Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet

by Walking Cloud


"(466) Our fathers used to fast and pray, that the spirits might appear to them. Sometimes they would pray that the water spirit (Wakčexi) might come and wet the corn-fields. This he would do when he was in good humor; but when he was in bad humor he would bring a good deal of water on the land and make a flood. (467) The water spirit, I am told, has a long tail winding around his body, and has two horns. But in my day he has not appeared to any of our people, and we no longer pray to him.1


Commentary. "appear" — this by and large means in the course of a vision that might be helped by the physical effects of fasting. However, in the case of Waterspirits, in the past people had reported actually seeing them, usually in lakes.

"the water spirit" — this would be the Waterspirit of the local body of water, a lake or river.

"wet" — since the mortal enemies of the Waterspirits, the Thunderbirds, were responsible for rain, the hydration of the corn fields would have to have been from some other source, such as rising water, what might be called a "benevolent flood" like that of the Nile. A flood of moving water would erode the soil and wash away the seed crop, and prayers were offered to avert such a catastrophe. What is most likely, is that Waterspirits were thought to be responsible for keeping the fields moist once they became wet by any means.

"two horns" — this may not be a universal opinion, and the Hočąk drawing above seems to show four horns.

"we" — Walking Cloud is a member of one of the Bird Clans. If a member of his opposite clan, the Waterspirit Clan, were to have been queried in 1887 (the time of this interview), the answer might have been different.


Comparative Material. ...


Links: Waterspirits, Maize.


Stories: in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; about maize (corn): Maize Origin Myth, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Green Man, Grandmother's Gifts.


Themes: ...


Notes

1 Walking Cloud, "Narrative of Walking Cloud. In an Interview with the Editor," Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Vol. 13 (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1887) 466-467. Reprinted (typescript) in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3863 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago I, #6: 173-178.