dance to stop. Then the one who sits at the end of the Road arose and greeted all of them. "You who have obtained council, you relatives who are seated, we greet your seats. (162) And you who were seated first, I greet your seats. And you who sits in the north, I send forth greetings to your seat. (163) To all of you Night Blessed One who sit filling the lodge, we send forth greetings. Whenever he councils one of the the Night Blessed Children, and you are invited, and you are given a seat at the end of the Road, (164) they told me that they will try to live. This is what they have meant. Sure enough, they have caused me to think of Life. And the Mediators held Life, and passed it on to one another. (165) They passed it on to us as well. All of our relatives, and also our sisters, we caused to think of Life. Thus far only, will we detain them. Thus, I announce that I am thankful. (166) Children of the Night Blessed, I greet you."

Then the Feast Giver arose and said, "To those who were seated first, I send forth greetings to your seats. Then to those impersonators who are seated in the north, (167) I send forth greetings to your seats. Then to those impersonators who are seated in the west, I send forth greetings to your seats. And to the impersonators at the end of the Road, I send forth greetings to your seats. It is good. This is what I wanted. (168) I have not been able to tell it. You told it all for me. It is good. And it is said that these things alone are the foremost. You have placed in front of us the instrument with which to ask for Light-and-Life. (169) In this alone you have done enough to secure Life for us. It is good. And again, our forbearers, like unto the Spirits, how they dreamt to obtain Light-and-Life, it is said, and that kind of thing you have talked about all night. It is good. (170) You said it to obtain enough Life. It is good. I say this because I am thankful. They told me that if you do anything, do it right. I understand, but this is all that I could do. (171) I will place them before you. I am an old man, but I have always done this ceremony. As it is time to do it, therefore, I know that I did not do it correctly, but I am an old man. (172) My relatives helped me find where I could obtain some meat, so I did this. There are four kettles of hot water. I will place them in the middle of the lodge for you. We will have the one on the east side, the one at the east seat. (173) And the second one, the one who sits in the north, he will have it. And the third one, the third one will have it as well. And the one on the end, also the one who sits at the end of the Road, he will have it. (174) All you Children of the Night Blessed who are seated, I send forth my greetings to all. Then the one in the east seat stood up and said, "Councilor, we send greetings to your seat. (175) And over here, the one who impersonates North, I send greetings to your seat. And to him who wishes to be the West, we send greetings to your seat. And to the impersonator at the End of the Road, I send forth greetings to your seat. (176) Children of the Night Blessed who are seated in this lodge, I sent greetings to you. Right away, we shall arise. I mean that we will do as I have told you." And also the second one said, (177) "We also shall arise. As it is our turn, we will stand up. Thus it will be. We greet you." Also the third one said the same, "We will arise. As the time has come to us, we relatives shall stand with you." (178) Then the one seated at the end of the Road said, "Councilors, I send forth greetings to your seats. All of you who have been blessed, each in turn, I greet you. We are to arise, and thus we will do" (179) Then the one seated in the east end said, "Councilors, I send greetings to your seats. Right away, I shall greet the hot water itself. I shall use one of the songs." And then the second one said, (180) "I also will do one of the songs to the end. We greet you." And the one at the end of the Road said, "I also will do a song to the end. (181) We greet you." The first ones did the songs one apiece, singing the rest of them simultaneously. It is said that they ignored the others. They would use all the different songs. (182) They are trying to drown the other out, is precisely why they are singing them. If one overcomes the others, then if they obtain wars there, they would have them, is why they are doing it. They themselves are saying that these very songs are powerful. They are saying that my grandfathers were holy. (183) And all of them got up and danced out in single file. Also the Feast Giver would be singing. He beat the drum while they carried their kettles. And again, wherever they ate the boiled things, (184) there they would also go, and they would dance with the kettles, and then eat. Here and there they would make noise dancing.

This, then, would have been all, except that he would hand the invitation stick to the first seat, binding him to also give a feast. (185) Thus it was. Thus, the first one seated does the feast. Also, right away, the second one would do a Nightspirit Feast. Four of them would give the dance. Therefore, when they did this, (186) they would have it five nights in succession, and they would not sleep. There they called it "the Sore-Eye Dance," they said, and the reason why they said that is that when they didn't get any sleep for five nights, their eyes would get sore, so they called it "the Sore-Eye Dance," it is said. (187) And when they used Night Tricks at the Sore-Eye Dance, sometimes they would be that way. One of the kettles would be boiling, and if they ate it there with their bare hands, they would not get burned. When they did these Night Tricks, that's what they would do. (188) Sometimes they would do this: wildcat claws they would use. They would shoot a hole in the drum covering, but would fix it again. This is also a Night Trick. When one of the men was very bad, (189) they would shoot him with something, and kill him. So they used to be afraid of them. And also they would do this: from the fire they would have a lot of live coals and embers, and then they would take the burning embers, and they would bite off bits of coals, and (190) and when they spit them out, they would send forth sparks of fire. When they did this, they would not get burned. And again they would take them up. They would get them from a Thunderbird burnt tree. (191) They would put these coals in the fire, and when they were red hot, they would take them and put them in their mouths, and they would do this without putting them out. They would spit hard, and make it look like lightning. They would make it like lightning from the Thunderbirds. (192) And again they would do this: they would shoot each other with cold charcoal. Thus they used to do, it is said. This is all that I know.

And once they did this. (193) The Medicine Rite men used to be jealous of the Night Blessed Ones. One day they did this. The Medicine Rite men said they would play tricks on the Night Blessed men. The Medicine Rite men said this. The Night Blessed men were willing. (194) The Medicine Rite men play tricks. And when they were through, also the Night Blessed ones did it. The Night Blessed men themselves did more. The Medicine Rite men were defeated. So the Medicine Rite men feared them, because they shot them with claws but could not kill them. (195) So they were afraid of them. And they could kill the Medicine Rite men whenever they had a mind to, so the Medicine Rite men knew they were inferior to them.

This is all.

W. C. McKern’s Account of the Nightspirit Ceremony

W. C. McKern

(179) The Nightspirit Dance is variously called Wanaxi’ų́, Wanaxik’ų Hąhĕ́waši, Hąhĕ́waši, Hisaxériwaši, Rexčáčas-haníwaši. Any man can give this feast. It is usually done on the fourth day of the Four Days' Wake. On this fourth day they may have Nightspirit songs and dances. Only a Warbundle owner or his attendants may sing these songs. The leader of the dance gives out bundles of initiation [invitation] sticks to four Warbundle leaders. His attendants are to give each Warbundle leader the same number of cuts of meat as initiation sticks. A long lodge is constructed for the ceremony. The Feast Giver assembles the same number of pieces of calico as he issued sticks. The calicos are hung up on long medial poles, are hung in four bundles (one for each band invited), 12 or 13 in a bunch. A full suit of clothing is placed on the first pole of calicos for whomever died. (180) The day before, the Feast Giver tells Earthmaker what he is doing and of the details of preparation. The meat is divided and dedicated: one to Earthmaker and one to the Nightspirits. Then the calico is hung up, as described above. Then they sing and dance. Each of the four bands has to give one set of songs and dances. After which each leader takes down his lot of calicos. The deceased is dressed in the calico suit provided for him or her. After this, they hold the feast. After eating, everyone participates in the dance. In each bundle of sticks that had been given out, there is a Chief's Stick, the nanóxa, which is a stick dedicated to the Nightspirits, painted red, with a bag of tobacco near one end, and red feathers attached to that same end. The drum used is a rex-čáčas, or tambourine drum. The drummer along with everyone else, stands up.

Milwaukee Public Museum
McKern's Diagram of the Nightspirit Dance Lodge

At ① in the diagram above, the singers and the drummer stand at "a" and sing. They are faced by two or four unmarried girls, who stand in front of them at "b" facing the singers and drummers. They dance in place. Each has a calico sash over her shoulder and across her breast. Such girls called wašičóni ("dance leaders"). (181) After four songs are sung in this manner, they face about and start to lead the dancers clockwise around the lodge. Each girl has a nanóxa stick in her hand. If there are only two girls, each has two of these sticks. There should be one girl from each of the four bands. They lead each dance. After taking off any calico, the band must sing one song in this way. The calicos worn on the shoulders by the girls, which were received from a leader who took the calicos after the dance, is given by each girl to her brothers, cousins, or maternal uncle. The calicos replaced what, in the old day, were probably beads. Then follows more dancing. Any one who received a present of calico is required to dance. When dancing, they would stand in one place. When this is finished, the drum is returned to Feast Giver, who then sings dance songs, and keeps on singing until everyone has danced out of lodge. That is all. This same dance is may be held at any time when there is a death during summer, although it does not have to be associated with a burial. People save up calicos until they are ready, then give a dance.


W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 179, 180, 181.

Commentary. "dogs" — dogs in Hočąk culture were treated as if they were almost human. When assembling at eating times, the dog would be given a plate just like everyone else, and every dog had a name bestowed on him in the same way that a human might. This elevation of the canine made it a suitable substitute for a human sacrifice. Before being dispatched, the dog might be given a message to transmit to the Spirits that they might know what is needed by the band.

"nephews" — the hičųšgé or sister's sons. The avuncular bond was perhaps the strongest in society.

"four invitation sticks"nąnóǧa, probably for nąnó, "oak wood" (Miner); and xa, "branch." The oak is the variety of tree most often struck by lightning. The four sticks are given to Night Blessed Ones, each of whom represents one of the cardinal points. Each then heads a retinue who attends the feast with him. This term also has the charming coincidence of forming a strong assonance with nąną́ka, "he sleeps," the usual activity brought on by the ascendancy of the Nightspirits, but which is forbidden during the nocturnal ceremony.

"blackening them with charcoal" — black is the appropriate color of the Nightspirits, since it is the color of the night. There is probably more to charcoal than just being the pigment most readily at hand. Charcoal is the leavings of fire, and is therefore analogous to the night, which is the leaving of the departed celestial fire of the Sun. In nature, fire is most commonly caused by lightning (volcanoes and meteorites being too rare to bring to mind). Lightning is the sole possession of the Thunderbirds, who fire it from dark clouds. This dark association of the Thunders explains why they intermarry exclusively with the Nightspirits. The nąnóǧara, which are made out of oak, the lightning tree, symbolize both the Thunderbirds and the hidden power that resides within darkness. According to McKern's informants, the nąnóǧara are painted red, which if it is a true alternant, would represent this power more explicitly.

"fluffy white eagle feathers" — white feathers are usually offered to Nightspirits.1 The eagle is the bird of the day, light, Sun, and therefore, fire. The little white feathers of the bird of light would most naturally evoke the association of the little white lights of the night, the stars and planets. However, whiteness itself is the color of holiness and power. The purpose of this Nightspirit rite is to bestow upon the participants Light, a metaphor for Life. This Life is not just longevity, but vigor, fecundity, and wisdom. The holy power of Light may issue from the concealing darkness of the Thunders and Nights, which bursts out as lightning and starlight.

"Night Blessed Children" — these should be men who were blessed by Nightspirits during their vision quests in their youth. Here they are cast in the modest diminutive of "children," although it is made clear that those blessed by the Nightspirits have powers beyond all others, even those of the Medicine Rite. These "children" have blessing derived from Nightspirits directly, and therefore must have a special status in any rite that honors these celestial Spirits.

"Happy Nights" — apart from blessing people with medicine plants,2 not much is known about the "Happy Nights" (Hąhé Wožáwa) except that they are best known for war blessings. Perhaps they are made happy by the sheer volume of offerings for this purpose. That "wars without end" are considered a blessing shows the extent to which war honors were considered essential to a man's life.

"Those of the Rounded Wood"Nąnúgizànį (also, Nąrúgizànį or Norugizáni, where no is an occasional variant of .). The second /n/ is really a common transmutation of /r/ influenced by both the nasal /ą/ and the initial /n/, so it should be analyzed as, ną-rúgis-hanį́, where means, "wood"; rugís, "to form or make a circle, to make something round (like a circle), to form a ring out of something" (Helmbrecht-Lehmann); and hanį́, "to have." Those of the Rounded Wood are a class of Nightspirits. The wooden artefacts by which they are known are clearly connected to the nanóxą, the invitation sticks held by certain participants in the rite. The paradigm and original of the nanóxą stick may have been a staff, or more likely, a warclub, such as this ball-headed club. This might lead us to think that it is a ball-headed warclub were it not for the fact that the Nightspirits are said to have the hikíxaračkĕ, a flat warclub. This is discussed at length below.

BAE 37: Pl. 43
A Ball-Headed Warclub

The issue of whether they are staffs or warclubs probably rests on a false dichotomy. The nąrųgízᵋra are also called "Chief Sticks" (Ną́ Hųgᵋra), and on page 131 are said to be "staffs" (hirokíkanągᵋrà). Nevertheless, we are told on page 109 that the nąrųgízᵋra "is of good use in war" (woną́ǧire hi’ų́pįžè). On page 119 a human participant in the rite says, "We will not be seated, but we who have the Rounded Sticks (Nąnúgizanira) will go forth" (Hąké mią́nagᵋni, higuána Nąnúgizanira wagi’ųtèkjanihàwiginigè), making it clear that the nanóxą in the possession of the members of the rite are themselves nąnúgizànį, "rounded sticks." Similarly, on page 130, those carrying the nanóxą are described as "ones of the Rounded Wood." Therefore, the nanóxą, the rounded sticks of the rite, are in imitation of the nąrųgís, the rounded wood, carried by this subclass of the Nights themselves.

"Starting Songs" — the Hiraísųjᵋra. Oddly enough, hiráisųč means, "the matter is close to settled," and with respect to songs, "slow" (Susman). In the Medicine Rite, Hiraísųč is translated as "Completion Song," a song used to complete a unit of ceremony in a rite. The Hiraísųjᵋra are used later on in this rite exactly like this, to conclude a unit of the ceremony. This kind of song originated in the Medicine Rite in any case, according to legend, in the breath (ho-nihá) of a white Wak'aį́čuna or Wood Spirit. The Nightspirit Rite makes it clear that a Hiraísųč can be used not only to complete a section of a ceremony, but also to initiate one. Such a song elsewhere in our rite seems therefore to be the same as an Entrance Song (Čiókewe Nąwą́na). Here is a Nightspirit song that seems likely to have been one of the Starting Songs:

A Nightspirit Song

Walking on,                          The Nights are coming.
I am not able to bless,         How could I bless?
Then they came walking,    The Nights are coming.

— Charles Bonaparte

For other Nightspirit Songs, see "Nightspirits."

"chanting" — the Hočąk is nįhá, which is translated by LaMère and Radin as "uttering sounds"; Miner translates it as "to chant, to breathe"; as a noun it is translated as "breath, breathings." The non-language sounds, known as the "Heroka chants or breathings," expressed as a-ha-he, or a-ha’ai, are said to be nįhára. So the sounds made in the Sore Eyes ceremony need not be words, but may be one of these "breathings." This characterization as nįhá rather than song (nąwą́), is made emphatic in apposition with the next phrase, nįhák’ų, "he made nįhá."

"Light-and-Life" — this translates Hąp, which means, "light, day." Later, especially in his work on the Medicine Rite, Radin translated this in the ritual context as "Light-and-Life," since otherwise in the same context, the word wąkšígo’į, meaning "life," is used otherwise. Translating it this way makes it clear that Hąp is a metaphorical synonym for "Life."

"Forbidders" — this translates Waroǧíra, which is otherwise translated after page 64 as "Councilors," and even once as "Feast Giver." This last shows that the term applies to those who are giving the feast, that is, the recipients of the nanóxą (invitation stick). We see twice that the word waroǧí can be translated simply as the noun "council." The word, however, comes from roxi, which means "to forbid, to preach against." We also find warogí, which can be presumed to be for waroǧí, meaning "to caution." From these considerartions, we can deduce that the Waroǧíra were the four Feast Givers who had recieved the nanóxą, and were responsible for forbidding, cautioning against, or counciling people concerning the conduct of the rite, even down to who could be admitted to the lodge. Since this was conducted overnight, it seems reasonable that they were responsible for seeing to it that people kept awake, since to sleep at any point in the ceremony was forbidden.

"relatives" — this shows that the followers of a man given a nanóxą, or invitation stick, are made up of members of his clan, snce the word thus translated, hokíkarač, also means "clan."

"pity"nąjoją, which literally means, "to be pitied," has the secondary meaning, "to be blessed." This is because in order to be blessed by the Spirits the beneficiary must become a supplicant. He or she does this by going out a ways from their village where they make supplication to the Spirits to bless them. As a necessary inducement, they must "make themselves pitiable." This is done by painting their face black with charcoal, a symbol of morality, to remind the Spirits that unlike them, the humans are not endowed with endless life. In addition, they must also "cry to the Spirits," which is to say, they must weep and cry out audibly that their suffering, which may be very real on account of fasting and thirsting, may move the Spirits to take pity on them and give them a blessing. Rarely does this self-abnegation and explicit expression of suffering fail.

"Night Soldiers" — the Hąhé Mą́ną́pe. The word mą́ną́pe means in conventional translation, "soldier," but with respect to function, the mą́ną́pera are in fact the police. The police function belongs exclusively to the Bear Clan, so the Night Soldiers are bound to have a special relationship to that clan, perhaps especially in light of the black coat of the black bear and the notorious nocturnal habits of the ursine race. The founder of the Black Bear Subclan, Fourth Universe, was said to have been an incarnated Nightspirit.

"come to us" — this implies that they possess an artifact derived from a branch of this holy tree. The "stick" to which reference is made is the nąrųgízᵋra, the "rounded wood," the prototype whence the nanóxą (invitation sticks) derive. The identity is captured in language: the nąrųgízᵋra are also called Ną́ Hųgᵋra, which has a double meaning. Hųk is "chief," but can mean either "wood" or "tree," so that Ną́ Hųgᵋra is both the Chief Sticks and the Chief Tree. Ną́ Hųgᵋra is the name given to the rounded wood, the ną-rųgízᵋra, which one would have expected to have come from the tree of the same designation. The myth of the origins of the ną-rųgís says that the Night Soldiers dropped it into the depths of the Ocean Sea, and that a human was able to retrieve it to bestow upon humanity; but this is entirely compatible with the notion that the Ną́ Hųk ultimately derived from the tree of the same name.

"nice"karapiésge, which means, "pretty, good looking, nice, clean, fair, pleasant, pleasing." This is interesting in light of the affinities of the Night Soldiers to the Bear Clan, the clan of the soldiers. In entering a Bear Clan lodge, it is forbidden to say that it is karapiésge. There are four things that people ought not to do in any lodge belonging to a Bear clansman:

1. peep into the lodge,
2. say that it is a nice lodge,
3. sit in the doorway, or
4. make a deep sigh or snort (like a bear).

Should anyone perform such an act in the clansman's lodge, the owner would be compelled to give the offender anything in the lodge that he requested.3 A person who made such an extortion was called a warašą́ną, and was held in ill repute.4 So a person in a rite who stands in a counterpart of a Soldier's lodge ought not to call it karapiésge if the Night Soldiers are to be identified with the Bear Clan. However, since he did do just this, it may be a way of indicating that the Mą́ną́pe among the Nightspirits are not themselves in any way bears, however much they may have connections to the human Bear Clan.

"we have entered" — this may be taken to mean that in entering the Sore Eye Dance Lodge, the participants have spiritually entered the Night Soldiers' lodge in Spiritland, and that their actions manifest themselves in the celestial lodge, just as sacrifices have their spiritual equivalents deposited in the spirit lodges of the Spirits to whom they are addressed. This would also mean that the Sore Eye Dance Lodge is a Center in Eliade's sense, a place of special communication between Cosmic Levels.5 This is a two-way communication, so the participants in the rite can expect in exchange for their wošgą́ra (ceremonial acts), a return blessing of Life.

"fine white feathers" — this makes it clear that white down feathers are a typical offering to Nightspirits. It should be recalled that the nanóxą has a bundle of such feathers attached to its base. The size and color of the feathers, as well as the flight associations of feathers, makes them appropriate for symbolizing the small, white, flying lights that dot the night sky in the form of stars and meteors.

"the day was fair" — this says that the Hąp was karapiésge. This is another Bear Clan connection. Certain members of this clan, especially from the Blue Bear Subclan, were able to "hold a day," meaning that for purposes of a ritual or ceremony, they might exercise powers that enabled them to prevent the it from raining and thereby possibly spoiling the sacred activities planned at that time. Mentioning that the day was karapiésge may be an allusion to the standing of the Night Soldiers as counterparts to the mą́ną́pe of the Bear Clan.

"in connection to Light-and-Life" — this may be taken to mean that because they have made a sacred model of the Lodge of the Night Soldiers, for whom the day (hąp) is fair (karapiésge), that they too have a connection to this fair light, which is a light of Life transmitted back to them through the axis mundi of this Center.

"honors" — here we see wošgą́ra, "actions, deeds, endeavors, honors," held in contradistinction to Life. The wošgą́ra to which this passage refers are chiefly, if not exclusively, those performed in war. Those blessed with Life may end up achieving nothing in battle, and in the case of women, this would be the almost universal rule; being blessed with war powers will guarantee great honors and status derived from battle, but is not an assurance that in the end, the recipient will not lose his life in the fighting.

"the Entrance Songs" — this translates Čiókewe Nąwą́na. As suggested above, these songs are probably the same as the Completion or Starting Songs (the Hiraísųjᵋra), which begin or end a section of the ritual. See above.

"I am made to return back a power from beyond the earth" — since human being were born without natural weapons of defence, being the last of all the creatures made by Earthmaker, he decreed as compensation that, in exchange for accepting an offering of tobacco, a Spirit would grant a blessing. Offerings of tobacco, therefore, are an important catalyst in securing the blessings of Light-and-Life from the Nightspirits honored in this rite.

"seats" — each retinue whose chief holds a nanóxą (invitation stick) sits at one of the four cardinal points or Directions. These directions are associated with a wind that blows from them, but the winds are under the command of the Bear Spirits who reside there (according to the Bear Clan), or alternatively, the four Directions are secured by four Waterspirits who have tied down the earth there to secure its stability after its initial motion imparted to it when Earthmaker created it. The place where the chief sits and impersonates that cardinal direction is his seat. Inasmuch as his seat, and the seats of those with him, is a place, and the place is a Direction, the seats may be taken as instantiating one of the four sacred cardinal Directions. Therefore, in greeting such seats, the speaker is greeting the Direction at which they are situated.

"peace" — this is not a reference to an absence of war, since battle is what they crave the most; but it refers solely to peace among themselves, a lack of civil strife or internal bickering.

"the Path" — this refers to the circle in which the congregation travels when the program of the rite dictates motion. It is a withershins path around the central fire that runs contrary to the path of the Sun itself, and therefore contrary to time. The obvious explanation is that the withershins motion exemplifies the turning back of time, and therefore its extension. It is the Path of Life and Death, and their progress down it enacts their desire that they achieve all the augmented time and Life allotted to them through the blessings of the Nights.

"speak (wahé)" — English encodes a distinction between speaking and singing that is lacking in Hočąk, where songs are said to be "spoken, said, told, uttered," etc.

"the Life Giver" — this is Hąbá’ųra, from Hąp, "Light," here a metaphor for Life; ha’ų́, "to stay in a place for a period of time" (Miner), "to stay here" (Radin), "to cultivate" (Susman); and -ra, the definite article. So the rite is called, "that in which Light-and-Life stays here for a time."

"guest"horajé, which as a verb means, "to travel, roam, wander, journey about"; and as a noun means, "guest, visitor." This views Hąp (Light-and-Life) as journeying here and there, showered about like sunbursts by the Spirits above, coming to rest upon people and places and residing there (ha’ų́) like a guest or visitor.

"the end of the Road" — the Nągú (Road, Path) that constitutes the circuit within the lodge may be thought of as representing the Road of Life and Death. It starts in the east, then moves withershins, north to west, then to the end of the Road in the south. The south is somewhat inauspicious, as that is where Disease Giver lives. The Direction south is rarely mentioned, and in its place we find the circumlocution "the end of the Road."

"earned" — the word in Hočąk is ruxuruk, "to do, to earn, to accomplish, to be able, to overcome, to conquer." In order to receive a blessing from the Spirits, one must fast to "make oneself pitiable." It is the pity that the Spirits feel towards humans on account of their suffering and their mortality that moves them to grant blessings. To obtain a very great blessing such as an entire religious rite, a person would have to fast long and hard, to "starve and thirst himself nearly to death," as they often would say. Since blessing are obtained through suffering, they are clearly earned. Therefore, the person who founded the rite earned it.

"this rite" — what follows is a short version of the origins of the "Sore-Eye Dance."

Greg Schechter  
Kešų́čgenik, the Little Red Turtle
(the Painted Turtle, Chrysemys pico)
"Little Red Turtle" — since this seems not to be a clan name, it will have been a name assigned him on the basis that he had attributes that fit it. The species of turtle denoted by this name is the Painted Turtle. This turtle is largely black, or a very dark olive, with striations of red, yellow and white, which recalls the night sky. It often sleeps at the very bottom of its pond, where it forages during the day. A little farther on (page 107), the story of how the rounded wood came to the rite is recounted. According to the "The Rounded Wood Origin Myth," on the supposition that the man who acquired the nąrųgízᵋra (the rounded wood used as an invitation stick in the rite) is the same who founded the rite, the feat of Little Red Turtle was that he was, like his namesake, able to go to the very greatest depth and retrieve the rounded wood. It is said to be efficacious in war, so it is appropriate that it was acquired by someone of this name, since Turtle is the founder of war.

"Žawánųmitè"žawanų́, is the first part of this name, and Helmbrecht-Lehmann renders this as, "medicine person, healer, fortune-teller, prophet (whoever has to do with medicine)." Of mite, nothing could be learned. However, the transliteration in Notebook 69 has mit’e. If we suppose that it derives from žawanų-hit’e, where the latter means "to talk," the /h/ would have been lost from internal sandhi, so that it might be the case that the nasalization of the previous vowel (/ų/) caused an /m/ sound before the succeeding vowel (/i/). If this is the case, then the name would mean, "Medicine Talker." 

"the middle of the day" — usually fasting takes place in the evening, as the supplicant "cries to the spirits." Owing to the rigors of the fast and deprivation of even water, the faster can induce visions, which are called "dreams." That the supplicant is blessed in broad daylight suggests that the Spirits have manifested themselves more forcefully, taking on a concrete presence that transcends the dream state and intrudes within the plane of ordinary reality. Such a concrete manifestation of the spiritual presence is obviously appropriate to an extraordinary blessing, as a whole rite dedicated to the Nightspirits must be considered.

"night to fall" — being Nightspirits, they would not manifest themselves in broad daylight as this is an element antithetical to their natures. Darkness is believed to have been caused by the introduction of a positive element, the blackness of night being as substantial as the light rays responsible to the illumination of the day. So the Nightspirits scatter darkness about as they tread across the celestial dome as the sun sets below the earth. It is therefore possible for them, perhaps even inherent in their presence, to scatter darkness when they appear even at the peak of day.

"a certain place" — Radin's rendering, "a place where the stars touched land," while poetic, is not supported by the text, which makes no mention of stars. Where this happened is merely described as mąwojijeižą, "at a certain place." Radin says in a footnote, "Although literally the word probably means shells, its meaning here is quite different. It refers to places where blessings, such as food, etc, are stored for the faster." Marino defines mą́wojá as "depositories for holy objects." It probably never meant "shell," inasmuch as mą́woja comes from , "earth, ground"; and woja, "to be fruitful." Miner defines it as, "vegetable, root, berry, any edible thing growing in the ground"; and in other texts collected by Radin, it is rendered more generally as, "vegetation," and "the products of the earth." There can be little doubt that mąwojijeižą comes from mą́wojá, however the form of this is problematic. It is probably from mąwoja-hije-hi-ižą, where hijé hi means, "to put, to place, to place something (standing)" (Helmbrecht-Lehmann). In a noun compound, -hijei- would mean, "depository." Given this origin, the word should have been mąwojaijeižą. In many words in this particular account, Jasper Blowsnake left out yi, although in this instance it is only y: m wo tt[y]i tteyi d. Otherwise, it may be a rare sandhi in which the diphthong is foreshortened from /ai/ to /i/. It is nevertheless clear that this is a special place where the Worlds are in communication, what Eliade calls a "Center."5 The location of such places may have been known to but a few.

"four circles"mąrúwįx can have either a static (space-like) or a dynamic (time-like) aspect: it can either be a circle, or it can be a circuit. Sometimes the four mąrúwįǧᵋra represent a simple circumambulation of the whole lodge, conducted in a withershins direction. However, it is often more elaborate than this. On pages 145-147, we learn that when the western retinue arose, they first made a mąrúwįx where they had been sitting. Then they moved to the south (the end of the Road), where they made another circuit. They repeated this pattern until they arrived back at their starting point. This clearly shows that they circled in front of every cardinal position. It is this singularity that is most likely referenced by the four mąrúwįǧᵋra. The emphasis on closed curves finds expression as well in the rounded end of the Nąrúgizànį. The sphere is a circle in every direction, and the circle is the only line without beginning or end. Thus, we find that Hare, when he was trying to win immortality for humanity, did a circuit of the perimeter of the earth, but failed in his mission when he looked back (which is seeing the past as future). So the circle and the sphere can represent the unbroken line, and therefore, unbroken Life. Therefore, the formation of circles, inasmuch as they exemplify the form of Life without end, are a catalyst to the induction of Light-and-Life from the Spiritland of the Nights.

"plants" — this is translated as "medicines" in both the interlinear text and Radin's published form, but the word here is xawį́hura, "plants." We can, of course, infer that most of these plants were used as medicines, but we cannot exclude the possibility that some were used for poison. Others apparently made the user intoxicated, hence a reference to misusing them for "fun."

"we will put our sisters with us to lead" — those who might be expected to lead would be the old men, senior in status, but the twilight of the morning sky in the east is homologized to their gray hair which trails behind them, and given their age, they are the slowest and therefore the last to traverse the expanse of the night sky. In sexual dichotomies, we can expect women to be associated with darkness and men with light. Therefore, if this is true, as it most likely is, women could be expected to take the lead in initiating darkness. Also, the women of the Nightspirits marry the men of the Thunders, who reside in the west where the sun sets. It is the women of the Nightspirits upon whom the connection to the Thunders resides, so their meeting at the western horizon is a symbolic remarriage and renewal of the bonds, as well as the end place of the journey of the Nightspirits across the sky. This is where the married Nightspirit women reside, and since they represent the point of contact between the progression of the night and its resting place in the west, it is they who must literally make that contact in person, and reinstitute the marriage of the night and the west where the dark-cloud loving Thunders dwell.

"he is about to stop" — that is, he is now embarking on the last circumambulation of the lodge. The "he" to whom they refer, as we learn several sentences on, is the Councilor, the same as one of the Forbidders. He is also a holder of one of the nanóxąra, which are temporarily in the possession of a couple of the virgin dance leaders. On this last withershins circumambulation of the lodge, he will stop at each cardinal point and form his retinue into a cricle before moving on to the next point. They end up in the east, where they leave the drum and other relavent items for the impersonator of that Direction.

"the instrument with which to ask for Light-and-Life" — this is tobacco, to which (as we would say today) the Spirits are addicted. What is being asked for is Hąp, "Light," a metaphor for Life.

"Earthmaker did not put us in charge of anything" — when Earthmaker created human they were without natural defensive weapons and had to depend on the manufacture of weapons to defend themselves. These, and many other things, were the products of blessings from the Spirits. The Spirits craved to have tobacco for themselves, but Earthmaker prohibited them from its possession except as it was offered by human in exchange for blessings. By this law of exchange, humans and humans alone, because of their powerlessness, were given this valuable tool to secure power from the supernatural world, and thereby to secure victory and life for themselves.

"the second one" — this is the impersonator of the North Direction. He first turns to his left to address the east retinue, then to the opposite side, to address the west retinue.

"beyond that" — on the other side of the Ocean Sea is elevated land which holds the waters in place and prevents their pouring over the edge of the world. On this marginal land mass there are villages of Spirits. The Giants, for instance, have a village in the north, the Thunderbirds in the west, and the Nights, as indicated here, have their Spiritland in the east.

"my grandfather" — presumed to be Little Red Turtle (Kešų́čgenika), said a score pages earlier to have been the founder of the rite which he obtained from the Ones with Rounded Wood. The kešų́čgenik is the painted turtle. This variety of turtle forages at the bottom of the pond where it sleeps overnight. Therefore, it is appropriate to one who has plumbed the greatest depths to retrieve this holy artifact, that he should bear the name of such a turtle. This was discussed in more detail above.

"the rounded wood"nąrųgízᵋra, from ną-rugis-ra, where means, "wood"; rugís, "to form or make a circle, to make something round (like a circle), to form a ring out of something" (Helmbrecht-Lehmann); and -ra, the definite article. They seem to be the same as the Ną́ Hųgᵋra, "the Chief Stick," and also, "the Chief Tree." Ną́ Hųgᵋra is also the name of the sacred tree that stands before the lodge of the Night Soldiers. It is from this tree that the Chief Stick derives. It is one and the same as the nanóxąra given out as invitation sticks to the heads of the four retinues that attend the rite. The rounded wood are also described as hirokíkanągᵋrà, "staffs" (p. 131). They are sacred objects held by certain participants in the Sore-Eye Ceremony, and are said to be conducive to Life. However, they are also "of good use in war" (for which see below). On the other hand, holding them in the Sore-Eye Ceremony is conducive to gaining Life. In parts of the rite, it is women who hold it, since among the Nightspirits, it is women who walk in front when they scatter the darkness with the coming night. Apart from being a phallic symbol by virtue of being a shaft with a rounded top, the spherical nature of the cap makes it particularly holy. The sphere is a circle in every direction, and the circle is the only line without beginning or end, and can therefore represent the unbroken line of unbroken Life. See above for the circle (mąrúwįx), and for the Rounded Wood, see the previous comment.

"Ocean Sea" — just as the ancients thought that Eurasia conjoined with Africa were surrounded by an ocean, so the same concept reigned in the western hemisphere, where the land mass was frequently referred to as "Turtle Island." In Hočąk, this body of water was called Te Ją, "the Encircling Lake." This expanse of water was contained on a flat earth, like Okeanos, by a ring of marginal land.

"good use in war" — this may mean that the nąrųgís could double as a warclub. If it is the size of a staff, then it is not something that could be inserted into a Warbundle, so its efficacy cannot owe to its being a sacred object that influences the outcome of battle. There is in fact a picture of a ball-headed Warclub that resembles perfectly a staff with a rounded wood head, as we see above.

BAE 37: Pl. 43
A Flat-Headed Warclub

The immediate problem of identifying the nąrųgís as a Warclub is that the Nights, as celestial beings in league with the Thunderbirds, carried the hikíxaračkĕ, a flat-headed Warclub unique to the Upper Moiety among the Hočągara. Nevertheless, a complicating factor enters into the calculus here. The nąrųgízᵋra are a blessing from the Night Soldiers (Hąhé Mą́ną́pe). The mą́ną́pe in Hočąk society are police, in charge of discipline generally. The mą́ną́pe are exclusively members of the Bear Clan, which brings the Night Soldiers into a unique relationship with this clan, and in particular, the Black Bear Subclan. This subclan was re-founded (after having been rubbed out) by Fourth Universe, who was believed to have been a reincarnated Nightspirit. This explains why the Nightspirits could not themselves retrieve the rounded wood once it had been dropped into the depths of the Ocean Sea: the Nightspirits, as Upper World beings, cannot descend into the depths of the Waterspirit World, the realm of their enemies and the enemies most particularly of their friends the Thunderbirds. That the test should be whether a human could retrieve the club from the depths of the waters, shows that the club's natural affinity is with the Lower World. The human, being the intermediary by virtue of living in between the Upper and Lower Worlds, here navigates both by being able to retrieve a gift from the Upper World that is located at the depths of the Lower World. The Night Soldiers could possess such an artifact by virtue of being Mą́ną́pe, although their own warclubs are of flat-headed variety used also by the Thunderbirds.

"recreation"wišgáč can mean as a noun, "performance, circus, tricks, play things"; it is here translated as "fun," but this kind of fund might suggest intoxication, or what is today referrred to as "recreational drugs." However, this might not be the whole story, as certain "tricks" (wišgač’ųra) enacted during the rite, like spitting live coals form the mouth, can be performed only by using Echinacea to protect the mouth from burns. This is may be a case of using plants for the sake of wišgáč. For more on this, see below.

"poisoned" — almost all intoxicating drugs are poisonous if taken in sufficiently larger doses (even alcohol), so this is consistent with the idea that some Nightspirit plants used for wišgáč are intoxicating.

"Night Trick Medicines" — a good example of these is being able to stick one's arm into boiling water without being scalded. A hint of how this is possible is indicated by Gilmore. Used for this purpose was the narrow-leaved purple cone flower (Echinacea angustifolia).

It was said that jugglers bathed their hands and arms in the juice of this plant so that they could take out a piece of meat from a boiling kettle with the bare hand without suffering pain, to the wonderment of onlookers.6

Echinacea was generally used as a pain killer.

"play with fire" — this involved taking into the mouth live coals in order to spit them out like sparks. Again, from Gilmore:

A Winnebago said he had often used the plant [Echinacea] to make his mouth insensible to heat, so that for show he could take a live coal into his mouth. Burns were bathed with the juice to give relief from the pain, and the plant was used in the steam bath to render the great heat endurable.7

"Rounded Sticks" —this shows that the rounded sticks (nąrųgízᵋra) are the same as the nanóxąra (the invitation sticks). It is almost certain that the Ones with the Rounded Sticks among the Nightspirits have gotten their name from being the original possessors of these artefacts. Since in the "Rounded Wood Origin Myth," we learned that the first such stick was in the possession of the Night Soldiers, it seems highly likely that Those with the Rounded Wood are either just the Night Soldiers under another name, or a subset of them.

"I have not been able to do it" — by now the reader surely appreciates the extreme modesty with which all members of the rite carries themselves. In modern Western societies, this would be called "false modesty," as it is obvious enough that they know how to do the ceremony, but are at pains not to take pride or credit in any of their actions, or in their social standing. When addressing those who have been given the Rounded Wood invitation sticks, who by definition have been blessed by the Nights, they always deny themselves this honor, and claim that they have not really been blessed by the Nightspirits at all. This is just modesty taken to an extreme by present day standards.

"toys" —the Hočąk is wišgájᵋra, elsewhere translated as "play things." Since wišgač can also mean, "to perform," we might better translate wišgájᵋra as "props." These may be things connected with the performing of "Night Tricks" (for which, see above). This seems likely given that Marino records that wišgač’ų ‘uinekje means, "they will play tricks."

"Mediators" — the Hočąk is Wiróragᵋra (< wirorak), which is translated as "messenger, mediator," referring to a go-between as a messenger and mediator. It is probably related to the word horák, "to report, tell, relate, ask." In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples are said to be wiróragᵋra as purveyors of the euangelion. On the path to Spiritland, the deceased is to give Spirit Woman a pipe that she might be better inclined to grant the wishes of the people. In this context, the pipe is said to be a wirorak. In one case elsewhere, it is used to refer to the gourd, but generally, especially in the Medicine Rite, it is used to refer, as it does here, to the drum. The drum signals the dispatch of a message to the Nightspirits, and so is a messenger or mediator between the participants in the rite, and the celestial Spirits to whom they are making a petition for Light-and-Life.

"tramp down" — this is an image of conquest, and corresponds fairly well to the Western expression "under one's heel," and of the ancient practice in the Near East of a conqueror putting under his foot the neck of his prostrated, subjugated counterpart. The affines of the Nightspirits, the Thunderbirds, were famous for having created the hills and valleys of a once smooth earth by trampling down everything upon which they set their feet. See "How the Hills and Valleys were Formed." This symbolism is made explicit in the very next sentence in which he says, "thus they do in war."

"the birds who are black on each side around their breasts" — birds are an appropriate embodiment for Nightspirits, since those who spread darkness do so by traversing the sky, thereby evoking the image of birds. This description does not seem to be intended to identify birds of a particular kind, but all those of any sort that exemplify blackness round about their lungs. Birds, besides being noted for flight, are almost equally noted for their songs. The songs that they are singing here belong to the pitch colored night, whose tincture is imparted symbolically by the darkness that envelopes the lungs whence the songs ultimately arise. Thus the songs of darkness are imparted by precisely the right creature.

"they would have them" — in other words, a cacophony ensued in which those with the strongest voices would win for themselves a chance at war honors. It should be recalled that the word Hočąk itself means "Great Voice," so a contest to see who had the greatest voice would make them paradigmatically Ho-čąk. The strongest voices are also those that give the strongest war cries, which adds to its appropriateness. Also in mythology, and no doubt carrying over to ritual practice, sound stands for light. Those with the greatest sound would therefore correspond to those with the greatest Hąp, Light-and-Life.

A Wildcat Claw  

"wildcat" — the wičáwą, which includes bobcats and lynxes. Wičáwąra are crepuscular hunters, active during the hours of twilight, the interstice between day and night. Twilight is the time at which the Nightspirits begin and end their activities, and since wildcats are arboreal, they too ascend to and descend from the sky like the Nights do at the same time. Wildcats also have a more subtle connection to the night sky. On the back of their ears is a bright white spot, and among lynxes, this spot is almost perfectly round, resembling the full moon. To those disinclined to believe in coincidence, there is the striking fact that the dental formula of the wildcat is 2 x 3/3, 1/1, 2/2, 1/1 = 14 + 14, the number of each row of teeth being the same as the number of days it takes to reach the full moon.8 So we should not be surprised to learn that the first menstruation – the first time a woman was "under the moon" – was when Hare sprinkled Grandmother Earth with the blood of a wildcat.9 The animal that contains the moon within its nature is therefore like the night that literally and physically contains the moon. So it is natural that those who are blessed by the Nightspirits would use the weapon of the predatory animal most identified with these Spirits.

"shoot" — it is not said how this is done, however, in the Medicine Rite, shells, there called "arrows," were blown forcefully out of the mouth. The same seems likely true of the wildcat claws.

"a Thunderbird burnt tree" — that is, a tree that has been struck by lightning. The darkness of the thundercloud is considered to have affinities to the darkness of night, thus establishing the basic grounds for the affinity of the Nights to the Thunders. Thus, it is considered appropriate to express this Thunder theme in the context of a rite devoted to the Nightspirits.

"Wanaxi’ų" — "to do for the ghost," a reference to the overall ceremony of the Four Nights' Wake.

"Wanaxi-k’ų Hąhĕ-́waši" — "the Nightspirit Dance for one's ghost," a reference to the overall ceremony of the Four Nights' Wake.

"Hąhĕ́-waši" — literally, "Night Dance."

"Hisa-xéri-waši"hisa is in error for hišjá, "eyes"; and xéri is a distortion of xiri, "sore." This means, "Sore-Eye Dance."

"Rexčáčas-haní-waši" — the rexčáčas is the snare, or tambourine, drum; and haní means, "to have." So this means, "the dance having the tambourine drum."

"attendants" — these are the Feast Giver's nephews, his sister's sons. The relationship between maternal uncles and his nephews is the strongest in society. On the warpath, if the uncle is slain, his nephews are committed to die with him. In feasts, they do all the detail work.

  A Native American Calico Ribbon-Dress

"calico" — a plain woven cotton fabric with a small, all-over floral print. Given the quality of the cotton and the weaving, it was inexpensive, and therefore a favorite for the Indian trade. It was extensively worn in the latter half of the XIXᵀᴴ century.

"nanóxa" — probably for nąnó, "oak wood" (Miner); and xa, "branch."

"clockwise" — in Radin's version, most motion is withershins (against the sun). This is because the Nightspirits follow after the sun, spreading darkness as it sets; but it may also be that it is because the procession is led by girls, who represent the left as against males, who represent the right.

Notes to the Commentary

1 Sam Blowsnake, "The Warbundle Feast of the Thunderbird Clan," in Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, The Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1923]) 431.
2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 282, 286.
3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 177-179.
4 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 204.
5 For the concept of the Centre and its associated symbolism, see Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, 81, 367-387; Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane. The Nature of Religion. The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc., 1959) 40-42, 49, 57-58, 64-65; Mircea Eliade, Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1969) 42-43; William C. Beane and William G. Doty, edd., Myths, Rites, Symbols: A Mircea Eliade Reader, 2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1975) 2:373; Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales (London: Thames & Hudson, 1961) Ch. VII.
6 Melvin Randolph Gilmore, Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region, Thirty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1911-12 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1919) 106.
7 Gilmore, Uses of Plants, 106.
8 Chet M. McCord and James E. Cardoza, 'Bobcat and Lynx', chapter 39 of Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Economics, ed. Joseph A. Chapman and George A. Feldhamer (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982) 731.
9 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 104-106. Paul Radin, The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (New York: Schocken Books, 1956) §5, pp. 78-80. Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3851 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago IV, #1: 77-91.


Jasper Blowsnake, "The Sore-Eye Dance (Hišjaxiri Waši)," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n. d.) Notebook 23, 1-195 (Syllabary with an interlinear translation). Jasper Blowsnake, "The Sore-Eye Dance (Hišjaxiri Waši)," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n. d.) Notebook 69, 1-37 (phonetic text only). Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, The Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1923]) 329-343.