The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth1


(259) There once was a man who had consumption and who knew that he was going to die soon. His relatives were about to move him to some other place and so he told them just to build him a separate lodge and leave him alone — that he wanted to die there. He asked them likewise not to come back to see him. They obeyed him and left him to die alone.

One day he decided to go out into the wilderness and die there. He went to the top of a hill and lay down. He noticed many birds (260) of prey hovering around the hill and he felt certain that they were there so that they could devour him as soon as he was dead. However, the birds told him they had come to cure not to devour him. Many carnivorous birds and many wolves were there. The turtle also came because he was the owner of some medicines.

Then the animals who had gathered on the hill began to doctor him. The raven began first. He ejaculated e-he-a! e-he-a! gave him some medicine and began to exert his powers until he felt better. Then the wolf began. He walked around ejaculating certain sounds and spitting medicine on him. The man became much better. He was almost completely restored to health. Then the turtle began to exert his powers, ejaculating at the same time ahi! ahi! ahi! ahi! and walking around the man and giving him some boiled medicine to drink. Now he was almost entirely cured. Finally a black hawk began to doctor the man. He put some medicine on the place where the man's pains seemed to be situated and he was immediately cured. Then all those who had cured him said, "Human! In a similar way you shall cure your fellow men." They then gave him as much medicine as he would need. The raven gave him his "medicine chest," consisting of a flute and a gourd. With these things he blessed him. He also gave him a song which he was to sing. Then the wolf gave him his medicine chest, consisting of a gourd and a flute, and told him that he would not fail to cure any sick person he treated and that if the sick people offered the proper amount of tobacco, red eagle feathers, and food, no matter how serious their disease was he would be able to cure it. Then he told the man that Earthmaker had placed him in charge of these things and that he in turn would bless him with them for all eternity. As long as any of his posterity was left they would enjoy the benefit of these blessings.

And this is true, for even to the present day his descendants use this medicine.

Then Black Hawk said, "I, also, bless you. Earthmaker placed me in charge of some medicines and with these I bless you. If you are careful in offering tobacco and food to these medicines they will always help you to the utmost of their power. Whatever you ask they will accomplish for you. They will be able to understand you. So, if anyone is sick, you will be able to help him. In this way I bless you. If you are ever in any difficulty, think of me and I will help you." (What he meant is that if he ever was in any difficulty, he should think of the medicines with which Black Hawk had blessed him, and that that would be the same as if he thought of him.)

Then the Buffalo said, "My grandson, Earthmaker placed me in charge of certain medicines. Why should you then wish to die? Your condition is 'pitiable,' and therefore I want to bless you. (261) All those spirits whom Earthmaker made with his own hands were placed in charge of certain things. All these spirits have had compassion upon you. All those whom Earthmaker created as holy have blessed you. Earthmaker has placed me in charge of certain medicines and I am so completely in control of these that I can do what I please with them. There exist no beings either on the earth or under the earth whom I can not cure. With all these do I bless you. All your previous blessings were from spirits who live either on earth or in the heavens. The medicinal plants I bless you with are called 'Buffalo medicines.' The other medicines are called 'stench-earth medicines.' As long as you and your descendants live these medicines will be efficacious. The owners of the stench-earth medicines they will be called. In this manner I bless you."

Then the hitcara said, "I bless you with those things that Earthmaker placed me in charge of. I was created by Earthmaker. Medicines, grass, trees, and bushes (for use in the making of medicines), with these I bless you. I bless you with my utterance. With my mouth, I bless you. If a human is suffering and places tobacco in your hands, then you may mention my name and pour a pipeful of tobacco into the fire. I will grant whatever you request. All the medicinal plants with which I bless you shall belong to you and your descendants as long as the earth endures. Your children can use them, and they will protect them. If any part of their body is weak from disease they can heal themselves with them. Many things will you gain through these medicines. You may also eat them. Human! you have dreamed, not only for yourself but for all your descendants. As long as this earth endures, so long will your descendants use these medicines with which I have blessed you. In this way I bless you."

Then the Wildcat said, "Grandson, Earthmaker placed me in control of medicines also. I bless you. The other spirits have blessed you with certain medicines, and to these I now add my own. I can not tell you anything about the heavenly blessings. The spirits above have already bestowed these upon you. I will, however, tell you this: There is nothing either upon this earth or under it that I can not accomplish. I bless you with the power to do the same. With the blessings I give you, you will be able to accomplish anything you wish whenever you put these medicines to use. If a person were dying, and his relatives offered tobacco and food to you, you would be able to cure him. When you use my name, concentrate your mind upon me, and offer me tobacco. If I smoke the tobacco you will then know that your request has been granted. All the medical plants that I am giving to you, all the herbs that I am blessing you with, to all these, make an offering of tobacco. Whatever you ask they will grant you. All the animals that trod upon the air, all those (262) on the earth, have medicines that you are to use on earth. Whatever you say on earth it will be so. You have been blessed with all the things that are on and under the earth."

All the fowls and insects of the air, all the beings that have wings, blessed him and gave him medicines, which he was to mix with other medicines. He was told to make use of all the insects of the earth and air, some of which we never see. All those who live on earth, all the fishes in the water, and all the different kinds of water-spirits blessed him with medicines. He was blessed with, and told to use as medicines, all those plants that live in the water. He was blessed with the leech, one of the animals that lives in the water, and he was to use it in medicine mixing. They say that it is good to mix the leech with other medicines to relieve pain. He was blessed with all the trees that we see to-day, which he was to use as medicines. Their bark, leaves, and roots are considered very good for such purposes. He was blessed also with all the small undergrowth, whose leaves, bark, inner bark, blossoms, and roots he was to use for medicine. He was blessed with all the weeds, and he was to use their heads and leaves for medicine, but their roots were to be used for other purposes. Thus all the different kinds of plants that grow on this earth blessed him.

The Earth also blessed him and said to him, "Grandson, as the other spirits are blessing you, I also will bless you. Earthmaker has placed me here, and I therefore bless you with all plants that grow upon me, and all the trees and weeds and animals that exist on this earth, and lastly, with life and myself (i. e., earth). You may use me, and especially the blue clay that you derive from me, for medicines. Should you use as medicine all these things with which I have blessed you, especially if you use me, as medicine, you will be able to accomplish all that you attempt. If a person who is sick offers you tobacco (i. e., asks you to cure him), remember that I also would like to smoke and that it is for that reason that I have blessed you."2


Commentary. "consumption" — an old term that primarily applied to tuberculosis, but could refer to any wasting disease.

"black hawk" — this raptor is variously identified among the tribes, but the Hočągara identify the bird as the highly aerobatic American Swallow-Tail Kite, for which see the Glossary.

"Buffalo medicines"čemą́ką was created from a special weed with pink blossoms which resembled a buffalo tail. The medicine was used for long distance runners, war (to give endurance or cure wounds), and to purify lodges used in buffalo hunting. It was also an antidote to someone who became weak or has fainted (called kixĕ́wĕ) while on the warpath because of a slain enemy's ghost. The medicine was chewed and spit on the body of a patient, or spit on the hand and rubbed on the patient being treated. While it was being administered, the patient was whipped with a buffalo tail.3

"stench-earth medicines" — these are also called "stink-earth medicines." The Hočąk is mąną́x, from , "earth," and ną́x, "to stink, to smell of urine; a bad smell."

"hitcara" — in our orthography this would be rendered as hičara. The nearest word to this is hičą́ra, which means, "brother-in-law." This, of course, is unlikely inasmuch as it ought to refer to an animal. The first syllable might be , which means, "hair, fur, feathers," as well as "tooth." The second syllable may be ča, or čą, which mean, "straight." So the designation would mean, "the straight-haired one" (where -ra is the definite article). Hįčąra, if it is not the actual name of an animal with this identifying feature, may simply be an ellipsis for a cervid, whose hairs are more bristle-like than those of most other animals.


Links: Earthmaker, Earth, Buffalo Spirits, Blackhawks, Kaǧi, Wolf and Dog Spirits, Wildcats, Turtle Spirits, Leeches.


Stories: mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow; featuring Grandmother Earth as a character: Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Maize Origin Myth, Grandmother Packs the Bear Meat, Grandmother's Gifts, Owl Goes Hunting, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Hare Visits the Blind Men, Hare Visits His Grandfather Bear, Hare Visits the Bodiless Heads, Hare Burns His Buttocks, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Kills Wildcat, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, The Necessity for Death, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Hare Steals the Fish, Hare Kills Sharp Elbow, Hare Kills Flint, The Gift of Shooting, The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man (vv 4, 6), Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Redhorn's Father (?); about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there; mentioning black hawks: Origin Myth of the Hawk Clan (v. 2), The Dipper, The Thunderbird, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Waruǧápara, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Morning Star and His Friend, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Race for the Chief's Daughter; mentioning kaǧi (crows & ravens): Kaǧiga and Lone Man, Bear Clan Origin Myth (vv. 2, 3), The Hočąk Arrival Myth, The Spider's Eyes, The Old Man and the Giants, Turtle's Warparty, The Shaggy Man, Trickster's Tail, The Healing Blessing, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Ocean Duck, A Snake Song Origin Myth; about buffaloes and Buffalo Spirits: Buffalo Clan Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, White Fisher, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Bluehorn's Nephews, Redhorn's Father, The Woman who became an Ant, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Buffalo's Walk, Trickster's Buffalo Hunt, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Creation of the World (v. 3), The Annihilation of the Hočągara I, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Red Feather, Wazųka, Holy One and His Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse; in which wildcats (bobcats) are characters: Hare Kills Wildcat, The Choke Cherry Wild Cat, The Chief of the Heroka, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Silver Mound Cave, Old Man and Wears White Feather; relating to dogs or wolves: The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, A Man and His Three Dogs, White Wolf, Wolves and Humans, The Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Old Man and His Four Dogs, Worúxega, The Dogs of the Chief's Son, The Dog that became a Panther, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Wild Rose, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Canine Warrior, The Dog Who Saved His Master, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, The Big Eater, Why Dogs Sniff One Another, The Healing Blessing, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Trickster Loses His Meal, Sun and the Big Eater, Redhorn's Sons, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Hog's Adventures, Holy One and His Brother, The Messengers of Hare, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Grandmother's Gifts, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Bladder and His Brothers, The Old Man and the Giants, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Kunu's Warpath, Morning Star and His Friend, Chief Wave and the Big Drunk; Peace of Mind Regained (?); mentioning turtles (other than Turtle): Turtle's Warparty, Soft Shelled Turtle Gets Married, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Porcupine and His Brothers, Redhorn's Sons, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, The Healing Blessing, The Spider's Eyes, The Mesquaki Magician; in which leeches occur: The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Seduction of Redhorn's Son, The Two Boys, The Two Brothers (blood-suckers); 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 Shell Anklets Origin Myth, 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 tobacco: Tobacco Origin Myth, Hare and the Grasshoppers, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth (v 2), How the Thunders Met the Nights, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Grandmother's Gifts, The Thunderbird, First Contact, Peace of Mind Regained, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Dipper, The Masaxe War, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store; mentioning red feathers (as an offering to the spirits): The Red Feather, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 4), Big Thunder Teaches Čap’ósgaga the Warpath, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Elk's Skull, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Great Walker's Medicine, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Twins Visit Their Father's Village, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Were-fish (v. 1), Disease Giver; mentioning flutes: The Love Blessing, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Partridge's Older Brother, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Fox-Hočąk War (v. 1), Redhorn's Sons; mentioning sacred gourd rattles: North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, The Brown Squirrel, South Seizes the Messenger, Holy One and His Brother, A Peyote Story.


Themes: someone who is exhausted, struggles to reach the summit of a hill, where (s)he is content to die: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bluehorn's Nephews, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Healing Blessing; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing; a man is cured when someone spits on his own hands and rubs them on the wound: Redhorn and His Brothers Marry, The Raccoon Coat; blessings from Buffalo Spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Brass and Red Bear Boy, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth; a man acquires knowledge of a medicinal plant through a vision given to him by the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Great Walker's Medicine, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance; someone is blessed with a medicine: A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Fourth Universe, Great Walker's Medicine, Bow Meets Disease Giver, The Seven Maidens, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Seer, The Healing Blessing, A Weed's Blessing, A Snake Song Origin Myth, Young Man Gambles Often, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance, The Elk's Skull, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, A Peyote Vision, The Sweetened Drink Song; spirits bless a man with an artifact: Waruǧápara (warbundle, warclub), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (warbundle, flute), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (warbundle), The Thunderbird (warclub), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds (warclub), The Rounded Wood Origin Myth (ceremonial object), Origin of the Decorah Family (drum), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (magical paint), Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka (flute), Ancient Blessing (pot, ax, spoon), The Blessing of the Bow (bow and arrows), Heną́ga and Star Girl (Thunderbird Medicine, arrow); someone possesses a gourd rattle of great magical powers: North Shakes His Gourd, East Shakes the Messenger, The Brown Squirrel, South Seizes the Messenger; a spirit blesses a man with knowledge of sacred songs: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Holy Song, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Island Weight Songs, A Snake Song Origin Myth, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Song to Earthmaker, The Completion Song Origin, The Origins of the Nightspirit Starting Songs, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman.


Notes

1 This is the literal translation. What plant is meant the writer was not able to determine.

2 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1923) 259-262.

Radin adds this note at the end: "According to general belief the spirits are supposed to have entered into a sort of "bargain" with the human beings by which they were to bestow their blessings upon them in exchange for tobacco, buck-skin, and feathers. Of course, it must be understood that individuals must have the necessary requirements, such as a certain attitude of mind, fasting, etc., before their offering of tobacco has any meaning to the spirits."

3 McKern Papers, 114, 147.